I have been a hypnoanalyst through a good part of my life as a counselor and hypnotherapist. I began writing this paper as a means of confirming my work, expanding my views, and deepening my own convictions about the use of hypnosis in the healing of the physical body. To do this, it has been helpful to review the basics of understanding psychological behavior beyond the "norm." For this reason, a large emphasis of this particular paper is on the psychological underpinnings of the mental health field, and the hypnotherapist's crucial role in this field.
In order to be effective in using hypnosis for mental and physical issues that have as their basis more psychological problem than habit, it is important to become familiar with basic psychology. Therefore, covering the definitions of the most basic psychology terms can be helpful to hypnotherapists, even if they choose to never work in the field of psychology directly.
The Various Forms of Neurosis
Neurotic persons are those who can function quite well in society despite having some mental problems. They have neurotic behaviors which interfere with parts of their lives and may incapacitate them to some degree, but they can usually keep them somewhat under control, therefore functioning fairly well in society. They may be unhappy with themselves, preoccupied and self-centered, easily upset, over-reactive or compulsive, and it may take little to get them upset; but they are rarely any harm to themselves or others.
At the risk of being overly simplistic, there are many different kinds of neurosis:
• Disassociated neurotics are persons who will usually go to extremes of forgetting in order to avoid their problems, and are quite easily swayed by other people. It should not be surprising, therefore, that they make good hypnotic subjects.
• Phobic neurotics have heightened fears about people, objects or situations, which they cannot face.
• Obsessive-Compulsive neurotics have to follow certain routines and actions out of some deep fear of disaster if they do not.
• Depressive neurotics are those who continually feel low, most often with many complicating symptoms like poor sleep, negativity, deep anger, self-deprecation, and even physical problems of a chronic nature.
• Hypnochondriacal neurotics seem to take enjoyment in poor health, which brings attention to the self. While openly complaining about their symptoms, they actually use them to hide their problems.
• Neurosthenic neurotics often have many physical symptoms, especially those of fatigue, headaches and other physical problems. These often stem from deep anger or resentment, or being unable to escape from an unhappy situation.
• Conversion neurotics actually take on a real incapacity or handicap, such as paralysis or blindness, in response to great feelings of inadequacy or a severe trauma.
The Psychotic Person
In contrast to the neurotic, who may be unhappy and have difficulty in dealing with his/her surroundings but is able to function, the psychotic is helpless in coping with life. Psychotics have frequent delusions, which affect any decision-making. Their emotions can shift rapidly, often from passivity to violence, without apparent reason. They are incapable of dealing with the strictures and demands of society. They can sometimes be of danger to themselves or their communities. Unfortunately, many psychologists feel such people cannot be helped.
There are several types of psychotics, again, defined simply:
• Simple Schizophrenics still have a fairly good contact with reality, but can slip out of reality now and then. Having regular unchanging routines minimizes this to some extent. Although many are indifferent to their appearance or to other people and show few emotions, this is not always the case. I had two suspected schizophrenic clients who heard voices and felt threatened by those around them. Both were well dressed and tidy. The greatest anger I have ever seen in my practice was displayed by one of them. I have found some paranoia often accompanies such schizophrenia.
• Paranoiacs have all the symptoms of the simple schizophrenic but with more intensity, delusions of grandeur, moodiness, and a strong distrust of other people, even to the point of believing that people are after them.
• Hebephrenics have hallucinations and delusions, and are continually moving from one subject to another, and from one space to another.
• Catatonics usually act as if they are afraid of any movement at all, and can stay in one position for very long periods of time unless physically moved by another person. They rarely will communicate verbally. However, occasionally one might suddenly become violent.
• Effective psychotics can move, in a moment, from being hyperactive to being extremely depressed.
In the past, psychotics usually would be confined in some way. Today, in most states, only those who are of extreme danger to themselves or their community are in mental facilities. Unfortunately, many of those released from institutions, or who have none to go to, live in adverse circumstances, often the streets. When I lived in New York City, it was not uncommon to see deranged people throughout the city, in streets, on buses and subways, behaving in very odd ways, even threatening or otherwise abusing passerbys. They had no home of their own except what they made in or under the streets. They received no mental health assistance unless it was drugs furnished by welfare. It is an increasing tragedy of extreme proportions.
