About sixty percent of my practice is helping people deal with anxiety. Five percent of the population has fairly severe anxiety, and, for some inexplicable reason, women are twice as likely to suffer from anxiety than men. Anxiety varies greatly in its intensity and the debility it causes; it can range from a mild anxiety at meeting new people
in a social situation to serious clinical depression.
It’s hard to categorize anxieties, but they fall basically into four categories:
- generalized anxieties,
- obsessive-compulsive disorders (OCD)
- panic disorders, and
- post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Phobias fall into the first category of generalized anxieties. They can be fear of things like: needles, spiders, medical or dental procedures, bridges, freeways, etc.. They can be fears rising from situations like open spaces (agoraphobia), closed spaces (claustrophobia), flying, public speaking, job interviews, bullying, inability to get to sleep, social anxiety, etc.
Because anxieties arise from individual thought patterns, the list is as vast and varied as the human condition. Phobias can be fleeting or last years, and they can be mild or severely debilitating.
Anxiety is often associated with many psychosomatic conditions such as hypertension and high blood pressure, ulcers, and colitis. Whether or not it is the cause, it certainly aggravates these conditions. Children are not immune to anxiety, and I have helped children with emetophobia, for example, where extreme anxiety leads them to vomiting in situations like having to go to school.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder involves frequent and repeated behavior patterns, or tension states that arise from ignoring or suppressing these thoughts. Common OCDs are constantly washing hands, checking locks, performing rituals before doing a specific task, and even hoarding and kleptomania. Anorexia Nervosa also falls into this category of obsessive compulsive and ritualistic behavior.
Post traumatic stress disorder is common among soldiers returning from the combat where they continually revisit terrifying experiences like watching comrades being blown up, and being injured themselves. Equally traumatic is a bad car accident, or a great loss or some other catastrophe. I recently saw a Vietnam veteran who, for forty years, relived every night in his dreams an incident where he nearly died and all his comrades were killed. Hypnosis enabled him to move on and the dreams ceased.
Panic attacks are a manifestation of extreme anxiety. These attacks happen when there are feelings of danger or fear around some event about to happen, or maybe anticipating making a fool of oneself in a particular situation. It’s all about doom and gloom, and this gives rise to feelings in the physical body, such a pain in the chest, or stomach, or in the head where it brings on a migraine.
The Hypnotic Approach
How can hypnosis help these disorders? The first step is to take a detailed history to evaluate all the circumstances surrounding the anxiety condition. It is important to listen deeply, as the history will give clues as to the direction to take in the hypnotic state.
Next, I induce hypnosis to a deep somnambulistic level and take the client back in time in an age regression to the original cause of the anxiety. In most cases the unconscious mind in hypnosis will be able to recall the original sensitizing event, and in conversation tell me how it started, when and where it started, and why it still persists.
I then reframe the original sensitizing event. This is a process of putting the persistent anxiety and the circumstances surrounding it into a new “picture frame”. I am telling the client’s unconscious mind, which houses all his or her belief systems, to change the original imprint and now to be free of the anxiety, however long it may have persisted. Often an anxiety has its roots in childhood. My job is to help the client realize this and put it in the context of ‘now’ in the present. Once the client can see the origins of it, and how debilitating the anxiety has been over the years, then he or she is able to let go.
Let me give you an example from my practice. An engineer in his mid thirties explained to me he had to give a talk to his manager and his team every Monday morning on the progress he had made that week in designing a new product. He experienced panic attacks at the thought of the Monday morning meeting. In the regression we went back to the age of sixteen. He was falling behind in his grades in school, so his parents sent him away to a special school boot camp that had very strict discipline, and any breach of discipline was punished. He remembered being made to stand up on the dining table and apologize to his fellow students and the teachers for every misdemeanor. He had forgotten about the incident and had no idea that this was the cause. Once he realized that his hang-up was a holdover from his youth, he was able to make the necessary shift and put aside his Monday morning meeting anxiety.
I teach clients how to relax using instant hypnosis. With practice, you can put yourself in deep hypnosis in three minutes. If you’re in the car, just pull over and stop, or at work go into the bathroom for three minutes. By relaxing both physically and mentally, you can overcome the anxiety and put it aside if it flares up. I often implant a “hypnotic trigger” like pressing a set of fingers and thumb together, breathing and counting to ten, then releasing the tightened fingers and slipping into a mode of deep breathing and relaxation. The trigger sends a message to the unconscious mind to relax and this prevents the old feeling of anxiety from arising.
The simple secret to overcoming anxiety is to learn to relax. Get out into nature or get into a relaxed position and just breathe deeply. For deep-seated anxiety you may need more help, and hypnosis is a quick and powerful way to uncover the cause and free you from it.