How to break free from your negative childhood conditioning


Cutting the Childhood Ties process:

For greater autonomy and personal liberation from unhelpful childhood conditioning…

By Dr Jim Byrne, Doctor of Counselling

ABC Counselling and Psychotherapy Services

23rd March 2023



Triangle from KrystalAre you still disadvantaged by your early childhood conditioning? Many psychological problems stem from unconscious reactions and/or adaptations to early childhood training.

Do you find it hard to stand in inter-dependence, instead feeling overly dependent on others, and fearful of losing them? Or perhaps you fear being either controlled or let down by significant others, and therefore keep your distance.

Some people think you “cannot change your childhood”, but this page describes a process than can eliminate most of the negative conditioning of childhood, and give you back your original potential for personal strength, growth and authentic happiness.


The Cutting the Ties process

Figure of eightThis visualization process helps you to become more adult, less disturbed by your early childhood relationships with your parents, and more connected to your inner source of security. Indeed, it will liberate you from all the many sources of false security.

You will keep the positive things you got from your parents and get rid of the negative influence that they had over your development.

The process is called “Cutting the Childhood Ties” to your childhood parents. (You can keep your adult relationship with your parents. indeed, they often improve as a result of cutting the childhood ties!)

This approach to personal liberation and maturation was created by two women over a twenty-year period. The main creator was called Phyllis Krystal.

Somewhere in 1983 or ’84, when I was still trying to build a compass for my life – and seeking some basic wisdom to guide my life – my partner at the time (who became my wonderful wife, Renata) found a book by Phyllis Krystal, which described the process she had developed for cutting the ties that bind us to our childhood conditioning. The aim of the process was to help individuals to achieve liberation from false security and negative conditioning.

Kindle coverRenata and I were very focused on releasing ourselves from negative conditioning, of the type that we all experience in our families of origin. I had been particularly damaged by my family of origin. (For more on my childhood damage, please see Childhood Developmental Trauma, Autobiography)

But even if you do not feel you were particularly damaged by your family of origin, you still need a “puberty rite”, or rite of passage, (according to Phyllis Krystal) to help you to transition from the dependent state you were in during your many years in your family of origin, to an ideal state of autonomy (which will, of course, include some inter-dependence; but we have to learn, ultimately, to stand on our own two feet!)


Our experience of the process

Cutting the Ties book coverSo, Renata and I began to experiment with this system of Cutting the Childhood Ties. We got to know the system well. Then Renata facilitated my cutting the ties with my mum and dad. And then I facilitated her cutting the ties from her mum and dad.

As a result, we both gained a lot of freedom of expression, freedom of thought, and a sense of being much more our own autonomous selves. (Of course, we do rely on each other a lot, but we “stand in love” rather than overly-leaning on each other!)

In recent years, I have helped a few dozen of my counselling clients to cut the childhood ties from their parents, and they have generally found it to be a great help with their personal development.

For example, last year, I facilitated the process for a young man who had very difficult parents: a drunk and a narcissist.

A couple of weeks after the second session, he emailed me to say that the process had had a transformative effect; that his childhood had been “washed clean”. And that he now “relates more successfully” with other people.


Fees for this service

Dr Jim in Thirsk001Normally this Cutting the Ties process costs £180.00 per parent.

Today (March 23rd 2023) I am making a special offer, which will last for a few weeks:

Special offer: Two sessions for the price of one: Total cost £180.00

We will cut the ties between one parent at each of your two 60-minute sessions. It takes 14 days to prepare for each of the sessions. Normally, this process is done face-to-face in Hebden Bridge, but can be done over Skype or the telephone.

To book your sessions, or to get more information, please send an email to Dr Jim Byrne, Doctor of Counselling.



Quick Introduction

(1) What is the ‘Cutting the Ties’ exercise?

Triangle from KrystalThis is a therapeutic process, developed by Phyllis Krystal[1], in which an individual is helped to break free from early childhood conditioning, especially negative programming by parents.  In describing this process, Krystal writes:

“We … explain that most problems stem from often unconscious reactions to early training, and we invariably start a person to work on these by helping (them) to release from (their) parents using what we loosely call ‘puberty rites’ or ‘cutting the connecting cords’.  Not only does this free (them) from unhealthy dependence, but also from the often negative programming by parents, which had still been active on a deep unconscious level, preventing him/her from knowing him/her-self”. (Page 13)

And the problem is not just about ‘knowing yourself’. All parents are imperfect, and we tend to copy their habits, especially their relationship habits; and this can cause serious problems for us later in life. (We also copy their beliefs about the nature of life; and these beliefs can be very misleading).

