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Hypnosis is a state of deep relaxation, focused attention, and heightened suggestibility.  You do not need to see a professional hypnotist to use hypnosis for pain relief -- you can easily learn to hypnotize yourself. Hypnosis is sometimes used to relieve pain by altering the Attention component of pain, that is, by directing our attention away from the pain. More commonly, hypnosis is used to treat chronic pain by altering the Thought component of pain. Hypnotic suggestion can be used to overcome negative thoughts, instill positive ones, and promote behavioral change. For example, "pain thoughts" are helplessness and powerlessness. We can use suggestion to change these thoughts to something positive, such as "This pain is temporary, I can overcome it."  Eliminating negative thoughts can improve mood, and consequently alleviate suffering. For instance, if you think that your pain will become increasingly worse, you will probably experience fear or panic, which will certainly increase your pain.  On the other hand, if you believe the pain is temporary, then you can face it more calmly. Hypnosis typically involves four stages: induction, deepening, suggestion, and termination. In the induction stage, you achieve a deep state of relaxation. If you have practiced relaxation training or meditation, then you already know an excellent way to achieve this state. What if you don't have time for a full session of relaxation or meditation?  Then try an abbreviated method. Take a deep breath, hold the breath for a count of three, and then exhale with a sigh.  Let go of all your tension with the out breath. Smile!  This reinforces the good feeling of relaxation. Repeat this three times.  Then take another deep breath through your nose, hold for a count of five, and let it go through pursed lips.  Smile! Really let go on the exhale, releasing all your body tension. Repeat this three times. You should feel much more relaxed after this.  Now you can try some specific suggestions to increase your relaxation. For example, repeat to yourself, "My body feels relaxed, heavy, and warm."  Imagine your body becoming more relaxed, heavy, and warm. You can focus on specific body parts, such as your legs, then your trunk, then your arms, and so on. For example, you might focus on your legs, and as you exhale, release all the tension in your legs, imagining them feeling relaxed, heavy, and warm.  Don't forget to smile.  One caution: you can do this with any body part, but avoid your head.  Your body should be warm, but your head should be cool, as this is the opposite of the pain increasing defensive reaction. The second stage, deepening, is used to increase the relaxation achieved in the induction stage, and to increase your susceptibility to suggestion. There are many ways to deepen your hypnotic trance. One way is to use direct suggestion. Repeat to yourself, "I am going deeper and deeper into hypnotic trance."  You can also use imagery.  For example, imagine that you are seated in a comfortable chair in an elevator at the top of a skyscraper. You are watching the display of floor numbers as the elevator starts down. As the elevator descends, you feel more and more relaxed, and go deeper and deeper into hypnotic trance. The elevator passes the first floor, and you end up in your comfortable, private retreat beneath the ground. Another technique many people find helpful is the "locked eyelids" technique. With your eyes open, tell yourself, "My eyelids are getting heavier and heavier. They are getting so heavy that they want to close. It will feel so good when my eyes close. My eyes are getting so wonderfully heavy that I can't keep them open". Keep repeating this, and soon your eyes will close. Then suggest to yourself that you are so pleasantly relaxed and your eyes are so marvelously heavy that you can't open them. Keep using positive feeling phrases such as "wonderfully heavy" and "comfortably relaxed" so that you feel good about not being able to open your eyes. Then tell yourself that your eyes are so incredibly, wonderfully heavy and locked together that you could not possibly open them even if you wanted to. You can try to open them, but tell yourself that the more you try to open your eyes the more tightly locked they become.  Why is the deepening stage important?  Later on you will be suggesting to yourself some things that your conscious, critical mind might not readily accept, so we are tying to increase your openness and suggestibility. The third stage of hypnosis is suggestion. Suggest to yourself anything that will be helpful for pain relief - there are many suggestions later on in this letter.  Repeat the suggestion to yourself several times.  