How do you talk about Dis-Ease

How Do You Talk About Dis-Ease?

By James Duncan, CHt © 2005

One of the most important factors in achieving wellness or creating and maintaining health is the way in which we think and talk about our health and the challenges we face in our health. Unfortunately so many people are completely unaware of how the words and concepts we choose to think and use to discuss our health have the potential to impact it to an amazing degree. This impact can very often have a negative effect over the long term if gentle and compassionate care is not given to the reframing of these concepts of health.


The first idea I like to share when I lecture to or work with those challenged by health issues, is that we humans are a very possessive group. It boils down to the ideas; what we have, we want to keep and what we lose we want to get back. I regularly teach those facing cancer or other so-called “catastrophic” dis-ease to strike the words, “I have ______” from their thoughts and vocabulary. In the same token, we should release the phrase “I had ______” as well. To repeatedly and habitually say one HAS something that erodes one’s health is a textbook example of positive reinforcement in a negative direction. The concept of a person who has recovered a health challenge and uses the phrase “I had _____” is less obvious in it’s negative reinforcement, but since we humans want back what we lose, our subconscious mind wants that dis-ease we HAD back. So, how do we reframe these ideas? It is easy enough if the care is taken to be consistent in the reframing process. For example, instead of saying “I have cancer” it becomes “I am dealing with cancer” or “I am facing cancer”. When we have dealt with something we are finished with it. When we face something we always have the choice to turn away from it. In the case of being healed of a health issue we change “I had cancer” to “I overcame cancer”. These first seeds of reframed thought are a very powerful beginning to positive reinforcement in a positive direction and can have tremendous effect on well-being.

A favorite suggestion I make to anyone facing health challenges is to buy a can of Static Guard and place it on the bathroom sink or kitchen counter where it is seen repeatedly throughout each day. Simply seeing that purple and orange spray can quite simply and effectively reminds us in a humorous sort of way to be on guard for remaining “static” in our health and our beliefs in our health. It is a reminder to constantly assess our thought process and keep negative programs in check.

James Duncan, CHt

Certified Hypnotherapist ~ IMDHA Fellow

108 E 5th St – Space F

Royal Oak, MI 48067 USA


Helping Phantom Limb Pain

Helping Phantom Limb Pain
by Toni Ray

Over the years scientists have noted many complaints of a strange form of pain called phantom limb pain. This pain is strange because it is located in an appendage that no longer exists. By many of the amputees the pain is described as totally unbearable. Phantom limb pain has even driven some victims crazy. For the amputee population this is a very real problem that definitely needs to be solved.

After James Peacock had his right arm amputated last December, he expected some difficulties. With those difficulties came pain so unbearable it could not be controlled with all the medicine in his cabinet. Derek Steen, otherwise known as “The one-armed pool player,” lost a limb in a motorcycle accident at the age of 18. Although he lost the limb, he still plays a great game of pool. Nine years after the accident Steen continues to have pain in the missing arm. Deborah Finnegan-Ling, a graduate student in neuroscience, is writing her dissertation on phantom limb pain. Finnegan-Ling should know a lot about this phenomenon because three years ago, after a farming accident, her left leg was amputated. She has experienced much pain from this phantom limb especially in her personal life. The area of the brain for the foot is adjacent to the area for genitalia. Because of this connection Finnegan-Lingís missing limb aches when she makes love.”I consider myself tough,” she says.”But the pain is so acute that Iíll cry.”

Some amputees experience the opposite of phantom pain – phantom pleasure. One man tells about feeling an orgasmic sensation in his lost foot during sex. Finnegan-Ling sighs.”I wish,” she says.

Many scientists have studied amputees to determine the cause of this mysterious pain. Sussman (1995) concluded that the trouble starts in a part of the brain known as the sensory cortex. The sensory cortex carries a rough map of the body, called a homunculus or”little man.” Each body part in the homunculus is wired to its corresponding portion of the real anatomy. When a body part is lost the corresponding part of the brain is not able to handle the loss and rewires its circuitry to make up for the signals it was no longer receiving from the missing digit. The rewiring might occur in one of two ways. Perhaps nerve impulses in the sensory cortex begin to course down previously untraveled pathways. The second theory is that neighboring neurons in the cortex may actually invade the territory left fallow because sensations are no longer received from the missing limb.

