Recently, I was taking a walk with a friend when she mentioned that she had tried hypnotherapy to address her sensitivity to noise. As a textbook description of a Highly Sensitive Person, I have been suffering from both noise and air pollution in my area. My friend assured me that hypnotherapy helped her a great deal, so I jumped at the chance to try it.
Hypnotherapy, also called hypnosis, is popularly imagined to be “brainwashing” of an unassuming person—sometimes into doing things that they wouldn’t otherwise do. In the classic movie The Manchurian Candidate, a former prisoner of war is hypnotized into becoming an assassin; and in the thriller Oldboy, a man who had been imprisoned by a mysterious captor is hypnotized before his release, in order that he walk into a trap. In reality, hypnotherapy isn’t so suggestive or sinister, and involves you reclining comfortably while listening to the hypnotherapist. This brings you to a trance-like state where “clients can turn their attention completely inward to find and utilize the natural resources deep within themselves that can help them make changes or regain control in certain areas of their life,” according to Psychology Today.
Uses of hypnotherapy
Hypnotherapy is used to treat anxiety, phobias, undesirable behaviors like smoking, substance abuse, insomnia, grinding of the teeth, sexual dysfunction, depression, headaches, menstrual disorders, and PTSD. It’s also used to treat hot flashes, gastrointestinal disorders, and to aid help management. It’s important to note that while there are ongoing studies of hypnotherapy’s efficacy, existing research gives mixed or “maybe” verdict. Still, one would argue that compared to a chemical drug (or likely, a drug cocktail), hypnotherapy is a relatively low-risk method of addressing chronic conditions.
My hypnotherapy experience
Before starting hypnotherapy, I’d been dealing with a few weeks of intense anxiety stemming from my fear of social and professional rejection. This was affecting me to a point where I was being woken up by intense nightmares—and I’m someone who often doesn’t remember dreams. Physically, I’d been dealing with a clicking jaw problem for almost two years, which a massage therapist told me is caused by the tensed up muscle in my right cheek. Clearly, I had some ways to go in terms of relaxation and balance.
The hypnotherapy session was a 25-minute customized recording that I could start at any time of day, and I chose just before bedtime. The hypnotherapist began by directing me to lie down comfortably (I was on my sofa), and guiding me toward some deep breaths combined with loosening of the muscles. Soon, her very calming voice was intoning, “deeper, deeper…” as I fell into a semi-conscious state. Then she moved on to assurances about the meaningful and genuine relationships and friendships I deserve—but I confess, I wasn’t listening to these word for word. Rather, it felt as though I was letting her words wash over me, as though I were deep under the ocean and her voice was a cresting wave on the surface. I felt their effects without remembering exactly what they were.
After I realized the recording had ended, I said “1, 2, 3, 4, 5, fully awake” before opening my eyes. But it seemed that I had been in that peaceful, silent state for another 30 minutes after the end of the session and my waking up. (Another option is to just drift off to sleep, if you’re ready for bed.) I immediately felt much calmer, clearer, and more focused—it’s a very similar feeling to the effect of a reiki treatment. Since then, I’ve repeated the recording multiple times (the therapist suggested I do one every day for a week for best results). I definitely notice the immediate and sustained decrease in anxieties, and a greater resilience to outside aggressors, whether that’s excessive noise or ungracious people. I find it easier to relax—honestly, your body feels so weightless and warm during the session, that it’s worth it just for the quasi-massage effect. I also noticed that my clicking jaw problem has improved significantly since doing hypnotherapy. Again, that issue was due to my unconscious clenching of my right cheek muscle, so it makes sense to me that deep relaxation would help loosen those muscles. I find that hypnotherapy is easier to stick to than meditation, with much of the same benefits.
If you have any mental or psychosomatic issues, I would highly recommend trying a hypnotherapy session. At the very least, you will be more relaxed than you’d been in a long time.
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Photo: Zulmaury Saaveda via Unsplash