Therapies for Working with Neurotic Conditions
There are several effective means of dealing with the mental health of those clients who either come for assistance, are sent to a therapist, or who are in contained situations where therapists are part of the staff and its healing processes.
• Behavior Therapy, primarily founded by J. B. Watson, and brought into popular use by Carl Rogers and others, along with client-centered approaches, does not limit itself to any single technique. Its focus is to change behavior, rather than focus on getting to the source of the symptoms, such as psychoanalysis does. It is, therefore, a counter-therapy to Freud and other psychoanalytic masters' approaches. Some of the behavior techniques popularly used are counter-conditioning, also called "de-sensitization;" observational learning, in which the client is urged to watch the more healthy responses of someone else; aversion in which electric shock or drugs may be added in order to get rid of inappropriate behavior; and positive reinforcement. Behavior therapy may get very good results, but it is questionable how permanent those results may be, if one has not dealt with the source of the symptoms or inappropriate responses.
• Group Psychotherapy is very popular these days in helping many people cope. Its advantages are in helping people relate to others in more effective ways, in helping an individual understand he/she is not alone (or crazy), and in having peers assist in the healing process. The down sides are: time for proper healing is indefinite, it is often difficult to know when healing has taken place fully, and the reasons for problems vary so considerably from person to person and may not be reached in a group setting. From a behaviorist's standpoint, the outer action is more important; therefore, its change is what is looked for, rather than its source.
Obviously, there are many other methods and ways of doing counseling than are covered here.
Mental Health and the Hypnotherapist
Although the above methods have their place, and many people are helped in dealing more adequately with their lives through such means, there is no question in my mind that the most effective therapeutic method available today is that of hypnosis. Its use helps people get to the depth of their problems quickly, and brings about solutions in far more pleasant ways than most other mental health methods. This does not exclude the other mental health methods. They can be important additions to one's "tool kit'' in helping people deal with their lives.
Psychotics make poor hypnotic subjects for several reasons: they are less likely to seek hypnosis as a solution; they do not trust others; and they can become violent even toward someone trying to help them. It is important to be aware of occasions when a person has stepped over the line from neurosis to psychosis. If someone is suspected to be psychotic, they need to be referred to a psychiatrist or psychologist immediately. Under no circumstances, should a hypnotherapist (or anyone) untrained in dealing with severe mental illness attempt to assist, on their own, such a person.
Although it is wise to avoid using hypnotherapy with a psychotic person, unless doing so in tandem with a qualified psychiatrist or psychologist, the same is not as true in dealing with the neurotic individual. A client's neuroses can be effectively positively redirected with the use of hypnosis by a skilled and well-trained person. Most hypnotherapists who work with such issues would refer to themselves as hypnoanalysts, or hypnotherapists who work with psychological analysis and therapy.
It is very important that, if any hypnotherapist wishes to go beyond doing inductions and giving the subconscious self suggestions for change, that he/she seek the training to do so. Lacking this training, they should at least be able to identify neurotic problems, and recognize their own limitations as therapists. They should then send the client to someone who is properly trained to handle such issues.
It is my belief that most hypnotherapists are not trained to deal with mental issues beyond those which perpetuate simple habits. If someone is desirous of working more broadly with deeper, more complex issues, then it is important to get additional training in the basics of psychology, especially Abnormal Psychology. It is helpful to be able to quickly determine whether you can be of assistance to someone, or whether they will need more specialized help by other resources. Also, I would recommend to any hypnotherapist, whether or not they plan to do hypnoanalysis, that they include the reading of books of counseling and psychology along with their hypnosis bibliography, especially those which focus on methods of change.
The Counselor and Hypnosis
I find that being a knowledgeable counselor expands my ability to respond more effectively to what arises within the therapy sessions. However, I am amazed at the number of counselors who have been trained in hypnosis who rarely use it. I personally believe that there are some definite reasons for this, both conscious and unconscious:
(1) Because they are so ingrained in the traditional counseling process with its general conviction that any mental healing takes a long time, counselors have great difficulty making the necessary paradigm shift into understanding the value of hypnosis as a primary tool in the counseling system. Even behaviorists seem convinced that changing a behavior takes a relatively long time-granted, not in relation to the time taken in psychoanalysis, which is usually even longer. Most of the counselors with whom I have discussed how they handle clients, use a two-year time period as a normal counseling process, especially with addiction issues.
