No More Bedwetting: Secrets of Success with Imagery

by Charlotte Reznick, Ph.D.

Wet bed again! How many mornings have you reached your child's bedroom hoping for a dry bed. Just this once. And instead, the sheets are soaked. You expected this at 3 or 4 or 5 years old, but not at 7 or 8 or 12 or 13, or even older. And how embarrassing for your child after all this time. Sleepovers and camping trips are a nightmare!

You've tried everything - not drinking after 6:00 pm, taking your child to the bathroom before she went to sleep, before you went to sleep, even sometimes when you've awakened in the middle of the night. But to no avail. The wetness seems to come just when you leave. Maybe you've even gotten angry thinking that he must be able to control this bedwetting. It's just too much!

Fortunately, excellent help is available. Guided and interactive imagery has been especially successful in overcoming and controlling bedwetting. Children find their own unique solutions by learning to deeply relax, turn inward, and listen to what their body truly needs. When incorporated into a holistic approach, using imagery tools of deep breathing ("the balloon breath"), symptom dialogue ("talking to body parts"), visiting the "healing pool", and connecting to inner wisdom ("listening to wizard or wise animal friend") have been invaluable. Additionally, affirmations, behavioral charting, and monitoring stress have proved extremely useful. With this program, children have been able to create their own "dry" beds!

Bright, sensitive, and highly motivated Margaret* is a typical example. She was almost 10 years old when I met her and had been wetting the bed almost nightly for as long as she could remember. Her parents had done everything they could think of, and were even considering the new nasal spray hormone, which supposedly shuts down urine production at night. Because of its expense and not wanting to be dependent on an outside drug, with their pediatrician's blessing they decided to try an imagery approach.


"Traditional Behaviors"

We developed a three part program that fit into her lifestyle. First, Margaret continued with the "traditional behaviors" recommended for controlling bedwetting, though not always consistently. For example, not drinking after 6:00 pm ("It worked for a little while, but then, I got really tired of it, cause if I had something really salty for dinner I wanted a bit to drink..."), going to the bathroom right before going to sleep, and having her parents wake her and take her to the bathroom before they went to sleep ("sometimes they forget" and "the times vary too much").


"Relaxation and Imagery"

Second, we added a deep relaxation component, which enabled Margaret to connect with her unconscious wisdom in the form of her personal wizard and body parts (e.g.: bladder, heart, etc.) offering the best way to proceed. The initial induction usually used a "light" waterfall flowing through her body to encourage deep relaxation and healing. You may choose to start with "white" light and then ask your child what color feels most relaxing to them. The following is an excerpt from an imagery designed for this purpose.

"You find yourself walking on your path...your path that you know so well. That you have been on before ... feeling very safe and very protected ... You notice how beautiful your path is ... you notice where you are, and all the colors and all the smells. As you take each step slowly ... as you walk, your own very special wizard joins you. He is there to help guide and protect you and help you grow ... To help you reach your goal of staying dry each night. Your wizard takes you down your path and into the truth that awaits you ... deep inside your heart ... and shows you what you can do for yourself so that every night you are dry ... And you feel successful in the good work and the care that you take of yourself - your body, your mind, your heart - everything about you ..."
We often stop at a healing pool along the way.

"Relaxing ... deeper and deeper ... drinking the healing waters. Allowing them to enter your body, cleansing every cell. Helping your bladder and your urethra grow stronger and stronger every moment with every breath you take."
A critical component is scanning the body while deeply relaxed to see what state the bladder and urethra are in; if there is any damage or weakness that might be contributing to wetting the bed at night. Many children notice that the bladder and/or urethra walls are thin or weak so they have difficulty holding in urine at night. Color is used as a healing vehicle and the "body part in need" tells the child (arising like a thought or feeling) what color would be helpful to breathe in until the bladder/urethra becomes stronger and healthier.

"And now it is time for you to check in with that very important part of you ... your bladder, that you have been helping so much ... That you have been caring for .... and very gently ask your bladder what it would like from you today, what it needs to keep you dry ... to wake you up when you need to use the bathroom. Speak from your heart and listen with an open mind, an open heart and open ears .... And check to see how strong your bladder iand urethra are feeling ... and ask if there is any color you need to breathe in to help them grow stronger .... You might ask if any other body parts need some extra love or acceptance ..."
Another element in this imagery equation is the "internal alarm clock". Although we are asking the bladder to hold urine all night, as a backup plan we install an "alarm clock" so that if the bladder is full and about to "spill over" the alarm clock wakes you up to go to the bathroom. After one boy came in and said he wet the bed because "his batteries failed", we began using Duracell and double checking equipment.

"This is a good time to check whether your alarm clock is working correctly .... if it needs any repairs ... or needs its batteries checked ... to insure that you will have a dry night ... tonight and every night. For you have been working very hard and have been taking care of yourself .... As you breathe. ... deeper and deeper .... whatever your body needs, you shall give it ..."


"Charting Stress and Progress"

Third, to bring awareness to the healing process, charting progress is recommended. Along with giving herself stickers for a "dry" night, Margaret wanted her mother (who in the past had been irritated with her around this issue) to write positive statements such as: "I'm proud of you', "You can do it", "Two in a row, that's great!", "I knew you could do it", "Isn't that wonderful?", and "Wow, you're incredible", To quote Margaret: "... the only thing that I think might help me and my Mom get along with this business, is like when I'm dry, she writes something ... that she says good job or something. I like the stickers, but this might make me feel better." Working together in this way helps families reduce the shame, blame, and guilt often involved in bedwetting.

We also developed a "stress meter" (zero to ten) to see if life stress affected her "dry" and "wet" days. Starting out at "about an eight", Margaret was able to bring her overall stress level down by deep belly breathing several times a day, checking in with her wizard for advice, and listening to her special tape each night. Margaret's nightly ritual also included saying or writing affirmations, such as "I wake up with a dry bed", "I have been dry every night for two weeks".

Margaret's progress was generally consistent, with a few minor setbacks. Whenever we hit an obstacle, she was always able to ask her bladder, or wizard how to proceed. When it was suggested to "take a few moments to scan your body and see if there are any dark places or place that need some support or help" she readily offered: "My bladder.... It's worrying. It's very jittery... It wants blue light - a little lighter than indigo and a little darker than royal." It was then advised that she send love to her bladder - "The kind of unconditional love that no matter what your bladder does, it's OK. "

After a particularly successful week, she explained: "Well, it was just kind of like, I was dry one night because I worked very hard. Then I was dry another night because my emotions were up that I had been dry that day. And then I was dry another because I was so glad that I was dry that night too. And then the rest of the week kind of worked that way and I didn't work that hard to be dry."

After much consistent and loving inner work, there were just two days in the month where Margaret didn't have a dry night. As she commented: "One day I was sitting alone in the cafeteria at school and I heard this voice inside me and it said, 'This is gonna be a good month. Don't be surprised if you are dry'. At first I didn't know what it meant, then I remembered my wizard and my bladder..."

Success often follows success. In this healing process, if your child brings his or her own unique combination of self-caring rituals into daily life, many worthwhile, lifelong positive results can ensue. Your child may report, just as Margaret simply summed up about her newly created "dry" bed:

"I feel great."

*Name changed for confidentiality.

Originally published in:
Awareness Magazine, July/August 1997

Imagery For Kids

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