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The Enneagram Monthly, December, 2004


Since doing my own Inner Child work in 1990 I have been devoted to this beautifully transformational work. I first tried to write a book on the process with an analysis of the work transcribed from the videotapes we each - 8 of us - made to record our work over the long six months of our weekly sessions. But it was too soon. It had to seep down gradually to a level of understanding to which the years since and the hundreds of people I have led through their own work have finally brought me. Then, just as I was ready to try again to capture it, the spirit of it, on paper, it again metamorphosized when I stumbled on the Enneagram. I remember my first response to identifying my type, “ My God, so that’s what’s been going on!” Then the release - muscles that were holding tight, gone soft, like the release of trance, total, beyond the rest of sleep. Without any hesitation I knew that the nagging feeling of “something’s missing” at the end of the work would finally be resolved. A journey through the dark woods, with only the light of the moon would finally identify a path that would emerge into bright sunlight. It is wonderful to put down a burden but quite another to accept a yoke that is ever so much lighter than you dared dream - to embrace the freedom in it.

Well, it may be awhile yet before it comes together for the book. As of now the work is going forward in an exploratory way, as it must. Only last spring it came together for the first combined group and then again in a workshop – the “long” and “short” work, I like to call them.

The Inner Child work, itself, unfolds in the same way: As in a fairy tale: The child awakes finding herself in the midst of a family that is unknown to her. The dream like state of the child is interrupted by a play in progress. There is the mother, there the father, there the other children. The boy is new, perhaps wanted, perhaps not. The girl is just like the mother or very different. She is easy, or difficult. The father is depressed, he touches the daughter wrongly, the mother vain, aloof. The house beautiful, or cold, or shabby. There is peace or war, want or plenty. There is alcohol or drugs or divorce. The child comes awake fearfully, or loudly, laughingly. The boy shows his penis off and is told rudely to put it away. The girl is told her face is dirty or she has torn her good dress. She is struck. She tries to hide, he tries to please. This is an average family, or a dysfunctional family. They love their children and raise them with care.

Each one of these imperfect interactions causes a wound to form deep beneath the surface. Often we believe that out childhood was fine and deny our wounds or say that everything was our fault. It is disloyal to complain, especially to outsiders. Perhaps there is some innate flaw that made us rejectable: we were not pretty, smart, cooperative, quick, well mannered… we were a boy just like a man we shouldn’t have been like, or a girl when we should have been a boy. Fat not thin. Tall not short. It was all our fault.

So we grew. We did our best. We became a clown and made them laugh. Became a star and made them look good. Became a hooligan and kept them from noticing there own faults. Became invisible so no one had to bother with us, so that no one could find us. But somewhere, hidden deep inside was the little child who came to be loved and to love himself. She is quiet now or crying, or screaming, or pleasing, or pretending. Or doing, doing, doing, or just numb.

This inner child work is about finding the lost child and taking away her false face so that he and she can be just as beautiful as the day they were born.

Once, at a long retreat in Japan, I had assigned a collage to everyone to make of his or her family. A beautiful young woman with a “Japanese smile” – one known to the Japanese to shine like the sun at all times - made a rainbow with a pot of gold at the end. This she said represented her family that was so perfect that they could achieve anything they wanted. I asked her to think of the most terrible family secret and then to turn over the collage and make a new collage with that secret at the center. Immediately she began to cry: but went away in a corner to reconstruct her story. When she returned there in the center was a picture of a lovely young woman, her father’s mistress, whom no one in the family ever mentioned though everyone knew about her. After that the real story began to unfold. The smile was gone. In the memory book she wrote; “ My smile that hurt so much is gone, but now I can smile when I want and be sad when I want. I love my new smile, it never hurts me.”

A man in a raincoat pulled up to his chin like a blanket told his father seated in the empty chair that he had broken his heart, then he began to cry out beating the pillow, the cry rose, louder and longer, a wail filling the room as he held the pillow fast. The cry was twenty years long; all our cries were in it too. We were all washed clean like babies. Afterward he removed his raincoat.

A girl left alone waiting for her mother night after night as her mother called on the phone saying that she would be home soon suddenly began to weep after having said that she didn’t know why she had come because her mother and father were better than most.

Just last week a man left a message on the phone saying that he had finally gone to see his mother after 3 years and had made it up realizing that she really loved him. In the group he had been unable to forgive her and nursed his anger as a badge of honor.

A woman who had achieved many professional honors had always received extra income from her wealthy family that she felt made her seem different from her less wealthy colleagues. In the dialogue, she spoke out to her mother for allowing her alcoholic father to continuously frighten her so that they could maintain an opulent life style. She flashed an anger that had been smoldering for many years and finished with a promise not to take any more extra money from her mother and to believe in herself and her own accomplishments.