The Cutting the Ties process is a form of ‘guided imagery’ (or visualization)[1], in which I talk you through a set of images of disconnecting yourself from any negative programming you got from your parents – one at a time.  (We normally begin by separating from the most difficult parent; or the one you think is having the most negative effect on your current life).

But even if both of your parents were apparently benign and emotionally healthy, you still need to cut the ties from them, in order to be an autonomous individual – who will still have some connection to your parents, but on an Adult-to-Adult basis, and not a Parent-to-Child basis.

Figure of eight(If your parents were particularly difficult, or emotionally damaged or damaging, you might also have to do an extra process called “The Negative Parental Archetype” process, which I will describe after you have completed the cutting the ties process. Not everybody needs to do it!)

Part of the preparation for Cutting the Ties involves remembering the good and bad traits of the parent to be cut away from.  The idea is to cut away the bad traits and behaviours, and to keep the good traits and/or behaviours[2].

[1] Krystal, P. (1986) Cutting the Ties that Bind: How to achieve liberation from false security and negative conditioning.  London: Sawbridge Enterprises Limited.


[1] In Chapter 3 of his book – Guided Imagery for Groups: Fifty visualizations that promote relaxation, problem-solving, creativity and well-being – Andrew Schwartz has a section titled, ‘What is Guided Imagery?’ which begins like this:

Visualization is a process in which you use mental images to explore your inner psychic and creative space. You do it every day. When you wake up in the morning and think about what you have to do that day, you probably picture how these tasks will be done. When you realize that you must shop for groceries, you inadvertently picture which ones you will need to buy. Lovers use imagery as they anticipate and recall the joys of being together.  All of us daydream for entertainment.

Guided imagery takes this process one step further by guiding the images toward a specific life-enhancing goal, such as relaxing, healing, promoting personal growth, exploring alternatives, clarifying values, stimulating creativity, or managing stress.”

“Performers use imagery to heighten concentration. Managers use imagery as they plan strategies for tackling daily tasks.  Diabetics use imagery to lower their blood sugar level.  Athletes use imagery to enhance their performance, Cancer patients use imagery to bolster their immune responses”. (Page 26-27).

Or, in the case of Cutting the Ties, I (Jim Byrne) guide you through a process of imagining certain actions, like sitting in a circle, and seeing what kinds of ties connect you (in your imagination) to the parent from whom you wish to cut the ties.

Kindle coverIn couples therapy, I also use one of Andrew Schwartz’s visualizations to increase intimacy between couples.  This involves them in relaxing, closing their eyes, and imagining their partner standing in front of them.  They gradually and slowly move towards their partner, looking closely at their face… Etc. Etc.

I hope this is sufficient clarification of the nature of visualization and guided imagery.

[2] In their book – Personal Mythology: The psychology of your evolving self – Using ritual, dreams, and imagination to discover your inner story – David Feinstein and Stanley Krippner (London, Unwin Paperbacks, 1989) make the following statement:

“To move forward, you are best served by appreciating rather than rejecting your past”.

I think it would make more sense if they’d said:

“To move forward, you have to revisit your past, to see what went wrong, and to put it right”.

This idea is not new. It was central to Sigmund Freud’s system of psychoanalysis.  It was preserved by Eric Berne’s system of Transactional Analysis (TA).

3, Multiple PAC transactionsIn TA, we find the concept of ‘life script’.  (Feinstein and Krippner use the word ‘mythology’ to mean the same thing as life script).The idea is that, in the first five to seven years of your life, you – interacting with your parents – create a story about who you are, who they are, and what happens to people like you.  The “what happens” bit is the life script; a plan for your whole life, including how it ends.

Some people have benign scripts – pretty uneventful, even boring, lives.  Some people have positive scripts, with good outcomes.  Some have love-less scripts; and some have joy-less scripts.

According to Feinstein and Krippner (1989), “No one’s mythology (script) or behaviour exists in isolation from its social and political context” (like family of origin, and local culture). “Many people are trapped in circumstances so overpowering that they are blinded to any mythology (or script) but the one that dominates in their situation.  They may remain in an unhappy marriage, unfulfilling job, or oppressive social role because societal conditions prevent them from conceiving of, no less moving towards, other options”. (Page 33).

