Cancer and Hypnosis

Article by Steven Bloore, Certified Hypnotherapist

Hypnosis Motivation Institute
2007 October 19, Friday

Imagine yourself in a quiet, secure setting with someone you have learned to trust. You are focused on your breathing, allowing your body to experience a deep state of physical relaxation and comfort as you consciously follow the lead of your hypnotherapist. Later, you may visit a serene meadow or travel deep into the structure of your own body, exploring the operation of your immune system. In a few moments, you will open your eyes felling relaxed, alert and at ease.

Hypnosis is defined as a state of heightened awareness coupled with a deep sense of physical relaxation while remaining focused on a single idea or series of related ideas. It is not unlike the experience of becoming engrossed in a movie or a good novel and losing track of what is going on around you. Hypnosis is not a surrender of control or a deep unconscious sleep. While hypnotized, you will never do what you would not normally do in your regular conscious state. In fact, hypnosis is the most natural of mental states; it is a state that allows access to your deepest subconscious patterns of behavior and response.

When someone is confronted by the specter of a cancer diagnosis, the fear of the unknown begins to take over, both for the person and the family. This alone can contribute to an enormous level of anxiety and worry on top of the normal stresses of day-to-day life. Often, someone facing the prospect of aggressive medical treatment protocols will feel a sense of helplessness and a loss of control over his or her own life. Hypnosis is a powerful tool for creating new, more effective coping mechanisms to manage these stresses with a sense of control while in the healing process. Regaining that all-important sense of control and reducing the associated stress and anxiety of coping with cancer allows the perspective of hopelessness to become one of hopefulness.

From the pain of surgical recovery to the resulting nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and loss of appetite from chemotherapy, modern medical research is beginning to uncover the advantages and effectiveness of hypnosis as a tool in managing these issues.

While using a variety of hypnotic techniques, many of the symptoms of nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and pain are reduced. More recently, in eight separate studies published in the International journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis regarding pain management using hypnosis, 75 percent of the people experienced pain relief, compared to the control group that did not have access to hypnosis. In another controlled study published in the Journal of the International Anesthesia Research Society, patients who received hypnotherapy before surgical procedures experienced less anxiety, reduced pain, less blood loss and a lower incidence of post-operative nausea and vomiting.

Even though hypnosis has been used as an adjunct to medicine since the 1950’s, there was little understanding about how it worked. For years, positive results were observed in areas from pain management to treatment of anxiety, trauma, IBS, and depression. With the advent of the modern technology, Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scanning of the brain during hypnosis, we are now beginning to unravel the mystery of how hypnosis works.

We experience our world through our five senses. Information we receive stimulates certain areas of the brain, is processed and is then sent to the areas that control higher functions. When someone is hypnotized and given suggestions of imagery while their brain is being scanned, areas of the brain are stimulated as if they were actually experiencing the events of the guided imagery. In other words, the mind does not seem to know the difference between what is perceived by our senses and what our imagination can experience in the deeply relaxed trance states of hypnosis. Our physiology will respond in the same way as if we were truly experiencing the changes in the environment.

So, if someone believed they could see, feel and taste the cool refreshment of a mint leaf whenever they were beginning to experience the unpleasant feeling of nausea, that new sensation would replace the unwanted sensation. Or, if one were to imagine their favorite place, a beautiful high mountain lake, surrounded by peaceful high mountains, sitting comfortably enjoying the experience, they would not notice the discomfort of the needle biopsy in their physical body because a pleasant detachment has taken place. A person may be aware of some pressure, but they will not experience the pain, anxiety and tension associated with the procedure.

A cancer patient can also become proactive in the battle with their disease by using hypnosis and guided imagery to get in touch with their immune system. Through hypnosis, a patient can visualize their body fighting the cancer, becoming healthier and patient can visualize their body fighting the cancer, becoming healthier and removing the invader. They are able to “see” the chemotherapy drugs doing their job and help their body eliminate the toxins from their system.

These are only a few examples of possibilities used in hypnotherapy. However, the most effective suggestions are tailored specifically to the individual’s needs, personal preferences and the way they individually process language. Once a patient has experienced deep trance states of guided hypnosis a number of times, techniques of self-hypnosis are easily taught. Hypnosis then becomes a tool that can be used at any time to facilitate recovery.

The primary goal of hypnosis as a compliment to medical cancer therapies is to return to the patient a feeling of control and a greater understanding of the body-mind connection. This creates the best holistic combination medicine can offer, coupled with the power of the subconscious mind. When someone faces a serious illness from an understanding that they are in control and are empowered by their medical treatment, the prospect of success, as well as their sense of overall well being, is greatly improved.