A few years ago my mom came to visit me in Barcelona. She and I had been hanging around and at a certain point she asked me how my studies in therapy were going.
I told her about my interest in working with the subconscious and my preliminary successes with phobias.
She turned to me and said, “Lorenzo! Do you know that I have a phobia myself!?” “No,” I replied with surprise. It always makes me smile when as the children we forget the complexity and humanness of our parents.
My mother revealed that she had suffered from an intense aversion to rats for much of her adult life. As she described her experience, she began to relate a recent story that took place in her garden back home.
To keep things clean and organized, my mother keeps a bin in her garden where she stores dead leaves and similar organic waste. Not long ago she went to drop some leaves into this bin and as soon as she pulled back the lid she saw a mother rat with her little family.
She froze in cinematic panic. Her initial thought was she will have to buy a whole new bin as she will never open that one again. No sir!
Though initially humorous, I saw the sincerity in her eyes. Thus, I gathered myself and asked her to describe the intensity and type of emotion she experienced as she recalled this event.
From her description, she and I began working on kinaesthetic memories to release some of the vividness of that experience.
A kinaesthetic memory is a physical feeling our bodies trigger when we recall a specific event in our lives. Some kinaesthetic memories are just wonderful feelings and thus there is no reason to remove them. Others, however, can be painful and often debilitating and therefore a release is beneficial.
The practice I used this time is a combination of EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) and some simple hypnotic regressions. Practically is a way to tune into the memories the body holds and, one at the time, release them until a neutral state is once again reached.
As her present physical response subsided, we began to understand from where her severe aversion stemmed.
My mother is a biologist by trade. In her early years working at the university, she had to conduct countless and continuous experiments on rats. Rat after rat, test after test, until finally she could not take it any longer. She had manipulated too many rats in too many cages.
A few weeks later, I opened my email and saw one from my beloved mother. She told me that the day before, while knee deep in soil, that she saw the rat again. She was so pleased to reveal that although she did not experience a surge of deep love for the rat, she was able to pleasantly share her garden with her. She was hopeful to soon accept her as her garden partner.
Though my mother was not suffering from crippling limitations due to her phobia, her fear of rats was still a restriction of her freedom to enjoy life. Sometimes little memories grip us and prevent us from experiencing joy in fullness and thus small restrictions can begin to feel like chokeholds over time. By helping my mother to release this distress, she was able to fully enjoy her beloved garden again. This I feel is a great gift one can give - especially if the gift is for your mother!