In an exchange in an online clinic here at the TalkHealth website regarding pain relief for fibromyalgia sufferers I explained that self-hypnosis can be utilized greatly and thought it would be useful to share a couple of ways and means of doing that.
This article shows one such technique to help do that. There are a very wide number of ways to use self-hypnosis to overcome or alleviate pain, this is one basic process to add to a larger repertoire. You’ll notice I refer to another article of mine within this process which I tend to think can advance and enhance the effects of this process if you require it. I shall post that shortly too.
A point that I make to anyone and everyone regarding using self-hypnosis to alleviate pain, is that you must not attempt to alleviate the pain for any longer than a typical pain killing tablet would last for and you must consult with your doctor regarding pain – do not simply use self-hypnosis techniques to block out pain and ignore it. Pain is there for a reason and requires a medical professional to examine it before you do anything else. It is also not to be used as an alternative, but in conjunction with your ongoing medication and interventions advised by your medical consultant.
Then, when you wish to use self-hypnosis to block pain for a limited period of time…. Simply follow these steps:
Make sure you are sat (if possible) with your arms and legs uncrossed in a place where you’ll be undisturbed for the duration of this technique.
Step One: Induce hypnosis. There are hundreds of ways of doing this, however the eye-fixation induction is great one to start with. The basic premise is to attempt to produce a great deal of strain on the eye muscles by having to look upwards with the eyes and without moving the head.
I suggest that you attempt to look up at your own forehead, or that you pick a spot on the wall or ceiling to focus on. The spot needs to be high enough to be a slight strain to stare upwards at.
The reason that the gaze is pointed upwards in this way is of course to advance and enhance the tiredness felt in and around the eyes in a speedy timescale. You do not tilt the head backwards at all, otherwise you assist the eyes and just end up staring upwards with a bent neck. You position your head, hold it still, then raise the eyes upwards until it becomes a slight strain to hold the gaze there.
With the eyes fixed in this way, creating some minor strain, you induce a slight sensation of being sleepy. Importantly though, this process gets you to concentrate in an intense fashion. Aim to close your eyes after around 30 seconds or so of fixing your gaze.
Once your gaze is fixed on the elevated point, you need to employ your imagination to make your eyes feel like closing. This is incredibly important. You must help the process along with your thoughts – imagine that your eyelids are getting heavier, tell yourself that they want to close and that it will be so nice and comfortable when they do so. Convince yourself of them getting heavier.
All the time that you are communicating with yourself in your mind in this way, ensure that you keep your gaze fixed in that same position without waivering or moving or allowing your eyes to relax by compensating in some other way. Keep your head and eye position in the way that ensures the eyes become tired.
Then, once they are ready to close, you let them close and that is the initiation of your hypnosis. Like opening a door to your mind using focus and absorption.
You’ve seen what happens when someone is fighting falling asleep. Like when I am sat in front of the fire with the TV on after my dinner in the evenings. I get that sensation in my eyelids where they start to close and I keep snapping them open to regain my focus. Adopt that same behaviour and posture; let your eyes close slowly like someone drifting to sleep.
Then proceed to let your entire body relax deeper by imagining the relaxation you now have in your closed eyelids spreading through your entire body. Spend a few moments doing this and telling yourself you are relaxing more and going deeper into hypnosis.
Use a gentle, relaxing tone when you communicate with yourself, encourage yourself by telling yourself how well you are doing this. Too much effort or anxiety will impair the process. Be gently assured with yourself. Then move on to step two.
Step Two: Tune into yourself. Be mindful. Spend a bit of time just observing your breathing rate, noticing the thoughts that are going through your mind and noticing your feelings. Become aware of the pain you are experiencing, while also becoming aware of the details of that pain. Just watch it, observe it without interfering with it for the time being.
Relax your body as much as you possibly can with your thoughts. Methodically relax your body with your intention and focus and tell yourself that being mindful and relaxing is taking you deeper into hypnosis.
Then move on to step three.
Step Three: Imagine you have two wires carrying all the information from your body to your brain. From the area where the pain was in your body, imagine two thick, coloured wires or cables going from that area of your body to the brain.
The first one carries all the nerve messages regarding pain from the area to the brain. This cable is a particular colour.
The second wire is a different colour, and it carries all other impulses between that area and your brain. However, it cannot carry pain signals at all. It is incapable of carrying pain signals, they are all carried exclusively by the other wire.
Notice the details of the wire, notice if you can sense the messages moving within them and really tune in to them. Just know that the more you believe in these wires, the more effective this process is going to be for you. As you look at them, trust that you can use them to change the way you experience the old pain response.
Once you have convinced yourself of this, move on to the next step.
Step Four: Using your imagination, follow the first wire with your awareness all the way to where it plugs into your brain. Follow it and go to the end of the wire and pull out the wire that used to carry the pain messages. Unplug it. For a while, just pull it out, the same way you’d pull out a telephone cable.
As it does that, notice how the pain signals can no longer reach your brain and it is as if the pain has been switched off. Perhaps you notice the responses happening immediately, or it might take a small amount of time for the response to fully drain away and not be recognized by your brain.
Trust that over the course of the next 4 hours, it will gradually find it’s way back to the socket, but you remain pain-free while it is unplugged as none of the pain messages can reach your brain.
Step Five: With the wire unplugged focus exclusively on a completely different part of your body and spend some time relaxing your body once again. Really take your time doing this now. Engage in some progressive relaxation while you have the wire unplugged. You can do this in a number of ways…
1. You can imagine tensing and relaxing the muscles of your body one by one.
2. You can simply breathe and say the word ‘soften’ to yourself as you think of the muscles of your body.
3. You can spread a colour through your body, one muscle at a time.
4. Imagine light spreading through you, relaxing you deeply.
5. Imagine that you are a rag doll and that your muscles are loose, limp and dormant.
There are many, many other ways to use progressive relaxation. Just use whatever process you know of to deeply relax and allow your body to be more and more relaxed as you let the pain signals just dissipate.
Once you have done that for a good period of time, move on to the next step.
Step Six: If you wished to now, you can go and spend some time developing and building some numbness and anaesthesia in the area in addition. You can do so by following the steps in my next article on numbness and anaesthesia that I am going to post here also.
Step Seven: Once you have spent enough time developing and building the anaesthesia, now convince yourself that you have switched off the old pain messages, gently assure yourself and convince yourself using your imagination.
Use your cognitions and affirm it to yourself. Say it to yourself, let yourself gently believe in it.
Step Eight: Exit hypnosis. Take a couple of deep breaths, count yourself up and out of hypnosis, wiggle your fingers and toes. Bring the changes and the pain relief with you into your real-life.
As with so many self-hypnosis techniques, this one requires practice and repetition, I recommend practicing once a day at least, for 2 weeks to really get good at this process. When you practice it though, I think you’ll amaze yourself at how easy it is to do and how effective it can be when applied diligently.
Adam Eason, author of “The Science of Self-Hypnosis: The Evidence-Based Way to Hypnotise Yourself.”