“Come in – you must be Ruth,” I said with a smile as the young mother walked in, “and this is Charlie?” The ten year old boy nodded as he looked at me, wearing a Captain America hoodie, jeans and black trainer with white soles. “Please, come in, take a seat.”
As they did so, I looked at Ruth. She had long red hair, wearing a flesh coloured top with a grey band design on it, and grey jeans, the legs tucked into knee length black leather boots. As she looked at me, and round the room, she eventually said “I was told you might be able to help both of us to…”
“Mummy,” Charlie finally said, “who is this lady?”
“Well, Charlie,” I said with a smile, “I help people like you and your mother to deal with how you feel when something scary or difficult happens – and I believe that happened to you recently, didn’t it?”
Charlie looked at me and slowly nodded as he said “I don’t want to talk about it…”
“I know – but trust me Charlie, talking about it, working through what happened, I can help you to realise what was truly scaring or upsetting you at the time, to remove all the fear.” Leaning forward, I said “so, if I asked your mother to start, you can join in if you want, all right?”
Charlie nodded as Ruth sighed and said “Charlie had just come back from a shopping trip with me, and he had gone into the house first while I got some bags out of the back. I came in, closed the door – and that was when I saw the man with Charlie.”
“Can you describe the man?”
“He was about six foot tall, casually dressed – but he had a gloved hand over my son’s mouth, and he just – he just looked at me.”
“I can imagine that was scary Charlie,” I said as I looked at her son, smiling as he nodded. “So what did the man tell you to do?”
“There was a bag on the chair, and he told me to take a plastic strip out of it, and – use it to secure Charlie’s wrists together. He said if I did not do it, he would hurt Charlie.”
I nodded at this – it was a story I had heard many times before, so I said “Charlie, did your mum do what the man said?” As he nodded, I said “you know she had no choice, he was forcing her to do it.”
“It was still scary though,” he said as I nodded in return. “What else did he make your mother do?”
“He – he made her use another strip to keep my ankles together,” he said quietly, “and then he made me sit down while he did the same thing to Mummy.”
“You must have both been very afraid,” I said quietly, both of them nodding. “You were wearing these clothes that day, correct?”
“Why did you ask us to wear them again,” Ruth said as she looked at me.
“I will explain why in a minute. Tell me Charlie, what was the scariest thing.”
He looked at his mother, and said “that I couldn’t help her, and I was too scared to do anything.”
“That’s only natural Charlie,” I said with a smile, “so the man left you in the room.”
“Yeah – and then he left the house. Mummy eventually got a pair of scissor and cut me free, then I cut her free.”
“Okay – Charlie, have you learned to ride a bike?” As he nodded, I said “when you fell off the first time, were you afraid then?”
“Yeah – but Dad told me to get back on and try again.”
“Okay then – will you let me try something with you and your mummy?” When he nodded, I went to my store cupboard, and brought out four long blue ribbons.”
“What are they for,” Ruth asked as I sat down.
“A trust exercise. Ruth, I want you to let Charlie tie your wrists together, in front of you, with one of these ribbons. Do you trust him to do that without hurting you?” I saw the funny look on her face, but then she said “all right – Charlie, you can do that to me.” I gave Charlie one of the ribbons, and then watched as he nervously tied his mother’s wrists together.
“Now, are you afraid of what Charlie has done Ruth?” She looked at her wrists, and then shook her head as Charlie said “does it hurt Mum?”
“Good,” I said as I handed Ruth another length of ribbon. “Charlie, are you ready to let your mother do the same to you now. Fell the ribbon first, it’s soft, not hard like the strip, right?”
He ran his fingers down the strip, then shook his head as he said “no, it’s soft. I trust you Mum – do it.” Handing over the ribbon, I watched as he held his wrists our, and Ruth tied them together as well. The two of them looked at each other, and wriggled their fingers.
“So, are you afraid of what you did to each other?” They shook their heads, as I said “Charlie, I want you to put your feet on your mother’s lap, and let her tie your ankles together with another ribbon.”
