Terrible thoughts

The mail from the mother of 10-year-old Fabian sounded desperate: I hope you can help us. My son Fabian has been suffering from bad thoughts for several weeks now. Thoughts of murder and killing – all kinds of terrible things that really trouble him. My personal research suggests he suffers from an obsessive-compulsive disorder. Because it’s so bad, we already went to our family doctor. We then had to see an emergency psychiatrist and in one week from now he has a first appointment in a psychiatric clinic. We want to do anything we can so that he can be happy again as soon as possible. Have I come to the right place with this?

Yes, you have, I think to myself, and give this desperate mother the soonest possible appointment. The client form she sends me reveals multiple other issues: strong homesickness, many fears, sleep disturbances, cannot sleep without his little brother, physical tics. A long list! A few days later, I welcome them both in my practice. Fabian, such a handsome, intelligent boy, yet disturbed, insecure, fearful. It’s easy to tell he’s suffering. His mother, helpless and under a lot of pressure. You can tell she’s also suffering together with her son. In the pretalk I first take out any pressure: “We are not talking about an obsessive-compulsive disorder. We’re just talking about a phase.” The boy is visibly relieved. My goal is to get him out of this spiral as quickly as possible and prevent him from getting stamped with “something is wrong with me” in a psychiatric clinic.

I experience Fabian as intelligent, compassionate, responsible and kind. He tries to please everyone. He tells me he likes the Harry Potter stories and has seen all the movies. He likes the values that these stories tell: Courage, friendship, the fight for good. Great, I think, knowing that Harry Potter will come in handy later. We agree on the goal for the first session: let us control your thoughts so that they can no longer control you. Homesickness, fears, sleep disturbances and tics we leave aside. There’s no hurry.

Mom leaves the room, Fabian allows me to work with him. He gets comfortable in his chair and I explain mindTV to him. Fabian chooses the 3D dinosaur card to tire his eyes and we get started. He does a great job, relaxes and dives into his inner world. An exciting world appears before him; an adventure playground with steep slides, a large trampoline, an indoor swimming pool with diving platforms. All pretty daring! Small, orange-clad construction workers buzz around, continue to expand and build new ones. They remind me of Minions. Fabian looks around, is enthusiastic, but doesn’t really know yet whether he dares to try everything. I reassure him. He slides down the steep slide and enjoys the admiring looks of his little construction workers, he hears their applause. Motivated by this, he continues onto the trampoline, where he jumps higher than ever before, accompanied by the cheers of the construction workers. He also jumps off the diving platform – yes, even from the 10-metre tower – and he feels great. A fantastic feeling flows through him, the cheering and the thunderous applause of the construction workers inspires him. We anchor this strong feeling – he should take it with him everywhere he goes. We leave his inner world, knowing that his construction workers will continue work diligently and building new exciting things for him.

Now we want to regain control of his thoughts. I let him dive into the exact moment when one of these terrible thoughts appears in his head. We transform the feeling: he sees it as black triangles in the heart and both knees. We work through the Movie of his Life, find bad situations, resolve them and pull these dark, disturbing triangles out of the body. We replace them with radiant green self-confidence – he finds it in his World. In the Mind Room we destroy the “Bad Thought Machine”. We turn up self-confidence and switch of fear and homesickness as a precaution. Then, we build ourselves a happy cotton candy machine that wraps lightness and positive thoughts around wooden sticks. I watch Fabian as he’s busy building and testing the result. I know he can do it. «You did a great job, Fabian», I say to him, «let’s go back to your inner world. I want you to meet someone really special there.» We go back and Fabian discovers his Inner Friend jumping on the trampoline. We sit with him at the edge of the pool and check whether he also had these objects. No, the Inner Friend is fine. He’s glad that Fabian could let go of his objects. Now they can have more fun together. Fabian is happy. The two friends hug each other and feel their strength they have together. Meanwhile, construction workers have continued their work and built water slides that look even more daring and exciting. Do you want to try it, Fabian? Yeah, because now his Inner Friend is there too. And he wants to lead the way. Fabian watches as his Inner Friend plunges down the slide and waits for him at the bottom. Then, he follows his Inner Friend down the slide. The friends meet in the water and celebrate their courage. And the construction workers again applaud and cheer. The feeling of courage, strength and self-confidence grows stronger and stronger. Now the two are an unbeatable team. With this great feeling present and thrilled by what he has just experienced, Fabian opens his eyes. At the end of session I give him a green wristband to remind him how strong and brave he is and that his Inner Friend is with him. We say goodbye and schedule a second session one week later.

Three days later I get this email from his mother: Dear Claudia, Fabian is doing really good. I canceled the appointment at the psychiatric hospital. We will wait and see what happens in the second session. As he arrives for the second session Fabian appears much bigger, happier and more open. He’s laughing and talking. His bad thoughts still come from time to time, but he doesn’t care about them. You can do me no harm, he says, you are just thoughts. Wonderful, Fabian, and today we want to make sure that those thoughts go away completely and turn off everything else you don’t need anymore. Are you ready? Oh, yes, he is. He is curious to see what his construction workers have achieved in the meantime. I also remember his interest in Harry Potter. Today I can integrate him. We dive down again; his inner world has become even more exciting and colorful. Fabian and his Inner Friend plunge confidently into all the slides and rides and feel strong. We then search the body again for unwanted objects and find them: Balls, stars, triangles – there are many things associated with homesickness, fears, sleep and tics. We work intensively and remove them all. Fabian knows that we will meet Harry Potter afterwards. And then there he is, the little wizard with the scar on his forehead. We want something from him, a spell that prevents bad thoughts from finding Fabian. After all, Harry Potter wouldn’t be Harry Potter if he couldn’t come up with something. Interestingly, he gives Fabian his cape. Fabian will always wear it and because of it, bad thoughts simply won’t find him. Also, since Harry knows that Fabian often worries about all kinds of things, he gives him a protection animal. Fabian’s is a deer (buck). Because his little brother also needs protection, he gets one too a rabbit. Now both boys are well protected, and Fabian doesn’t need to worry about his little brother anymore. The protection animals and his parents are taking care of it now. Fabian is glad to give up this responsibility.

Still in his imagination, we play a round of Quidditch. His team helps him beat all the bad feelings like fear, self-doubt, bad thoughts, homesickness and sleeping problems far away from the playing field. Meanwhile, Fabian is chasing the golden treasure. He knows this treasure has many good, strong feelings for him: Courage, self-confidence, joy, lightness. While Fabian is chasing his treasure, I sneak to my drawer where I keep all kinds of little gifts for clients. I choose a golden rubber ball. At the exact moment when Fabian yells «I got it!», I place the rubber ball in his hand. He is surprised, then laughs. It was a fantastic session – we had lots of fun. And I know Fabian will be fine.

Another week later it’s time for his third session. Fabian storms into my practice, laughing, happy and brings me a chocolate Easter bunny. How are you doing, I want to know. He smiles at me and says: «Great!» All his symptoms are gone. No more homesickness. He had just returned from a two-day field trip with an overnight stay. He now sleeps alone without any problems. Tics? Gone. Bad thoughts? «No, they won’t find me. Claudia, I feel great. We’re so glad we found you.» Fabian and his mom smile. They are both very happy. And so am I. I’m smiling from ear to ear. So simple. So quick. So effective.

Claudia Dübendorfer

With a lot of empathy, creativity and humour Claudia takes children and adults on an unforgettable journey through the Movie of their Life – with impressive results.

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