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hypnoanalysis

Hypnoanalysis Hypnotherapy

Hypnoanalysis and Hypnotherapy

As part of my professional self-development I am reading books based on other therapies. I am interested in what I might learn about my assumptions in how I do therapy, and about hypnoanalysis. I chose to read The Examined Life because I wanted a perspective from psychoanalytical therapy. The book is a collection of stories about patients by a well-known American psychoanalyst based in London.

Differences in approach

One of the most striking things to me is the basic psychoanalysis approach to therapy. I see most of my clients for one hour and never see them again. His clients see him five times a week, and continue seeing him every day for years and years. There is no expectation of making any immediate change.

The type of client he treats is also very different. Only seriously wealthy people can afford to pay for therapy five hours a week for years. Therefore, his approach to them is quite different. It is an approach of almost diffidence, doing nothing to upset or alienate the client, and the income stream.

Another curious aspect of psychoanalysis practice arises out of the limitless number of hours available. Grosz recounts several patients where neither he nor the patient said anything for an hour. They both sat there in total silence, waiting for something to happen. I doubt any hypnotherapist has ever done that.

Applying psychoanalytic principles to hypnoanalysis

It seems to me that psychoanalysis is basically a form of Reframing. The object is to get the patient to recognize some key element of their behavior, and understand that behavior as representing something else. That last sentence is actually the definition of 'metaphor'. It seems to me that he was constantly seeking a metaphor to explain his clients' behavior. And just like reframing, the theory is that realizing that you can see things in different way, to have different explanation, is all you need to cure you.

For me, the strangest part concerns the relationship between the Analyst and the Patient. For Grosz, the analysis can not make progress until a proper relationship is established. It is not friendship, it is not advisory, it is something unique to psychoanalytic training. There is nothing like that in hypnotherapy.

Freud and hypnoanalysis

Grosz is a Freudian psychoanalyst. His therapeutic approach is therefore based on Freudian theory and thinking. It only comes up incidentally in the stories about his patients, but I found the Freudian worldview both startling and alien. Nothing is ever accepted for what it is. Everything is interpreted through the lens of Freudian theory. Everything is a hidden message about your mother or father.

And I found a very different approach to therapy. In the stories about his patients Grosz seems to give very little value to non-psychological causes. He often mentions in passing that his patients have an alcoholic father, or a brother in psychiatric care, or a history of depression in the family, but never seems to give any weight to the possibility that his patient's behavior may have a genetic basis. There seems to be no role for physiology.

He does not use anything from behavioral psychology, or CBT, or guided visualization, or any other direct intervention. Everything is about getting the patient to speak aloud, and then helping the patient to interpret what they just said. It is a passive approach to therapy. In some aspects psychoanalysis seems very close to non-interventionist counseling.

Overall impression

There is a lot in this book that is good. There is a lot I disagree with. It is challenging and interesting. But it is actually a very bleak book. I felt quite disturbed by the time I had reached the end of it. His underlying theme is about change and loss. He says there can be no change without loss. Whether this reflects his own personality, or the result of a lifetime spent talking to unhappy people, is impossible to say.

There are many thought provoking phrases used in the book.

"Behavior is the language we use when we have no words to express how we feel".

"My job is not to find a solution. My job is to find a useful question".

Some of his patients were deeply disturbed. And disturbing. I found it very hard to get one story out of my mind. He described working with a woman whose husband had a terminal illness. She could not cope with living with someone who is dying. In particular she was horrified by what she felt was having to have sex with a corpse.

Reflections on Hypnoanalysis

The main reason for reading this book was to challenge my own assumptions about how I do therapy. When questioning why other people do therapy the way they do, it challenges you to justify why you do therapy the way you do.

It seems to me that the principles of psychoanalysis do not transfer well to hypnoanalysis. I will not be using Freudian principles in my daily work.

However, this book has made me question my assumptions. If psychoanalysis believes that telling your story is how you make sense of your life, why don't I believe that? And what do I believe? How do I know what I am doing is right?

