Trauma Changes the World
Regression and Trauma Coaching
Master Coach: Wayne Johnson
Introduction to the Multiple Emotional Child
Before I begin my introduction into the concept of the multiple emotional child, I wish to clarify (as did Anthony) my role and intentions. I am not here as a counselor or therapist, although I have worked in this capacity for many years. Instead, I hope to be your teacher, consultant and life coach. I intend to share with you the best tools I’ve discovered over the years to assist you in healing yourself. This new paradigm may help you find the right counselor, 12-step program, minister, priest, bishop or friend. My deepest hope is that this material will be a catalyst for positive change in your life.
In addition, I wish to acknowledge there are many theories, models or paradigms out there on how to approach healing. I do not doubt there is some truth and good that comes from these various approaches. However, what I am about to share with you comes from what I have witnessed time and again over the past 37 years, across all ages and backgrounds, including my own. Because the multiple emotional child paradigm allows you to conceptualize what is going on inside yourself, it allows you to develop your own unique process of healing yourself. This makes the paradigm universal in nature; and this is what also makes it so unique.
To my knowledge, there wasn’t a concept of a multiple emotional child until 1992 when John Bradshaw published his groundbreaking book, Homecoming. I came to much the same conclusion in 1973, but didn’t publish my own master’s thesis until 1990. The basic concept is this: because most people will experience multiple traumatic events throughout their childhood, there will be more than one developmental stage impacted and “frozen” by the traumas. Hence, the various “emotional children” attached to each trauma is born.
So, when I talk about an emotional child, I am referring to a facet of one’s self that fragmented during a traumatic experience. This part of one’s self never had the opportunity to progress through the subsequent developmental stages because it became frozen during the shock of trauma. The rest of one’s self, however, continues through the remaining developmental stages to adulthood. Therefore, most of us won’t even realize we have these various emotional children within us, as they are separate from our adult selves. However, with the right direction, you will come to recognize these little ones inside you. You will make contact with them, gain their trust, clear the effects of their traumas, and finally bond and attach them back to your adult-self as their rightful emotional parent.
Wayne’s Personal Journey
First, I’d like to begin by taking you on a journey into my own background and childhood, to help you better understand where I come from, as well as to illustrate how some of my own emotional children were born.
My mother was physically and sexually abused by her biological father and older brother. She suffered from depression and probably could have been diagnosed as Borderline Personality Disorder by today’s standards. Her father was an alcoholic and died before I was born. She might have even had a baby due to the abuse. On her death-bed, she reported to my youngest brother that she was taken at one point to Miami, Florida for an abortion.
My father was a World War II veteran. He was an artillery officer coming up the boot of Italy. He was in one of the fiercest battles of the war, known as the PO Valley battle. He was firing 108 mm Howitzers at point-blank range. He was a war hero, though I never knew this about him until he was on his death-bed. He shared this with my brother Gary, who is retired special forces (Green Beret), while slipping in and out of consciousness before he died.
My father was a journeyman electrician. After the war, he went to school to become a teacher. He took a half-cut in pay to follow his dream. We went through some lean times while we lived in south Phoenix with my grandma. We had an outdoor “john” and ice was delivered once a week for the family ice box.
As Todd briefly mentioned in his story, my paternal grandfather ran away from home when he was 15 years old. He came to Arizona in a covered wagon in 1885. He died in 1975 at age 90. After running away from home, he got drunk and joined the cavalry under General Pershing. He was a master sergeant, scout and cook, and it’s true he even chased Poncho Villa along the border. As Todd also mentioned, he met and married my grandmother in the Mexican Colonies. He received medals for bravery in combat. He cried when he told his story about coming to Arizona in a covered wagon and seeing men land on the moon. He was very proud of his history. I am proud of him too. It was an honor to have him present me my Eagle Scout award.