Birbaumer, Lutzenberger, Montoya, and Wolfgang (1997) examined the functional relationship between cortical reorganization and phantom limb pain. Neuroelectric source imaging was used to determine changes in cortical reorganization in the somatosensory cortex after anesthesia of an amputation stump produced by brachial plexus blockage in six phantom limb pain patients and four pain-free amputees. This cortical reorganization was studied to examine whether the neurons rewired after the loss of an appendage.

Three of the phantom limb subjects experienced a virtual elimination of current phantom pain. The Biraumber et al., (1997) result of the anesthesia was a very rapid elimination of cortical reorganization in the somatosensory cortex. In three phantom-limb-pain amputees pain was not reduced by brachial plexus blockade. In the phantom pain-free amputation cortical reorganization remained unchanged. These findings suggest that cortical reorganization and phantom limb pain might have a causal relationship.

Flor, Elbert, Knecht, and Wienbruch (1995) also examined whether cortical reorganization (CRO) and phantom limb pain were positively related. Noninvasive neuromagnetic techniques were used to determine CRO in 13 amputees. A strong direct relationship was found between the amount of CRO and the magnitude of phantom limb pain experienced after an arm amputation. Data indicate that phantom limb pain is related to, and may be a consequence of, plastic changes in primary somatosensory cortex.

In addition to the physical contributions affecting phantom limb pain are the psychosocial factors. Dawson and Arnold (1981) investigated the role of psychological factors in ten patients (43-73 yrs old) with painful phantom limbs by means of a questionnaire and interviews. The hypotheses were that the severity of pain could be positively correlated with the subjectsí present personal problems and attitudes, or it could be correlated with their experience of pain in the limb before amputation. The results indicated that only the severity of pain positively correlated with the subjectsí present problems. Morris (1992) looked at the concepts of phantom limb pain in amputees. As psychogenic pain the pain is created or sustained by the mind. The clinical psychicians view pain not as a sensation, but as a perception. A review of the literature dating back to the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius suggests that pain is not always in oneís own head and that pain does not belong strictly to the mechanism of the body but rather to that of the mind and body, which are inextricably bound together.

In addition to physical and psychosocial factors, stress is also hypothesized to be a factor in phantom limb pain. Arena, Sherman, Bruno, and Smith (1990) examined the relationship between situational stress and phantom limb pain in 27 male, 71-yr-old amputees. The following possible relationships between the etiology and maintenance of phantom limb pain were examined: an isomorphic relationship (same-time increases in pain lead to same-time increases in stress and vice versa), a consequence relationship (increases in pain precede increases in stress), and a precursor relationship (increases in stress precede increases in pain). Although support was found for all three hypotheses, the most frequently observed relationship was the isomorphic one. Thirty-seven percent of subjects demonstrated some significant precursor relationship. Seventy-four percent of subjects demonstrated some significant stress-pain relationship. Their findings are discussed in terms of using psychophysiological interventions such as biofeedback in amputees with phantom limb pain.

Several relief approaches for phantom limb pain have been investigated including biofeedback, hypnosis, and relaxation. All three of these reliefs were found helpful. Arena et al., (1990) examined uses of biofeedback as a relief tactic. Tsushima (1982) used EMG and temperature biofeedback to treat phantom limb pain in a 51yr old man.

Nine EMG biofeedback sessions were effective in eliminating headache and reducing neck and chest pain excluding phantom limb pain. Four subsequent sessions involving temperature biofeedback and autogenic training were successful in eliminating phantom limb pain, which remained absent at a two month follow-up.

Wain (1986) tested how efficiently hypnosis treats phantom limb pain. Wain suggests that hypnosis bridges the gap between physiological and psychological conceptualizations of pain. The treatment of the pain sufferer is considered in terms of the therapeutic relationship and hypnotic trance, diagnosis, assessment of hypnotizability, induction procedures, and the development of a hypnotic strategy. It is emphasized that hypnosis promotes a milieu in which effective strategies can be integrated and the hypnotic techniques can give patients the needed impetus to recognize their ability to regain control.

