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Agape Christian Counselling, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

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George Hartwell M.Sc.

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Now Parents Can Bring Healing to Their Child's Trauma
using Prayer Therapy for Inner Healing of Trauma

© George Hartwell M.Sc. - all rights reserved

Inner healing is the use of prayer therapy to resolve significant root issues, become of addictive patterns, heal the emotional basis of illness and restore mind and spirit damaged by various forms of trauma. My form of inner healing - Listening Prayer therapy - makes use of the imagination.

Exposure to the horror of people being killed through gunshots, bombs and battles produces a lasting impact on people that once was called shell shock. Being exposed to sudden and shocking violence can have the same effect now called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. These extreme events create high levels of negative emotion, which allows everything about the event to penetrate deeply into our consciousness. A traumatic event overwhelms our minds ability to order and understand and plants emotions, images and beliefs into our unconscious.

A traumatic event is characterized by deeply emotional shock or upset that allows a belief, a feeling and a life pattern to be imbedded deep into our memory. The imbedded belief connected with the memory continues to trigger the related feeling, images and responses until it is changed. This is how a traumatic event continues to influence our life all of our life until and unless there is an effective intervention to change the imbedded belief, relieve the emotional charge, heal the images and allow the learning of another response to these kind of events.

This imbedded event can result in beliefs ( about self, God, life, others) that are not healthy. It can result in a strong expectation and fear of future abuse that acts as a self-fulfilling prophecy. It can result in deep inner decisions (inner vows) that lock up our future options and block future action. (Inner Vows is the term John and Paula Sandford use for deeply imbedded decisions.) It can result in emotional reactions that are disproportionate to the event - but we don't know why. It can result in a variety of unhealthy behaviour patterns, personality patterns, compulsions and addictions.

As children we do not understand adult expressions, humour, and language and because our imaginations are vivid and our emotions responsive we can be traumatized by things adult say that they don't even mean. A young boy refused to get in the bathtub after being taught in swimming class that one can drown in an inch of water. That teaching created an imbedded belief, a fear and resulted in avoidance behaviour.

What is Trauma? 

Trauma can be caused by a traumatic event or abusive experience if the result is a live negative memory. That live negative memory acts like a computer virus. It programs a remembered image, belief, feeling (emotional charge or spirit) and response pattern. That virus-memory stays imbedded until removed. And while it remains imbedded it continues to haunt us with reactions and feelings that are unhelpful. Our life continues to be haunted by the embedded negative belief shaping our view of life.

Impact of Trauma

The implications for one's life of trauma - even small ones - can be quite significant:

1.A phobia can be established.

2.Patterns of avoidance get set in place.

3.Unhealthy character patterns such as:

a)  People pleasing,

b) Super-Responsible,

c)Flight from Life

4.A negative identity (self image, view of self, beliefs about who I am),

5.Academic achievement may become deeply depressed after a shocking event.

6.Core Issues may be experienced such as:

a)A permanent distance (invisible wall) between you and others,

b)A permanent sense of emptiness, not being loved,

c)Sense of something missing inside oneself,

d)Communication mishaps and relationship breakdowns,

e)Emotional and spiritual permanent sense of immaturity,

f)Difficulty anticipating consequences in the future in a way that provides self- discipline,

g)Easily swayed or oppressed by others, and 


What does and does not cause Trauma?

What about Verbal Abuse?

We abuse when we wound another's identity with our words. Verbal abuse is not necessarily related to the emotions in the voice of the other. Verbal abuse is in the content - what was said. If what is said attacks our behaviour and attitudes without attacking our identity and sense of being secure in the relationship (love, belonging), I do not consider it to be abusive. If what is said attacks another's identity (negative labels, attack on the person) I do consider it abusive. Children and  adults in an emotional state are more vulnerable. This means that an attack of words on their person with emotional intensity (cursing them with names, labels or predictions about how they will end up) is more likely to result in trauma.

What about Parental Discipline?

Parental discipline can be deeply comforting to a child and provide needed security if:

a)The parent communicates clearly what the rule is,

b)If is clear to the child that the parent is in charge,

c)The parent communicates respect (love, belonging) for the child as a person.

 The Bible says that we are to be angry but sin not - don't attack the security or identity of another in your rebuke. Be angry with the behaviour (injustice, sin, abuse) but do not attack the person. The Bible says speak the truth in love, which I take to mean one is to deal with the behaviour (the issue, facts) without attacking (hurting, cursing, name calling, swearing at) the person. Speak truth to the issue and love to the person.

How to discipline well (without trauma) even when angry.