Ruth watched as Charlie smiled and lifted his feet up, then I handed her the third ribbon and watched as she tied his ankles together. He lifted his legs down, and then as his mother put her feet on his lap he tied her ankles together as well.
“You know – this is kind of fun,” Charlie said with a smile as he and his mother twisted their ankles and wrists round. I allowed myself a smile – it was the start of the journey for them.
Helena was in her early thirties – a tall, blonde haired woman with a pale grey dress that had a floral print, and a skirt that came to just above her knees, dark tights and straight black leather boots. Her daughter looked nervously round – she was eleven, wearing a peach coloured sweatshirt with a logo on the front, faded jeans and black ankle boots.
“Thank you for coming Helena,” I said as I looked at them. “This is Ellen, correct?”
“Yes,” Helena said quietly, “the police officer said you may be able to help her come to terms with what happened to her.”
“And to you hopefully,” I said with a smile. “Why don’t you tell me what happened.”
Helena nodded as she said “we were at the branch of Lloyd’s bank that was robbed a few weeks ago.”
“Ah – so you were among the hostages that were taken?” Helena nodded as Ellen tried to blink some tears back, so I asked “why did you go with your mother Ellen?”
“We were going to buy me a birthday present,” Ellen said quietly.
“So you were in the branch when the masked men came in. What did they do?”
“They shouted and pointed guns at us,” Ellen continued, “and told us to lie face down on the floor. Then they took our hands behind our backs and used some tape to keep my wrists together, and my ankles.”
“Did the do the same thing to you Helena?” I looked over as her mother nodded, and said “then they dragged us all over to sit against a wall, and they stuck some of the tape over our mouths. I wanted to hold Ellen so much, but I could not…”
She started crying then as she hugged her daughter, while I handed them each a tissue and let them continue. Eventually, Ellen said “thank you Mummy – I wanted you to hug me as well.”
“Well, I want to do a little exercise with both of you. It will help you confront your fears about what happened, and it may help you both to come to terms with it a little more – if I have your permission.”
As they both nodded, I went to the cupboard, and came back with a roll of white medical tape. Handing it to Ellen, I said “tear a small piece off, and put it on your skin. Tell me how it feels.”
“Go on darling,” Helena said quietly as Ellen tore a strip off, and stuck it on the back of her hand. “It doesn’t pull – it feels soft actually,” she finally said.
“So you do not think that tape will hurt you?” As she shook her head, I said “and you don’t think your mother will hurt you, do you?” She shook her head again, as I said “well, I want your mother to use the tape to keep your hands behind your back Ellen. Will you let her do that?”
She looked at me for a moment, and then nodded as she gave the roll of tape to Helena, then turned and put her hands behind her back, waiting as her mother wound the tape round her wrists. When she had finished, Helena said “how does it feel Ellen?”
“It feels funny Mum – but I’m not afraid,” she said as she turned round.
“Good – so will you let your mother tape your ankles together as well?”
As Ellen nodded, Helena looked at me, and then slipped off the chair, kneeling down as she wound the tape round her ankles as well. When she had torn the tape free and smoothed it down, she looked at Ellen as she tried to move round.
“Now,” I said quietly, “would you like your mother to give you a great big hug Ellen?” She nodded as Helena wrapped her arms around her, and kissed her forehead.
“There is one more thing I want your mother to do Ellen, and this will show you there is nothing to fear – will you let her cover your mouth with the tape?” Ellen looked at me for a few minutes and then said “yes, I will – I know you’re not doing it to hurt me Mummy.”
Helena tore a strip from the roll and pressed it gently over Ellen’s mouth, then hugged and kissed her again as she started to cry, saying “thank you for helping her confront her fear” as she looked at me.
“Are you ready to face your fear as well, Helena?”
She looked at Ellen as the girl nodded, and said “Plhssmhmmme” through the tape, before she nodded and put her own hands behind her back. Five minutes later, they were sitting and trying to talk to each other through the tape over their lips, happier than they had bene in a long time…
“I’m glad you came back for a second session,” I said as I looked at Mel and her six year old daughter Diane, “I think we made real progress with facing what happened to you in the last session.”