McKechnie(1975) experimented with relaxation as a treatment for phantom limb pain. McKechnie reports observing relief from phantom limb pain in a young male adult patient with a nine-year history of such pain. Relief occurred during and after relaxation exercises focused on the phantom limb and was facilitated by practice. Six-month follow-up revealed continued relief. The relaxation technique is related to the hypnosis treatment by use the use of mind and body to control the pain in both techniques.

Although many studies point to cortical reorganization of the neurons as the result of this phantom limb pain, we have still not found a major way to extinguish this pain. In addition to cortical reorganization, scientists have studied psychosocial factors and stress as related to phantom limb pain. In the future, methods designed to alter cortical reorganization should be examined along with stress releasers, relaxation techniques, and pharmaceutical agents for their efficacy in the treatment of phantom limb pain.

Arena, J., Sherman, R., Bruno, G. & Smith J. (1990). The relationship between situation stress and phantom limb pain: Cross-lagged correlation data from six month pain logs. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 34(1), 71-77.
Birbaumer, N., Lutzenberger, W., Montoya, P. & Larbig, W. (1997). Effects of regional anesthesia on phantom limb pain are mirrored in changes in cortical reorganization. Journal of Neuroscience, 17(14), 5503-5508.
Dawson, L. & Arnold, P. (1981). Persistent phantom limb pain. Journal of Perceptual and Motor Skills, 53(1), 135-138.
Flor, H., Elbert, T., Knecht, S. & Wienbruch, C. (1995). Phantom limb pain as a perceptual correlate of cortical reorganization following arm amputation. Journal of Nature, 375(6531), 482-484.
McKechnie, R. (1975). Relief from phantom limb pain by relaxation exercises. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 6(3), 262-263.
Morris, D. (1992). The place of pain. Journal of Advances, 8(2), 3-24.
Tsushima, W. (1982). Treatment of phantom limb pain with EMG and temperature biofeedback. American Journal of Clinical Biofeedback, 5(2), 150-153.
Wain, H. (1986). Pain control with hypnosis in consultation and liaison psychiatry. Psychiatric Annuals, 16(2), 106-109.
Sussman, V. (October 1995). The route of phantom pain. U.S. News & World Report, 76-78.

Healing Thought by Jim Duncan

Healing Thought From The Strangest Places

James Duncan, CHt

While going through some of my mother’s belongings after her passing. In the corner of a closet, I discovered a cannonball. I had never seen it, it in spite of having helped her move twice. Why did my mother have this strange item? I found it interesting and strangely beautiful so I packed it with the things to keep and kept working.

The cannonball kept popping into my mind until I had the strange feeling that I should bring it into my office. Without any idea of where to put it or why I felt so strongly about it, I took it to my office and found the perfect location. The bottom shelf of my bookcase has a groove that runs its’ length. So, I placed the cannonball there and it gracefully rolled down the length of the shelf, touched the end and gently rolled back. Beautiful!

The next day, I had a client who was concerned that her mind could not do the work necessary to improve. We eventually began her trance work, when she suddenly said; I don’t think I can see how my mind can do this. I won’t get it.

The inspiration hit like a cannon shot! That’s perfectly alright for this moment, but if you could have a NEW moment to start from where you can see perfectly well, how your powerful mind can do exactly what you desire, then would you like that new moment? I got a nod.

In a moment I will ask you to open your eyes. Just opening your eyes carries you into the deepest relaxation you have ever enjoyed. This is when the new moment will begin and you embrace each and every suggestion you hear as absolute truth for your benefit.