Since birth, I became my mother’s reason for living. She even ironed my underwear. In short, she created a self-centered narcissist. When I was one and a half years old, my mother went to see my dad at an army camp. I was left in the care of my father’s oldest sister, who left me to cry in my crib until I ruptured. I ended up with a hernia operation. One of my earliest emotional children is born of this trauma.
At age six, I was in first grade. The teacher had us march around the room holding little American flags as she played the national anthem. I couldn’t get out of my seat because I had to go to the bathroom. We argued. I peed my pants. The kids laughed at me. I ran the entire three miles home and told my mom I was never going back to school. An emotional child is born.
At age seven, my maternal grandmother died. I was very close with her. She was a quiet and engaging woman who chewed tobacco. My mom had a nervous breakdown. Men in little white coats would come and take her away in straight jackets when she was raging. She would break things and lash out at all of us. She was given electric shock therapy. I remember going to visit my mother in the sanitarium and sitting with her as she had a fixed gaze and drooled. Another emotional child is born.
After several years, my mom started to improve. Dad took a position as Head Teacher in a four-room school in Parker Dam California. One day when my family was driving into town, (about 17 miles away in Parker Arizona) they were hit by a drunk driver. My mother went through the windshield and had over two hundred stitches as a result. Her neck was broken and she died several times on the operating table. At the time of the accident, I was nine years old and home alone with my younger brother who was seven. A family friend was supposed to come and stay with us, but she never showed up. Instead, she called hysterically and said my mom had died on the operating table. My brother cried and I held him. Yet another emotional child is born.
My mom lived, but she was again unstable. When she finally arrived home, I was terrified to be away from her. I was also terrified someone would find out about my fear. I thought I had everyone fooled, but years later I found out my parents almost sent me to a psychologist. When I was 12 or 13-years-old, my father went to a teaching convention. I was supposed to go to scout camp, but thought I could talk my mother out of sending me. However, I later learned my dad had already made plans for me before he left for his convention. The scouts showed up and literally carried me to the vehicle. After three days in shock, I was good.
The anxiety came back while in boot camp, which surprised me. I experienced this anxiety for about a year. Because of these experiences with depression and anxiety, I decided to change my major to psychology. I was in pre-law until my senior year. At the same time, I met a school psychologist named Larry Simmons who became my mentor and friend for the next 13 years. When I first met Larry, he took me back to the forth grade and cleared the post-accident trauma through regression therapy. It changed my life; though I was still narcissistic and externalized all of my relationships (everyone became my parent).
Together with Larry Simmons, I founded and co-founded three residential treatment centers for court-placed youth. I also maintained a private practice. However, because of pervasive unresolved development issues and dysfunctional childhood patterns, my world crashed and burned. I parted ways with Larry and ended up divorced. I was emotionally and financially bankrupt. It was like my old childhood and ensuing adulthood paradigms needed to crash and burn through my system. I experienced severe mixed anxiety and depression. I went through numerous in-depth therapies trying to understand and heal. After a while, the healing began. I remarried and entered into a whole new wonderful paradigm.
I was beginning to individuate. It was at this time I began to pull my research together and had the confidence and self-healing to write my master’s thesis: The Multiple Emotional Child - A New Bonding and Regressive Therapy (1990).
How It All Came Together
Now, although the multiple emotional child paradigm is a relatively new concept, it is important to note the basic underlying idea here (that life’s problems are best solved from within rather than without) is not new. In fact, the father of person-centered psychology, Carl Rogers, said essentially the same thing: the answers to anyone’s problems come from themselves. He came up with a new paradigm, sometimes referred to as reflective psychology. Essentially, he would sit in front of the person and mirror or reflect what they were saying, allowing the individual to take responsibility for their process and their life. When they finally left the counseling process, they truly were the ones who solved their own problems. Indeed, Carl Rogers laid the foundation for many subsequent related paradigms to emerge, including this one.
My master’s thesis was born of my particular interest in the concept of the emotional child and its relationship to trauma and abandonment. I wanted to know everything I could about these concepts and how they interfaced with each other.
