by Claudia Klein CHT(nm) SAIH, CPTT, CPTF, NLP and HNLP
Everyone experiences pain at one point or another. It’s often an indication that something is wrong.
Each individual is the best judge of his or her own pain. Feelings of pain can range from mild and occasional to severe and constant. Pain is like the warning lights on a car’s dashboard. It alerts to something that needs investigation. Pain serves the important function to let the sufferer know that something needs attention.
During the studies of hypnosis one will be introduced to a few aspects of how the utilization of hypnosis can be an effective application to relief and control pain. Of primary importance is that we facilitate within our scope of practice. A referral by our client’s medical doctor is of course the best. Before we successfully assist our clients to reduce their pain, they should first discuss this with their doctor. Otherwise they might describe the pain differently which may influence the diagnosis or even prevent the client from seeking medical assistance which could be detrimental.
Pain is the body’s warning system that something is wrong and it should not be influenced until a professional medical examination or diagnosis has taken place. This can be clarified before the hypnosis session or early in the pre-talk. With consent however, it is possible and plausible in certain instances to use hypnosis practices to make the discomfort more bearable.
It is advisable to change our language, especially once our client is in trance, to eliminate all reference to words like pain, injections, surgery, hospital, etc and replace these with synonyms like discomfort, pressure, sensation, procedures or any other suitable words which will trigger more positive associations within the clients.
The use of a pain or discomfort intensity scale is advisable because the experience is always subjective. A similar symptom may evoke a different severity in different people.
The client’s objective will most probably be to reach zero on the scale, yet we need to consider that even if the client would be able to manipulate their experience to this degree this would mean that the body’s warning signs are masked, or will be interpreted differently, and the client may no longer observe the sensation which may warn him to be cautious. Good communication may be necessary during the pre-talk to clarify that a reduction of intensity will bring the desired relief to some degree and leaves the client the ability to monitor the body’s communication.
The initial intensity scaling and a subsequent reduction, even if only by a point or part of a point, will also begin the spiral of belief that hypnosis and self hypnosis will indeed be beneficial. This is true for both the practitioner and the client. The outcome of the facilitation becomes measurable by the client and both the client and the facilitator will understand after one or two sessions whether hypnosis is working.
Since discomfort causes the client to tense up and thus can intensify the experience of pain, basic relaxation techniques and the use of self hypnosis may be of great assistance to the client. The one day SELF MASTERY THROUGH AUTO HYPNOSIS course will empower clients by becoming knowledgeable about some aspects of the mind/body connection, improve their self hypnosis application and further work will become easier. I remember a woman seeing me for assistance with painless childbirth but her willingness or ability to reach suitable levels of trance remained too light even after two private sessions. Once she realized in a group setting which levels others are possible to achieve she became far more responsive to deep relaxation and suggestions.
Manipulating pain with appropriate imagery will convince the client that s/he has the ability to alter the sensation. In order to be able to create suitable client centered imagery we investigate details of the client’s experience. Note that in general it is that the higher the discomfort the higher the willingness of the client to co-operate and experience with hypnosis. Therefore with some clients and in certain circumstances, detailing the sensation can take place in a pre-talk setting and then be adjusted once the client is in trance. The manipulation of discomfort can sometimes also be effective during waking hypnosis. An experienced, receptive facilitator will quickly calibrate with their clients and know which approach will be most appropriate to best assist the client. Describing the sensation can involve giving it a shape, an outline, a colour, and feeling like throbbing, pulsating, dull, sharp, etc. Any one or all of these aspects can then be managed. The size may shrink, sharp edges soften, bright colours and sensations become softer or change. Imagery like a control dial may be helpful and can be included with a post hypnotic suggestion to enhance self application.
As it usually inconceivable to a new comer to hypnosis especially when in considerable discomfort that relief with Hypnosis is possible, it is best to use this imagery to “train” the client’s ability by first increasing aspects and then suggesting reduction. This will in most cases bring some relief for some time and in some highly suggestible subjects could bring complete relief. The use of glove anesthesia in waking hypnosis or induced trance can be very helpful for certain clients with certain conditions, one example would be labour contractions during childbirth.
The above are all symptomatic approaches and there are deeper levels of approaches with Hypnosis especially when the discomfort is purely or partially psychosomatic. This does not mean that the client is imagining their discomfort – it is very real, but medical intervention may either not be applicable or yield no positive results. Herein lies an enormous scope for the hypnosis practitioner.
There is a huge place for hypnosis practices for pain management. For example: of the 314 million people in the USA more than 100 million suffer from chronic pain (www.webmd.com/pain…/100-million-americans-have-chronic–pain). That is 1 out of 3 people! Imagine the potential to help! This figure does not even include aspects like hypnodontics, child birth assistance, hypnosis in surgery, etc. While assisting with smoking cessations, fears and phobias, emotional problems, past life regressions etc may be very useful, pain management is a real need for many.
We also need to differentiate between acute and chronic pain. We have already discussed that hypnotic intervention ideally should be sanctioned by the client’s medical doctor and that it does not replace conventional medical approaches which is especially correct with acute pain such as: surgery, broken bones, dental work, burns or cuts, labour and childbirth.