Effective discipline accomplishes three purposes: 1. It establishes who is in charge - the basic hierarchy of the family or classroom if you are dealing with children, 2. It establishes the rules of behaviour confronting that which is disruptive, abusive, harmful and inappropriate, 3 It establishes a bonding connection, reinforces a sense of being valued, respected, loved and belonging. Few are the methods that do this well with effectiveness in correcting behaviour without labelling the person or breaking the bond (sense of security, belonging, safety).

I am thankful for the unique contribution of a genius that has provided a real breakthrough in child discipline providing real hope for parents. Gerald Nelson MD, psychiatrist published the One Minute Scolding in 1984 (Shambhala Publications and Random House, ISBN 0-394-72389-9). This book spun off others with Spencer Johnson as author such as: The One Minute $ales Person, The One Minute Mother, The One Minute Father and The One Minute Teacher.

Scolding in one minute involves making very good physical, mental and emotional contact with the child: move in close, touch, make eye contact. The first 30 seconds focus your emotional intensity on the behaviour: express disappointment, upset and/or anger, with hand gestures, face, voice and body language. Do not allow the child to avoid your message focussed on the misbehaviour or broken rule. This is important to you and to the future of the child so do not allow them to escape the process. Do not decrease the intensity of your message until the child feels your emotion and internalizes the message and begins to experience some emotion themselves (tears, trembling lip, change of mood, facial expression). You are successful in involving them in the process when they, not just you, have feelings about this. You are getting an emotional buy in.

Be sure that you repeat the rule or describe the misbehaviour at this point when the child is emotional. Know how to put the rule in clear, correct and unambiguous terms.

The second half of the scolding occurs as soon as the child shows any indication of emotion. You take a few deep breaths. You remind yourself of how important your child is to you. You change your tone of voice, face and body language to caring. Change the focus to a focus on your love and care for the child, assure them that they belong and that you discipline them because you love them. Use words of affirmation. Make up with words or a hug after the rebuke. Affirm the child's identity to assure that they don't get the message that they are bad. They are okay.

Effective Therapy of Trauma

If therapy is to be effective it must be able to completely erase the negative message that the person experienced through unhealthy discipline (or other traumatic experiences). Helpful therapy will:

a)Reach in to the emotional state of the experience and discharge the emotional charge,

b)Identify and / or correct the implanted negative beliefs,

c)Break unhealthy patterns of behaving, habitual response patterns, and 

d)Correct distortions of identity,  

e)Allow escape from unhealthy personality patterns and

f)Provide some fundamental freedom and growth of one's emotional and personality core.

What does not work to heal trauma?

We now believe that some traumas do not clear up with time. It is likely not effective just talking about the event even with skilled professionals at the time of the event. Counsellors and therapists are open to alternative methods that will provide a breakthrough in this kind of issue.

How Does Prayer Therapy Work?

1.We begin the prayer therapy session with listening prayer. We begin by asking Jesus to guide the prayer therapy session being present by His Holy Spirit (invitation or invocation.)  We declare that Jesus is Lord, Savior, Healer and Deliverer of the problem at hand.

2.We may start with some negative emotion that was out of proportion. With eyes closed in prayer we ask the Holy Spirit to guide us to healing of  the issues behind this negative emotion. He may bring to mind particular memories.

3.The person is quiet and allows a memory, thought or dream to surface. This is differnet than thinking of memories ourselves.  Explore the memory for events, feelings, thoughts and decisions.

4.In listening prayer mode ( eyes closed and quiet) I will ask the Holy Spirit to help the person to recall what ever is necessary about this event. I am looking to note:

a)Feeling state of the person in the remembered event,

b)What they understood about themselves, life and others (beliefs),

c)Any decisions made or behaviours adopted as the result of this event.

 There is some counselling dialogue involved in establishing beliefs and behaviours. I may ask: "What thought or belief is behind that feeling?"

5.  To deal with the wrong beliefs we use listening prayer to listen of the truth. One might say: "Jesus I have believed this. What is your truth?"

6.Often the life giving truth from Jesus will completely clear out the former negative belief and, simultaneously relieve the emotional charge.

7. One affirms this clearance of the memory by recalling the event again and checking out one's feelings, thoughts and attitude toward the abuser. Healing will bring about amazing changes to each of these.

8.If one particular feeling is still strong when the belief has been dealt with, I will ask the client if they would like Jesus to deal with that feeling and replace it with His Life. Prayer Therapy done like this is often effective in removing this feeling.

Prayer Therapy is targetted therapy.  With the guidance of the Holy Spirit we decide on the problem to focus on.  The Holy Spirit helps select the memories to deal with.  The Holy Spirit helps bring to recall the feelings and beliefs so we can deal with the beliefs and any residual feelings.  The Holy Spirit helps us to hear God's Word relevant to the core beliefs in the memory.  Prayer therapy for inner and emotional healing is God-enhanced core belief cognitive therapy.

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