Specific Pain Control Techniques

1. Suggestions of deep relaxation in themselves may reduce the anxiety that often accompanies pain. These suggestions can be enhanced by providing imagery under pleasant environmental conditions, with as much visual and sensory imagery as possible. For example, asking patients to imagine that they are in a mountain cabin in the snow can be therapeutic in itself or it can lead to the production of 'glove anaesthesia'. This may occur when patients are asked to imagine going for a walk in the snow, picking up a handful of snow, holding it to the pain area and then transferring the cold and numbness to replace the pain.

2. Direct suggestions of pain relief. Simply telling patients under hypnosis that the pain will disappear and will not return when the patient is in the normal waking state may lead to an apparent reduction in pain.

3. The hypnotic transfer of pain from one part of the body to another, where it is less disabling, may benefit patients who have a psychological need for the pain to continue whether for sympathy or to get a greater financial settlement. For example, such patients may be able to transfer their pain from their abdomen to a finger.

4. Hypnosis can be used to change pain sensations into more easily tolerated sensations. It can be suggested that the pain will be experienced as a pleasant 'buzzing' or 'warmth' sensation rather than an acute or deep sensation.

5. Pain may be controlled by suggesting an area of numbness produced by asking patients to imagine that a local anaesthetic has been administered. Another method previously mentioned is 'glove anaesthesia' which can be transferred to the pain area. For example, in dentistry, an anaesthetic gel can be used on a child's finger. The child is then told that he or she has a 'magic' finger which can remove all the discomfort experienced during the procedure. The anaesthetic thus reinforces the therapist's suggestions.

Dissociation can be used to separate patients from their pain. If patients are well trained and motivated, it is possible for them to dissociate all or part of themselves from the pain, using vivid and pleasant imagery. Patients can even leave their body during painful procedures.

6. Dissociation can be achieved by imagining a pleasant scene. Perhaps a sunlit beach with warm, inviting sand or a cool green shady jungle scene where patients are asked to imagine shrinking themselves to become small enough to fly away on the back of a butterfly! As they shrink, so does the pain.

These techniques have proved extremely helpful to many patients, particularly those with cancer.

7. In the hypnotic state, patients use their imagination to think of their pain as an interesting experience—neutral and distinct from the suffering it may produce.

8. It may be suggested that the pain is changed to a 'pleasant sensation', incompatible with pain or suffering. Patients can be asked to hallucinate these sensations, or to dream them or to project them on to a movie screen in their imagination. For example, patients can be told: 'Imagine that you're sitting comfortably in front of a screen. Now, imagine that on the screen you can see yourself—not as you've been, but as you would like to see yourself—without pain—and able to function at your maximum capacity.'

9. Patients can be asked under the hypnotic state to imagine going backward in time 'to a time long ago, before any pain or discomfort, when you were full of energy and had a sense of complete well-being—and, when you return to the normal waking state, you will feel again that same sense of well-being.'

10. Hypnotic distortion of time can be used either to lengthen periods of discomfort or to apparently shorten periods of intense pain: 'As a result of your new capacity to relax, time will now seem to fly whenever you experience periods of intense pain. On the other hand, time will move very slowly indeed with every second stretching out so that you can enjoy those periods when discomfort is at a minimum and so use them as positively as possible.'

11. Other techniques involve asking you to transform your pain into a visual image that can be manipulated in the imagination. 'Now see your pain. What shape is it? A triangle? A circle? Perhaps a pyramid or a cube? See its colour? Is it red? Yellow? Purple? Perhaps another colour? Now change the shape and colour. The new shape and colour are definitely not compatible with your pain.'

To the above specific pain-relief methods, other hypnotic techniques found to be useful include taking the patient on a ride through a rainbow using the colours of the rainbow to impart an emotional lift at times of crisis. In this imagery, red is associated with a feeling of warmth and healing energy, peach with complete and perfect peace, yellow with happiness and well-being, green with joy and rapture, aqua blue with water and freedom, and violet with complete and perfect tranquillity.

Using Hypnosis To Achieve Mental Mastery

Using Hypnosis To Achieve Mental Mastery

Hypnosis is a capital instrument for relaxation and alleviating stress. It helps calm down both the brain and body, giving a useful rest. All the same it can be rather costly to hire a clinical hypnotherapist, and we might not always want one around when we would like to destress.

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