Hypnosis for Post Traumatic Stress

Post Traumatic Stress (PTS) is caused by the repeated recollection of a memory of a negative experience. It can be the memory of a single event i.e. an automobile accident or a series of experiences i.e. a long-term abusive relationship; parental, spousal or work-place. Most traumatic events have both a physical and emotional component. Physical in the form of physical pain or discomfort, and emotional in the form of fear.

The subconscious mind (SCM) accepts as true any event it fantasizes whether real or imagined. It also compounds the emotion of that memory every time it is recollected. Phobias are a prime example of this, where the original event was not particularly traumatic, but after reliving the same event over and over it develops into a debilitating phobia. Imagine someone who’s car skidded on a wet highway and ended up in the ditch. No one was seriously hurt and the car wasn’t damaged, but the driver got a good shock. After continuously reliving that event daily for a few months, suddenly the driver has a fear of driving.

The negative effects of PTS are deep and wide with both generalized and specific feelings and behaviours. Feelings of low self-esteem, lack of self-worth and confidence, feelings of inadequacy, shame, guilt and fear of success can be manifested physically as depression, shyness, addiction, learning issues, risk-taking behaviour, eating disorders and much more.

This raises the question; “How do we use hypnosis to heal PTS?” The working theory is: if repeated reliving of the original traumatic event causes the present stress, changing the original event from a negative to a positive should cancel the effects of the original trauma and clear the entire chain of subsequent relived memories, leaving the new positive perception of the event in place.

One of the most successful hypnosis techniques is The Affect Bridge Technique. This technique was first used by Dr. John G. Watkins in 1958 and is described in his book ‘Hypnoanalytic Techniques’. It is a regression technique used to uncover and revaluate a repressed traumatic event. It can be used to discover the origins of Phobias, Behavioural Issues, Pain and much more.

Whilst in a hypnotic trance state a client is regressed by suggestion to the most recent problem event. The emotion driving this event is then strengthened by suggestion during a one to five or one to ten count. Once the emotion has been sufficiently strengthened, the count is reversed back to one. During the reverse count, and suggestions that the client is ‘floating back to the very first time you ever felt this emotion’ the client ‘bridges’ back to the original or initial event. At the count of one the client is asked a series of questions designed to confirm that she is at the original event. The last question is: “Does this feel like a new feeling or have you felt it before”? If it’s a new feeling, we accept it as the initial event; but, if it has been felt before, the client needs to regress further until the original event is found.

Once the original event is found, further questions analyze the event and suggestions are used to prompt a change in perception from a negative to a positive outcome. It is not sufficient to merely have a ‘mindful’ reinterpretation of the event; there must also be a specific behavioural adjustment to change it from a failure to a success. An example would be a client with a fear of dogs, in a hypnotic trance seeing herself, from an out-of-body position petting a dog; and, then petting the dog, seeing through her own eyes, feeling its fur and seeing it lick her hand and feeling its wet tongue etc. Allowing the client further time in trance to really ‘enjoy’ the new outcome further solidifies the ‘new version’ of the event. The client is then emerged from the hypnotic trance state.

The conscious memory of the original event at this point is not important. What is important is that the ‘old version’ of the event which has caused the negative symptoms and behaviours has been replaced in the SCM by the ‘new version’ and remains in place after the client emerges from the trance state. An everyday example of this ‘switch’ is changing from an old password to a new password; eventually remembering the old password gets harder and harder; changing telephone numbers, same thing.

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I’m Roger Gumbrill, a NGH Certified Hypnotherapist, bringing over three decades of hypnotherapy expertise to Delta, B.C. (Tsawwassen), serving the vibrant communities around Metro Vancouver, including Surrey, Richmond, and New Westminster.

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