by Lori Greenleaf, Ph.D., MFT
Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 28 seconds.
Dr. Jim, a sweet-faced, middle-aged man, arrived, referred for treatment of anxiety by a previous hypnosis patient. When I ask him what form the anxiety takes, he says he is a good doctor with a healthy practice, confident in his skills and in his marriage relationship. He describes his wife, Beth, in loving terms. He wants to please her.
His wife had convinced him to take dancing lessons with her so they could enjoy learning together, and he consented. She is a very adept, fluid, and comfortable dancer. He had to work hard at the lessons to be a good partner, and his lessons went well. But, like all beginners, he sometimes stumbled.
She was very patient with him, never criticized him, but she looked at him with an expression: a mother’s glance at her beloved but clumsy child. This glance freezes him, irritates him, and makes him very, very nervous
I did trance work with him, beginning with a permissive trance of the form, “Some people really enjoy becoming hypnotized by following the pleasing sensations in their bodies…” He easily went into trance and enjoyed it. Then I invited him into a trance tailored to include images and experiences of confidence and comfort in the areas of his life in which he felt quite at ease. These trances helped him get through times where he stumbled, lost the beat, or lost his balance. He found that he would laugh about stumbling and continue to dance, unaffected by his wife’s loving look.
As his dance life improved in classes, Beth encouraged him to take her to the group dance parties run by the dancing school teachers. There, his anxiety returned full force, because a particularly attractive female teacher, Jennifer, a superb dancer, attended. He thought she noticed him and could easily see all his flaws.
In trance, I had Dr. Jim imagine going to the dance party: I had him imagine what shoes he’d wear, what jacket. I had him imagine arriving in the car and walking up the long flight of stairs to the studio. He could see the other couples arriving with their dance clothes on. After the trance he said, with evident pleasure, “I was dancing with Jennifer! I knew what to do. It was comfortable and fun.”
In an Ericksonian manner I refrained from prospecting for couples” “issues” to “explain” the problem. Instead, I concentrated on helping Dr. Jim to use his resources and feelings, conscious and unconscious, to reach his goal of dancing happily with his wife.
I constructed a trance in which he imagined dancing with Jennifer at the party, with style and ease. When he reached the party he was to imagine walking directly over to Jennifer and asking her to dance. Beth wasn’t a part of that trance.
”What kind of dances will you be doing with Jennifer? Hear the music, and take the steps that you need to take for that dance. Your partner, Jennifer, moves easily with you. I wonder, is it a waltz or a foxtrot? Will you be twirling your partner, or will you separate and come back together? What about dancing the jitterbug with all that energy, motion, and fun?” The trances were minimal with long pauses. When Dr. Jim was dancing with Jennifer he had a big smile on his face. There wasn’t much I had to say. I just listened to the music in my own mind and watched the smiles of confidence and pleasure bloom on his face.
At the end of these trances he said that he was relaxed and pleased that he was able to dance with Jennifer. In the trance she complimented him on his dancing. I asked him if he would feel comfortable returning to the dance parties with Beth when Jennifer was there too. He asked for a few more trance lessons dancing with Jennifer before he felt ready. After these trances, he came in and told me that he’d been to another dance party, dancing with Beth. He wasn’t intimidated by Jennifer’s presence. And, Beth complimented his dancing. Dr. Jim said, “Dancing with Beth is so easy and wonderful now!” The hypnosis dance class took seven lessons.