Updated: Nov 29
Clinical Hypnosis has many useful applications in dealing with human suffering; one of the most impressive uses for hypnosis is pain relief. In this post, I will outline some of the ways hypnosis can be used for pain relief and how it can benefit you if you’re experiencing physical discomfort.
Many times, traumatic experiences and mental stress can become somaticized – that is, instead of recognizing that you feel emotional stress, you feel uncomfortable in your body. Some examples are when you get a headache after dealing with a difficult customer at work, or when your child feels anxious about going to school and winds up with the stomachache.
As psychiatrist Bessel van der Kolk, MD famously wrote, the body keeps the score in terms of traumatic experiences influencing your health. Dr. Gabor Maté also writes about how humans can internalize negative experiences, and how the stress of that can lead to various illnesses. This can make it hard to be comfortable and healthy in your own skin. Hypnosis can be very useful when you have discomfort that medical doctors can’t find a physical reason that explains it.
Pain is not the enemy.
This is hard for some people to accept. You might think that if you get hypnosis for pain, it should eliminate the pain altogether. However, if you didn’t have any pain whatsoever in your body, you would probably damage yourself and have a shorter life. You need pain to be able to survive, so you don’t want to eliminate it altogether, but reduce it enough so that it is manageable and you can focus on other things in your life that give you more pleasure. It’s also important to realize that pain does not come from the injured or sick part of your body, but it arises from your brain to warn you that you might get hurt.
Acute versus chronic pain
There is acute pain, which can happen when you do get injured, but there is also chronic pain that happens when your brain keeps sending warning messages beyond what is necessary. If you were recently injured, it makes sense not to move that area until it has healed enough, but for some conditions like Fibromyalgia, careful Movement and exercise is important for your overall well-being. For this reason, it is important for me to work in tandem with your doctor so I can make sure not to recommend movement that would harm you or worsen your injury.
Changing the message that you tell yourself about pain
As you probably have noticed in life, what you focus on magnifies your experience. If you dread getting your blood drawn, for example, you might tell yourself how awful it’s going to be when they prick your skin with the needle. Then you might tend to muscles in anticipation for a great deal of pain, and you wind up having a worse experience than if you prepare yourself by saying that it will just be a few minutes of discomfort, and then you’re done. Your self-talk makes a difference about how you experience pain and discomfort.
For example, you can reframe the uncomfortable sensations that you have previously called pain and see if it changes your experience of it. Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, who adapted mindfulness meditation for various mind-body illnesses, has a variety of ways to accept what sensations arise, including this reframing.
Mindfulness is one aspect of what happens in hypnosis for pain
If you take a minute to close your eyes, you can explore what you’re experiencing and what you call pain. Is it hot or cold? Sharp or dull? Constant or intermittent? Where does it hurt the most? When does it hurt the most? Are the things that you do that make it better or worse? Is it throbbing, piercing, or moving in any particular direction?
Once you have a thorough description of it, think of other experiences you’ve had that are similar like a hot steamy shower with the water hits your skin and brings heat and blood flow to the surface. Is your discomfort anything like that? If you have a tingling sensation, you can think about time when you were lying on your foot or hand and it “went to sleep.”
Sometimes calling a sensation pressure, heat, coolness, tingling, pressure, etc. can move your mind away from defining the sensation is pain. It draws your attention away from the suffering and more towards the actual experience of what you’re feeling.
Sometimes simply thinking of the sensation in a different way allows you to feel it differently, and not have to brace yourself when you feel it arise. Once we know about your physical experience, it can shape how I use hypnosis for pain relief with you. Once you’re in a focused, absorb state of mind, you can be more receptive to different ways of experiencing and viewing your discomfort.
If a sensation is hot and throbbing, I might suggest to you that you experience something cool and soothing. If you tend to tense up your muscles when you’re uncomfortable, I can use a metaphor that allows you to relax your muscles and allow whatever you sense to be there. Dr. Kabat-Zinn suggests putting out the welcome mat for whatever you experience, since it’s there anyway.
Are you ready for hypnosis for pain relief?
Hypnosis can help with many different types of pain, including surgical pain, irritable bowel disease, tinnitus, chronic pain, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, headaches, and more. It is a collaborative effort that involves your active participation, as well as my collaboration with your medical doctor. Isn’t it much more empowering to learn how to control what’s going on in your body, rather than relying solely on the men and women in white coats to give you pills and administer various treatments? Self-healing can start at any moment, and I would love to be part of your healing journey. If you would like to learn more, please call me at 661-233-6771.