by Irene Hickman, D.0.
Hypnosis is an effective tool for looking into the human mind, exploring its facets, and determining its potential. Its increased use will undoubtedly reveal the answers to the questions as to who, what, and why we are and how our minds function. That these answers can be found by using non-directive methods — using questions rather than just suggestions — is one of the things I have leaned from patients in my thirty-seven years of using hypnosis with them. I have constantly been reminded, as I have worked with people from all backgrounds, that they know far more about themselves than I could ever know and that they can be led gently toward ever greater freedom from conflict, increased self-awareness, and enhanced creativity.
I am amazed at the ease and facility with which a hypnotized person is able to disclose facts that are totally unknown and unsuspected by the conscious mind. When hypnotized we appear to be able to tune in to a deep level that knows the nature, cause, and remedy for any problem. Such a subconscious level of wisdom far surpasses our usual consciousness. In this region or area it is possible to move through both time and space, recalling or reliving any event that may have contributed to or complicated a problem area. The term “subconscious” is probably more inclusive than customarily thought. I include all that area of mind that is below or beyond the level of conscious awareness. This area might also be spoken of as the soul. By whatever designation, it seems to me that here all our memories are stored, here our troubles originate, and here solutions can be found and problems resolved. Incidents dredged up may be from early childhood or from former lives.
Society has impressed upon us the need to repress our strong feelings, covering them up in the subconscious. This produces a clogging or binding up of the feelings and traumatic memories until we forget how to let them out As a result, physical, mental, or emotional symptoms develop. When strong feelings are long suppressed, we are prevented from having any real communication with our inner selves. The primary purpose of therapy is to reestablish the lost contact with inner thoughts and wisdom.
Incidents that have a strong carry-over, that continue to cause problems, and that are emotionally charged, need to be resolved. These often require more than just the recall of such events: it is the emotion belonging to the past event that is the source of concern. The event needs to be not only recalled and relived but relived again and again until the emotion is drained away and the hypnotized person can talk of the event in unemotional and calm tones and is able to report that there is a complete relief from tension and release from the need to carry old, even ancient, fears, hates, or other strong feelings. The determination as to whether or not the subject has adequately vented the emotion is simple: the subject will say when relief is felt. Remaining discomfort is a sign that the emotion has not been fully drained or released. After such reliving and release of emotion, the symptom of illness that the old memory caused fades and disappears or the patient is able to resolve relationships that have been turbulent. When the subject’s inner guidance is followed and previous experiences are discovered, revealed, and dissipated, old happenings no longer cause trouble.
When I request that patients move back to a time that caused or contributed to a problem, or to an incident the reliving of which will help them understand themselves, most hypnotized subjects respond very quickly and relate whatever they experience. Although I do not specifically direct them to move back to an earlier lifetime, many of them do so.
Occasionally, especially during the initial hypnosis, a subject may suddenly start expressing strong, even violent emotions. The customary inclination of an inexperienced hypnotist would be to bring the subject out of trance at once and terminate the experience. This is inadvisable because subjects awakened in the midst of intense emotion will be upset or uncomfortable. It is preferable to allow expression of any feeling being exhibited until it is relieved. After calmness is restored, the session may be continued or the subject may be awakened.
An example illustrating this method is Marge, who exhibited an unusual symptom, an allergy to cold water. If she touched any cold wetness there would be a violent reaction in her skin. Even raindrops would cause large red hives, for which conventional treatment had failed to give relief. Under hypnosis she described four lifetimes during which she experienced trauma connected with cold water. In one she drowned, in another she nearly drowned, and in a third she was a mutinous pirate who helped to keel-haul the captain.
In the fourth, she told of coming to Colonial America from Europe on a wooden ship accompanied by her four small children. She related with all appropriate emotion how the ship struck rocks near the shore and began to take on water. She was able to swim to shore with two of her children but was unable to rescue the other two and stood on the shore watching the ship break up, knowing that two of her children were perishing. She expressed intense emotion as she told this. With each repetition the emotion gradually diminished in intensity, and with the fourth telling she had accepted the tragedy and did not need to tell it again. After she had vented the emotion of this fourth past life, the allergy that had resisted other forms of treatment was gone and did not return.
Another example where there was remission of a physical symptom was Mrs. C. R., a woman aged 52 who for forty-five years had had episodes of heavy gasping for breath. This frantic gasping would recur several times a year and would persist day and night until she became totally exhausted. In order to control these episodes she would have to be heavily sedated, sometimes for several days and often in a hospital setting. Some episodes had even required general anesthesia. Sedation or anesthesia would help to stop one episode but did not affect the frequency or the severity of subsequent attacks. Her frustrated physician sent her to me with the words, “If you can do anything for this woman I will be most grateful.”
Her regression went back to her childhood. She related that her problem had begun when she was seven years old. Her immediate memory was that she had refused to go to school until constant spankings caused her to think of school as the lesser evil, but she did not take the short cut through a gully which she had formerly taken, opting instead for a long way around. She could not recall any event related to school or the gulley that would account for her years of affliction.
She responded well to hypnosis and after an initial hour of interview and training returned for a single hypnotic experience. When asked to move back to age seven to any incident that might have caused the gasping, she began to describe a morning when she and her best friend, Nancy, were on the way to school taking the shortcut through the gully. Suddenly from behind a large bush a fifteen-year-old feeble-minded fourth-grader named John leaped out and grabbed both girls and nearly succeeded in raping C.R. She escaped from John and ran until she dropped in exhaustion gasping for breath. She had blocked out conscious memory of this rape attempt but the emotion had remained and had resulted in her unwillingness to go to school, precipitating her gasping attacks over the many years.
During the first reliving of the near-rape—she was telling of the event in the present tense—she screamed, cried, and struggled. I asked her to go through the experience again from the beginning, and this time the emotional outbursts were less extreme. She went through the reliving of the attack a total of eight times, and each time I asked her to add any details that she had left out during the previous tellings. Each repetition expended more of the emotion until in the eighth re-experiencing she described the incident in a calm matter-of-fact manner.
Alter each reliving of the incident I asked her if the fear was gone, and only after the eighth did she respond with a “yes.” I then told her that she would remember all that she had related and awakened her. Smiling broadly she said, “I really feel different. I feel so much better. The pressure is gone. And to think that I carried that for forty-five years and at such a cost!” The severe gasping episodes left her and did not return.
The subconscious mind, when probed explored, drained of buried and painful records, and restored to balance, becomes a source of strength and insight. This probing requires that we dig into the areas of repressed feelings and thoughts, that we purge the emotional charge from these areas. The memories remain when this is done. Only the pain is gone.