Trauma Counselling (writing exercise)
This is an attempt at another of Neil Gaiman’s exercises: write about a fairy tale character in a therapy session.
It is not particularly exciting because I didn’t have any story in mind, just the scene, but at least it is an attempt.
Ah, there you are Mrs. Hertzel. Come on in. Do sit down!
Do you still have difficulty sleeping?
I’m sorry to hear that. Nightmares?
Yes, that is perfectly normal. Are the sleeping pills working?
Sorry to hear that. And the pain?
I’m told the burn scars are healing well. You should be out of the bandages in a few weeks.
What’s that? Yes. Yes, I understand. No, that is my understanding as well. The scaring will be permanent I’m afraid.
How does that make you feel?
No, that is understandable. A natural reaction to your trauma.
That brings me to something I would like to talk about this session. You told me last time that you have developed a fear of children.
Yes, yes, given the circumstances that is a natural reaction. Certainly.
However, a healthier approach would be to work through the anxiety… ah, yes, we can call it fear if you prefer… and try to process it before it becomes a crippling phobia.
Well, after all, you cannot avoid children for the rest of your life. They are bound to wander by. You live in a gingerbread house, after all.
True, high fences might help, yes, as perhaps moving to a non-gingerbread house…
No, no, of course you shouldn’t be forced to move because you were attacked in your own house. I am not saying that. But fencing yourself in, I believe, is not conductive to your mental health.
I understand. However, most research shows that we do not reduce fear by hiding from it. On the contrary, many studies show that avoidance can aggravate phobia.
Well, yes, a “phobia” is an irrational fear, and one could argue that it is not irrational to fear children after a vicious attack, as you have been the vicim of…
Yes, Mrs Hertzel, I hear what you are saying… but you must agree that most children do not, in fact, commit home invasions with murderous intent.
If I may ask, how old are you, Mrs. Hertzel?
Yes, and how long have you lived in your current cottage?
Ok, and for how long has that been a gingerbread house?
For as long as you have lived there, yes…
In the 42 years you have lived in a gingerbread house—which, I think you will agree, will hold some attraction to young children—how many children have entered your property uninvited?
Hundreds, yes… and until this pair, how many have attacked you?
None! My point exactly.
No, that does not mean that children are harmless, clearly not all things considered, but… yes, yes, I understand…, however, to return to normal life—as much as you can, yes—I will recommend that we work on your fear.
Well, cognitive behavioural therapy and exposure therapy have proven to be effective in dealing with trauma and PTSD.
No, I am not suggesting that we expose you to children, at least not right away… for this session, and at least a few more, I am suggesting that we walk through the events, and analyse how you felt, and try to process it.
I am certainly not pretending that I can imagine how it must have felt. I am hoping that you can tell me…
Now, I want you to think back to when you first saw Hansel and Gretchen sneaking up to your house…