Pain.

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—View from the far side of the recliner

Alright, I finally got this pain thing written. It took longer than most posts, is probably a lot heavier on information and less on the humor. At least what I consider funny.

Pain.

And then there is pain, the phenomena that led me to hypnotherapy in the first place. Pain is huge! A large part of the pharmaceutical industry is based on pain, as are all kinds of non-prescription devices, lotions, balms, powders, supports, pads, wraps, hot packs, cold packs, liquids and pills. Many, if not most of the visits to physicians, massage therapists, physical therapists and chiropractors are for pain. Pain is good for business. Pain is business. It certainly has paid a chunk of my bills since becoming a PT in 86.

You can’t trust Pain.

Generally people try to avoid pain. There are situations when some people seek physical pain to relieve psychological suffering but that is the exception. Pain is (kind of) nature’s way of saying “Don’t do that” and (naturally) “this going to hurt you worse than it is going to hurt me”. Nature can be kind of a jerk sometimes. It turns out that pain can be worse than the engine light on a dashboard for giving an accurate warning of when something is seriously wrong.  Stubbing a toe, stepping on a nail, hitting your thumb instead of a nail, hangnails, cold sores, dental work, touching something hot, and first degree burns, all of that can really hurt a lot and yet doesn’t cause serious tissue damage and won’t kill you. There are many things that don’t cause pain, especially in the early stages that are life threatening. Cancer, aneurisms, parasites, high blood pressure and infections often begin unannounced and continue to develop silently until it is too late or at least much harder to treat.  Where is pain when you need it?

The way senses work.

For what are usually considered senses, touch, hearing, smell, taste and vision, if the sense organs themselves and the wiring is intact, the stimulus pretty much comes through without a lot of interpretation. The stimuli come from specific sources; light and sound waves, tasty and smelly molecules, heat, cold and pressure. Once the stimulus is received then all kinds of associations can happen. When I smell musty dampness I have a happy association with my grandparents’ basements and diesel fumes I associate with great car trips. When someone else smells musty dampness or diesel fumes there are likely to be very different associations. Basically it seems that no matter what you are thinking or feeling prior to the stimulus, orange is orange both the color and the taste, the same type of coffee smells the same. Whether you focus on the stimulus or not, it pretty much gets through unaltered. The same stimulus tends to be perceived as being the same at different times and by different people. The color orange is the same today and tomorrow and to you and me.

Pain is different.

Pain is processed through a number of places in the brain and there are different types of pain, acute vs. chronic, pulsing, burning, crushing, tingling, hot, cold, numbing, pinching, sharp and dull. Believe me there is a very long list. Pain can be very localized, over a larger area or seem to be in the entire body. Unlike the specific stimuli for the “regular” senses, pain is much more varied. Pain is a phenomena in which the same stimulus is experienced differently at different times and by different people. The amount of other stimuli you are receiving at the same time can affect the amount of or even if pain is perceived. Sitting in a chair totally absorbed in the sights and sounds of great movie while eating popcorn is a totally different pain experience than sitting in the same chair without any other stimulation. What you are thinking and the mood you are in have a huge effect on pain perception.

The Shot.

Not your happy place.

Think about a child that going to get a shot. You may have been through this one yourself. If the kid’s parents are stressed and keep saying “be brave, this isn’t going to HURT”, the kid is thinking “why do I have to be brave if it isn’t going to HURT?”Big brothers can always make things worse by saying “I bet you’re going to cry, I had a shot and it made my arm black and blue and the needle was this BIG!”. The kid has to sit there in a drab room for a very, very long time (for a young kid just sitting still for five minutes is torture). Nobody is talking about happy things, or singing songs, playing with or reading to the child sitting. The adult/s may even be checking or talking on their cell phones. Someone might suddenly remember about the time that Uncle Bob passed out when he saw the needle. The nurse comes in couldn’t care less, barely says anything other than “sit still”. Poor kid. That shot is really going to hurt.

A better place.

Now imagine the same kid in a room with interesting decorations, maybe music or even kid friendly videos, parents and siblings talking about pleasant things, maybe enjoyable activities that are going to happen after the visit to the doctor. During the wait the child is encouraged to move around maybe playing with a toy. Someone might let the child play on a cell phone. When the nurse arrives he/she talks to the child in a nice unhurried way. When it is time for the poke someone distracts the child in a direction away from the nurse perhaps with a picture and/or story about when the kid was feeling especially good and strong. Wow! Done already? Let’s go do ____ (whatever is the next happy thing on the list).

Same shot but a totally different experience. Child birth, surgeries, dentist appointments and chemo/radiation therapy can be experienced in very different ways.

