(This blog was originally posted on July 12, 2016)
|Photo by Rick Hustead|
You may recall one of the scenes in Glory, in which a young soldier runs away from Confederate gunfire despite having had one of his legs shot off. Presumably he is in considerable physical pain at that moment, but his subconscious and conscious mind are completely focused on fleeing the danger/surviving the battle and living. He doesn’t even seem to even notice his injuries. Conversely, in Dances with Wolves, Union Army lieutenant John Dunbar (Kevin Costner) runs toward enemy fire in a bid to commit suicide rather than have Union doctors amputate his badly wounded leg. In this case, Lt. Dunbar was likely more afraid of living the rest of his life as an amputee—a totally unknown way of life, compared to the one he knows as a decorated soldier—than the prospect of death, which he faced every time he went to battle.
Even though at least one million sensations are going on in the body at any one time, we typically only perceive a few of them at once. So, at this point in reading my blog I want you to focus attention to your feet and how they feel in the shoes you have on. Until I gave you that suggestion, had you even noticed your feet or shoes? This kind of selective attention is very fortunate; otherwise, we would be in a state of sensory overload every minute—every second—of the day.
This kind of selective attention is also what facilitates hypno-anesthesia. Consider Dr. John Kappas’s definition of hypnosis: “Hypnosis is created by an overload of message units disorganizing our inhibitory process (critical mind), triggering our fight/flight mechanism and ultimately resulting in a hyper-suggestible state, providing access to the subconscious mind.” When you are in this state, the level of awareness is actually heightened. However, the message in the hypnotic script has you focus on a specific issue(s) or sensation(s) while disregarding or reforming the significance of conflicting messages/perceptions. For example, when preparing a pregnant client to manage the discomfort of the contractions in labor, I would suggest that she imagine/perceive the contractions as the gentle massage that is helping to bring her child into the world. By changing the meaning or association of the sensation from something uncomfortable to a process that is bringing joy into her life, she can also change the perception of that sensation.
Hypnosis is to manage/control pain is one of the most common requests/uses/applications of this modality. The body naturally produces its own analgesics (pain-control enzymes) when the subconscious mind is overloaded (distracted) or when you are comfortable and relaxed, such as during hypnosis/hypnotherapy/therapeutic guided imagery. Therefore, when you are relaxed and calm in hypnosis, you are more likely to feel greater comfort and be better able to manage or control physical pain. However, the anxiety and fear that often accompany pain typically increase this perception. Since hypnosis helps a person relax and reduces anxiety and stress, being in this state, alone, is a natural analgesic.
Unlike medically-induced anesthesia—which can induce physiological complications from medication-induced side effects—hypnosis is a safe, natural, drug-free state of awareness. In addition to helping create pain-free labor/delivery, it is useful to control pain/discomfort during dentistry procedures, low-back pain, headaches, arthritis and more.*
*California law allows access by California residents to complementary and alternative health care practitioners who are not providing services that require medical training and credentials. The purpose of a program of hypnotherapy is for vocational and avocational self-improvement (Business and Professions Code 2908) and as an alternative or complementary treatment to healing arts services licensed by the state. A hypnotherapist is not a licensed physician or psychologist, and hypnotherapy services are not licensed by the state of California. Services are non-diagnostic and do not include the practice of medicine, neither should they be considered a substitute for licensed medical or psychological services or procedures.
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 http://www.calminsensehypnotherapy.com/.