The Reluctant Virgin
In 1990 I set up shop in Hong Kong as a psycho-therapist. With no licencing laws, there were no barriers to entry. By the same token, the fact that I had no degree in psychology, or other paper qualifications, meant that clients were few and far between.
Nevertheless, I had a handful of clients — and some incredible results. Here’s one of them.
At the age of 5, Soraya (not her real name) was circumcised, a common practice for Muslim girls in the country of her birth.
The circumcision was not an African-style removal of the clitoris; it was minor cut with no physical impairment of sexual response. It was, however, performed without anesthetic.
This report focuses on Soraya’s third appointment with me, so I’ll summarize the information gathered in the first two sessions which set the stage for the third.
Soraya was in her late 20s, recently separated. She had gone to university in a western country. She married a fellow-student (a westerner) upon graduation. Her father was “westernized;” her mother more traditional (for example, she insisted Soraya’s husband-to-be convert to the Muslim religion).
She came to me [in November 1991] ostensibly to deal with issues related to her divorce which, being amicably and mutually agreed, was not (relatively speaking) terribly traumatic. In our first session, she asked an apparently “innocent” question — “Can sexual abuse as a child have lasting consequences?” — and when I replied, “Are you talking about yourself?” the story of her circumcision was unveiled:
She had been told by her mother it wouldn’t hurt — and it did. Her mother was one of the women who held her down while it was done.
She had come to believe her father had betrayed her: despite his western values, he had stood aside and let the circumcision proceed.
Whenever she had sex, her vaginal muscles froze almost rigidly prior to penetration, and penetration was invariably painful. With her first boyfriend, sex, despite many attempts, proved impossible.
She very much wanted to become a mother — but was literally terrified at the idea of childbirth.
From these two sessions, I had come to the following conclusions:
She was very willing, if not eager, to resolve these issues from her past (e.g., immediately after she told me about the circumcision, I asked her to imagine seeing her five-year-old self in front of her, and taking her [in the form of a cuddly teddy bear] into her arms. Within one or two minutes, she was completely absorbed in this “fantasy” and tears literally streamed down her face. She exhibited no resistance whatsoever to facing this pain).
She was an “ideal” trance subject and appeared to trust me absolutely.
In these two sessions, she had come to accept the pain; met her child-self and begun to comfort her; and released some of the anger she felt towards her parents. But the pain — the memory of which was physical as well as emotional, compounded of course by all the tension she held in her vaginal area — had not diminished. If anything, it had become more present by being brought more clearly into consciousness.
For the third session I developed a strategy which — in hindsight — was full of risk. But, as it turned out, my two conclusions above were proven accurate.
The process was based around the NLP “TimeLine” technique — the process that was my first introduction to NLP [Neuro Linguistic Programming]. I asked Soraya to stand on an imaginary line, her future in front of her, her past behind her.
With her eyes closed, I walked her slowly backwards along the line to the moment of the circumcision. Here, I placed a chair and asked her to sit on the left side of the chair — before the circumcision (the right side of the chair, by implication, was after the circumcision).
Having established this, I asked her what it was like to be “4½”-years-old. I then asked her to step off the line and we discussed what kind of resources “4½”-year-old Soraya needed to deal more effectively with the trauma yet-to-come. Soraya decided she needed to be more inquisitive, more questioning, less accepting of what adults said, more independent.
I took her back to the “present” — asking her to step back on the line — and to summon within her, as a sense or feeling those abilities she had now that Soraya-then needed. When she indicated she was ready, I asked her to “hold on” to those resources, and walked her back along the line to just before the circumcision; “give” those abilities to 4½-year-old Soraya; and then become 4½-year-old Soraya receiving those “gifts” from big-Soraya.
That completed, I asked her to step off the line and she reported that, now, 4½-year-old Soraya felt far freer, more skeptical and more independent.
I then placed a second chair on the line in the position of the “present”; and asked Soraya to sit and go deeply into trance (where she’d been for some time!). I invited her to think of a movie she’d seen recently and would like to see again; imagine she was sitting in a cinema looking slightly upwards towards the screen where she could watch this movie over again. While she was preoccupied, I then induced glove-hand anesthesia in her left hand by asking her to let that hand hang straight down and imagine it was in a bucket of ice-cold water. I then gave her a series of direct suggestions to the effect that her hand was becoming number and number. I tested the anesthesia by pinching her hand quite sharply; there was no perceptible response of any kind.
I suggested the movie was coming to an end. When she indicated it was over, I stood her up, and walked her back along the line getting younger and younger and bringing with her the anesthetized hand.
I sat her down on the chair (at the moment of circumcision) making a “fuss” about sitting her on the left (before) edge of the chair. I then asked her to place her left hand over her vaginal area and feel the numbness flowing from her left hand to that part of her body. I did not ask for confirmation. I then suggested that she could now watch a movie she’d like to see again [she “saw” Bambi, she told me later, a movie she had not thought about for a year or so].
Then — and these are two risks that, in retrospect, were perhaps unnecessary and dangerous, but by this point I was acting completely intuitively; indeed, I wasn’t precisely sure how I was going to end this but I could feel the crescendo building up — I asked her whether she trusted big-Soraya [she indicated “yes”] and then (after a moment’s hesitation) whether she trusted me [she indicated “yes”].
I reminded her about the movie she was watching and then in one swift movement I lifted her [she was quite light] to the right-hand (“after”) side of the chair and as I did so I said (following from my comment about the movie):
“It’s all over now.”
The pain had gone!
Without giving her time to think about what had happened, I stood her up and walked her along the line towards the “present,” asking her to review major events in her life in light of her new perspective.
I then asked her to step into her future to a time when she was pregnant. I asked her how she felt now. She answered with just one word: “Bliss.” I asked her to bring those feelings back to the “present.”
After a moment or two for contemplation, I suggested she should step off the line when she was ready.
She indicated that she didn’t want to talk right then. And after a few minutes, she left — or should I say, though somewhat fragile and shaken, “floated” away!
A few days later, she reported she’d had the first satisfying sexual experience of her life, one that was completely pain- and tension-free.
Last time I spoke to her — mid-1995 — she reported no recurrence of the problem. She also told me she was in a very satisfying relationship, planning marriage — and pregnancy.
You’ll find another (and very different) case study at Transforming the “Monster” Within.