I walked to my bookcase and crouched down by the shelf. Now take a comfortable breath and as you exhale open your eyes and look at the cannonball on my bookcase. When her eyes opened, your powerful mind is exactly like this cannonball. It is perfect in design and purpose, but absolutely useless until it is put in motion. When that happens though the results are breathtaking. I would even say the result of that motion is devastating… You know that when something is devastating there are two possible definitions, the one we commonly use – DESTRUCTION, but you now understand that the meaning in this new moment is the less common – OVERWHELMING and STUNNING, exactly as your powerful mind, when put in motion is overwhelming and stunning in its ability to achieve your desires. Now, if this cannonball, YOUR mind is so perfect and powerful and purposeful and stunningly overwhelming, how do you put it in motion to achieve all the things you desire? Simply with the very next comfortable deep breath that you take NOW. And as she took a deep breath I gave a nice blow of air at the cannonball and it gracefully rolled the length of the shelf, hit the end and came back to rest in it’s original place.

Now, your eyes close back down and you understand that it doesn’t take much to put this cannonball in motion just as it doesn’t take much to put your powerful mind in motion. It’s devastatingly beautiful how new moments can begin at any time, even right now…

Be always open to inspiration from strange places.

James Duncan, CHt

Certified Hypnotherapist ~ IMDHA Fellow
108 E 5th St – Space F
Royal Oak, MI 48067 USA

Fresh Face of Hypnosis

The fresh face of hypnosis: an old practice finds news uses – New Wisdom

Better Homes & Gardens, Feb, 2004, by Debra Gordon

Last year, Andrea Tickle was pregnant with her first child. To combat the pain of childbirth, she could have chosen an epidural or narcotics but decided, instead, on a drug-free approach. To help her, Andrea contacted a Pennsylvania hypnotherapist named Wendy Goldenthal.

Goldenthal specializes in a hypnosis technique called HypnoBirthing that teaches pregnant women to take advantage of their body’s natural anesthetic abilities in order to make childbirth a less painful, more positive experience. Andrea, 31, was won over.

“I would have to say what HypnoBirthing gave me was a greater sense of my inner strength, and it empowered me through my labor,” says Andrea, who lives near Philadelphia with her husband and I-year-old daughter, Siena.

If the word “hypnosis” conjures up memories of a high school stage act where some of your classmates ended up ducking like chickens, then you should know that there’s much more to this age-old art than merely a paycheck for a parlor magician.

Today, hypnosis–or hypnotherapy–is becoming a respected alternative for an array of conditions. It has long been used to help people quit smoking and overcome fears, such as the fear of public speaking, but now the practice is branching out into new areas.

“For the vast majority of people, hypnosis can be an invaluable tool,” says Dr. Ran D. Anbar, who uses it in his practice as a pediatric pulmonologist at State University of New York’s Upstate Medical University in Syracuse.

For example, he helps many children control their allergies and asthma through hypnotherapy. He does so, in part, by training them in self-hypnosis techniques. “One of the beauties of hypnosis is that it’s easy to teach, it can often work quickly and, for most people, it is a positive addition to their treatment,” Anbar says.

Other doctors and hypnotherapists use it for such conditions as chronic pain, irritable bowel syndrome, arthritis, insomnia, and migraine headaches–afflictions that modern medicine struggles to treat effectively. These types of disorders often have a strong mental component, says Anbar, which plays into the strengths of hypnosis. “It’s exactly the patient who doesn’t respond to medical therapy who is likely to respond to hypnotherapy,” he says.

Hypnotherapy’s effectiveness lies in the complex connection between the mind and the body. It’s well-understood today that illness can affect your emotional state and, conversely, that your emotional state can affect your physical state. Two examples: Stress, an emotional reaction, can make heart disease worse, and heart disease, a physical condition, can cause depression.

Hypnosis carries this connection to the next logical step by using the power of the mind to bring about change in the body. No one is quite sure how hypnosis works, but thanks to more sophisticated imaging techniques, that’s changing.

For instance, researchers at Virginia Polytechnic Institute found that during a hypnotic state aimed at bringing about pain control, the prefrontal cortex of the brain (which controls concentration) directed other areas of the brain to reduce or eliminate their awareness of pain.

That’s important, because if your brain doesn’t pay attention to pain, it doesn’t matter if it’s there or not. It’s similar to the mechanism you use when you tune out the sound of your arguing children.

