By Martine Delamere
Whilst more and more people are becoming aware of the therapeutic benefits of hypnosis in helping them to stop smoking, lose weight or cure phobias such as fear of flying, even those who appreciate these benefits can be slightly wary of what they are going to experience. The old image of the stage hypnotist who can turn people into puppets still remains, so let us begin by dispelling that particular myth.
A hypnotic trance is simply an altered state of consciousness in which the door between the conscious and unconscious mind is opened and a deeply relaxed state is obtained. It is not dissimilar to that point at which we are just drifting off the sleep or the process of waking up in the morning. Since our unconscious mind is our greatest protection mechanism, it will not tolerate any suggestion with which we would be uncomfortable so if for example, the therapist suddenly flipped out and suggested to a patient that they should hop around on one leg for the rest of the day the patient would wake immediately and the suggestion would not be taken on board. Contrary to another myth, the patient usually remembers all that they have experienced and what the therapist has said during the session. People often think that hypnosis induces amnesia and indeed it can, but this would only be employed in very rare instances and with the patient’s permission. It is much more usual for patients to think that they haven’t been hypnotised at all because they have been aware of the normal sounds around them or the fact that their nose was itching, etc. This is because the conscious mind doesn’t shut down when we enter the altered state of consciousness. It simply continues to run, taking on board everything that is going on, but at the same time a deeper level of consciousness is accessed and we are more focused on that.
So what can hypnotherapy really do for a person? The therapeutic benefits are much more far-reaching than the ones already mentioned. In recent studies, hypnotherapy has been found to be extremely successful in alleviating the distressing symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome and in making childbirth more comfortable and enjoyable for mother and baby. It can also be used to induce anaesthesia and has been used successfully as a substitute for anaesthetic in many dental procedures. Patients with chronic conditions like arthritis can also be taught a form of self-hypnosis, which helps with pain management and can help reduce the number of painkillers that patient, may need to take in the day. Even patient’s under-going treatment, which may have unpleasant side effects, can gain some control over those symptoms using hypnosis.
A good example of this is a patient who was dreading a course of intravenous chemotherapy. She had had to undergo this treatment before and had suffered side effects of nausea, palpitations, digestive and kidney problems. Having ascertained that the patient liked music, a deep state of relaxation was induced and the patient was asked to imagine being in a sound recording studio listening to a particular song being recorded. She was then asked to imagine a control panel, which would alter the sound and bring the song into better balance. Each dial and knob on the control panel was described to her and each one was linked to a part of her body which might be affected by the chemotherapy so she was linking the sound of the song to the balance of her own body and would be able to turn the dials up or down according to what would produce the best balance. The entire hypnotherapy session was recorded on tape and the patient was instructed to listen to it as she was receiving each chemotherapy treatment.
Inspite of the fact that the patient did not believe that she would come through the course of treatment without side effects, she reported one month later that she had not experienced one single side effect. When she had to have further treatment some months later, she had lost the tape and some of the side effects returned. She then came for a further session of hypnotherapy, a new tape was made and again, during the third course of chemotherapy she experienced no side effects.
On a psychological level too, hypnotherapy can be highly effective in helping people to come to terms with past traumas or situations, which cause them to respond irrationally to certain things.
People who develop obsessive compulsions such as continually checking that they have closed all the windows before leaving the house can be helped to discover the original source of anxiety which produced the compulsion and they can then let it go.
Often people feel deeply ashamed of their compulsions, irrational fears or responses because they don’t understand how they have arisen. Because our unconsciousness mind is so protective, it registers everything that happens to us in the same way that a microchip stores computer data. If the unconscious registers something as dangerous then it will trigger a flight or fight response in us when something reminds it of that previous situation. Even when we consciously know that a particular situation is no longer dangerous to us, our unconscious may override that knowledge because it is unaware that the situation has changed. This can occur because that part of our unconscious which is storing that particular traumatic memory has shut down, like a computer file, which is closed until we open it up again.
A good example of this is the patient with an irrational fear of balloons. A high-powered and highly successful executive, he ended up cowering under a table at an important function because balloons were released as part of the entertainment. To make matters worse for him, he knew exactly why he was afraid of balloons and that the situation no longer applied (as a child he had almost been smothered by them) so he couldn’t understand why he still responded this way.
Under hypnosis the patient was asked to imagine sitting comfortably on his own sofa at home with the remote control for the video in his hand. He was then asked to press the play button and told that what he was about to see would be in black and white. On to the screen came the incident in question. He saw himself as the tiny child almost suffocating. Because he was dissociated from the incident by watching it on a screen, he did not have to actually relive the trauma and therefore, suffered very little anxiety. The patient was then asked to rewind the tape and play it again, this time in colour. He was also asked to imagine floating into the screen so that his adult self was in the scenario with his younger self. He was then able to save his younger self from suffocating and, of course, his unconscious mind was made aware that he is now a fully-grown man and therefore, this particular incident couldn’t be repeated. As a result he now has no fear of balloons and can even blow them up for his children’s birthday parties.
So, hypnotherapy can facilitate eradicating phobia anxieties, and low self-esteem. It can also help with dieting, eating disorders and stopping smoking not to mention pain management. So how do you know that the hypnotherapist you’ve chosen is reputable and trust worthy? Firstly, all qualified hypnotherapists belong to one of the associations of hypnotherapists such as the British Society for Clinical Hypnosis (BSCH). You can telephone these associations and ask for a list of registered members in your area. When you telephone to make an appointment, the therapist will ask the nature of the problem and you can ask for an outline of how that therapist might set about treating it. When you arrive at the consulting room look for qualifications displayed on the wall. If the hypnotherapist isn’t displaying them, it may be because you are seeing them at a clinic which is not their permanent base, but certainly a hypnotherapist practising from their own home should have their qualifications on display. The letters D.Hyp or similar after the person’s name is also a good indication of proper qualification and if the hypnotherapist is a member of one of the associations, those letters usually follow their name as well. You should also be aware that hypnotherapy is available on the NHS and to BUPA members. A properly qualified hypnotherapist is likely to have registration numbers for both.
[boxibt style=”success”]About the Author
Martine Delamere D.Hyp BSCH
Martine Delamere is a clinical hypnotherapist practising in Chertsey, Surrey and in London at Harley Street and Lr. Belgrave Street.[/boxibt]