Conversation with a client working on a long term problem

Today I would like you share with you a conversation I had with a client. This client currently holds my record for the most sessions. I have had 7 sessions with them . I rarely get above 4 sessions with anyone so this is case is quite unusual for me. The client is a blind Swiss ME/CFS/PVFS (Myalgic Encephalopathy/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Post Viral Fatigue Syndrome) sufferer that also has sleep trouble.  I have been helping this client via Skype sessions and in general they have made good progress but so far sleep is still a problem.  I always ask my clients to ask me questions and today we have a text conversation which I feel is worth sharing.

Client: Hi Jon! How things with you? I am doing pretty good, being optimistic and curious about the future. You mentioned something interesting, namely, that Milton Erickson’s was often led into dead ends by his unconscious. But…. That isn’t a bad thing in itself and should not stop one from using intuition the way Erickson did?

Jon Hinchliffe: Absolutely not. This is why I have the analogy of the captain of the ship being the conscious and the unconscious being the rest of the ship. Sometimes the worker gets it wrong and need guidance from the manager as to how to proceed. Sometimes, of course, the captain gets it wrong and needs to trust his workers to get there. It is all give and take.

Client: Thanks for reminding me of that analogy of yours! I have been reading C.G. Jung – thinking I might get some inspiration as to how to steer and activate my unconscious mind in the direction I want it to work. Can’t however make much of Jung’s archetypes so far. I thought that there might be something like the ‘healer archetype’ in Jung. Haven’t found that however. Do you have any opinion on archetypes and if and how they could be used for the healing process?

Jon Hinchliffe: I have to say I don’t know what they are but given they are a man-made breaking down of us, I don’t really see them need for them. We are whole and the where we want to b is what I believe we should focus on. Do you think your unconscious might have a reason for not letting you sleep?

Client: I don’t see that my unconscious would have any reason not to let me sleep – except …. if is getting the wrong  orders from the captain…. But I must say that the captain has learned quite a bit in the past year. However, I still find it difficult to tap into my unconscious mind – I am sure it is happening but I am not consciously aware of it – and this is something I’d like to be consciously aware of – like the captain of a ship ought to consciously know what the crew is doing, thinking, and suggesting….

Jon Hinchliffe: How would a captain ever know what his crew are thinking? He can’t become them.

Client: Well, a captain has his officers that will inform him, give him advice, give him an idea of how the crew is doing and so forth….. Maybe I was thinking that the archetypes could function something like the officers of a ship to the captain of the ship…..

Jon Hinchliffe: You can’t consciously think like your unconscious and you can’t necessarily be aware of it. When I feel my unconscious has given me something, I am still thinking it consciously. How am I selecting the words I am typing or the words I when I speak?

The officers still have limited views. I prefer the idea of the whole being united and I have found nothing that has convinced me otherwise.

Client: Well, I get your point. However…. In some shamanistic traditions and other mind-based traditions as well, I guess one could argue that the unconscious becomes the mode in which the world – both inner and outer world – is experienced…. Is this thinking too far out your thinking?

Jon Hinchliffe: I only like the conscious and unconscious because I can kind of prove there is something that isn’t conscious but is still there. I still think of us a whole being working towards common goals

I might incorrectly try to argue that the conscious is how we notice and represent the inner. The crew send the messages (the feelings) but the captain is the one judging them.

Client: I just feel that the border between the conscious and unconscious mind might not be as sharp as you make it look with your analogy of a ship and its captain and crew. Maybe what you mean by ‘the conscious mind’ being the captain is more like a ‘meta-conscious mind’. This at least is how one could think of it when one grants that the line between conscious and unconscious mind is blurry. By the way, I have gotten this idea from neuroscience as well as from my own experience – dreams being a good example of the blurry line between conscious and unconscious.

However, I do like your concept of the mind as a whole working towards common goals.

Jon Hinchliffe: I agree the line is very blurry and this is why we have to remember we are a whole and why we have to remember I can’t talk without my unconscious selecting my words for me. I try and rationalise the conscious and unconscious mind but I have no real idea of how the unconscious mind “ticks” all can do is give it problems and ask it to help solve them. This is why I go with my flow in sessions rather than have a strict forced structure. As I am working I often note bits I want to include in the hypnosis session but once I am working unconsciously I can ignore my notes completely. My unconscious is aware of what I have thought but is suggesting other ideas to me. I am normally more happy with what I achieved that if I had stuck to my plan. If I still feel my ideas worth doing another time I will make a note to myself.

