I read your column about the person whose doctor told her to “deal with it” (how things were for her following surgery). My doctor didn’t say deal with it, but rather suggested that hypnosis might help me manage my pain better. The last time I heard about hypnosis, someone went to a stage show and said they were acting like a chicken. How is that supposed to help my pain?
This is a very interesting question for me, having just returned from a workshop regarding hypnosis and pain management. The presenter, Dr. Mark Jensen, whose expertise is in the use of hypnosis for pain control, would likely be quick to say that acting like a chicken has little to do with pain relief!
There is a big difference between hypnosis used as entertainment, such as the show that your friend went to, and clinical hypnosis. For example in a stage show, people volunteering to go on stage know that they are going to be asked to do things that are funny to others.
It’s not like the hypnotist is getting anyone to do what they do not want to do: People actively say, “Choose me to act like a chicken” by volunteering to be part of the show.
In clinical hypnosis, the choice is different.
It is more like, “I choose to make use of this technique to better manage my pain.” You are always in control when in a hypnotic state.
Clinical hypnosis for pain management makes use of the significant research that is being done about the mechanisms in the body that determine how, when and why, we experience pain. There are many factors (apart from the actual tissue injury or condition to the body) that make a difference to our experience of pain.
Whereas a medication makes use of the body to change the experience of pain, hypnosis makes use of the mind and the body to change the experience of pain. And it has no side-effects!
Guiding a person to a very relaxed and focused (hypnotic) state makes it more possible to use abilities that our mind has to influence our body to change how it “does” pain.
Perhaps you are aware of persons who seem to have a really high pain tolerance. Others you know may be very sensitive to pain. Still others may be able to walk for two days with a broken leg, but will hardly be able to carry on if they have a paper cut.
Every person has their own “signature” of how they relate to things that happen to their body.
Understanding more about the way a person experiences their pain in particular, is key to helping skilled clinical hypnotherapists to be very strategic about what they suggest to a person in a hypnotic state.
Their goal is to help a person be more skilled with their bodies and minds, to reduce their experience of pain. A stage hypnotist suggests to a show participant that they might want to act like a chicken. A clinical hypnotherapist instead suggests ways for the mind to tone down the level or intensity of pain.
For more information about hypnosis and pain control, Google the Mayo clinic hypnosis or Dr. Mark Jensen Hypnosis.
As with medication, people do vary in how responsive they are to hypnosis. And, far from being a hocus pocus kind of intervention, hypnosis is now widely accepted as a viable and very helpful drug free, side-effect free, medical intervention — as long as you are working with a clinical hypnotherapist trained in hypnosis for pain control, and not a stage hypnotist who wants you to act like a chicken.
If you wish to ask a question of the counsellors, for a response in future columns, e-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org. Consult a Counsellor is provided by registered clinical counsellors Nancy Bock, Diane Davies Leslie Wells, Andrew Lochhead and Sara Lynn Kang at pacific therapy & consulting inc. It appears every second Friday in the Record.