Many years ago, I watched the final episode of the TV series MASH (broadcast 1983), where Hawkeye (played by Alan Alda) suffers a severe trauma and as a consequence is taken to a psychiatric hospital. The psychiatrist treats him by forcing him to remember the details of the traumatic event, which he had “suppressed”. Hawkeye recovers from his mental delusions and all is well again.
Of course, this is all rubbish.
There used to be a theory, with its origins in Freudian psychology, that traumatic or bad memories are suppressed. This would lead to psychiatric difficulties, which could be “cured” by resurfacing the suppressed memories. This lead to a lot of therapeutic practices that involved getting the sufferer to re-explore those memories.
In hypnotherapy, “age regression” became the thing to do, whereby a client was asked to go back and relive a time when they were younger, all while under a state of hypnotic trance. Some hypnotherapists even went so far as to do “past life regression”, taking the client back to a memory from a “past life”. Of course, the mind becomes very creative in a hypnotic trance, so it is not surprising when clients create all sorts of experiences that never happened, which they may mistake for memories.
These ideas are all based on the idea that to solve a psychological problem, you need to analyse the problem and understand it – in the same way that you would need to understand why your car doesn’t work before you can fix it. Of course, the brain is far more sophisticated than your car.
Modern hypnotherapy is very different. Finding a solution to psychological problems is much more to do with looking for the way forward. The unconscious part of the brain – the part we are unaware of – is quite capable of reorganising itself, once you consciously start searching for solutions instead of analysing problems.
In a solution-focused hypnotherapy session, you will find yourself talking with the hypnotherapist about what is good in your life, how to get more of it into your life, where you want to go with your life and what positive things you want to achieve. This discussion could be entirely unrelated to the problem you have. The second part of the session will be hypnosis. The hypnotic state gets you nice and relaxed – a relaxed body and a relaxed mind. While this is going on, the unconscious part of the brain – the part we are not aware of – can find time to start reorganising itself along the lines of the positive things that were discussed earlier.
After a few sessions, clients start to realise that their problem is disappearing, and that they are finding a new way forward in life. This is the miracle that I always love to see.
Photo by Roman Kraft on Unsplash