It’s all in the Mind.

Much of pain is fear, fear that you won’t be able to deal with the pain, expectations that a procedure will be painful, perhaps based on exaggerated stories, TV, movies or even an imagination gone wild. Contrary to the old saying “ignorance is bliss”, ignorance can actually be fear which leads to increased pain. Sometimes ignorance is just ignorance, but I don’t know. Just knowing that you can have control over pain gives you some control over pain. Watching a video of a woman calmly delivering a baby using hypnosis can both negate unrealistic fear and set up the expectation that it is possible to have a baby in a natural and relatively relaxed manner. There are many techniques that can help deal with pain. In addition to education I often use breathing techniques, visualization and hypnosis to give my clients the tools they need to control or eliminate pain.

Etcetera.

In a hypnotic trance a person can eat an onion thinking that it is an apple, feel one arm become weightless while the other becomes so heavy it can’t be lifted, that the room becomes very hot or cold, hear or smell things that aren’t there or can’t see. Pretty impressive. The mind’s grasp on the senses can be tricked and that can be both entertaining and a good demonstration of the reality of the effect of hypnosis. But as far as making a real improvement in someone’s life tricks don’t count for much. The real deal, the thing that gets me so excited about hypnotherapy and the other techniques is the power they give people to achieve their goals, overcome stress and anxiety. The thing that started the whole thing for me was working with people in chronic pain. I’ve used the techniques on myself (as blathered about in previous posts) and many patients/clients. It’s all in the mind and it’s real.

Next time someone says “It’s a pain”, you can say “yeah but it doesn’t have to be”.

Next post will probably be about something interesting called Enneagram.

Feel free to contact me with any comments, requests and of course if you know someone who might be interested in these posts please send them on.
Thanks,
Don Berlyn

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First Session: What happens behind the closed door?

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—View from the far side of the recliner

Typically we have already had an extensive conversation about why they are calling me. These conversations are usually on the phone but sometimes a person would like to meet in person, in that case we meet in my office or my favorite coffee shop. In either case the initial consultation is free. Almost always the issue is something that is appropriate for my services. I then explain broadly what techniques might be employed.
At the beginning of the initial session the client fills out a simple and pretty brief intake form. In addition to basic personal information; name, phone numbers, email and mailing addresses, age, medical condition/s, relevant medications, counseling and hypnotherapy experience/s and referral source. The second page is information on the current issue/s, which is only half a page. The bottom of that page is agreements, the most important of which is to be an active participant in the process as a co-therapist. The last page is a list of the only conditions that any information from our sessions will be released other than to the client. In seven plus years I have never had to release any information on anyone. I always tell the client that my notes are both minimal and illegible. This maybe a comfort or not but it is definitely true.
Next the client’s issues, goals and relevant history are discussed in depth. During this conversation the client often makes discoveries, has insights and uncovers long lost memories. Depending on the issue/s most of the therapy happens before I do anything other than listen intently and ask key questions.
Part three is a discussion of the techniques of that I use only about half of which is formal hypnosis, the rest is breathing, visualization, NLP and various other techniques. NLP is Neuro Linguistic Programming which is not as scary as it sounds. Hypnosis is explained in terms of what it is and isn’t.
Part four is development of suggestions using the client’s goals and language. This is a very collaborative process in which I typically write out some suggestions, then run the content past the client until the suggestions align with the client’s goals then we fine tune the language to the point that it sounds like the client talking to themselves.
Part four is the instruction and practice of techniques then a transition into hypnotic trance. An emphasis of this stage is that the client is able to use all of the techniques, including an abbreviated version of hypnosis with suggestions independently.
Part six is a review of the session including the trance and techniques for independent use. Recommendations are made questions are answered, the client is asked to contact me at any time for support or with questions and to schedule. Scheduling, unless it is a medical, pain or pressing issue future sessions are scheduled at least a week later to give the patient time to practice the techniques and to observe any changes in their issues.
Almost always there is a fair amount of laughter, which is therapeutic, sometimes tears, usually the client more than me, which is therapeutic too.
I schedule the first session for two hours, subsequent ones for an hour to make sure there is no time pressure. Rarely sessions go past the scheduled time which works out alright usually because I try to leave time between appointments.
The charges are per session not time. Taking time and money considerations off the table makes things more relaxed for everyone. Besides turning to watch the meter hurts my neck.
I’m still working on the pain post, want to make sure that the wording is just right. I’ve had two radio info ads on two local stations and it’s time to write a couple of new ones. It is so strange to hear your recorded voice. I continue to work on the certification for the Blissborn hypnosis program for the birth process to replace the program I was using. I will begin with a real pregnant who will be even more really pregnant in about a month.

