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Del Morrill, M.S. C.C.H


A Center for Counseling & Hypnosis
Tacoma, Washington, USA
(253) 752-1506

Terrified of Alarms


          I am working with a child of loving parents who is terrified of alarms and fire. When their son was 2-4 years old he was babysat by an in-law who had the habit of threatening the children in her care…e.g., if you don’t go to sleep I’ll call the police and they’ll take you away.  The worst is what happened to this particular child…if you don’t go to sleep immediately the alarm on the ceiling (mandatory smoke detectors) will go off.  Of course, in the building they were in they had monthly ‘tests’ of the fire alarms and he got to the point where the very sight of an alarm would terrorize him.  When the alarm went off the babysitter refused to hold him and simply left him in his crib and later in his bed to ‘sweat it out’.  It evolved that soon any hint of an alarm would send him into an inconsolable panic attack.  Of course the parents never became aware of this until he was older and the older children told her about all this.

          He is now twelve and is panicking at the thought of something happening, even though he tells his mom over and over that he understands the alarms are to protect him and they won’t hurt him, but he says that he can’t help being afraid because he is going to die for sure when it happens and his body goes all funny and he doesn’t want to die. He panics at the slightest smell of smoke.  If someone is cooking, he is hyper-vigilant in case of fire and the alarm going off.  And when he panics he truly is out of control and terrorized by his feelings of fear.  He is now checking and re-checking the house making sure his mom turned off the stove, blew out the candles, etc. to the point where it is almost unmanageable. 

          They have tried to de-sensitize him. They are very loving and patient and hold him every time he is frightened.  They are constantly re-assuring him he is safe, putting detectors out of sight, cooking before he comes home from school, etc.  He is a very bright, lovable boy, smart as a whip, but he has totally lost confidence in everything.  Although he knows all his school work, he is so frightened and anxious all the time that he fails his exams.  His mother has to sit next to him while he writes his exam because he fears the school alarm will go off and she won’t be there to ‘save’ him.

          How would you handle this?  I went through all of your books, but was unable to see anything that might help me with this.  Thank you for your time and for sharing your expertise…I believe I’m the only one using hypnosis to help children in my area so I don’t have anyone to collaborate with on this, and certainly there is no one at your level of experience and expertise.


       I certainly feel sorry for this little boy.  When I was young I went through a period of getting up in the middle of the night and checking to make sure everything was okay around the stoves, for I feared fire – I had seen more than one house burn down in Alaska where I was raised.  So I have some empathy with what he must be going through.

       In terms of my scripts, you’ll find a very important process in Volumes IV (Locating Solving the Problem (Imprint changing) and VII (Seeking the Cause of a Child’s Problem.)  If you haven’t already done it, you need to use that, and then follow it (either the same session or the next one) with an adaptation of the script “Releasing the Child Self” in Vol. V. This script allows you to go to the age he was when the first event happened, bring out that child at that age – that age becomes your client for the moment, whom you need to convince that time has changed – he is now safe, etc., etc. (I think you have most of my books, but if you don’t have something I mention above, they are also downloadable single scripts on my web site store.)  

Other possibilities that come off the top of my head to follow up the above initial work would be:


            While hypnotized have him imagine he has within his head a gauge that increases or decreases any sound at all. Have him describe what that looks like. Have him imagine going to the gauge, “hearing” the bell as it rings at school.  Then have him tone down that ring himself by pulling a lever or turning a dial or what-have-you, until the sound has become more comfortable to him.  Once he signals to you (ideomotor) or tells you that the sound is bearable, then lock it in by asking him how he feels now with this new sound, and whether he wants the memory of that sound whenever he hears the school bell, rather than the other sound.  Of course, he’ll choose the newer toned-down sound.  Then tell him that will be what he hears whenever the bell sounds. In this way he has charge of the situation, rather than feeling the panic of not being in charge.


            In terms of scripts in my books, if you haven’t done so yet, use the initial problem-solving/print-changing events, and/or the release of the child-self in the way you would do for the fear of the bell. Then follow up with re-imaging the baby-sitter telling him a lovely story at bedtime, telling him he will sleep wonderfully through the night, and that if the bell rings, she will come and be with him, and he will sleep better than ever.  Then, in his imagination, have the “bell ring” and the sitter come back and hold him, telling him he is safe.  In other words, reframe the earliest incident; again, ask how he feels, etc. as you would re: the bell reframing.

            If you find there is no significant helpful response to these suggestions get back to me, and perhaps I’ll have something else come to mind that you could use.  Good luck.





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