Using Hypnosis In Trauma Treatment

Last week I introduced you to three people and their stories with the idea in mind of understanding trauma a little better — and what to do about it. The common element in trauma is that a person is shocked and overwhelmed by a great loss. That feeling of shock is important. It means that the new event can’t easily be integrated into one’s expectations of what is “normal.” For example, a picture of “normal” would not include a terrorist running into a store and killing people. A traumatized person might replay that scene over and over in his mind, unable to comprehend such a thing. Replaying the tape does not make the event easier to accept or to understand. A well-known therapist, Bessel van der Kolk, tells the story of this trauma repetition in the case of a Vietnam veteran who lit up a cigarette one night during his period of fighting the Viet Cong. The cigarette gave away his and his buddies’ location and the enemy fired, killing one man. As van der Kolk tells it, “From 1969 to 1986, on the exact anniversary of the death, to the hour and minute, he yearly committed ‘armed robbery’ by putting a finger in his pocket and staging a ‘holdup,’ in order to provoke gunfire from the police. The compulsive re-enactment ceased when he came to understand its meaning.” Replaying or a sense of reliving an incomprehensible and disturbing event is one symptom of trauma. Others include poor sleep fear avoidance of being in a certain location or with specific people flashbacks extreme preoccupation blocking out the memory of...

It Might Be Trauma

Lilly was ten. When she was in school, she could dig into her work and her mind could entertain itself with whatever the subjects were; she loved school. It was when she came home that the problems began. Her father had a temper that would erupt easily. Lilly could not know what would bring it on. Her mother didn’t know either. Her mother’s response was to beg her father not to hit the little girl. Her father might push her mother out of the way as he came after Lilly. Lilly knew that she could find a hiding place in the back of her closet. Her father would stomp off if he didn’t grab her before she fled into hiding. That’s why, as she got just a little bit older, she found the greatest refuge in school. She could always find some reason to stay late — library research, a team practice, helping a friend. When Lilly reached adulthood she got a very well-paying job on Wall Street. She was pretty happy there until there was a shuffle in her department and a new boss took over. He had a temper. Lilly could not understand for the longest time why his temper would send her home crying and shaking on the railroad. She was ready to quit her job. Was Lilly suffering from trauma? Joe remembers living in a happy family. He, his three brothers and sister got along, played, did their school work, and generally lived uneventfully. At 18, his mother received a scary diagnosis and before the family could gather their wits about them, she died. Things...

Overcoming “Mental Illness”

Overcoming mental illness may be started best by no longer thinking of it as “mental illness.” Or “disease,” or a “sickness.” In the world of marriage and parenting, it’s important to think how you will deal with certain problems. If your spouse or child seems to “have” a mental illness, then please read on. So why do I say that you shouldn’t think of it as mental illness, disease, or sickness? There are three reasons why I’m putting it in these terms. The Concept is Made Up; They Only Describe; They Can’t Ascribe If we look back in history, people who heard voices were thought of as prophets at one time. In a different era, they were considered possessed by the devil. At present, if you compare the European diagnostic code with ours, you learn that the Europeans have fewer categories and ever since World War II are really, really hesitant to put labels on people. In the psychology world today, diagnostics are considered a “construct.” This means that we made up the idea because it seems useful to have it. We constructed it. Unfortunately, putting people into the “correct” diagnostic category is impossible because there is no objective measure of what the correct category would be. Yes, there are many rules as to what sorts of behaviors we are looking for but people don’t actually fall within the neat rules that the panel that composes the series of books on it have arbitrarily created. Unlike diagnosing a broken arm (which takes place with the help of an X-ray) or whether a person hit a D# (which takes place...

What Hypnosis Is

Hypnosis is a naturally occurring state. Many people believe they can’t “get” hypnotized when, actually, they fall into trance all the time. For example, in boring classes or lectures, you may notice your mind “wandering.” Where does it go? Generally, when something rouses you out of your reverie, you might not even know what you were thinking when it “went”. That’s trance, or self-hypnosis. Your mind simply blanked out into a pleasant state of relaxation–until someone drew your attention to the fact that you weren’t paying attention. Another example occurs all the time during driving. That may be more of an explanation for accidents than cellphones. People’s focus simply drifts off due to the monotony of the road. In fact, on the open road this phenomenon has a name–road hypnosis. Still another example occurs when you read a great book or see a riveting movie. Not only do you forget or not notice your surroundings, but you may become so involved with the characters that you feel emotions related to their lives. Haven’t we all seen–and succumbed to–some “tear-jerkers”? Why do we cry at fiction? — Because we are “in” it; we become part of the story. That is the objective of the author and screenwriter. And we like it too. It’s a way of leaving our reality for a little while; it’s a break. Same thing with hypnosis. You have just explained self-hypnosis that just sort of “happens.” What about going to a therapist for hypnosis? In all the examples above, there are three key elements: The desire or willingness to relax or drift off, the presence of...

Hypnosis for Abuse Recovery

I use hypnosis daily in helping people heal from past pain. Here are the three components and why they each work: Relaxation The biggest selling prescription drug for the last few years has been Prilosec, created to relieve stomach distress. Why would that be the biggest? Because the leading emotional problem in the world is stress and the first system to go down under stress is the digestive system (don’t ask me why). Stress is translated into symptoms in many ways: high blood pressure, rapid heartbeat, difficulty thinking clearly, trouble breathing, cold sweats. There are those who even will draw a link from stress to cancer. Stress Causes Medical Problems Here’s an interesting fact I discovered when I was doing my research for my PhD dissertation on verbal abuse: If a woman is being physically abused, she will have more medical complaints like internal medicine, gastroenterological, gynecological and other health complaints than non-victims and more medical complaints than bruises! Now, what does that mean? Simply, it means that stress is taking its toll of their bodies more than the beatings themselves. Stress comes from (1) wondering when the next attack–verbal or physical–will occur, (2) anguish over the deteriorated relationship, (3) arguments inside her head about the injustice of the last attack or how she could have prevented it, (4) worry about what to do to protect her children, etc. The truth is, I’ve worked with a lot of men who are victimized by their wives, girlfriends and lovers and the problem is the same for them. Even Abusers Are Stressed And, guess what? Oddly enough, the perpetrators are equally...
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