My first real exposure to ideosensory phenomenon was in childhood at a sleepover. I learned that you could take the hand of someone who is in a very relaxed state and gently place it in warm water. You would then be able to actually see them relieve themselves with no further guidance from you.
As amazing as that was, it’s also fairly limiting because 1) you need a warm glass of water nearby 2) the person has to already be in a relaxed state and 3) it’s pretty selective which muscle group you relax and response you elicit. Fortunately, now I know hypnosis which addresses all three of these obstacles.
Hypnosis for pain frequently follows a similar format, regardless of the technique or routine used. A pre-talk –> relaxation routine –> focus on the pain –> change the pain –> focus on comfort. Below I’ve outlined a sample method for the first 3 steps, to set-up whatever technique you might use.
- Talk to the person you’re working with to explain what you’ll be doing and what outcome you’ll both be collaborating towards. This is a crucial step because it plants the seed in their mind about what their nonconscious will be working on.
- Guide the person into a state of relaxation. This step isn’t strictly necessary (and often, people in severe pain have a lot of difficulty doing so), but it’s generally helpful.
- Focus the person’s attention on their pain experience. This tends to be very easy because pain is pretty attention grabbing. However, the key word here is experience. Don’t just have them focus on the pain – focus on what the pain is to them. They might say something like “it’s a stabbing pain”. Get more details on this. “Where is it stabbing?” “And it’s stabbing like what?” If you know clean language techniques, that tends to be very helpful (but not necessary).
- Build on the seed you planted earlier by finding out from them what needs to happen to their pain experience. If they say it’s a “stabbing sensation like a needle in their low back”, then you can ask, “what needs to happen to this needle in their low back?” Many people will give a very simple answer like “it needs to go away” or “I don’t know.” For the first answer, it’s important to build on that by asking things like “and before it goes away, what needs to happen?” You’re really just trying to help them to elaborate on the transformation process. For follow up responses and the original “I don’t know” response, it’s helpful to tell them that this is all hypothetical. You could say, “hypothetically what might happen?” or “if something could happen, what might that be?” or “pretend/imagine it’s possible. What would need to happen?”
At this point, you will have done the pre-talk, relaxation routine, and focused them on their pain experience as well as found out what ‘needs’ to happen for their pain experience to improve. The technique or drill you use here is now entirely dependent on what they said. Generally, you would lead them through a guided visualization routine that allows them to experience the solution they talked about. Here, it’s very useful to be familiar with a wide variety of general routines so that you can draw upon one and modify it slightly to make it specific for them. To that end, below is a sample routine using warm water (if they are afraid of being in a body of water, you could change it to a warm bath – or just do something else unrelated to water).
- Have them imagine they’re in a peaceful forest. Set this scene up and give plenty of suggestions for calm, peacefulness, comfort, and relaxation.
- Guide them to a warm body of water – a lake, a river, a hot springs, a bathtub, anything. They can get in and relax.
- Have them imagine they now have a block of ice in their hand. They can go through their body and put any pains they have into the block of ice.
- Once all of it is in the ice, they can get rid of the block of ice. The ice gradually melts and those pains melt away with it, never to return. People can get rid of it anyway they want – release it into the hot water to melt it, throw it away, blow it up, it doesn’t matter how.
- Return their focus to relaxing in the warm water.
This routine can be varied in any number of ways and is pretty easy to customize for each individual. One variation that might be useful is to imagine a waterfall on the other side. Once the ice has been gotten rid of, they can then sit under the waterfall and let it wash away any other stress or tension they have (with the tub, it would be turning the shower on). Another variation is to add a dam. At the end, they can open the dam and let the water flow away, taking with it all other tension or stress they have (with the tub, this is just pulling the plug). Or you can add invigorating elements in. They can go to a rock and bask in the sun, soaking up all the renewing energy. They can dive down to the bottom (where breathing is no problem because this is their place after all) and explore all the exciting things down below. The more routines you know, the more ideas you can chain together for a unique and customized experience.
Today I focused on warm water because it capitalizes on the natural ideosensory response of relaxation. Who doesn’t enjoy a hot bath or shower? Next post, I’ll outline a guided visualization routine using cold water. Cold water capitalizes on the natural ideosensory response of numbness which is a very useful sensation for addressing pain.