Monday, July 24, 2017

Hyper-Suggestibility at the Doctor's Office

“Patients cannot hear it when you say disparaging things about them to colleagues
out of earshot. But they can feel it.” – Mark Reid, M.D.

Photo by Rick Hustead

When you go to the doctor’s office, you are likely to perceive a lot of things. You will see the doctor’s white coat, smell the astringent odor of anti-septic and cleaning products, feel the cool air circulating throughout the clinic (it always seems so cold in a doctor’s office). Then there will be sounds: a child’s cough, the buzz over the reception area desk instructing the next patient to step check in, the voices of other patients’ chatting in the waiting room, the medical staff discussing…whatever. Sometimes the topic of the medical team’s conversation or the tone of their voices causes unnecessary (and unintended) anxiety and distress.
For example: I once overheard an Ob/Gyn physician call to his nurse, “Bring the cow in here.” Now, calling a woman a “cow” is unkind and derogatory, to say the very least. I was seething. What kind of physician would refer to his patients this way? I wondered, gritting my teeth. Then I saw the nurse wheel a computer into the examining room and shut the door. Cow. C.o.W. Computer on Wheels. But you wouldn’t have known what the doctor really meant if you hadn’t seen the item he wanted the nurse to bring into the room.
The tone of the medical professionals’ voice and cadence of their speech can also influence your level of anxiety or comfort/relaxation during a medical visit. When I over-heard the doctor instruct the nurse to bring the C.o.W. into the examining room, his tone was mild or even indifferent. My hyper-suggestible state intensified my emotional-suggestible interpretation to his comment. I immediately jumped to the conclusion that he was mocking or belittling the patient and he didn’t seem to care that he was insulting her. If I had been in that examining room, I would have been very insulted—until the computer came into the room, anyway.
 Whether you are at the clinic for a regular check-up, preparing for/recovering from a scheduled surgery or an unexpected trip to the emergency room, hospitals and medical environments can be an overwhelming and anxiety-inducing experience. As the smells, sounds and sights of this environment fill and overwhelm the senses, it is easy and natural to slip into a hyper-suggestible state of awareness (i.e., environmental hypnosis). Fear, anxiety and/or nervousness you experience being in this medical environment, combined with any negative emotions/associations you have about the examination or procedure you are about to undergo likely intensifies this state.

Sara R. Fogan, C.Ht. is a certified hypnotherapist based in Southern California. She graduated with honors from the Hypnosis Motivation Institute in 2005. For more information about Calminsense Hypnotherapy® and to set up an appointment, please visit
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