Chronic pain is often defined as any pain lasting more than 12 weeks, sometimes despite the fact that an injury has healed. Pain signals remain active in the nervous system for weeks, months, or years. The psychological state of the affected person plays a huge role in the consequence it has on the sufferers life. Irritability, anger, depression, sleeping problems, loss of appetite and difficulty concentrating are some of the psychological side effects of living with chronic pain. This is what makes chronic pain such a complex condition.
The process of detecting pain is complicated by the fact that it is not a one-way system. It isn’t even a two-way system. Pain is more than just cause and effect: it is affected by everything else that is going on in the nervous system. The mood, past experiences and expectations can all change the way pain is interpreted at any given time.
Looking at the cycle of chronic pain it quickly becomes clear that hypnosis practices perhaps may not (but potentially could) uncover the cause of chronic pain, but be effective with those aspects which contribute to maintain or even worsen the situation. Some of these can easily be addressed. For example basic relaxation techniques or visualisation may help reduce the anxiety and such hold the possibility to reduce the discomfort, improve sleep and general state of emotions.
Suggestion can significantly affect pain intensity. About 35% of people report marked relief after receiving a saline injection they believe to have been morphine. This “placebo” effect is more pronounced in people who are prone to anxiety, so anxiety reduction may account for some of the effect, but it does not account for all of the effect. Placebos are more effective in intense pain than mild pain. It is possible for many chronic pain sufferers to become so absorbed in an activity or entertainment that the pain is no longer felt, or is greatly diminished.
Brief historic outline: The use of hypnosis to effect relief with acute pain is one of its most ancient applications. You may recall that Hypnosis was “discovered” by a Viennese physician, Friederich Anton Mesmer, in the late 1700’s. Mesmer began with a theory about animal magnetism, involving the distribution of magnetic fluid within an organism’s body. He used hypnosis, then called Mesmerism, to produce a more harmonious distribution of this magnetic fluid in the body. Mesmer immediately understood the implications of his work, as he immediately claimed mesmerism as a superior form in which to hinder the development of disease without exposing the patient to the more hazardous techniques of the time period. In 1784, Louis XVI formed a commission to investigate Mesmer’s findings. The commission was, incidentally, headed by none other than Benjamin Franklin. Although Mesmer’s findings on hypnosis were undisputed by the commission, the commission played down the effects of an unfounded “magnetic fluid” in the human body and attributed Mesmerism’s effects to a placebo effect. Because of the commission’s findings regarding magnetism, Mesmerism fell from popularity (Hall, 1986)
In England around 1843, the surgeon James Braid revisited the phenomenon of Mesmerism and renamed it hypnosis, after the Greek god of sleep, Hypnos. He was the first person to attribute the phenomenon to psychological rather than physical variables. His findings renewed interest in the subject, especially in France, where hypnosis gained popularity again as a form of pain reduction during surgery. Eventually, Braid’s technique was found to be unsatisfactory, and hypnosis drifted out of favour once again (Hall, 1986).
While James Braid was making quantum leaps with hypnosis, another Scottish doctor, Dr. James Esdaile, was experimenting and gaining permanent recognition in the history of hypnosis. Stationed in Hoogly, India, James Esdaile used hypnosis in surgery with astounding results; and even today many would say that Dr. Esdaile’s work with applied hypnosis almost borders on the fantastic.
James Esdaile submitted reports at the end of 1846 indicating that Dr. Esdaile had performed several thousand minor operations and about 300 major ones, including 19 amputations, all painlessly. Due mostly to the removal of post-operative shock through hypnosis, James Esdaile cut the 50% mortality rate of that time down to less than 8%.
Dave Elman gave James Esdaile respect by referring to an ultra-deep hypnotic state as the Esdaile state (Chapter 13 of his book, Findings in Hypnosis, is entitled: The Esdaile State. (1970 Hypnotherapy, Westwood Pub. ISBN 0-930298-04-7)
In the late 1800’s, Bernheim and Liebeault came upon hypnosis as a treatment for physical and functional diseases, after one of Berheim’s patients attributed her effective sciatica cure to hypnotic imagery. Bernheim and Liebeault began the most comprehensive study of hypnosis at the time, attempting to determine when and how hypnosis could be successfully applied. Once again, hypnosis lost favour to the effective new technological and medical advances of the period. Stronger emphasis was placed upon physical treatments for effective outcomes rather than psychological treatments (which was not an organized science at the time). This attitude continues today, although in the past several decades hypnosis has seen a revival of interest (Hall, 1986).
In 1955, the British Medical Association (BMA) approved the use of hypnosis in the areas of psychoneuroses and hypnoanesthesia in pain management in childbirth and surgery. At this time, the BMA also advised all physicians and medical students to receive fundamental training in hypnosis. In 1958, the American Medical Association approved a report on the medical uses of hypnosis. It encouraged research on hypnosis although pointing out that some aspects of hypnosis are unknown and controversial. However, in June 1987, the AMA’s policy-making body rescinded all AMA policies from 1881–1958 (other than two not relating to hypnosis). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_hypnosis