Chapter 8 : Hypnosis for dealing with pain

Does hypnosis to deal with pain effectively?

Whilst for most members of the public, hypnosis is most commonly associated with hilariously funny stage shows where people do apparently crazy things or perhaps with bad TV sitcoms, the view of the medical and psychological community of what hypnosis is all about is very different.

Indeed, since it was first invented by Franz Anton Mesmer in the 1700, it has become increasingly widely accepted that using hypnosis can deal with or ‘treat’ many seemingly intractable problems, including the management of chronic pain.

For a long time, the view of many medical professionals was not all that different to the view of people who watch on-stage hypnosis shows, mainly because Western medicine has always tended to assume that finding a solution to a problem always involves ‘temperature-taking and shot-giving’. Hence, the idea that something as seemingly esoteric as hypnosis could play any genuine part in dealing with medical or psychological problems was simply too much for people of this nature to take on board.

But the fact is that when scientifically applied by a professionally qualified hypnotherapist, hypnosis is a remarkably effective technique that can be applied to dealing with a huge range of problems and difficulties. For example, hypnosis is often used as a highly effective way of convincing people to stop smoking whilst it is also used to treat those who genuinely want to stop drinking and others who suffer because of a similarly obsessive or addictive personality.

Most importantly, over the last 20 or 30 years, hypnosis has been subjected to the continual scrutiny of many clinical trials and in almost every situation scenario, it has been proved that hypnosis is an effective way of combating pain. People suffering from pains associated with cancer, kidney stones, gallstones, backache and invasive dental and medical procedures have all been treated or dealt with whilst under hypnosis with remarkably successful result.

According to one noted psychiatrist, Dr David Spiegl M.D. of Stanford University, ‘Changing your mental set can change what’s going on in your body’, and all of the available evidence indicates that this is exactly right as far as dealing with chronic pain is concerned.

During the process of being hypnotized, the subject is lulled into a state of focused concentration, inner absorption plus intensely focused attention and all at exactly the same time as they are completely relaxed. Hence, because of their mental state, the subject in this pre-hypnotic state is able to pick up suggestions far more effectively than they might otherwise do in their conscious state whilst they can also tap into unused mental powers to expand the boundaries of physical possibilities.

Over the years, many papers and studies have provided compelling evidence that hypnosis is highly effective when it comes to dealing with pain.

For instance, in the April 29, 2000 edition of ‘The Lancet’, there was a report comparing the results enjoyed by patients under hypnosis with those under standard medical care who were undergoing invasive medical surgery. The results showed that the patients who were hypnotized suffered considerably less pain and anxiety than those who were using standard medical painkillers. In addition, the medical process itself took considerably less time to complete for the hypnotized patients, probably because there was no necessity to keep controlling their pain and calming their anxiety as there was with patients under standard anesthetic.

The final clincher was the fact that post-operation, the patients who had been hypnotized required less than half the amount of painkillers that the patients who had operated on using standard anesthetic procedures did.

This once again highlights the fact that in many cases, hypnosis is used in combination with traditional analgesic or anesthetic practices, although there is no reason why it cannot be used on its own in certain circumstances.

For instance, Dr. Alexander Levitan who is a medical oncologist in Minnesota reports that he has conducted many operations including tracheotomies and hysterectomies using nothing but hypnosis as the anesthetic.

There are many different theories as to why hypnosis would work in such a situation, with some suggesting that because hypnosis alters your expectations or perceptions of how intense the pain is going to be, this changes how you experience that pain a little later. Alternatively, another theory suggests that hypnosis focuses your attention on other objectives or images which shifts your primary focus away from concentrating on the pain.

There are many studies currently being carried out to discover exactly why hypnosis is so effective in blocking pain, many of which are focusing on the physiological changes (the changes in your brain) that take place whilst you are under hypnosis.

From these studies, it seems likely that hypnosis activates certain parts of the brain that are concerned with focusing attention. In effect, hypnosis enables your brain to focus on something completely different than the pain. In this way your brain is prevented from bringing the pain that you were previously suffering or were about to suffer to conscious awareness.

So, now you know that pain relief is 100% possible through the use of hypnosis, the next question is, what are you going to do about it?

The first option is to find a hypnotist or hypnotherapist in your neighborhood who can help you by analyzing your problems and then hypnotizing you in order to start addressing your pain.

Finding a suitable hypnotist or hypnotherapist

Before you do this, however, there are a couple of things you should do.

Firstly, you should talk to your regular doctor or medical practitioner, the person who is presently charged with keeping your pain under control. Understand that when you do so, they may not approve of what you are thinking of doing, especially as by seeking the help of a hypnotist, you are to a certain extent rebuffing their assistance.

