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Give your trauma a happy ending and it loses power

Once, my son was scared by a clip on YouTube. For a week afterwards he had nightmares. Using editing software, I isolated that scene, and changed it in as many ways as I could. I sped it up, ran it backwards, made it black-and-white, changed the soundtrack. After watching enough silly versions, my son wasn't afraid of the original any longer.

This summer, I'll be leaving Northern Ireland after living here for nearly two decades. I've come to consider it home. One factor that pretty quickly became evident to me here is that I'd be working with people who had experienced some pretty horrific events during the Troubles.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a serious condition which can only be diagnosed and treated by licensed professionals. However, for every person who's formally diagnosed, there are many others who are nevertheless carrying the traumas of the past around with varying degrees of severity. Although I don't mean to make light of it by comparing this kind of real trauma to what frightened my son, the treatment is similar.

Everyone has traumatic memories, some more harrowing than others. One of the reasons that difficult memories retain the power to haunt us is that we tend to wrap them up in neat little packages, complete with a beginning and end. For example: "I was a kid and a bomb went off, terrifying me. The End."

Changing the memory with a new beginning and end will alter the event's ability to impact us. Perhaps a new, more accurate story can become: "I was happy at home, went into town where a bomb went off which terrified me and a few days later did really well on my spelling test and felt proud." The new, improved version should start with safety and end with safety.

You can also remember it backwards, sped up, monochromatically, as animation, with circus music, etc. Run through the altered memory many times, each one ending at the more positive end.

As a mentor once said to me, "There's always a happy ending. If you're not happy yet, it just means you still have time to change it."

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  • Joseph Pond is a clinical hypnotherapist, an acupuncturist and a mindfulness instructor. He is co-founder of Hypnosis Explorers NI and conducts workshops in hypnosis with PowerTrance. Reach him at josephpond@yahoo.com or at https://www.facebook.com/Belfast Hypnosis/ ?ref=hl/?ref=hl

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