“You certainly helped us to deal with that fear,” Mel said quietly as Diane played with her doll, “but you said there was more we could do?”
“Indeed,” I said with a smile, “if you and Diane are willing. Often, to fully face down fears, you have to do a form of aversion therapy – or in this case, reverse aversion. What I want to do is replay what happened when the woman made you and Diane play that game – but this time, it really is a game, so you both have nothing to fear. Is that all right?”
Diane looked up at that, and said “are you going to use the ropes on both of us?”
“I will – but as a game, and slowly, all right?”
“All right,” she said quietly as she nodded to Mel. Diane was wearing a pink peasant style top with short sleeves, grey pants and short brown biker boots, while Mel had on a peach jersey dress, black leggings and mid-length black boots.
“Good,” I said as I stood up and walked to the cupboard, returning with a bag containing some soft ropes and other things. “So what did the lady do first?”
“She tied my hands together behind my back, and then my arms to my side – she said it was all part of the game,” Diane said as she looked at me. I nodded and said “do you think this will hurt you,” handing her a length. She took it and shook her head, as I said “okay then – turn round with your back to mummy, and I’ll tie your wrists together first.”
As Mel watched, I crossed and tied Diane’s wrists together behind her back, making sure I took the rope around and between her arms before tying the ends off and tucking them away out of reach of her fingers. “There now Diane – how does it feel?”
“Nice – but funny. Will you do that to Mummy now?”
“Yes she will,” Mel said as she turned in the chair, and I tied her wrists together as well. I then took a longer length of rope, and said “the next thing the lady did was make sure you could not move your arms. Are you ready Diane?”
“Yeah,” she said with a smile as I wrapped the rope around her arms and stomach, fixing them to her sides, and then around her upper arms and shoulders. As she looked at her mum, she nodded while I did the same thing to Mel – in her case, with one long length of rope making two bands above and below her chest.
“It’s just like the lady did it, isn’t it Mummy,” Diane said as she looked at her mother.
“Now then,” I said with a smile, “you told me the lady then tied your ankles and legs together. Can I do that to you now as well Diane?” The little girl nodded as she sat on my couch, next to her mother, and watched as I tied her ankles together, the rope compressing her boots as I did so, and then tied her legs together below her knees.
“It’s amazing how you do this,” Mel said as she watched. “It really is making a fear fun. How did you develop this technique?”
“Working with a lot of victims of break ins and robberies,” I said as I looked at Diane, “I realised if they could see the fear was not in what happened to them, but who was doing it to them, it went a great deal towards aiding their recovery. Is that all right Diane?” The girl nodded as she twisted her legs round, and I looked at Mel.
“I guess the lady tied my legs next, right?”
Diane smiled and nodded, watching as I knelt down and tied Mel’s ankles tightly together, as with the other bands cinching it by taking the rope between her legs, and then tied her legs together below her knees. As she twisted her legs round, Diane giggled as she said “we sound like mice, Mummy.”
“I guess we do,” Mel said as she kissed Diane on the forehead. “But you know what the lady did next, don’t you?”
“Yeah – she put something in our mouths and taped it over, then she made us lie down on separate couches. But I don’t want that – I want to stay with my Mummy.”
“How about we do something else – then you can talk to each other,” I said as I rolled up a large black silk square, and tied a knot in it. “Open your mouth for me Mel.”
As she did so, I eased the knot behind her teeth and then tied the band round her head, Diane giggling as she said “can you speak Mummy?”
“Ehdhnntkkhhchnee,” Mel said as Diane laughed – and then let me put the knot of a rolled up white scarf in her mouth, tying the band round her head as well.
“Now then,” I said as I sat back, “talk to each other about how you feel…”
As her four year old daughter Bryony played on the floor, I sat and looked at Magda. The young mother had long, straight brown hair, and was wearing today a long sleeved blue jumper and a knee length dark blue leather skirt. She also had on dark hose, and black leather boots with a stack heel.