Personal mythology, Feinstein and Krippner“Even where external change is not possible, more sophisticated attitudes, values, and philosophies can help you persevere in a difficult situation, and often you do have freedom to bring about change.  Freedom has been defined as the ‘state of mind you enjoy when you are aware of a choice and have the power to choose’. (Albert Upton, Design for Thinking, Stanford University Press, 1961). Your awareness of choice increases in a profound way when you recognize that undesirable patterns in your life are being supported by myths (or scripts, or beliefs) not previously questioned. Very early in your life, you began to create a mythology (script, or belief system) to cope with your unique circumstances (at home, and in school). If you came to believe that the world is a loveless place, you may, for self-protection, have sensibly avoided intimacy.  If, as an adult, you are able to recognize that you are living a mythology (or life script) that is keeping you emotionally isolated, you then have a choice. If you challenge the myth (or script) and open yourself to greater closeness, you may be struck by how many more opportunities for choosing intimacy seem to come your way”. (Page 34, Feinstein and Krippner (1989)).

When you change your script, you change your life course!

“…Often the example of a parent’s life sets a ceiling on a person’s mythology (or script, or ‘self-story’) regarding success or achievement, and breaking through that barrier is an important part of maturation…” (Page 34),

“The relationship between early experiences and patterns in adult life has gained increasing recognition in recent decades.  Adult children of alcoholics are articulating common themes, such as an unreasoned need to please a remote or abusive partner.  Women are identifying the way an unfulfilled longing for their father’s love may have left them addicted to men who are emotionally unavailable.  Men are seeing how the models provided by the culture, and more specifically, by their fathers, caused them to despise and repress vulnerable feelings. Adult victims of child abuse are finding ways to control their own abusive impulses.  There is freedom in recognizing underlying themes (stories or scripts). Rather than automatically living out these patterns, people can develop the ability to reflect on them and find new options”. (Feinstein and Krippner (1989)).

The ‘Cutting the Ties’ process is part of such a strategy, of unearthing scripts which are running our lives, and stepping outside of them, onto a road of greater freedom!


Dr Jim, Counsellor therapist Hebden BridgeFor further information, please email me at Dr Jim’s email address


Copyright (c) 2020/2023: Jim Byrne, Doctor of Counselling,

ABC Counselling and Psychotherapy Services, Hebden Bridge, February 2020 – March 2023



Is it verifiable as a therapeutic technique?

You can find three case studies which validate the efficacy of the Cutting the Ties process, here:


Unsolicited Client Testimonials

Jim's counselling logoI have used this process with dozens and dozens of my own counselling clients, with lots of positive results, and no negative reactions. Here are three unsolicited testimonials from clients who have been through this process with me:

♣ Hi Jim, … Since you helped me to ‘cut the ties’… something deep and fundamental has changed…  I feel more solid and secure about my path through life. There is more of ‘me’ in my interactions with others.  I got on really well with my mother when I visited her, which is a huge change, and there was more respect between us. Thank you for your help.

K.M. Todmorden, Lancs. (One session of ‘Cutting the Ties that Bind’, for release from a difficult parent).


♣ “Dear Jim, I thought you might like some feedback, to sustain your untiring endeavours!  …. I feel liberated by the work we did together, and not so obsessed or even interested in how people behave, or what they think about me or (name of partner deleted). Of all the things I’ve tried with you, the Cutting the Ties that Bind process has been the most profound – whether standing alone or as a part of what’s been going on since I began talking to you. I’d recommend it to anybody who comes from a difficult family background! …”

H.W., North Leeds, West Yorkshire. (Six sessions of individual counselling for anger management and emotional distress; plus one session of couple’s therapy).


Dr Jim Counsellor March 2023 Head only♣ “Hi Jim. Thank you for helping me to effectively separate from my mother, and to be able to be my own person.  This has improved my relationship with her, even though she is a (psychologically) very disturbed individual.  I feel so much freer from her manipulation and provocation, and I know I will now be able to move on with my life…”

L.G., Bolton, Lancs. UK.  (Six sessions of face-to-face counselling, including a process of ‘cutting the ties’ from dysfunctional parents).


For more information, please contact Dr Jim Byrne by email.