There are problems I have thrown to my unconscious for months and sometimes the answer comes from nowhere all by itself. I feel I am still being taught by my unconscious.

Perhaps my unconscious is still learning. I encourage everyone to look at all areas of life and see where the cross links come from. It is something I am constantly doing. Perhaps my unconscious is therefore learning to communicate with me consciously better. You have to remember it is less than 5 years ago I had no concept of my unconscious mind. During that time I have changed and improved so much. My understanding of the world is constantly developing.

Client: That is a fascinating point: That your unconscious is maybe learning how to communicate with you better. I do believe that learning happens all the time and the way that the unconscious mind implements what it has learned into our life remains opaque as whatever we act out is already given to us consciously. However, going back to the topic of dreams…. Dreams might be one of those areas where the conscious mind and the unconscious mind meet in a way that is observable to the self….. I have found over time that I there are subtle changes in which my dream world presents certain common themes to me – when those themes have to do with my recovery, I find that I now have more options to choose from within the dream – it used to be only two options: Escaping from the scene and waking up or trying to ‘disbelieve’ what is happening. These days, I find I have the power to attend to any issue that comes up in the dream and try to be creative about it. Maybe your hypnosis work is based on similar principles….

Jon Hinchliffe: I certainly think the way you describe dreams there is very like the way clients describe the trance they have just had. I am one of those people that is rarely aware of my own dreams so it is not an area I have played with. I would hope the older you get the more you discover that there are always so many choices about how we move forward. It is two-choice thinking that is the cause of so many of my clients coming to see me. So often both choices are both right and wrong depending on the perspective you are looking from. This is why I like to tell clients that as soon as I believe I know something I know I am almost certainly wrong. And even that statement can be wrong!

Jon Hinchliffe: There seems a good point to let you carry on thinking and focusing on your improved health. Trust your unconscious!

Client: I like  what you said about what you believe when you have come to believe something…smiley. It is almost a Quinean poing in philosophy: There are no analytical truths. You also seem to refer to what one could call ‘fluid intelligence’ as opposed to ‘rigid intelligence’, i.e. collecting data and thinking the data itself is objective….. If I understand you correctly, even the data must never be regarded as objective and written in stone. I also feel that the notion of the unconscious mind you use is closely linked to what I would call ‘intuition’. And I would say that most people trust their intuition as a default. Trusting their unconscious mind seems to be more daring and unsafe…. as most people will think of their unconscious mind as having this dark, destructive side.

Jon Hinchliffe:  When I ran my first half marathon after 15 years of ME/CFS/PVFS I felt that is would prove I didn’t have ME. I spent two years expecting this. I ran the half marathon and instantly realised all it meant was on that day I had ran a half marathon. It meant nothing more and trying to put my interpretation on it was wrong.

I agree with your description as intuition and I very much like the idea of fluid thinking. The dark destructive side is not something I accept. I think that is the result of Freud and the like. I think that was a way forward that appeared to work but I see no need for it and I think it is a cause of problems. If the unconscious is dark and bad how is that useful to mankind as a species? I have often spoken to clients after therapist have left them thinking there is a something blocking them etc. I have not yet been convinced this is the case. Just talking to the client has normally left them a different perspective on this point.

Client: Oh, now you just raised a fascinating point, i.e. that you are not convinced about the dark, destructive side of the mind. I think – completely neglecting Freud -, there are some good points in favour of the dark, destructive side of the mind…. I think this would make for a longer discussion and I am all for it. Would you like to discuss that at a later time?

[15:16:02] Jon Hinchliffe: We can or we can carry on now

Client: Sorry, Jon, would like to carry on but a friend came over. Will really like to discuss this with you!

Thank you, Jon, for this conversation! I would like to take this up at another time! I feel our little exchange had a positive impact on me! Cheers to both our unconscious minds. smiley

Jon Hinchliffe: Ok another time 🙂

Client: Great! Warmest wishes from Switzerland!