“Bryony – that’s an unusual name,” I said with a smile.
“Yes – we had the flowers at home when she was born five years ago,” Magda said quietly. Her daughter had a blue denim bib dress on over a white jumper, white tights and red shoes.
“So Magda – tell me about what happened that morning. Once you have done that, we can do something to start to get you to address your fears.”
“I… I don’t know what I can really say. My husband was about to go out to work, and Bryony was asleep in her room, when these masked men burst into the room. They forced me to go into our bedroom, tied me up, gagged me, and then dragged my husband out with them.”
“Did you find out what they wanted with him?”
“He’s a security guard at a jewel depository – they forced him to give them access, then they tied him up, gagged him, and left him there while they raided the place. One of them stayed with me – and then Bryony came in.”
“Ah,” I said quietly, “did they do anything to her?”
“No – she lay next to me and went back to sleep for a while. But I was so afraid they would…”
“I can understand that fear – and the fear you felt about what happened,” I said as I leaned forward. “I think the first thing we have to do, Magda, is to get you to confront that fear. I can help with that, and you and Bryony will be perfectly safe, I promise you that.”
“How? I hear you make your clients go through the experience again – I may be too frightened.”
“I do, but we take it one step at a time, and you can stop any time you want,” I said as I went and collected some ropes while Bryony talked to a teddy bear. “If you want to go now, I understand.”
“No,” Magda said as she shook her head, “I will try.”
“Good – put your hands behind your back please,” I said quietly, and as she did so I tied her wrists together with some of the soft rope. She looked over her shoulder and wriggled her fingers as she said “okay – so far so good, so what will you do next?”
“Your ankles – can you put your feet on the coffee table for me?” Magda nodded as she put her feet up, and I crossed her ankles before tying them together, the young mother watching as I took the rope around and between her legs, the leather protecting her as well as I tied the ends off.
“Yeah – it was something like that,” Magda said quietly as she moved her feet, Bryony sitting quietly. “I don’t mind this too much.”
“Okay then – did he secure your legs?”
“Yes – above and below my knees.”
As Magda nodded, I tied her legs together in both places, neither of us noticing that Bryony had stopped playing, and was watching us.
Magda twisted her legs round and nodded as she said “This – this is not as bad as then. You may do the rest now – my arms.”
“Of course – but remember, you can say stop at any time,” I said as I walked behind her, and started to wrap the longer length of rope around her arms and upper body, framing her chest as I noticed Bryony watching. “It’s all right – I’m not hurting Mummy,” I said as I pulled the ropes tighter.
“I know,” she lisped, “Mummy’s shmiling.”
“Yes I am,” Magda said as I tied the ropes off and she wriggled round. “But this is not my bedroom.”
“True – but this couch is wide, and the armrest is comfortable. Can you lie with your head on it?”
“I think I can,” Magda said quietly as she shifted herself round, while I went back to the cupboard for a couple of other things.
“Can I lie with Mummy?”
“I was hoping you’d say that Bryony,” I said as I walked back over.
“And can I be like Mummy?”
I looked at her, and said “you mean you want the ropes on you as well?”
“I do – when the man helped me to lie next to Mummy, I did wonder why he did not do that to me…”
“That is up to your mother, Bryony,” I said as I looked at Magda. To my surprise, she nodded and said “yes you may.”
“Well, I need to do what the man did first to stop Mummy talking – so watch carefully,” I said as I folded a cloth, and pushed it gently into Magda’s mouth, and then covered her lips and jaw with micropore tape. She looked over and said “Chnnuhhrrmhhhbhrrennee?”
“Yesh,” Bryony lisped, “So what will you do first?”
Fifteen minutes later, Bryony was lying next to her mother, tied in the same way and with tape over her mouth, nestling in as Magda smiled under the tap e at her. Truly a family bonding moment…
It is not unknown for mothers to come to see me with their sons, so seeing Ken with Annie wasn’t an unusual sight. Annie had on a pale blue top with a floral print, a black skirt, dark hose and black boots, and Charlie a black t-shirt, jeans and trainers.