(2) Hypnotic training which either does not make use of and encourage the counselor's particular abilities and experience; or gives the impression that it is enough to know inductions and suggestions.
(3) The unconscious belief system underlying the counselor-counselee relationship, which implies dependence. Creating the helper-helpee relationship is more possible with a longer time frame.
(4) The natural lack of confidence in using hypnosis if it is not used immediately and frequently-that is, use it or lose it! I think some don't use it because they feel insecure with it or have not experienced enough success with it to intensify its usage in their practices. There are programs which offer courses that focus on training counselors in hypnoanalysis. But when I have spoken to some of those who have taken the course, I am amazed at how little these same counselors seem to use hypnosis with their counseling clients to any great extent. It sometimes seems like more of an adjunct, used when all else fails, rather than the primary tool. This is where my practice differs.
The Hypnotherapist's Role in the Body's Healing
Although I do not feel a hypnotherapist must be an anatomist to understand the body in order to help a client heal themselves, it is helpful to at least have some overall view of both the anatomy (structure) and the physiology (interior processes) of the human body.
If we are made up of this fantastic complexity out of the merging of two single cells that kept dividing (including the nucleus with its total encoding of the uniqueness that is each of us), then it makes perfect sense to me that every cell has its own intelligence, whether it is located in the specialization called "the brain," or it is located in some other gland or organ or vessel. It is with this intelligence that the hypnotherapist does his/her work when dealing with the body's healing.
When using hypnosis for the process of helping the body heal itself, it is important first, to recognize that our bodies have their own miraculous and natural abilities. I like the image given in class of the "community" of cells, each group of cells having their own particular roles and tasks in assisting the whole. If for some reason, any group fails in their prescribed task and the community as a whole is unable to respond to cover the lapse, then an imbalance occurs, and illness can arise.
The unconscious mind handles all the automatic functions of our bodies, helping all the community to do its work. Since that unconscious mind is the major catalyst of these functions, and keeps the body's equilibrium, then it makes sense that it would also be the force that brings the body back into balance. Thus, the hypnotherapist becomes a doctor, whose arena is the "mind."
It is important for the therapist, and the client, to view the body in its healthy, balanced mode, rather than focusing on the illness or imbalance, when dealing with its healing. Remember that we are made up of atoms of energy just like everything else in our universe. And that energy can be creative and positive or it can also be destructive. The hypnotherapist understands the power of that energy and encourages the unconscious mind to direct it for "good."
Our thoughts are energy, as well. Our bodies respond to what we think about ourselves as well as how we treat ourselves. The images and belief systems we carry around within us affect how we look and how our bodies operate. So, part of the hypnotherapist's job is to help the client shift their belief in themselves, their situation, and other people.
The hypnotherapist must also deal with the hypnotic spells that have been inadvertently or overtly placed upon the client. These include:
(1) Authority: acceptance of what some authority has said, i.e. parent or doctor (You'll get ill if you go out in the rain; You have a weak heart, so you must be careful; There is nothing anyone can do, so live with it);
(2) Imitation: unconsciously taking on family and societal attitudes and surroundings (Everyone in the family is obese; To be a woman is to look after the man at all costs; Boys get to do more in school and sports)
(3) Association: taking on that which resembles other ideas one has previously accepted, even if there is no real conscious agreement (Just seeing rain and getting a sore throat; Getting the latest "TV news Health Watch" disease).
The hypnotherapist's job includes combating these old "spells" and breaking them, and replacing them with more "healthy" hypnotic spells. It is therefore necessary to know the images and beliefs out of which the client is currently operating.
Many physicians will now support the understanding that 90%, even more, of all illnesses arise out of the unconscious mind-that is, they are psychosomatic. Therefore, the 'physician of the mind' has a wonderful opportunity to be of service in the healing process, helping people to be released from whatever either causes or supports their symptoms, while assisting them in moving forward in positive, helpful, and joyful ways. Amazing results can come from simply guiding the unconscious or subconscious mind to help the body, and all its parts, do its job perfectly and completely.