The courtroom of the mind – a metaphor for hypno-analysis

Analytical hypno-analysis using ego states and transactional analysis

As described by Edgar Barnett in the book Unlock Your Mind and be Free.

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Edgar Barnett uses an extended metaphor of a Courtroom of the Mind to very effectively dramatize the forces at work in the origination of disease and emotional suffering. He likens the troubled person to a prisoner locked in the cell of his or her own mind. There are four prisons:

  • Fear – e.g. phobias, anxiety
  • Anger – e.g. migraine, ulcer, back pain, hypertension, obesity
  • Pain and sadness – e.g. asthma, depression, drugs
  • Guilt – e.g. impotence, obesity, skin diseases

The prisoner has been incarcerated because of a crime they believe they have committed. This crime and the resultant sentencing all happen to the person in childhood.

The Crime

A crime is any act that endangers the peace and order of society. In this metaphor – the child perceives itself to have committed a crime, which then consigns them to a prison of Fear, Anger, Hurt or Guilt.

The Court

From transactional analysis we know that we all function from more than one ego state. An ego state is a distinct set of feelings and behaviour patterns. Each of us has at least three different ego states – Child, Parent, and Adult.

The Child

The Child ego state is the feeling part of our being. The Child feels all the normal emotions – Hurt, Anger and Fear, as well as their opposites – Happiness, Love and Security. In the Courtroom of the Mind, the Child is the Defendant/Accused – charged with having feelings.

The Parent

The Parent state develops in response to contact with the outside world. The child models his Parent state on significant adults, usually the true parents. The child’s internal Parent will try to control the behaviour of the child to make sure it doesn’t alienate the actual parents and other caregivers.

“The Parent ego state primarily intends to protect the Child, although the manner in which it fulfills this function is frequently archaic and responsible for much mental ill health.”

The Adult

The Adult collects data independently of other people’s beliefs and opinions, unlike the Parent. Most importantly, the young child does not have an Adult ego state to defend them against accusations from parents and adults.

The Court Room

The Accused

The accused is always the Child (the actual child and the Child ego state). She is accused of feeling, of existing, of being the wrong sex, etc.

The Prosecutor

The Prosecutor is usually a parent. The Child is accused of causing stress to the Prosecutor.

The Judge

The Judge is the Parent ego state. Why? Because it’s the task of the Parent state to prevent the Child from alienating herself from the true parent. It rescues the situation by judging the Child and determining whether a punishment should be imposed.

The Defense

When the accusations are made, the Adult has not yet developed, so the Child is left to speak in her own defense. Her testimony is always simple – she was just doing what seemed right, she was just being herself. When the trial is revisited in Analysis, the Adult can be brought in to restore the rights of the Child.

The Verdict

The Judge (Parent) must decide whether the Child is guilty. If not guilty, the matter is put away and no harm is done. If the verdict is one of guilt, a sentence is imposed.

The Sentence

The sentence always fits the crime and is intended to make sure that the Child never commits the crime again. For example, if an expression of feeling has been found unacceptable, the Parent may well decree that the accused be sentenced to withhold any expression of that forbidden feeling.
The Parent, as jailer, must enforce whatever sentence is handed down by the Parent as judge.
The sentences:

  • You must not exist (Hurt, Guilt)
  • You must never feel angry (Anger)
  • You are not lovable – you are bad (Hurt, Guilt)
  • You must not succeed (Guilt)
  • You must not be afraid (Fear)
  • You must not love (Guilt)
  • You must not think

The prison locks – Guilt

Imprisonment of the Child means imprisonment of the emotions. The message is that the Child’s emotions are bad and must be suppressed for its own good.
Before the Child can be freed, the Parent has to be convinced that it is no longer necessary for the Child to be locked up for its own protection.

Release from prison

Years later, when the child has grown to an adult, the repressions of the sentence imposed all those years ago creates a symptom or other form of suffering that brings the person to therapy. The aim of analysis is then to discover the nature of the original crime so that a new trial can be had – one in which the Child now has an advocate in the form of their inner Adult.

The purpose of the retrial is to persuade the Parent ego state to reverse its original verdict of guilty. Barnett makes the point that the Parent usually welcomes relief from the onerous duty of Jailor.

The key – Analytical hypnotherapy

In the extended metaphor of the courtroom of the mind, the key to unlocking the prison is analytical hypnotherapy. Barnett outlines a general procedure for hypnotic analysis and regression, namely:

  1. Location of the first critical experience
  2. Identification of the repressed feeling
  3. Acceptance of the repressed emotion
  4. Recognition of the current irrelevance of the previously repressed emotion
  5. Relinquishing the unnecessary emotion

How to use the metaphor

You can use the metaphor of the Courtroom of the Mind in regression hypnotherapy to identify the protagonists in a sensitizing event. Invariably, the patient’s symptom will begin with something that happened in childhood when their Child ego state felt it had done something wrong and which was deserving of punishment. Once you’ve located the initial sensitising event (ISE) you bring the patient’s Adult self into the scene to give the Child the wisdom and love they didn’t have access to when the event occurred. The aim is to establish the essential innocence of the Child.


The entire metaphor is adapted from Unlock your Mind and be Free: A practical approach to hypnotherapy by Edgar A. Barnett.

Article source

Russel Brownlee – Expert hypnotherapy in Cape Town.

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4 Responses to The courtroom of the mind – a metaphor for hypno-analysis

  1. James October 21, 2015 at 10:21 pm #

    I have read ed a book on the stage of the mindwith similar ideas of courtroom of the mind but they used Actual in it in the mind

  2. James October 23, 2015 at 4:05 am #

    courtroom on the mindat first I didn’t really understand after a conversation with sister on the phone a lot of it became clear to meshe talking about are used about goalswhen I brought up a negative words about a situation that’s when I realized the court inmindconceptI could see how it would be in the mind body systemby listening to what she was talkingrejected mean in my conversation that I should let go of the pastit was not about past it was just about negative wordsfrom the pastwell in all played out just like it was written on Court of the mind.

  3. James October 23, 2015 at 4:18 am #

    younthgoalsinlife.darling Harley Davidson 350the abuser our dadwars or negative from him.listening to her wordstelling me how I should let go of the past that was negative I was bringing up he’s gone now let go and move onthe conversation was not about anybody but a negative reaction from words from the pastI can see how it played out as her being the parent the abuser and negative and then the child.


  1. The Court Room of the Mind – Using Ego States in Regression Hypnotherapy | Will Power Coach - May 31, 2011

    […] Russel Brownlee provides expert hypnotherapy in Cape Town. Visit his website for the full story on using the Court Room of the Mind in regression hypnosis. […]

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