As we started, I realised my first mistake when I looked at the referral form. “I am so sorry,” I said as I looked at them, “I thought you were mother and son!”
“No,” Annie said, “brother and sister. I’m ten years older than him.”
“So you’re twenty two?”
Annie nodded as she said “but we were both at home with Mum and Dad when they came in.”
“Can you tell me what happened?”
“They made me and Annie go to my room,” Charlie said, “and then forced Dad to tie us up with ropes before they put duct tape over our mouths. Then we had to stay there while they took Mum and Dad to their room, tied them up, and then ransacked the place.”
“You must have been very scared?”
“I was,” Charlie said quietly, “and Annie was crying.”
“The ropes were tight, they hurt,” Annie said, “and I could hardly breathe…”
“Well, your mum and dad have both had a session with me,” I said with a smile, “and they said it helped them a great deal.”
“Yeah – they didn’t smile for a while, but they’re smiling now,” Annie said, “which is why we are here – to see if that can help us as well.”
“Okay then – what I do is take you through a trust exercise, as part of which you will partially relive the experience, but in a non-threatening way. Are you both ready?”
As they nodded, I said “good – I want you to sit on the floor, next to each other, but so that you can reach each other’s feet. I’ll tell you why in a couple of minutes.”
They looked at each other, but did as I asked as I went to fetch what I needed from the cupboard. “Now then,” I said as I handed them each a length of rope, “I want you to hold that in your hands for a couple of minutes.” I could see the slight fear in Annie’s face as she held the cords, and then said “why give us them?”
“Because I want you to tie each other up.”
“Trust me,” I said to Charlie, “we start with each other’s ankles. Double the rope over, then wrap it round your brother or sister’s ankles, and take the ends through the middle loop.”
Charlie and Annie looked at each other, and then at me, before they did as I asked. “Good – now, pull the ends back so that your ankles are brought together. I want you then to wrap it round each other’s ankles three times – keep the bands on top of each other, nice and neat.”
I watched as they careful wound the rope round each other’s ankles, before I said “now, tuck the ends through the top band, separate them, and take the ends between your ankles. Make sure it is nice and taut – if it is not, it could hurt you later.”
Well, they looked at each other, but did again as I asked, so that the ankle binding was cinched, and I told them to tie the ends off with a square knot. As Annie looked down, she said “that’s just what they did – how did you know?”
“I research – and I was a Girl Guide,” I said with a smile. “Now, shuffle along the floor so that you can reach each other’s knees.”
Once they had done that, I gave them a second length of rope, and told them to tie each other’s legs together below their knees. I watched as they did this, and I swear I could see the fear ebb away from their faces as I did so.
“There now – ankles and legs tied. Does it hurt?” As they both shook their heads, I said “and does it scare you?”
“Not really, no,” Charlie said with a grin. “So what now?”
“Call it.” As I tossed a coin in the air, Charlie called out “HEADS!”
“Oh dear it’s tails – Annie, you have the choice. So you want to be kept quiet first or second.”
“Second,” she said without hesitation as I handed her a sponge ball. “I want you to compress that as much as possible – and then push it into Charlie’s mouth. He’s going to do the same to you.”
“Well, at least he’s quiet longer,” she said with a grin as she pushed the sponge in, Charlie’s cheeks expanding as she did so while he closed his mouth. I then handed her a roll of duct tape, and at my instruction she tore three strips off and pressed them firmly over her brother’s mouth.
“Hssuhhrrhtrrnnhh,” he mumbled as he squeezed the sponge ball, and then made sure Annie was kept as quiet a shim. I then took more rope, and tied their wrists behind their back and their arms to their sides, before I said “how did the men leave you?”
They looked at each other, and then lay on their backs, rolling over as Charlie lifted his legs up.
“I see – do you wish to be the same again?”
They both nodded as I hogtied them, their ankles secured to their chest ropes, and I watched them try to help each other…