But, as you know, sometimes you can ignore noisy kids and sometimes you can’t–therein also lies the limitations of hypnosis. Some people see great success with hypnosis and some don’t. And it’s impossible to know who will find relief from it without actually trying it.

“It isn’t a magic wand,” cautions hypnotherapist Carol Ginandes, Ph.D., an instructor at Harvard Medical School who also practices in Watertown, Massachusetts. “I’m not saying I can hypnotize every patient to have no pain or have their asthma disappear. But used as an ancillary treatment, it’s been shown to be effective.”

Ginandes is also looking at how hypnotherapy can help people heal faster. In a small study last year, she and a colleague took 18 women who were having breast reduction surgery and put each of them in one of three groups.

One group received standard surgery care. Another group got the same care and also received psychological support. The third group underwent hypnosis before and after surgery in addition to standard care.

Those who had undergone hypnosis healed faster, felt less discomfort, and had fewer complications. “What’s exciting about this research is that it provides promising evidence of using hypnosis to actually accelerate the physical healing process of the body,” says Ginandes.

Despite its usefulness, most physicians know very little about hypnosis and few medical schools teach it–even though the American Medical Association has approved of its use since 1958.

In fact, Anbar’s colleagues warned him not to call what he does “hypnosis” because people might think he’s little more than a voodoo doctor. That kind of thinking may be why hypnosis is not used for more patients, he says.


Here’s a simple self-hypnosis technique from Dr. Ran Anbar, professor of pediatrics at State University of New York’s Upstate Medical University in Syracuse. It’s a great way to unwind from a stressful day.

Close your eyes and imagine yourself in a place where you would feel relaxed. Maybe it’s a tropical beach or a quiet forest glade. No matter the scene you choose, pay close attention to what you might see, hear, smell, and taste there. Notice that, as you locus on these sensations, you become more and more relaxed and more content. Allow yourself to be enveloped by your peaceful surroundings.

Once you’re successfully in this light trance, stress seems to slip away. You can remain in this state as long as you want in your mind-an hour or a day or a year-all in just a few moments of real time. When you’re ready to leave, give yourself a suggestion, such as, “I’ll feel claim for the rest of the day.” Make sure you phrase your suggestion in the positive rather than the negative. Then slowly bring yourself back and open your eyes.

Don’t get discouraged if this doesn’t seem to work right away, says Anbar. “It improves with practice,” he says. Just try again another day.


Your best bet for finding a legitimate medical hypnotherapist-rather than one whose credentials are dubious-is through these associations: The American Society of Clinical Hypnosis. The largest organization in the United States for health- and mental-health-care professionals using clinical hypnosis. Call 630/980-4740 or visit online at The American Psychotherapy & Medical Hypnosis Association, The association certifies medical providers who have completed a six- to eight-week training course. Online at

COPYRIGHT 2004 Meredith Corporation COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group

Finding Spiritual Peace by Jim Duncan

Finding Spiritual Peace

“trying too hard too hard to be spiritual is an expression of fear…thinking too much about interior peace, destroys interior peace. The patient who constantly checks his pulse, is not doing anything to get better.”

WORKING at something just draws attention to when we fall short of whatever it is we THINK the outcome should be, rather than enjoying what the reality of our successes.

Finding well-being, peace of mind or inner spirituality is not so much a path of process as many people think. It is just a path. And simply BEING on that path, enjoying the adventures of it, and learning, appreciating and adjusting what you need for THIS MOMENT is what allows someone to just BE on that path.

“Spiritual Enlightenment” is not so much a goal as it is an opportunity to take advantage of for our forward movement in life. So many people hold the belief that it takes a lifetime of whatever process to become “enlightened”, when in fact, it is the child who has done nothing, that is the enlightened one. They have not developed the limiting misperceptions yet to give weight to unimportant things or goals that are just facades for ego or fear.

So, try this reframing concept on YOUR path. From this moment forward, finish using the idea of “trying to find” spiritual peace. There really is no such thing as TRYING there is either doing or not doing. Trying is a meaningless word unless it is used to describe something being difficult or challenging. “Finding” too, is misleading to the deeper levels of awareness where our truth is housed, because rarely is the phrase used “I FIND”, which is definitive and in the present moment, but more often “to find”, which always places the goal in the future and Never quite attainable. So look at what we are saying… “In the future is spiritual peace”. Since what we say and think is the reality we create, you can see how this is detrimental to the goal we desire for ourselves.

