It has taken me a long time to summon up the courage to write about this, I think it’s time now to tell it, to whoever wants to listen.

In over two decades of working with people who have been either severely or psychologically wounded by other people, suffering after road traffic collision, having serious injury and/or near death experiences. After considerable research of tried and tested ways of working with clients as they relate their experiences of dissociation. I have come to realise that there is often a higher part of the person I am working with that comes into play when their treatment and recovery is taking place.

Much of my work puts me in touch with those who have been sexually violated, neglected or had life threatening experiences by less than nurturing mothers. And, as children it is not uncommon for them to report hovering above or looking down upon themselves during the horror of what they were going through at the time.

Not only is it more common than not, it’s almost a regular part of a clients’ recollection of their survival of the abusive behaviours of others. 

More recently, when I am working with a client who is re-entering an abusive situation via an EMDR (Eye Movement Dissociation Reprocessing) BSP (Brainspotting) or VK Dissociation technique. I will ask them to go in as their dissociated self, looking down on the terror of what they were subjected to, as the adult they are in the session.

The dissociated self or spirit part of the human being (as I call it), is able to relate and respond to me in a different way and if I can communicate, or get that part of the client to engage with me, then work and processing can take place at a much deeper and more intense level and for the most part, without the emotion.

The general response is of factual recall rather than distressing emotional memories, a bit like a calm commentary, running through the series of events while the client observes from above or to the side, as if leaving their actual body. 

Sometimes, if it is just too scary or anxiety laden for the client, I will ask them to imagine and visualise a powerful animal of their choice, or even a hero to take with them, to revisit the abusive or traumatic incident. Clients have conjured up some excellent allies, such as Siberian tigers, ferocious dogs and one even came up with a giant mechanical hornet.

Working with people who have survived horrific road traffic collision especially motorcyclists, who have reported hovering over the scene at the time. They may have died momentarily and watched as the paramedics and other medical professionals try to resuscitate them. All the while, continuing with their dialogue of running commentary. I once worked with a gentleman who had been in a multiple car pile-up on a motorway near London. He had been driving at the legal speed, passing a service station. A huge lorry hadn’t seen him coming and drove out onto the motorway straight into the side of his car. He was forced across the road into the barrier and as a consequence many other cars were involved in the collision.

The client recalled, quite ashamedly that he had never told anyone about what had happened on that day. He said he needed to get the untold story out.

When the crash had happened and the walking wounded started to get out of their cars he recalled watching down on the scene from above. He remembered that his windscreen had literally ‘popped’ out and was swaying from side to side as it lay on the ground. As it did so, it cast a rainbow of colours from the sun beaming down and the petrol that was all over the road.  He could see himself in his car below him. His head and shoulders were slouched over the wheel and he stated that he thought to himself; how on earth was he going to get out of that alive?

He continued to tell me that it wasn’t long before he remembered hearing and seeing the ambulances, police cars and fire engines that were coming from both directions of the motorway, but that he could see the tops of the vehicles from where he was looking down rather than head on. And then suddenly, with an almighty crash he felt the most intense pressure and pain as he re engaged with his body.

That was the first time I used the spiritual connection. I asked him to talk to me as if he was still in the position above the motorway and he found it really easy to work in that way. He was able to see the incident for what it was, he told me that there were four ambulances, five fire engines with four police cars in full view. He could see now how close his body came to dying, however, upon witnessing the skill, speed and capabilities of the medical teams his body survived it. 

I then asked him to talk to me as if he was in the car, and that was wholly different. Emotions flooded his cognition and he was unable to recall a clear view of what happened on that day. He had no idea of the number of emergency vehicles, how many were injured or how he got to the hospital. That was in 2008 and since then, where possible, I have used this method with clients, with their agreement obviously. It stands to reason that this helps in a number of ways because by working with the higher self, there is no emotional element to deal with and information can be worked through proficiently. 

The information is able to get passed into the memory bank, where it can be stored naturally in the brains filing system and then the client is able to adapt to and conclude their work a lot more safely and efficiently. This way of working is even more resourceful if the client is sufficiently relaxed as in trance state, it really is hypnotherapy at its best.

Sue J Daniels
BACP (Snr. Accred)
EMDR & BSP Practitioner
Professional Trauma Specialist