Her phone rang at 1:55 am- just as she was about to get ready for bed.
She picked it up. "Hello? Aaron?"
"Melinda?" A sleepy voice on the other end answered. "Oh God, I’m sorry I called you so late! I was just plugging in my phone for the night. My finger must have slipped."
She felt a smile steal over her face. "That's ok. I'm happy to hear your voice! How are you?"
"I'm happy to hear yours too," His tone was affectionate and intimate. She had a brief flash of remembering what it was like to sleep cuddled up to him, hearing his voice drowsy and gentle in her ear. “I miss you.”
She snuggled deeper into the blanket on the couch. "Miss you too. What are you doing up so late? I thought you had work early tomorrow."
He laughed. "You caught me. I was finishing a game and got stuck on a level. Sorry- I remember we talked about having bedtime at 11."
"Why- we DID!" she said wryly, her mouth curving on one side. "Very disobedient. Tsk Tsk.”
“I’m sorry ma’am,” he replied, not bothering to hide a hint of playful sarcasm. “That was an awful thing to do to you. It will never happen again.”
“Ha! I’ll believe it when I see it,” she teased back. The she continued, “Were you about to go to sleep then? Brushed your teeth? Set your alarm? Are you laying down comfortably?" Her teasing tone gradually shifted to something lower. More confident.
She heard the sound of movement. Then- "Mmm hmm” Then- “Are you going to sing me a lullaby?”
"I like you too much to torture you like that,” she smiled. “Y’know, this happens to me too. I’ll be reading a book or writing something and the time will just slip away from me. It’s such a neat thing our brains can do in a way- getting hyper focused like this. Paying attention. It’s like a survival instinct- you know that you’re safe and so it’s OK to just focus in for a while on something that feels good to you.”
“It does,” he affirmed.
“And once you’ve been so focused, it’s easy to focus again later on. Or to change what you’re focused on. Like there’s a little spotlight in your mind that can move your attention to whatever it’s directed to. For instance-can you hear that clock ticking beside your bed?”
“So, you probably weren’t paying much attention to it before I mentioned it, right? But now that you ARE paying attention to it, I wonder if you can really move that spotlight in your mind to the clock- to the sound of those ticks. Really just pay attention to that constant tick tick ticking sound. It’s weird but- when you focus in like that, it’s like your whole self kind of absorbs the sound. Your breathing will start to synch up with it before you even notice. Maybe it already has? That’s a really normal reaction, y’know- when you focus on a rhythm your whole body starts to synch to that rhythm and you can just notice it synching. Especially with something soothing and regular like a clock ticking. It’s really calming in a way to just let that rhythm wash over you. I bet you could even imagine that every tick just soothes you more and more. Every tick just takes your focus more and more. Isn't that right?”
“VERY good. You fall into that focused state so quickly, so strongly for me now. And you know that when you're so focused like this, your conscious mind can just stay very focused. So completely focused on that clock, on that ticking, on the good feelings the ticking brings. And your unconscious mind can just listen to me, easily and effortlessly. Your unconscious mind can just hear and respond, like when someone says your name across a crowded room and you realize your unconscious has been listening to something way across the room whole time. Waiting for a cue. And your unconscious can just listen for you while you focus on the clock- your unconscious just listens to my voice for you and it will tell you when and how you need to respond. I’ll tell you when and how you need to respond. And while that conscious self focuses on the clock, your unconscious just needs to hear and obey my voice. Just like always. Isn’t that right?”
“Good boy. And that’s the part of you I can chat with right now- your obedient unconscious. Because your unconscious listens and obeys now while that conscious mind fixates and forgets for me. Isn’t that right?”
“And you’re doing such a good job of contacting me right before you go to bed every night. I’m so pleased and happy that you’re doing that so consistently for me now. You’re so good at reminding Aaron to contact me, even when he doesn’t know that he’s going to do it. And he doesn’t need to know, right? He just gets too focused on the ticking to remember anything we say here. But that’s OK- you and I remember that you’re going to get him to contact me every night right before bed. And you’re doing such a good job of that for me- just like he’s doing such a good job of forgetting that we talked about it. Isn’t that right?”
“Very good.” Her tone became worried “I’m noticing, though, that Aaron’s going to bed very late these past few nights. I wonder if we could work on making him sleepier earlier. I know he and I talked about having an 11 o’clock bedtime on work nights. I wonder if you could help him start to feel sleepier around, say, 10:00pm. There’s something very sleepy about having all those zeroes together. Just like when I count down from 10 to 0 and then say “sleep!” when we’re doing an induction. He’s so used to sleeping after 0. So it makes sense that all of those zeroes together can feel really sleepy- like a reminder of the relaxation he’ll get when he drops into a deep sleep at 11 o’clock. He’ll still be able to function, of course. The sleepiness won’t hit all at once. He’ll just find himself getting calmer and sleepier until bedtime at 11. Do you think you can help with that?”
“And of course, if he NEEDS to stay awake for something important, he certainly can. It’s easy to let him stay awake and alert if that’s safer for him- or if he really needs to work on something. Or even if it’s beneficial for him to stay up. But normally, you can just help him get sleepier and sleepier starting at 10 o’clock until bedtime at 11. Doesn’t that sound nice?”
“Good. So in a moment, I’ll give you a chance to practice. When I end this call, you can make sure Aaron plugs his phone in and then practice sending him right down into a nice, comfortable, safe sleep. Feeling cared for and loved. Enjoying that relaxing feeling the moment his head hits the pillow. Can you do that for me?”
“mmm yes ma’am”
She smiled again, her heart full of pride. “Good boy. I love you so much. OK I’m hanging up the phone in 3...2....1...”
“Good night,” she whispered.
Aaron blinked. His phone was right beside his ear. That was no good- he must have been so tired that he fell asleep for a moment there. He should really think about actually sticking to Melinda’s 11 o’clock bedtime for a change. He plugged the phone in next to the charger on the night stand. Then he lay back down and let himself fall into a deep, peaceful sleep- the moment his head hit the pillow.