I began by acknowledging the idea of multiple emotional children within, instead of a generalized singular emotional child, as was more commonly discussed in the literature of the day. With the prospect of multiple traumas experienced over the years, it was easy for me to conclude there would be multiple emotional children. I further came to realize that when a trauma is experienced, there are three key parts of the child’s specific developmental stage that are frozen-in-time: the related emotional, physical and cognitive aspects of how the child experienced the trauma. This is important because all three of these aspects together help form the child’s epistemology, or how they come to know what they know.
Since these emotional children each have a different epistemology and personality style, they will soon begin to vie for power or attention. This could potentially create all the symptoms found in a dysfunctional family, within a single person. Using the multiple emotional child approach, it becomes much easier to target the specific emotional child or children having difficulty. Knowing their specific epistemologies makes the diagnosing and treatment easier and more accurate.
As I incorporated these concepts into my private practice, I found the best place to start treatment was with a breathing technique I used as an induction into self-hypnosis. This allowed clients the opportunity to deal directly with the specific traumas identified. After several years of refining my concept of regressive work (self-hypnosis) and trauma, I ultimately discovered to fully “clear” or resolve a traumatic event, you had to incorporate the three aspects of memory I previously mentioned: cognition (intellect), affect (emotions), and the visceral (physical). These three aspects of the memory had to be dealt with in synch with each other.
For example, when working with a client I would write the story of their trauma down verbatim as they spoke. Next, I would have them do a breathing exercise as prelude to self-hypnosis. While in this deeper relaxed state, I had the individual repeat their story as written. At appropriate intervals, I would have them verbalize all their thoughts, emotions and physical feelings related to the event. Much like Carl Rogers, I was reflecting or mirroring their process back to them. What was true would stand, and what was distorted would dissipate like vapor.
I became increasingly effective at clearing traumas with this approach, but was it enough? My gut told me no. Eventually I found the missing link while working with a client who was extremely emotionally fragile. It was suspected this woman was molested from about age five to age seven. However, each time she tried to regress to that possible pervasive trauma, she would sob uncontrollably and just couldn’t go there.
I fasted and prayed for three days in search of an answer. At about 2:00 in the morning, I dreamt of a little boy in a hospital bed, screaming and crying as his parents were leaving. I quickly realized the baby boy was me. I was one and a half years old, going in for a hernia operation. In those days, parents weren’t allowed to stay with the child. I perceived the child’s thoughts and feelings. I could physically feel his pain. At this moment, I realized he did not have to be alone - I could parent him. I rushed to his side. I held him and cried with him. I knew how to do trauma work, but now I discovered in order to complete the trauma resolution process, I needed to bond and reattach this boy to his rightful emotional parent … me!
This experience taught me how to work with my client. I had her bring in photographs of herself from birth to adulthood. When she saw pictures of herself from birth to pre-five years old, she had no problem imagining herself holding those children. However, between ages five and seven, she referred to this child as a slut and wanted nothing to do with her. So, I had her hold the pre-five child at first, and then incorporated a behavioral desensitization technique for the 5-7 year old. She would visualize this child 50 yards away with the child’s back turned to the client. Then, I would talk the client through deep relaxation exercises until she could visualize the child closer and closer. This continued until she could finally visualize this child in her lap, where they held tightly to each other. It took weeks of daily visual meditation to get the child to this point. However, once the client was bonded to her emotional child, we were able to proceed with the trauma resolution therapy and heal the trauma of the abuse that occurred to that emotional child.
Because of this and subsequent experiences, it became clear than in almost every traumatic event, there is perceived separation or abandonment either by parents, God, family, spouse or friends. This blank or void is difficult to access and heal. Healing this void is as important as clearing or healing the actual trauma itself. In essence, there are two aspects to a complete healing of an event or events. One is clearing the traumatic event itself, the other is bonding and attaching the emotional child back to you, the emotional parent.