My Experience with Hypnotherapy
I have always been interested in health and wellness. Exercising and eating well have been a part of my life since childhood. (Thanks, Mom!) Early this year an impending surgery created motivation to kick my health and wellness habits into overdrive. I took it as a personal challenge to be as healthy as possible by the date of my surgery. The following 8 weeks were a whirlwind of diet modifications, therapy, sleep adjustments, various forms of exercise, essential oils, dry brushing, castor oil packs, meditation, and journaling. One of the most helpful and interesting of the things I did was hypnotherapy.
I had no idea what to expect with my appointment with the hypnotherapist. Cartoons taught me to expect my eyes to spiral as I marched around the room on the hypnotist's command.
Instead, my 90-minute appointment with a lovely hypnotherapist began with a thorough explanation of the application and mechanism of hypnotherapy. She explained that the state of hypnosis was not something out of a sci-fi novel, but was instead a state of mind that everyone experiences on a regular basis. This is the state of mind that can be experienced right before falling asleep, right upon waking, and otherwise in deep physical and mental relaxation. When the mind is in this deep state of relaxation it allows access to the subconscious mind. This access point allows reframing of the subconscious to create real, physical changes. In my case, hypnosis would allow me to reframe my anxieties around surgery to encourage positive beliefs surrounding outcomes and expectations. Sounded good to me.
The next stage of the appointment was to identify my specific concerns. She delved deep into my anxieties and desired outcomes regarding the surgery. Based on this interview we agreed on a list of suggestions that she would read to me once I was in the suggestable state of hypnosis. These statements would allow my subconscious to accept positive suggestions and imagery.
Once we had decided on the suggestions she then had me lie down in a comfortable position. I donned dark glasses and headphones playing relaxing music and her voice was projected into the headphones. She started with something I was already familiar with: a body scan meditation for relaxation. This entails mentally scanning the body from head to toe and noticing and relaxing muscles along the way. It felt like getting a brain massage. Once I was in this relaxed state, she counted down from 10 stating that with each descending number I would sink deeper into states of relaxation. She then walked me through imagery of a relaxing, healing, hospital setting. All the while describing how calm and relaxed I will feel throughout each stage of my experience. She described the healing hands of all the professionals I would be interacting with as well as the ease with which surgery and recovery would occur. She continued by describing pain as being nothing more than a gentle reminder, encouraging the body to rest rather than creating alarm. With each suggestion she encouraged the subconscious to believe that these things would actually occur.
She recorded the session and I was left with instruction to listen to the recording twice a day up until the day of surgery and once in the morning before going to the hospital. I found the guided relaxation easier to stick to than the free form meditation I had been doing on my own. With nothing to lose I did exactly as she recommended and also began repeating some of her suggestions to myself outside of my daily hypnosis time. It felt good!
On the day of surgery I woke up to do my tape and felt encouraged that some of the suggestions and prompts were actually happening. I could feel the professionals I met at the hospital were passionate, caring, and truly had healing hands.
After weeks of feeling anxiety around surgery and anesthesia, on the day of surgery I felt strangely calm and trusting in both my own body and the skills of my health care team.
Following surgery, just like my prompts suggested, the surgeon greeted me in the recovery room and told me surgery had gone well. In the hospital room I reminded myself pain was gently reminding my body to rest.
The surgery came and went and I feel fully recovered. Some of the habit changes I made leading up to surgery stuck and some didn't. Of all the preparations I made I was most pleasantly surprised by my experience with hypnotherapy. I do feel that this technique requires some buy in into the process, but it comes with no drawbacks. I recommend anyone preparing for surgery to consider a session with hypnotherapy.