Burned and Healed

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WARNING: This post contains a traumatic forced abortion.

Some years ago, Frank Baranowski (a kind friend and noted hypnotherapist who passed on in 2003) received a phone call from a despairing mother seeking help for her daughter. The girl had been taken to various therapists but could not overcome her obsessive, phobic fear of fire. Since no one could identify a time in the girl’s life when she had been exposed to fire, the cause of her terrifying thoughts and nightmares was a mystery. Frank rarely worked with children but he accepted this case out of intrigue and compassion for the mother’s dire pleadings.

Anxiously, almost afraid to hope, the mother brought her little girl to Frank at the appointed hour. He spoke with the child, putting her at ease, explaining what he was going to do and how it could help. Trust established, Frank proceeded to relax the girl into a hypnotic state. With regression techniques, he directed her to explore different stages of her short life.

Eventually, her memory went way back, for she announced she was happy and content inside Mommy’s tummy. However, contentment soon turned to fear—“Someone’s trying to rip me out of Mommy’s tummy. Please don’t.”

The six-year-old burst into tears and pulled into a self-protective fetal ball, but her efforts to find safe hiding were futile. Now terrorized, she cried, “They’ve got me. They are tearing me out of Mommy.” Dread escalated to horror as she screamed, “Please, no! Not the fire!” In writhing agony she relived her tiny, fetal body being thrown into and consumed by a raging bonfire.

Therapist and mother were stunned. Frank quickly calmed and comforted the girl, then counseled her back to a fully conscious state. The child was now crying softly, as was the mother who stroked and rocked her daughter. Frank assumed the mother’s tears were tears of sympathy. But there was more.

At last the mother spoke, “How could she remember? How could she know? I have never told anyone of that night.”

Frank waited anxiously as the mother struggled for composure.

“When I was in college, I dated a young man. We became very close and I conceived a child. I didn’t know what to do. I told my boyfriend, hoping for his support, but he was angry. Very angry. He insisted I abort the child. I refused. For days the father would ignore me, then he’d return to demand an abortion. His behavior recycled for some time—ignoring, demanding, ignoring, demanding. I told no one of my condition.

“When I was several months along and had bonded with my internally active child, but was still not showing much, the father had an apparent change of heart. He was sweet and kind, as he’d been earlier in our relationship. He came by daily to check on me. I was so relieved that my child would be accepted by a loving father. One day he invited me to a beach party with some friends. I trusted and went.

“We arrived to the night glow of a large bonfire dancing shadows along the beach. Approaching the group, I hesitated. I realized this party was different. I was the only girl. Before I could turn and run, my “kind” boyfriend, the father of my child, got in my face and again ordered me to have an abortion. His drinking buddies all glared at me in the firelight. I was really scared, but managed to shake my head, “no.”

“Immediately the guys surrounded me in an obviously prearranged plan, courage emboldened for the deed by kegs of beer. While my boyfriend stood at ready, his buddies grabbed me, stripped my clothing, and pressed me spread-eagle to the sand. The boyfriend approached with an elongated coat hanger, sheep-hooked at one end. My screams only increased the mob frenzy. A tiny, bloody body was raked from my insides, and I watched in horror as my innocent child was thrown into the bonfire.

“The man I had loved and thought loved me, coldly turned his back, his only act of decency as I struggled to cover my exposed body. I was too shamed to request help, or even look at the young men. Semi-clothed, I stumbled up the beach and into the car—which I was threatened not to ‘mess up’—driven back to my apartment and dumped at the curb. Too embarrassed to seek medical help, I managed over the weeks to recover physically on my own, but emotionally I was wounded for years, so traumatized that I never told a soul until now.”

The red-eyed mother turned from Frank to her daughter, “Honey, years later when I met your father and learned that some men are safe to love, it was a big step in my healing. But the biggest healing came after we married, when my empty heart was again blessed with a child… you! I felt a special closeness to you from the beginning, reminiscent of the child I had carried years before. I had so repressed my own trauma of that terrible night that I never thought of ‘that fire.’ But it was you! You were there. Only after I found a husband and father worthy of you did God send you to me again.”

Frank happily reported in follow-up that this mother-daughter therapy was a dual healing experience and the girl’s fire fears ceased.

Compiled by Sarah Hinze