So the way to begin reframing it is to change the concept to “I embrace opportunities for spiritual peace”. Embracing is universally perceived by humanity as beneficial. Opportunities place the value of the goal on a choice, which is yours to make about taking advantage of what is presented. “for spiritual peace” is forward moving and beneficial in concept, almost like a gift you give yourself.

A great way to move forward is to repeat the well known phrase, EVERY DAY IN EVERY WAY I AM BETTER AND BETTER, 10 times as soon as you wake up in the morning and again 10 times before you go to sleep. That simple phrase repeated on a daily basis can radically transform lives.

Enjoy the path by using the reframing of the “finding” concept and also repeat the “Every day I am better” phrase for 1 month and I can assure you that your experience will be a renewed outlook and spiritual peace of mind.

Many Blessings,

Jim Duncan


Explaining Hypnosis without Understanding it

Explaining Hypnosis without Understanding It

By James W. Duncan, CHt © 2004

How does it work, this hypnosis thing? There are so many ways to attempt to explain the workings of the mind and yet no one really knows how it works. And hypnosis, well that is a whole other thing that is probably never going to be understood. But can we give it an explanation that explains how understanding it can be based on not understanding it? That may be the best way to approach it.

Think for a moment on all the things that happen every day for which we have no knowledge or understanding and yet, they happen just the same. In trying to explain something we could gather the exact information and anecdotal evidence needed to explain it and still not be able to make it clear to those we are hoping to convince. This is often the situation with hypnosis. So, can we step back and explain how we understand that it can’t be understood?

Take for instance the familiar symbol for infinity. When you see it you recognize it as the infinity symbol, but you would be incorrect, technically. That is the layman’s term for what is actually a lemniscate. Okay, so there is a new understanding right there. What difference does that make? Come back to the figure itself and you know that without knowing what its true name was you understand what it represents. What it does… Or do you? What you know, more than likely, is that you have been able to grasp that the symbol represents something that is impossible for human understanding to wrap our minds around in its entirety so we use it instead to represent a lack of complete understanding of the vastness of the concept and that perspective makes it tangible for us. We are accepting what we don’t understand. But this goes further. That figure 8 printed on its side is not just a flat line.

It may seem so after it has been simplified for the limitations of typesetting, but it is in fact a combination of several things; A mobius, which is a two dimensional figure in three dimensions that is further arranged in a specific symmetrical configuration. More specifically the dictionary tells us it is: A curve in the form of the figure 8, with both parts symmetrical, generated by the point in which a tangent to an equilateral hyperbola meets the perpendicular on it drawn from the center. We won’t even go into hyperbolas. You get the idea. Now, bypassing what the lemniscate really represents and going to the figure itself, we have accepted an understanding of a figure limited in exactness by the requirements of print media not really knowing what it truly is in a physical sense. I’m okay with that and I venture to say that most of the population can sleep well at night with this new information. But again we accept what we don’t understand.

At this point you may be asking; what does this have to do with hypnosis and the working of the mind? It is simple really. Hypnosis can be explained by explaining what we don’t know about it and yet we know it is there. Just as we see that infinity symbol on the page and know that we can’t possibly grasp it’s meaning and also know that what we perceive the symbol to be physically in two dimensions is in actuality something completely different.

Still, we see it, recognize it, know it is there without understanding it and ACCEPT it. We accept it… as we should, because it serves the purpose. Hypnosis is there to be accepted and to serve a purpose in helping people achieve well-being. We see it work without complete understanding. In this way the explanation is simple… Infinitely simple.