So many stories, so many triumphs! The bodies loose, the eyes shining with the new energy of an awakening that seemed just a few months ago to be impossible. These stories are better than any fiction of life’s possibilities. They are real. They are told and received with tears, and love and laughter.

Some say, “But I had a good childhood so I don’t need to do this level of work.” I wonder if there is anyone for whom that is the truth. We all have stories, wounds, the need to lay down a burden, to be free, to love ourselves and believe in our power to be fully alive.

A man who moved here from Florida who was in the workshop with the man in the raincoat decided that he didn’t need to continue the work because his father was simply cold and unloving. Nothing had happened. Yet he remained with the feeling of not really connecting with people, a sense of permanent “otherness”. How sad. Maybe later. There is still time.

All of this is possible in the bosom of this good family, the group. The child comes slowly to believe in his own truth. She is welcomed home at last. Even in a weekend workshop the group bonds with the very first telling of the histories. Deepens with the collages and is rock solid by the time the dramas have been enacted. Without this bonding the work would never be so deep, so amazingly healing. It is clear that we cannot believe our own stories without witnesses. The embarrassment of telling is nothing next to this great need to be heard. Yet without a Higher Power, presiding over the group work the trust and faith in our transformation would be too weak. There is a Higher Power chair set for each dialogue and we sit in that place and ask for a leading, a word of wisdom. The most devout atheists find all the wisdom and love they need there. The opening and closing circles define a sanctuary that holds us safe and binds us to one another so that we can all speak and hear the truth, which indeed does set us free.

Why does this all work so lastingly? I believe that it is because of the burden that we put down. We do pick it up again if we do no further work, but even then we know on a cellular level that it is not properly ours. By the end of the work we are able to reassign the responsibility for our woundedness, properly, to our parents, though, with understanding, acceptance, and most often with forgiveness. Only then are we ready to begin to create a new life. To grow into our dream children.

Over the years this work has had nothing short of miraculous results. Now with the Enneagram it is as if it was awaiting a closing chapter. How were we to continue? Who were these new creatures left to fend for themselves? There has been some resistance of my clients to accepting the validity of the Enneagram and I have not been able to convince all of them to work with it. I am frankly very glad that more research is being done on the typing and intend to do my own on its use in therapy. I now use the typing after the work is well under way as the group is engaged in a non-rational approach that is antithetical to the analytical work of typing. Toward the end of the long work there is a segment on multigenerational processes that lead to the work on the present day reenactments of past dramas. This is the time for the Enneagram to be introduced to the group so that they can understand their fixations and begin to work toward the ultimate discovery of their “essence”.

However, in weekend workshops the Enneagram is introduced first so that the childhood messages of the types are used from the start. This is an evolving work that will take time to sort out but has already given a much needed resolution to my latest groups. It is important to note that the types do not come from the childhood experiences but rather the level of functioning is greatly influenced by them. The types of wounds are from an interaction between the basic temperament and the particular situation in the nuclear family. This analysis must be done after the basic work is complete.

For example, a two in an alcoholic family might have become a caretaker to get her needs met but an eight, in the same family might have become a delinquent to battle against the anger or violence in the family. Though most descriptions are of different family situations they can occur within the same family. In either case the wounds are first identified and healed experientially. The inner child needs to lay down a heavy burden of self-blame in order to be free to accept the possibility for the change and spiritual renewal that the Enneagram offers.

These two very different approaches are joined by a link from the “there-and –then” work of the inner child to the “here-and-now” work of the Enneagram. The link is the deep spiritual belief, shared by both, that we are meant to be our true selves and can heal from our past wounds so that our defenses are unnecessary and counter productive in discovering and living out our beautiful essences that are our birth right.

Lila Caffery, MA, CCHT Enneagram Monthly Dec. 2004


BY Lila CAFFERY, MA, CCHT Lila Caffery is a Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist (CCHT) who works with clients on recovery from drugs, alcohol, and abuse. Among Lila's other techniques in addition to hypnosis are role-playing and "guided visualization". Here is Lila's outstanding description of a therapeutic session.