Feel free to contact me with any comments and of course if you know someone who might be interested in these posts please send them on.
Thanks,
Don Berlyn

Performance Hypnotherapy

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—View from the far side of the recliner

Performance Hypnotherapy

Last night I worked with a young athlete that I had seen two years ago. The first thing that struck me was that he is much taller. The second was how successful he has been in his sport. He has been using many of the techniques from the earlier sessions. Now he wanted to work with some very specific issues to improve his performance even more. Have I ever mentioned that I love what I do?

This got me thinking about some of the performance related subjects that I’ve been privileged to address with my clients. I’ve learned a lot from my clients.

The List (to the extent that I remember and alphabetize)

Ballet

Baseball

Basketball

Belly Dancing

Calf Roping (Rodeo event)

Classical Violin

Distance Running/Racing

Dirt Bike Racing

Fencing (Olympic sport, like dueling with swords)

Golf

Interviewing (as the interviewee)

Making Sales Calls

Meeting New People

Mountain Bike racing

Public Speaking (many settings)

Rock Singing and Guitar Playing

Test Taking

Volleyball

I’ve been a distance runner, ride a mountain bike, have “played” golf and volleyball, have listened to music, avoided ropes and calves, dancing and swords. Especially dancing with swords, isn’t that like running with scissors. The athletes, dancers and musicians have all the knowledge they need or at least a lot more than I know. All they need (or get) from me is to learn how to use their minds to be an asset and not an obstacle to performance and having fun.

For test taking, public speaking, interviewing, meeting people and making sales calls there are definitely specific strategies and techniques that I can offer in addition to hypnosis, visualization and other mind stuff.

When it comes to ballet, I can get into many of the foot/feet positions easily because my hips are extremely turned out due to no talent on my part. My heels seem to like hanging out together while my toes don’t like to see each other. I also walk on my toes, maybe to keep my heels clean or to be a bit less short. One time for Halloween, I wore a leotard and a tutu. Bad idea but I did learn a few things which I’ll save for another post. I have a niece who is a really (accomplished/good/advanced/some positive French word) ballerina. She does practice about/at least four hours a day which seems every bit as necessary as talent. To be clear, I have never worked with her as a hypnotherapist.

Enough already!

I really will write about pain. I can feel it coming. Maybe next week.

Feel free to contact me with any comments and of course if you know someone who might be interested in these posts please send them on.
Thanks,
Don Berlyn

My First (formal) Hypnosis Experience

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—View from the far side of the recliner

My First (formal) Hypnosis Experience

My first formal hypnotic trance experience occurred June of 2007 in Sante Fe, NM at the Hypnotherapy Academy of America. I remember (always questionable) being one of the first students to get in the recliner in the front of the class. It was a revelation and mind opening experience.

It turns out that I and probably everyone with normal cognitive function has been in a hypnotic trance, many times, maybe most of the time. Every day dream, every time becoming entranced in TV, a movie, play, those times stopping the car at a familiar place and not remembering anything about driving there, pretty much anytime when our mind took us to some other reality when we were not actually asleep, is likely some form of trance. When someone states “I can’t be hypnotized” they are denying experiencing anything other than living in this exact moment in this exact setting. Kind of a sad! They actually mean that they have such a powerful mind/will power that no one can control their mind. Fortunately no one with those beliefs have shown up at my office. It would be an expensive few minutes for them and a complete waste of time for us both. When someone makes such a statement I don’t argue with them, after all they have such a powerful mind (is that the same as a strong opinion?). I do explain my understanding of what hypnosis and hypnotherapy is, almost more important, what they are not and the way I use them in my practice. People usually have a difficult time denying ever having a day dream or getting into some type of entertainment. Actually I have a free consultation by phone or in person so that never happens. What often happens is that a client or potential client states “I don’t know if I can be hypnotized” and that turns into a conversation instead of some talk show yelling match. I don’t yell so that never happens either. I’m pretty sure that by time we have the, “I don’t know if…” conversation they are ready to take a chance because they’ve tried everything else.

Alright back to my trance, because isn’t it really all about me, unless it’s all about you if you are the “me”? One of the amazing aspects about the experience is that I could clearly hear every sound in the room. I don’t know what I expected, but I remember being so surprised that I could hear every sound in the room. My classmates were trying to be quiet but I could hear pages turning, people shifting basically sounds that I would not have been conscious of if I was sitting in class doing anything else. It seemed like I would hear the voice of the hypnotist that just made sense. The fact that my hearing seemed enhanced was just amazing. That was my first WOW! so that what hypnosis is like learning experience.

