Using Hypnosis With Health Issues

Hypnosis is not a magic wand - it's a tool to help us to get deeper in touch with all the parts of our mind and potential. It can connect us with our inner knowing and even the collective unconscious. A dear friend and mentor of mine used to say, "Don't look to me, look to your own inner teacher. That's your guide." We are all connected to that source of inner knowing and wisdom. Hypnosis is an amazing tool to help in this process.
In his book Love, Medicine and Miracles, Bernie Siegel MD had some very interesting things to say regarding his experience with patients dealing with catastrophic cancer. He observed that people fell into one of three different categories:

15 to 20 percent consciously or unconsciously, wish to die. On some level they welcome cancer or other serious illness as a way to escape their pain or difficulties through death or disease.

60 to 70 percent want to please the physician. They do what they are told, unless it means a radical change in their lifestyle. Given a choice they would rather be operated on than actively work to get well.

15 to 20 percent refuse to be victims. They play an active role in their healing and become specialists in their own care. He called this group the exceptional patients.

Hypnosis can be effective with clients who fall into any of the three categories. Sessions can be designed to help the client become empowered in whatever it is they are looking to achieve or change. Looking at Siegel's first group, that might mean beginning hypnosis work with an emphasis on helping a client find a way to reengage in life. We realize that people come to us with pain and suffering. What is their goal and what is healing? Parts therapy can be a powerful tool to give voice to the part that wants to give up and the core personality that includes the drive to live and find inner peace, whatever the outcome might be.

Looking at the middle group, hypnosis sessions might include helping a client decide on a treatment plan. Sometimes that feels really difficult for someone struggling to decide what to do. I sometimes use hypnosis to direct "dress rehearsals" in which the client can visualize various treatments being considered to find what "feels" best - getting in touch with that inner knowing.

The third group includes those that Siegel called exceptional patients. They may do a lot of their own research, insist on being partners with their health care professionals, and often create a team of support. Hypnosis may be a chosen adjunct to support and give added strength to their choices.

Health issues can present a host of emotions and challenges and clients can be caught in a roller coaster of emotions and choices. I had a client, Julia, who resisted radiation, the recommended treatment for her cancer. She was a nurse who understood the medical model. Her tumor continued to grow until she felt she had no choice, but still she resisted because she thought of the radiation as negatively effecting her already fragile health. She knew this would make it difficult to have the most positive response to the treatment and she wanted to be more positive. We talked about the importance of perspective and the fact that we sometimes view things rigidly as all good or all bad but that circumstances can change, and so can our perspective. The thing that seems bad from one perspective can seem good from another.

I told her about another woman who, during her chemotherapy treatments, imagined that the chemo entered her body as light. Rather than seeing it from some negative perspective, she visualized it going through her system uncovering and clearing away all the debris. The image had helped her body to be receptive to the treatment and also lessened the unpleasant side affects.

I asked Julia, in hypnosis, if she could create a positive image of the radiation treatment that would inspire her to be more receptive to it. The tenseness in her face dissolved as she began to reframe her perspective and visualize the process in a positive way.

With this new perspective she related the radiation to a feeling of peacefulness that was soothing and she responded very well. A series of treatments amazingly shrunk her tumor from twelve inches in length to three, and in subsequent chemotherapy she kept all of her hair. Even though she lost weight and showed other physical signs of her ordeal, she developed an incredible emotional strength and joyfulness. Her journey led to a very peaceful passing.

Every treatment modality has some measure of success and some failures (looking strictly at physical symptoms) and our beliefs, the mind/body connection, have an important impact on the way we respond to any treatment. It is also true that sometimes, no matter what treatment is received, illness may be a special time we are given to prepare for that final journey.

Since we can never know with certainty what a particular outcome will be, we can encourage our clients to best use their time by choosing to live consciously and lovingly, supporting their inner sense of what is right for themselves and their loved ones. When a client has been diagnosed with an illness or medical condition hypnosis can be an empowering tool to get and stay in touch with that inner direction or guidance. We stay far more empowered when we take an active role in being partners with our health care professionals and make decisions that we feel good about.

After receiving a medical diagnosis, I encourage clients to research whatever avenues they are drawn to - conventional, holistic and complementary - and then choose the path or combination that supports their belief system and intuition.

Once a person has gathered all the information, he or she can make more confident treatment choices based on knowledge rather than fear. And their treatment choices can be enhanced through hypnotherapy and learning self-hypnosis.
Whatever treatment plan is chosen, utilizing visualization, positive suggestion and other hypnotic modalities to bring the mind and emotions in alignment with that plan, makes it most effective.