A woman is looking for an explanation to a pervasive melancholy. As we talk she tells me her history. Forty years ago in Singapore her mother died. She almost rushes past it. She has forgotten about her. As we stop over the loss she mentions that she feels that she never had a mother, only her stepmother who hated her. I ask her if she would like to remember more and she says yes almost eagerly. We have had some initial hypnosis sessions involving her chronic back pain and now that she is feeling physically better she is looking for the causes behind the symptoms. She settles herself comfortably in the chair and closes her eyes. She breathes deeply and with each breath she lets go of her anxiety, tension, vigilance. She is moving quickly into an altered state of consciousness. I tap ten times slowly on her forehead while touching her gently on her shoulder exerting a slight pressure as l count. As she has been hypnotized now several times she goes down into a deep trance effortlessly, falling like a leaf spiraling down. She is unaware of anything but my voice and she is eager to take the journey. When I finish counting I ask her to tell me what level she is on. She knows the routine. At 15 we can work; at 20 or 25 she is very deeply under and can experience even more. She answers "25." This is a deeper trance than she has reached previously, even more than necessary to go to this early period of her life. I count her back in time, in size, in age, in place. She is five years old and her mother is in the hospital. All white -- the room, the sheets, the lady helping her mother. She throws her arms around her mother, who opens her eyes and smiles kindly, sweetly. Then she closes them. Fan (not her real name) is being pulled away. Now l ask her to go to the next place where she sees her mother, She is in a cold damp room. Her mother lies in a corner covered with a sheet, her father lifts it and kisses her. Fan is shivering, tears are run ning down her face and she moves fearfully in her chair. She sees water dripping down the wall. Her father takes her over to the table and lifts the sheet again. Her mother is there – cold, white. Fan draws back but then quickly touches her. She jumps away holding her father. She has been telling me the whole story as it evolves without leaving her trance. When she comes out she tells me that she had wanted to go to the funeral but she wasn't allowed. She had forgotten that. So we have the funeral now, and even now it is so healing to be able to say goodbye. Later we go to Fan's special place, her sanctuary, and there her mother comes and talks to her about her life, about how she has been watching her. They cry together and hold one another. How sad, how beautiful, this grieving is. How healing. Her mother remembered in her smile. Buried and come from the other side to say goodbye and to say, "I love you. I am with you.” She cries, “I have found my mother and lost her again." But it is different now. Now she talks to her mother, thinks about her, dreams about her. She feels more, she says, like a whole person. She is beginning to heal even as she grieves.

The Healing Process

This is only one of many stories of healing through hypnosis. Going into our past can heal our emotional traumas because we can provide resolutions that could not have been possible at that time. The unconscious is accepting of such healing. But even brutal memories can be healed by providing a protector to empower the shamed and frightened child. We can also change our perception of pain, and its consequent reduction and even elimination; the reduction of anxiety and tension; the messages to sleep, to stop smoking, over-eating, using drugs and alcohol. The left-brain logic that we use most often in our waking state is rather limited and literal in its approach to problem solving. The right brain holds the secret to a more imaginative, global and emotional ap proach. The function of both sides of our brain is essential but often a strong censor keeps us locked out of the right side and from a deeper understanding of ourselves. Perhaps we can think of it as a door that can be unlocked only with the key of hypnosis which allows us to move through the pain of a forgotten grief, as Fan did,to find the exact place which needs the healing. Our mind, our body and our spirit are connected at this deep level so that believing it is so can really make it so.The journey into that place is one worth taking so that you can see your Inner Child and become a good parent to that child. Finally there is hypno-anaesthesia. “Glove anasthesia," the actual anaesthetizing of a part of the body such as the mouth (dental surgery), or the stomach (child birth) is used together with dissociation, that allows the person to simply be “away” from their body in a beautiful place while an other painful procedure is going on. (A natural experi ence for children molested in brutal ways to leave there bodies temporarily that can then be used also to heal them.) Our post-operative healing is also speeded and enhanced with post-hypnotic suggestions (positive suggestions for change given while the client is in trance).


You may ask, “But how does it work? Will l be able to do it? Well, it works easily if you want it to, if you are fairly trusting, feel you're with a competent professional and are some what suggestible. That covers the vast majority of people. Most people can achieve a light to moderate trance state— sufficient for most therapeutic purposes. About ten percent can go so deeply into trance that they can be operated on without any other anesthetic. Yogis are buried alive and live to tell the tale by going into a deep Delta state, totally self induced. On the other end you are often in a trance while driving or washing dishes. All you have to do is concentrate on the suggestions given by the hypnotist. The talent is truly yours. The knowledge that the hypnotist most needs is what to do with the subject to achieve a healing of the problem that together you have identified. We are still far from understanding why hypnosis works. One way of looking at it on a theoretical level is to say that hypnosis provides a way into the center of our governing apparatus, to the core of our unconscious mind where all our directions for rational and irrational behavior live, usually only vaguely know to us but oh so powerfully felt.