Pay close attention to the suggestion and its meaning. Really feel it. The types of suggestion that work best with chronic pain counteract the emotional component of pain, namely fear, anger, frustration, depression, muscle tension, etc. These are all unpleasant, increase your suffering, and intensify the sensation of pain. Muscle tension especially exacerbates backache, tension headache, joint pain, and TMJ. A good suggestion for these types of pain is "I am perfectly relaxed and calm. I feel healing energy flowing throughout my body. The energy relaxes me, heals me, and balances the functions of all my organs." The final stage of hypnosis is termination. Typically, you can first give yourself some posthypnotic suggestions such as, "I feel relaxed and calm throughout the day" or "I will awaken relaxed and calm, ready for the new day". Then you should terminate the hypnosis session with a suggestion that you are coming out of the hypnotic trance.  If you are doing this during the day, you might try something like this: "I will count from one to three. When I reach three, I will come out of this hypnotic trance and be wide awake, feeling good and perfectly relaxed."  Or if you are doing it before bed, you might try, "When I reach three, I will come out of this hypnotic trance, feeling relaxed and drowsy, ready to go to sleep." Here are some things to keep in mind when doing self-hypnosis: You can do self-hypnosis when you are in pain, or you can do it daily to help avoid pain. Before starting, make sure you are in a quiet, comfortable place, and make sure you are warm. Avoid distractions, for example take the phone off the hook. Take the time you need to do it right. You want to get into a relaxed, non-defensive, suggestive state that reduces resistance to change. Therefore, don't try too hard.  Trying too hard will make you tense, which is the opposite of the relaxation you want to achieve. It is better just to follow the directions and "let it happen". Keep an open mind and try not to be too skeptical or too analytical. You are trying to relax your conscious mind and increase your suggestibility. Analysis and doubt close your mind and your ability to change. All suggestions should be phrased positively and in the present tense, and should be repeated over and over. Repetition is very important, because we are tying to impress a new thought on our subconscious mind. It is like learning to ride a bicycle -- the more we practice the easier it becomes, until it is completely automatic and we no longer have to think about it. We always want to make positive suggestions because the subconscious mind is not logically sophisticated like the conscious mind. For example, suppose I ask you NOT to think of a pink elephant for the next five minutes.  Is this an easy thing to do?  No, because the mind hears "pink elephant" -- the word "not" has little effect. So instead of suggesting to yourself, "I will not fight pain" try something like "I accept pain", or "I am calm in the face of pain." The subconscious encompasses the emotional, feeling part of your mind, so it is important to use the present tense.  You can only experience feelings in the here and now. So rather than saying "Tomorrow I will be relaxed", say "I am relaxed". ================================================= Specific Suggestions for Pain Relief Here are some specific suggestions for different kinds of pain.   For pain in general, try any of these: I am calm and relaxed. My body is warm, heavy, and relaxed. This pain is temporary and will go away soon. I relax my body when I feel pain. I embrace the pain and stay with it. I bring my attention to the pain and relax. I feel my body when pain arises.   For pain due to stress, try any of these: I am calm and relaxed. My body is warm, heavy, and relaxed. I know I will survive. I love myself and take care of myself. I allow myself to be happy. I look into the cause of pain. Pain is my friend, telling me something valuable. I accept my emotions. Anger and fear are normal emotions and will pass quickly. I am constantly aware of my level of relaxation.   For headache: My hands and feet are wonderfully warm. My hands and feet are getting warmer and warmer. My head is cool. My head is getting cooler and cooler. (With the above four suggestions, it is very helpful to use some imagery.  Imagine being at a warm beach with your head in the shade, and a cool breeze blowing over your face.  You dig your hands and feet into the hot sand.) The muscles in my forehead are very relaxed. My forehead is loose and relaxed. My scalp is loose and relaxed. My eyes are loose and relaxed. My neck is limp and loose and relaxed. My jaw is loose and relaxed.   For backache: My stomach is soft and relaxed. The muscles in my buttocks and back are soft and relaxed. My shoulders and neck are limp and loose and relaxed. I let go of all tension. I relax my body when I feel pain. I embrace the pain and stay with it. I bring my attention to the pain and relax. I feel my body when pain arises. My body is warm, heavy, and relaxed. Healing energy surrounds and fills my body. © 2016 by Dr. Ken Pfeiffer

Self-Hypnosis for Pain Relief