I had many other learning experiences in those seven weeks. I had never seen a hypnosis entertainment performance so was floored, actually I didn’t hit the floor, to learn and experience that you could stand, walk, open your eyes and talk in a trance.  Also the experience of being in a trance so light that I seemed to be just relaxed and so deep that I could just barely hear and knew that I could move if I wanted to but just didn’t want to. There is so much more but I’ll save it for another time.

As always, experience is the best teacher. Although if it is a really bad experience it’s better if someone has the experience and you do the learning. I use the suggestion that “any sound you hear, even the sound of my voice, just helps you go even deeper into relaxation”. Many hypnotherapists use that suggestion as part of deepening the trance. My office is about 200 yards from a major railroad crossing and over a hundred trains a day go through Flagstaff. Incorporating extraneous sounds into deepening relaxation is both powerful and essential in my setting. Every time I give that suggestion I’m reminded of my first time in the recliner more than seven years ago.

So stay amazed and enjoy your trance!

Next time I’ll probably write about pain, so bring bandages, ice packs and aspirin. I am, most likely going to my 40th High School Reunion. That may be a different kind of pain, so maybe I’ll write about that.

Feel free to contact me with any comments and of course if you know someone who might be interested in these posts please send them on.
Thanks,
Don Berlyn

Hypochondria and Pain: real Mind-Body Phenomena

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View from the far side of the recliner

Hypochondria and Pain: real Mind-Body Phenomena

I saw a client tonight who came to see me for hypochondria.  The details aren’t important other than a bit of medical history with a non-genetically related family member that died of a condition in the same area that my client felt symptoms. The client did have an examination and discovered that there was a mild issue in the area. Mentally this client was able to rationally think through the unlikelihood that the headaches that were experienced off and on over the years was a brain tumor or that there wasn’t cancer or nerve damage somewhere but the stress and anxiety were real. For this person the fear of an illness has had a debilitating effect on their quality of life. The good news is that if the mind is the source of a problem it can also be the cure. Tonight’s session seemed to go very well. I’ll find out soon how effective it was.

A couple of years ago I saw a woman who had been in constant burning leg pain from diabetic neuropathy. She reported unrelenting pain which was becoming worse. We used a technique in which the person localized the feeling in the body, identified the quality of the feeling and any other sensory attributes. So the negative items were, a burning pain throughout both legs and the colors of red/orange. The client then imagined what she did want. The positive attributes were a cool feeling in both legs, the colors of blue and green, and I think the sound of water.

With this technique the feeling is identified, localized in the body, the qualities of the feeling described, then any sensory effects that are related to the feeling. I ask about visual, auditory, smell and taste. At minimum there has to be a body area and quality of the sensation. Typically with the negative condition the client can identify a visual quality. On the positive side the client can usually come up with sensations for all the senses that help them feel good.

So the woman went into a relaxing trance using her breath, breathing in cool blue and green into her legs and breathing out hot red/orange. After coming out of the trance the client reported that she felt as though she was stepping into cool blue/green water and the pain, heat and the colors of red/orange moved out of her legs completely. For the first time in a long time she was completely pain free just using the power of her mind. Once she knew the technique she could use it whenever she wanted too. Well that was easy! Dealing with chronic pain was the reason I got into this crazy business.

Feel free to contact me with any comments and of course if you know someone who might be interested in these posts please send them on.
Thanks,
Don Berlyn

Hypnosis/Trance Work with Massage/Body Work

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View from the far side of the recliner

When many people think of body work they assume massage. It turns out that there are many kinds of massage and many types of what could be called “body work” that are not massage and some techniques that seem to be both and neither.
I have some experience in the body work/massage world. I am married to a massage therapist, have friends that are massage therapists and love a good massage. I teach “kinesiology” (movement, bones, joints, muscles, tendons and ligaments) at a massage school. I am not a massage therapist. I am a physical therapist who uses a lot of manual techniques (and exercise) in my practice. I am also a Certified Zero Balancing Practitioner. This is a type of body/energy work that from a superficial view involves a fully clothed (except shoes) person laying face up on a treatment table. No lotion, hot stones, warm towels, just the ZBer applying traction through the legs, gentle lifting with the fingers under the client, some traction at the neck and arms. Oh but there is so much more. Looks can be deceiving and it’s what you don’t see is where the magic happens. Please check out the Zero Balancing website for more information:
http://www.zerobalancing.com
I recommend having a Zero Balancing session to experience it. If you ever get to Flagstaff, AZ find me. I do that.
For those of you who have experienced a good massage/body work, you may have noticed drifting off into a place of profound relaxation. Perhaps kind of a trance state? The skilled use of manual techniques can serve as a very effective hypnotic induction. As I mentioned a few posts back, I don’t typically touch clients when they are in a trance. Zero Balancing where touch is the format can be the entry into hypnotherapy.