Open Exchange Magazine July/August 1997

Emotional Incest: Mothers and Sons

By LILA CAFFERY Lila Caffery, MA is a graduate of the Georgetown Family Center, where she trained under Murray Bowen, M.D., the creator of Family Systems Therapy.

There is a backlash sweeping the country in the wake of the coming out of predominantly female incest victims to confront, after often decades of silence, their perpetrators, usually men. The statistics show a gross difference between the prevalence of the sexual abuse of male and female children. Translated into minimum gross numbers, we are looking at 40 million women and 25 million men estimated as having been sexually abused before the age of I8, usually by a member of their family. As overwhelming as these numbers are, they are generally believed to be underestimated. Incest is perhaps the most unreported of all crimes. And it is a crime.

It is, however, curious that there is such a disparity - between the numbers of male and female cases of abuse. We could put it down to male aggression if Freud hadn't noted that the abuser has always himself been abused in childhood by an adult. If this is true, then who abused these fathers, stepfathers, grandfathers, uncles, and brothers? At least part of the answer seems to lie in the emotional incesting of males by their mothers (this is not to imply that there is no emotional incesting of females by their fathers). This “covert” incest may then be translated into acts of overt incest by males, just as father- daughter covert incest may prepare the way for the unconscious and even conscious agreement of females to be silent partners in succeeding generations. The family system has simply allowed incest to be an unspoken family adjustment that is tolerated in the name of the preservation of the family unit. It becomes a regular feature of the system, passing between overt and covert levels depending on the intensity of the family pathology.

Emotional (covert) incest involves the choosing of children as spouse substitutes and their naturally occurring premature sexualization as a result of this substitution. This is the same process played out in overt incest but in this case held in check by the taboo. Because women are less sexually aggressive than men the extent of sexual pathology involved in overt mother-son incest is probably higher but the template for the son as mate has none the less already been struck and, therefore, communicated to him ‘covertly.’ The reason for this substitution is the inability of the couple to form a genital bond because they themselves have been inappropriately sexualized. This mutation, lf you will, has become fixed over many generations.

In the case of mother-son emotional incest, the mother is herself a survivor of either overt or covert incest. The father may also come from an incesting family. The parents have, therefore, been unable to form a marital bond. She turns to her son to fulfill her needs for va|idation, affection, attention, problem sharing, etc. that are all parts of marital bonding. It may be that the mother has sexual relations with her husband or other male partners but the other parts of the relationship remain underdeveloped. Often there is open antagonism or cut-off and the son may be triangle-in to act as a go between in the marriage and or is expected to console his mother after a fight. This crossing of boundaries makes the son sexualized in a way that he is only subliminally aware of and he cannot even express his exact objection. The relationship often involves overt inappropriate sexuality such as casual nakedness, talk of sexual matters and excessive ‘non- sexual' touching: sleeping in the same bed, holding hands in the street, excessive kissing and hugging.

Symptoms in the son can be seen in both adult relationships with the mother and with other women. One client described his extreme discomfort at having to share twin beds with his mother on a trip, another left home for the first time at 35, a third described his fear of initiating sexual contact with women, only feeling safe when they initiated it. Often these men are sexual addicts (womanizers), reducing anxiety by sexualizing all female contacts without even examining how unfulfilling this is. Or th ey may choose women who will control and manipulate them as their mothers did. They often feel perpetually guilty for not having been able to ‘satisfy’ their needs. Though they are sometimes painfully aware of their immaturity they are unable to develop a deep genital bond with a woman. Often they isolate in order to avoid all female contact. Jealousy over their ‘privileged’ position as the ‘prince’ in the family keeps them from bonding with their siblings. They are often lonely and lack close friends.

This family illustration was done by someone in such a family. familydrawing

It shows the various accommodations to the incest that is only guessed at as having occurred between the mother and the youngest son. The father's blindfold, the mother's overt sexuality and even her tail indicate a heavy level of inappropriate sexual communication that has been ignored by the father who controls but is not integrated with the mother or the sons. The eldest has attempted to escape but is held by a tether wire. Each plays his role. The power of the family unit is palpable in this visual depiction of family process. The validation, in counseling, of the damage of the mother-son relationship often has an immediate and dramatic result in helping men to set boundaries for themselves for the first time. They are able to change their relationship first with their mother if they are still playing the role, which they usually are, and to move out of reenacting the same role with the women in their lives. The attempt to avoid or to punish women by objectifying them is no longer necessary as a defense against this knowledge. Just as in overt incest, the family cycle of incest is broken in the telling—first to a counselor and later, importantly, to a group—and is not passed down to successive generations.

Open Exchange July/August 1993