Peter was 13. The school psychiatrist suggested to his mom that Peter starts on anti-psychotic medication. For any mom, hearing that was unacceptable and wanted to find other answers, so the psychiatrist gave the mom two months to find an answer to Peter’s problem or he will have to change schools because his reactions are influencing his classmates negatively.
Peter’s problem was that he was hallucinating a nun, visually and auditorily, VALAK from the movie The Conjuring, which caused him to have Panic Attacks, scream, and freeze. This had been going for 2 years on a daily basis since his parents started the process of divorce.
Peter’s mom, let's call her Julia had a friend who knew me, who knows I had the knack with experimenting with challenging cases. Although I am not a therapist, as a Coach and NLP Trainer, I have worked with challenging cases in collaboration with therapists for the better part of the last seven years, and got some interesting results as my frame of mind was different than theirs.
Discovery Session, Peter and Julia come together. He shares his story and how long it had been happening. I deliberately misunderstood the name of the nun and called her the name of a cheese “Kashkaval”, this is a PCW (Provocative Change Works) stance that helps in lightening up the mood and helping the client get out of his state a bit.
We did 4 sessions with intervals of between 2 weeks to 4 months in between and here is a summary.
Session One: We worked on changing the connection of the emotion to certain images in his mind.
Result: He started seeing the Nun once every 2 days instead of daily
Session Two: Using the fast phobia model — we worked on changing a specific scene in his mind that started with the moment he started getting scared, and ended at the peak, towards starting way before the fear started where he was safe, and until he reached safety again after the peak.
Result: He started seeing the nun once every two weeks, but still believed it was out there not a figment of his imagination.
Session Three: Mostly was a provocative conversation, getting him to think of different things in different ways. Two main points played a role here. His biggest trigger was when he was studying Maths and reached a point where he could not understand anymore. He was afraid to fail. So, we did a how-to study Maths session a week later that was not related to change work, just a mental strategy session on how to solve problems. The second point was a question I asked “Have you ever taken a picture of “Crispy”?” The nun’s new name because her skin reminded him of crispy chicken. His answer was no.
Result: Two weeks later Peter sends me 3 Whatsapp Pictures telling me, that’s her, can you see, can you see?
I asked “ Where? Can you mark her for me so I can see her too?”
And the more he tried, the more it disappeared. And I did not hear from Peter or Julia for a while.
Session Four: Three months down the line, Julia calls me and says that Peter really wants to see you. We agreed on a date. Peter had grown in length, lost weight, and had asked his mom to change schools as he was not comfortable in the environment anymore. When I asked about “Crispy”, his reply was: “Well I only saw her once, I was camping with my friends, and she showed up in the forest far away, waving her hand as if she was saying goodbye…”
That’s when I said goodbye to Peter, knowing that the best way to help someone change something is listening to how they create and maintain the problem, as PCW creator Nick Kemp says, and when heard well, change happens much quicker than expected and in much simpler more straightforward ways.
NB: The stories I am sharing here are not prescriptions or advice in any way, they are just stories of what worked and did not work for me in specific contexts with specific people.