How I use Hypnosis during a Zero Balancing session

Occasionally before a Zero Balancing session with an already established client I encounter an issue that may be addressed effectively with hypnosis/visualization. If I get the feeling that it would magnify the experience of the ZB for that person I would discuss the addition of hypnosis/visualization as an option. Sometimes people bring it up when arranging the ZB because they already know about that aspect of my work. If the person would like to experience the directed subconscious technique we talk about what the person’s goal/s is/are, what images, places, experiences that incorporate that goal and any imagery that should be avoided.
As Zero Balancing often induces an altered state of consciousness, it is not necessary for me to go through the usual verbal suggestions to relax. The ZB proceeds normally through the lower part of the session. When I come to the head of the table and assess the person’s condition, I begin offering suggestions, working with the client’s breathing, helping them drift deeper into relaxation then gently guiding them into “imagining, sensing and feeling” the experience that they would like to have with their goal/s attained.

Next time I’ll write about how I’ve used self-hypnosis to deal with an injury, during surgery and at the dentist.

Feel free to contact me with any comments and of course if you know someone who might be interested in these posts please send them on.
Thanks,
Don Berlyn

The Difference and Similarity between Hypnosis and Meditation

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View from the far side of the recliner

One of the most frequent questions I get asked is “what is the difference between hypnosis and meditation?”. My answer is that they are similar and different. My own experience with formal hypnosis over the last seven years is fairly extensive in terms of varied flavors, the number of sessions, as both the hypnotherapist and the client. I do not teach formal meditation and don’t claim to be an expert. I have practiced meditation in a formal way inconsistently over the last ten years. I’ve had some amazing experiences of peace and at times simply being gone. I’ve basically used focusing on breathing, on nature or music and once a walking meditation. Just as in hypnosis there are different techniques in meditation.

One similarity is that in both hypnosis and meditation the conscious mind can become very quiet. Both can involve the visualization of objects and scenes that exist only in the mind in the current moment. In hypnotherapy this could be seeing/experiencing oneself in the future having recovered from a health/medical issue, being at an ideal weight, hitting a golf ball just right, being comfortable flying in a plane, having achieved basically any goal. In some traditions, like Mahayana Buddhism of which Tibetan Buddhism is a part, meditation might include visualizing a complex mandala*, various bodhisattvas**, world peace, the liberation of all being from suffering. Perhaps the main difference that I can think of, is that in hypnotherapy the experience is guided at some level by another person while meditation is internally guided.

There is a great book about Meditation; Meditation for Dummies by Stephen Bodian. I love the “for Dummies” books that I’ve bought. I’m thinking about writing a Living my Life for Dummies.

 

For my clients that are interested, I certainly encourage meditation in addition to any techniques that have been recommended as part of their sessions. The health benefits of meditation have been studied extensively.

 

A way to make meditation more user friendly and perhaps more effective for some people.

Meditation can be a daunting experience in the way that it is commonly presented. One version is sitting on a cushion for extending periods of time. Trying to have a quiet mind rather than the “monkey mind” of internal chatter is a challenge.

At The HypnoThoughts Live conference, I attended a seminar on Hope Coaching/Mindful Hypnosis. (For information on Hope Coaching visit www.mindfulhypnosiscoach.com .) One of the speakers, Michael Ellner brought up an idea which is great. Instead of one long meditation session, how about several ones of a few minutes. Stephan Bodian in his Meditation book also mentions brief sessions. Just like with exercise, many people say that they don’t have the time but almost everyone has six minutes or so here and there throughout the day. Starting first thing in the morning with a meditation can set the tone for the day. With exercise if the goal is to burn calories, then it doesn’t matter if you walk one mile a day or four, quarter mile walks, the calories burned are the same. There are things that are likely beneficial in the long periods of sustained meditation and that maybe something for people to aspire to. For people who are in pain, who may not be able to sit in one position for long, whose lives feel so chaotic, who are stressed and anxious, the small bouts of meditation may bring a sense of peace and increased comfort.

 

*for a cool website to explore the concept of mandalas see: www.graphics.cornell.edu/~wbt/mandala .

**for information and images of bodhisattvas an internet search will result in at least a couple of different definitions and many varied images. But you’ll have a better idea of the concept of bodhisattva than you did before. Especially if you had no idea to begin with.

 

Next time I’ll write about hypnosis/trance and body work.

Feel free to contact me with any comments and of course if you know someone who might be interested in these posts please send them on.

Thanks,

Don Berlyn