A fear of pipes and tubes

Events from the past can dictate and overwhelm our lives twenty, thirty, forty years later.

This particular lady in her late forties had been referred to me by a client as she was having difficulties with a new relationship because of her fear of pipes and tubes.   To be clear if this lady opened a cupboard door or went into a room with any kind of exposed pipework alone she would become catatonic, an emotional state characterized by muscular rigidity and incoherence, it can last for minutes or even hours depending on the severity of the attack.

She had been married previously and the relationship was sexually violent and controlled by her partner. She had divorced, adopted religion, although not devout, the church and its social structure were important to her.

She had entered a new relationship with a retired naval officer who wanted her to visit some of the ships he had served on, and here is the difficulty anyone who has ever been on a ship or ferry knows they are a large collection of pipes moving air, water, hot and cold, bilge, water foul and grey, diesel, and other liquids and gas, all contained in a steel hull.

The thought of going on board a ship petrified her.

The initial discussion was open frank and honest

  • At age 11 she was raped by a next-door neighbour, the assaults continued until she was seventeen.
  • She believed the assaults were known to her stepfather although he never assaulted her, their relationship was difficult.
  • At eighteen she left home and by her own admission was promiscuous did not use alcohol other than social nor recreational drugs had several dysfunctional short-term relationships.
  • Married, no children, no desire for, later she discovered she was not able to conceive due to injuries sustained during her adolescence.
  • Divorce and supported by the church, replanned her life and was now happy, settled, and looking forward to the new relationship.

Pipes? You may well ask.

Like all phobias they will have a root cause, we need to find the root.

It was agreed that she would undergo a session of regression this is where I create a trance and guide the client back through memories as a third party, it’s like watching your life in reverse on a DVD where you can jump back and forth. The beauty of this process is you can desensitise certain parts, make it black and white, take away the sound, or watch from a distance, whatever allows the memory to surface. The first session went well, and she was able to describe in detail some events from the previous assaults.

The second session was arranged for four days later. Again, a regression process, right back to the very first assault.

She recalled the following:

  • Her father was at home
  • She was in the garden playing on a swing
  • Her neighbour she knew as Uncle C**** was wearing a blue boiler suit and was working on his car in the garage.
  • C**** called her over to see what she thinks might have been a recently purchased car, but not sure. It wasn’t new that was definite.
  • She remembers he asked her to look at all the engine parts underneath from the inspection pit in the garage, and once in the inspection pit she was raped
  • C**** had pulled the car over the pit to hide what he was doing.
  • And during the assault, all she could see was the underneath of the car.
  • A collection of exhaust pipes and the petrol and oil tubing, under the car
  • Here is the trauma, the association with pipes and tubes, reinforced by repetitive assaults.

It is often said that once exposed some problems resolve themselves. The client spontaneously abreacted. However, this was not regressive abreaction.

When asked her to tell me what was happening?

She started to describe a ships engine room that was filling with water and C**** was trying to close the water down by turning taps and valves on the pipes. She described him in great detail dressed in the blue boiler suit even the look of panic on his face.

We spent the next few minutes in silence as she imagined watching him drown.

When she was ready, she opened her eyes and smiled, her first words were,

“I always thought the bastard should be drowned.”

“How do you feel?”

“I feel relieved, and strange, light as if I am floating”

“How do you feel about pipes and going onboard a ship?”

It is enough to say that the panic response to pipes and tubes had been resolved, not by me she had done that all by herself. She had uncovered the reason why, confronted the memory, and in her own way had resolved her own trauma by imagining an outcome that suited her.  As I am currently aware, she married two years later and enjoys the many benefits of marriage to a Royal Navy Officer, which includes social engagements onboard ships and submarines.