 

The examined life
How we lose and find ourselves
by Stephen Grosz
London: Chatto and Windus. 2013
ISBN 978-070–18535–0

 

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Clearing childhood anxiety

Clearing Childhood Anxiety

Clearing Childhood Anxiety

I saw a client last week who was always nervous and frightened. It clearly has something to do with her childhood anxiety. She could not identify anything in particular that she might feel anxious about. In fact she really couldn't remember much about her childhood at all. I hypnotized her and used a metaphor designed to help remove generalized anxiety. I told her to let me know how she felt in a week or so.

One morning this week she woke up suddenly with a great fear. She had no idea what was causing this, and began to go into a panic. Then she recognized it. It was something she has had all her life. But it was only after last week's session that she could isolate it from all the other things going on in her life.

She came to see me, still a little disturbed by the memory. I got her to relax and breathe deeply. She went into trance easily. In trance I encouraged her to be open to that feeling of 'great fear'. It was a feeling she now recognized, that she had had many times, so she quickly recalled it.

Transforming Childhood anxiety

When I was sure that she was experiencing the fear, I began the process to get her to transform the feeling into a object. I asked her "where are you feeling it?" This is the first stage of establishing the feeling as a 'thing' separate from herself. "What shape is it?" to get her to think about the nature of her 'thing'. Then I asked, "what object does this 'thing' most resemble? What is it like?". Once the client can think of it as an object, she can begin to make changes to it.

She told me that the feeling was "In my chest. like a black jelly fish". I got her to describe her jelly fish in more and more detail. It was " Sticky.  And filled with terror". Now that the fear was transformed into something else, she could think about the something else as something that could go away. If the feeling is part of you, you can't fix it. But if the feeling is separate from you, you can think of fixing it.

I asked her, " What do you want to have happen to that jelly fish?" She told me she "Want it to go away". I asked "And can it go away?"  "I don't think so". When the client cannot do what they want to do with the object, you need to help them. I asked "Can you imagine holding that jelly fish in your hands?" "No, it  just slips through my fingers". So to help her get it out of her body I suggested that she could put in a box. That worked. Then I suggested she might put the box with the jelly fish in  chair in front of her. This suggestion is designed to make her externalize the object completely.

Externalizing her Childhood Anxiety

She put the box in the chair. I asked "What do you think will happen to that jelly fish in the box?" This was to get her to think about ways to change the feeling. She said "I can't get it to do anything. It won't die". I asked "What might you use to kill it?" She said "I can stab it with knitting needles". She tried that, but said "it ate them". Then I asked "what happens to things that eat knitting needles?"

By thinking about what would be different she triggered a resource in her mind. She said it had turned into a paua (abalone)  stuck to the side of the box. Paua are large shellfish that stick immovably to rocks. In this kind of therapy, the client represents aspects of themselves as the metaphor objects. So the paua was her. It has a strong shell, and cannot be budged from where it is anchored. I asked her "what do you think that shellfish is thinking?" This was to get her to say what the paua represented for her. "It is for death". I told her "Ask the paua what it wants to do".  "It is trying to run away".

Regression for her Childhood anxiety

I felt that if the paua was about her sheltering, hiding from something, then  probably I shouldn't mess with it. This suggested that it might a job for regression. I asked her to think about what the paua might be feeling. She said it was fear. I developed the feeling of fear. "Think of the first time you ever had that fear". She came out with a memory where she was a little child running away from people trying to kill her. She had to hide away from the light.

I did INNER CHILD work with her. We found that frightened little girl and comforted her. Eventually I got her back to adult. She said that she felt the little girl merging with her, but just before that happened she and the girl, called Grace, smashed the paua with hammers.

Afterwards, we discussed what it all meant. She thought it was all about hiding in fear in a wardrobe when her dad was on a rampage.

She realized that it was real memory. Things at home changed. But she never let go of that fear. That was the basis of her lifetime anxiety.

 

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