James Duncan, CHt, PhD(c) is a Life Fellow of the International Medical and Dental Hypnotherapy Association® and Chairman of Mentoring Programs for the IMDHA. He is known worldwide as a dynamic and innovative lecturer and teacher as well as keeping a busy in Private Practice in Royal Oak, Michigan. He can be reached at or by phone at (248) 635-2935 he is on the web at

Entrancing News About Hypnosis

There’s Entrancing News About Hypnosis

It’s gaining credibility as a treatment for a multitude of troubles, from nicotine addiction to post-traumatic stress disorder Hypnosis helped James Williams cut back on his drinking eight years ago. So when he developed a fear of flying after September 11, he again sought hypnotic relief. “I had always thought hypnosis was a stage show kind of thing. But I’ve found it incredibly effective at getting me to focus on what I want to accomplish,” says Williams, 56, a vice-president of Polyonics, a Westmoreland (N.H.) maker of bar-code stickers. Indeed, today he travels by plane without anxiety.

Although still not well understood, hypnosis has gained credibility in the past five years because of research using the latest brain-imaging technology. PET, MRI, and EEG scans show that hypnotized subjects have altered sensory perception — and they’re not just pushovers, play-acting, or highly imaginative, as once thought. Studies show hypnosis can help treat a multitude of disorders from asthma to warts. But it is not a cure-all and can even be dangerous if you go to a practitioner who lacks adequate training.

TUNING THINGS OUT. Hypnosis is a trance like state that arises when your conscious mind takes a backseat to your unconscious, usually induced by relaxing patter. Forget the swinging watches. You’ll more likely be asked to shut your eyes or focus on a fixed object, such as a doorknob. You tune out everything, including your own inhibitions. This makes you highly attentive and open to suggestion. Some people are more susceptible than others. “It’s a blue-eyes, brown-eyes kind of thing,” says Dr. Elliot Wineburg, a neuropsychiatrist at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York. “You’re either born with the ability or you’re not.” Hypnotizability has nothing to do with intelligence or gullibility. But it does correlate to whether you’re the type who gets totally absorbed reading a book or watching a movie. The treatments usually last 30 minutes, and many patients report improvement after just one session. Jennie Lauria, a Queens (N.Y.) lab technician, says she kicked a pack-a-day smoking habit after a single visit with a hypnotherapist. More likely, you’ll have to go three or four times and maybe also get tapes of hypnotic suggestions to play at night before you fall asleep. The suggestions are usually about positive things that will result from stopping a bad habit, such as how good you will feel and look if you lose weight. Your awareness of pain might be dulled by suggestions that you are floating in space in absolute comfort.


PAIN MANAGEMENT. Various brain scans of hypnotized individuals show they actually perceive what they are told is reality even when it clearly is not. A 2000 study in The American Journal of Psychiatry revealed that when hypnotized subjects were told a black-and-white picture was in color, their brain activity was consistent with seeing colors. Other studies indicated brain activity congruent with hearing noises when there were none, or not feeling pain when subjects’ hands were submerged in painfully hot or cold water. It’s not surprising, then, that hypnosis is often used to treat chronic pain and help women give birth without resorting to medication. Researchers at Harvard University have found it diminishes the need for anesthesia during invasive procedures such as angioplasty and breast reconstruction and speeds post-operative healing. Hypnosis may also be effective in treating asthma, irritable-bowel syndrome, dermatitis, warts, hives, hemophilia, nausea associated with chemotherapy or pregnancy, undesirable traits such as smoking or overeating, anxiety, phobias, and post-traumatic stress disorder, says Etzel Cardeña, president of the Society for Clinical & Experimental Hypnosis (SCEH) and professor of psychology at the University of Texas-Pan American in Edinburg. He adds that the effects of hypnotherapy generally are lasting, though some patients might relapse after a period of months or years and require more treatment. The success rate depends on your hypnotizability, motivation, and disorder. For phobias, studies indicate it’s around 50% after one visit. Hypnosis is most effective when used with psychotherapy and other supportive measures. Hypnosis can be disorienting or tap emotions buried in your subconscious. Furthermore,

you are vulnerable in the hypnotic state. For these reasons, it should be practiced by a licensed professional who operates under a recognized code of professional ethics. Look for medical doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists, or social workers who are certified by the SCEH or the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis (ASCH). Referrals are available at, or send an e-mail request to Treatment ranges anywhere from $50 to $300 per hour, depending on who you see. For some diagnoses, your health insurance may pick up the cost.