Trust me, it is possible that your doctor will react in this way – if they have been treating even sometime, you probably know them better than most, so you may have an idea of how they are likely to react already, but it could happen.

But the fact is, you are not there to ask for their approval or recommendation. What you need to know is whether subjecting yourself to hypnotism poses any real physical health risks, whether for example a pre-existing medical condition could be exacerbated by the experience.

In effect, what you are looking for is the medical all-clear so if your doctor does not approve of the idea of you seeking hypnotism for any reasons other than those which are strictly medical, it is your decision whether you choose to listen to them.

Secondly (and assuming that you decide to go ahead with trying hypnotism), you need to find a hypnotist who is capable of treating the problem that you are going to present to them. Whilst most professional hypnotists or hypnotherapists are going to be able to deal with more ‘run of the mill’ demands such as people who want to stop smoking and so on, not every hypnotist is going to be capable of or comfortable with the idea of dealing with chronic pain.

Consequently, you may need to contact a few appropriately qualified professionals to see whether they can help you. Pay them a visit to see whether you can get along with them, whether they are convincing when they suggest that they can help you and so on.

In short, you need to feel 100% comfortable with the hypnotist or hypnotherapist you are planning to work with because if you are not, there is an immediate element of strain or stress introduced into the relationship which is not going to help you to achieve the results that you’re looking for.

The second alternative is to learn self-hypnosis. And if that sounds crazy, prepare to think again!

Can self hypnosis really work?

Can you remember the last time you went to see a movie at the cinema or movie theatre? If you can and it was a popular movie, you were probably not the only person in the cinema, just one of 200 or 300 excited souls waiting for the lights to go down so that the entertainment could begin.

When the house lights were bright, you were probably looking around, fully well aware of all of these people, but as soon as the lights went down and the movie started, you were very quickly completely engrossed (assuming that it was a good movie).

In this situation, you have effectively switched your point of focus from the real world of which we are all aware to the movie and you have done so completely. To coin a cliché, the real world has ceased to exist and the only world is that of the movie.

The principal of self hypnosis is not especially different to this basic concept. It is all about shifting and concentrating your focus, and the more successfully you can do so, the easier self-hypnosis becomes.

Most encouragingly, it is normally suggested that the ability to hypnotize yourself depends to a large extent on your desire to do so and your need to control your pain. In short, the majority of people who want to control their pain through self hypnosis manage to do so by sheer willpower and force of personality.

Having some guidance of how you can focus your attention at will is probably a useful thing, particularly at the beginning, so consulting a hypnotist or hypnotherapist who can help you to develop your own abilities is likely to be worth the effort. In this way, you get the proper guidance from the beginning and are taught by someone who really knows what they are doing.

On the other hand, there are plenty of web sites where you can learn everything you could ever need to know about self hypnosis, which has the advantage that you can learn self hypnosis in your own time and in the comfort of your own home.

Run a Google search for ‘self hypnosis techniques’, because doing so will show you just how many self hypnosis of sites there are:

Whilst you will probably not be surprised to know that a significant number of these sites are selling self hypnosis materials, many of them are packed with free information and ideas that will help you learn everything you need to know about self hypnosis.

When you do start digging a little deeper, you will perhaps be surprised to realize that the concepts or ideas behind self hypnosis are not nearly as wacky or weird as they might at first appear. For example, as is made clear on this excellent WikiHow ’How to performance self hypnosis’ page, self hypnosis is really nothing more than a twin stage process of relaxing as completely as possible and then focusing on something that takes your mind off the pain that you are trying to escape from.

The relaxed state that is most commonly compared to that of being in a self hypnotized state is the relaxation that is felt by those who meditate regularly.

And, as anyone who meditates on a regular basis will tell you, reaching the level of relaxation you need to achieve your objectives is not something that happens overnight.

In short, you need to learn how to relax as thoroughly as possible and then to keep practicing your relaxation techniques so that you get more and more proficient and become increasingly relaxed as a result of doing so.

But however crazy it might sound, self hypnotism is an effective way of dealing with pain completely naturally. At the same time, because a critical part of the self hypnosis process is your ability to relax more than you have ever relaxed before, the overall benefits to your health brought about by the inevitable reduction in stress and tension this causes will be a significant boost in your battle against pain.

There is one final alternative that you might like to consider.

I have already mentioned that a Google search will pull up many results related to self hypnosis products or services being sold on the net. Some of these products, many of which are CD or DVD presentations by professional hypnotherapists that will teach you to hypnotize yourself at home may represent an investment that is worth consideration.

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