WHEN I FIRST STARTED using this amazing way of helping troubled children, I had no idea it was going to work so well.
The first two children who benefited from this serendipitous solution had one thing in common -- they were unwanted from conception.
One couple had difficulty starting a family, but once they succeeded, after almost five years of being childless, they couldn't stop. They were not using any artificial method of contraception for religious reasons. The mother had also grown up with nuns and worked for an organization with strong religious connections, so her opposition to pills or the IUD was understandable. When she got pregnant with her fifth, she was dismayed, depressed and angry and, despite her prayers, continued to have most of those feelings throughout her pregnancy.
The second mother was a physician who already had three children under four years, and felt she did not need more. The couple was also active in a religious group and therefore contraception of the artificial kind was unthinkable. She was angry with her husband and herself when she discovered the pregnancy and cried almost daily through most of its duration.
The first of these two children, a boy, was deemed different from the well-behaved older siblings. It may also have been because of peculiarities in the family situation (money was tight, mother was working long hours, father had to leave to work abroad), but the mother felt that his constant rebellion, negativism and hostility was a direct result of the feelings she had about the pregnancy. Despite our efforts at having her communicate to this child her concern and love and my own input about techniques to help, he continued to be stubborn and disruptive. He had started to go to preschool and the teachers also expressed their concern. An urgent solution was needed.
I wanted this child seen by a child psychiatrist, but not only were finances tight -- the mother could not take off from work at that time. I remembered reading about some study by a psychology department in Boston (I couldn't locate the article nor the book that mentioned it) about talking to people when they are asleep. Bright idea -- why not have the mother talk to this child while he was sleeping?
At that time, I had not standardized the script, so I told the mother that the requirements were
1. that the child was in deep sleep, probably in the early morning;
2. that she talked in a low, soft voice;
3. that she began by saying she loved him;
4. that she apologized about the way she felt when she was pregnant and explained the
5. that she told him she hoped he would understand and forgive and do better in terms of behavior
in real time.
During that same year, I told the other mother to do the same for her daughter because the little girl was so cranky she was difficult to take care of, did not want to go to her mother but preferred her nanny, and hardly ever smiled. Her grandfather referred to her as the baby with a crumpled face -- that's how bad the situation was.
I promptly forgot what I told these mothers. I was engrossed in other things, especially regular doctoring, and had little time to check if an unorthodox 'treatment' would work.
Well, guess what? It was a big surprise to me. Both mothers told me -- "Doctor, it worked!"
"What worked?" "What you told me to do!" "And that was?............"