It might sound surprising that pain is simply a type of alarm – your own inner alarm system. And just like a fire alarm in your home, it has no value in itself. It is simply your unconscious mind using the sensation of pain to demand that you pay attention to a problem and act to resolve it. Of course, the body has other ways to tell us something is wrong. These other signals are subtler and just sneak up on you. In fact, you can’t even hear or feel some of those messages yourself. It’s your doctor that tells you about them by measuring blood pressure, body temperature, blood sugar levels and fatigue. Pain on the other hand is loud, impatient and sits right on top of the problem till it gets your attention. Should you try to use the stiff upper lip method to ignore it and get on with your life, it can simply turn up the volume until you can’t hear yourself think. It’s there for a reason and won’t disappear unless you deal with the problem.
Pain is a signal that something is wrong with your body
Hypnosis can approach the pain from a different viewpoint and teach the client to think of the sensation in a different way. The hypnotic trance can allow the sufferer to become conscious of nagging burdens and pressures that contribute to the discomfort. As we get a clearer perspective on the dynamics of the pain, we can begin to chip away at pain’s stubborn grasp and at the contributors that intensify it.
Acute pain usually gets your immediate attention
In this way, acute pain is so strong and so loud in your body that you could think of it as a very successful alarm system in that it forces the sufferer to get the issue resolved urgently. Some body part is either in danger or has broken down and needs to be taken care of immediately. Medical doctors have tools to identify the extent of the problem and either surgical or pharmaceutical solutions to correct or normalize the body part or organ. When the medical treatment is over, there are a variety of tools such as X-rays, MRIs and so on to measure the extent of the healing. As the body heals and the problem is rectified, pain relief is prescribed but within a predictable time frame, the pain gradually disappears and the body returns to a reasonable comfort level. In such cases, pain continues to do an excellent job of signaling to the patient until the problem has been resolved. Acute pain issues make up a small part of a hypnotherapist’s practice. In fact, migraines are one of the very few acute pain issues that end up in our office. But, when acute pain does not relent, it can turn into chronic pain.
Chronic pain can be relieved with hypnosis
Chronic pain has a more mysterious path. It is often one that is intractable and continues over a long period of time. It may have begun with acute pain and has persisted long after the initial cause. It may simply have started slowly, spilling over into a person’s life and grew over time to interfere with their quality of life. Generally, conventional methods have not worked. It is discouraging and disheartening for the sufferer. It wears down the patience of family carers and supporters and it frustrates those in the healing professions. There are often voices close to sufferers who may suggest that their pain is imagined or “psychosomatic”, suggesting that their pain is not real. This is incorrect. All pain is absolutely real. Helplessness often sets in accompanied by other emotions closely linked with a loss in self-esteem and in the sufferer’s growing inability to cope with it. Anger and frustration increases but is often suppressed. One can’t let off of too much steam at those you are dependent on for your survival. It’s a difficult and complex mix.
Back pain is surprisingly common
A recent client has had back pain for a couple of years. It had become much worse in recent months. It seems to have worsened with her stress and anxiety. Her doctor had examined her and found nothing wrong with her body. She runs a small fashion business and sales have been declining for the past year. She is currently understaffed and has a heavy debt load. However, she is making changes and is confident that she can turn things around over the next year. Of course, it would help if her husband’s job was secure but he is likely to become redundant soon. With all this pressure, her back seems to be taking on her overload of anxiety.
In her case, experiencing the calm detachment of a hypnotic trance allowed her to more calmly think through solutions in her mind and to see how best to prioritize her energy and time while still turning things around. We began with stopping the anxiety from overwhelming her and helping her clear her mind of her persistent very real worries. Then we unlinked the long established mental connection between her anxiety and the nerves and muscles of her back. As a result, she became more aware of her anxiety and learned how to mentally turn it down herself.
Hypnosis separates the physical sensation from the suffering from pain
Physical pain is simply a signal from the brain, nothing more. It’s physical sensation can become increasingly uncomfortable when anxiety and other strong negative emotions become unconsciously linked to it.
Hypnotherapy can be very effective here, and can create a greater sense of physical comfort by changing those emotions and sensations and replacing them by a greater feeling of relaxation. In fact, it can remove the pain entirely. It does this by removing the suffering part from the pain but not interfering with the original physical signal.
This is the power of the hypnotic trance, which is a deeply relaxing state of mind that once achieved, can allow the client to make changes in the way their unconscious mind thinks, believes and responds. Recent research estimates that 90% of people can get into this state of hypnotic trance.
Sometimes the benefits of pain interfere with its healing
Frequently, the mind can unconsciously be holding on to the pain. Whatever the unconscious mind is doing, it is doing so for a purpose. The mind sees the pain as a benefit to the sufferer so the challenge in hypnosis is to correct this misconception and offer a more positive solution to the mind. The mind can then be encouraged to achieve those benefits in a more comfortable and healthier way. When the pain no longer serves that purpose, then it can be removed quite easily.
An inner struggle can cause pain to be persistent
Sometimes there’s an unconscious inner struggle between a part of the mind that wants to get rid of the pain and another part that fears losing the benefits of the pain. An example of this is the fear of losing compensation and having to face returning to a job they don’t enjoy or, the worry about losing the loving attention of a partner. In a way, the web of support for continuing this pain can be surprisingly complex and must first be dismantled.
In conclusion, this article explains how the unconscious mind uses pain as a signal to resolve a physical problem within us. It’s part of our inner survival system. Hypnotherapy works predominantly with chronic pain. In the case of intractable pain, the mind can be mistakenly linking it with a perceived unconscious benefit. Once the mind can understand that the pain signal is no longer needed, it can, through hypnosis be persuaded to let it go, especially if it can see the benefits for the client of doing so.
See another post by Ellen
Ellen McNally is a certified clinical hypnotherapist. If you would like to get in touch with Ellen to enquire or to chat about how hypnotherapy can help, contact her at (852) 2523 7286 or, send her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
See another post written by Ellen on the Escudero technique to relieve the suffering of pain
I welcome your comments about the dynamics of pain and how hypnotherapy can remove it. Ellen