HYPNOTIC SUGGESTIONS. Hypnosis is only as effective as your therapist’s knowledge of you and your disorder. For example, Williams’ psychologist hypnotherapist recognized that his excessive drinking had a lot to do with job-related stress. Therefore, the hypnotic suggestions Williams received encouraged him not only to stop drinking but also to avoid getting “so worked up about stuff at work,” Williams says. It’s unlikely someone could get you to do anything that goes against your deeply held values while you’re under hypnosis. But if you feel vulnerable, you can ask that a third party be present at the session to keep tabs on the therapist. Although hypnosis can have powerful effects, it probably isn’t anything you haven’t already experienced when you’ve stared off into space. Mt. Sinai’s Wineburg says hypnosis is on the same spectrum, neurologically and experientially, as daydreaming and meditating. With hypnosis, however, there could be a remedy in your reverie. By Kate Murphy

business week online

Doctors Find recovery in Healing Trances

From the Los Angeles Times

Hypnotic reach

Doctors find recovery is aided by helping patients into healing trances.

By Benedict Carey Times Staff Writer January 5, 2004 Hypnosis transports some people beyond serenity and absorption to a state of pure silliness. A solemn voice whispering to relax, breathe deeply and imagine a waterfall can bring to mind high school séances, Ouija boards, Woody Allen routines. Yet the very same technique, the same voice, can move others to climb mountains. After a fall on a climbing expedition that mangled her ankles, Priscilla Morton, a 48-year-old New Orleans social worker and mountaineer, discovered that she was afraid to step off the curb and onto the street, much less climb again. Using a program of hypnosis, she was able to ascend to the 19,347-foot summit of Mt. Cotopaxi in Ecuador. Self-hypnosis “was the only way I could deal with the fear, the cold, the steepness, the exhaustion,” Morton said. Once mainly the province of entertainers, mystics and New Age healers, hypnosis is now gaining a foothold in mainstream medicine. At teaching hospitals such as those at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York and Harvard Medical School, hypnotists work with some surgical patients to help speed recovery. Many of the country’s 1,000 or so certified hypnotherapists now get referrals from physicians on cases ranging from irritable bowel syndrome and heart disease to managing the pain of childbirth and cancer. In some studies, 50% to 70% of people who have tried it say hypnosis has helped them to feel better or heal faster. Such reports have encouraged its use for everything from weight loss to smoking cessation, with varying results. But is the evidence strong enough to justify sessions that can cost $100? Most doctors are skeptical. For every person who learns to manage chronic pain, they say, several others manage only a yawn or a shrug. To earn widespread respect, hypnotherapists are going to have to reach more people, more consistently. “At this point, the therapy is certainly not well accepted by most physicians and surgeons,” said Guy Montgomery, an assistant professor of biobehavioral medicine at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine. The answer may be to teach hypnotizability, or suggestibility, as it’s sometimes called. In more than a dozen studies over the last decade, men and women of various ages

demonstrated they could learn to fall into a hypnotic trance more easily and deeply. “Now the idea is to find what is most effective in getting them there, from a low level of suggestibility to a higher one,” said Steven Lynn, a psychologist at the State University of New York at Binghamton who’s conducting a large federally funded study on the subject. “You do that and you not only increase the number of people who would benefit but also widen the range of its applications.” * The hypnotic state Researchers long thought that suggestibility was a stable trait, like a person’s IQ or leaping ability, that couldn’t be improved on much. Yet there’s little evidence that it’s related to innate gullibility or a person’s imaginative powers. Personality isn’t a deciding factor either; researchers have found no strong relationships between hypnotic suggestibility and traits such as neuroticism, extroversion or intellectual curiosity. Attitude does seem to matter — in particular, skepticism — and for good reason. Since an Austrian physician named Franz Mesmer first popularized the use of trance-like states as a method of treating anxiety and hysteria in the 18th century, the technique has appealed to all variety of charlatans and healers, as well as to Hollywood scriptwriters, who’ve had fun using it to brainwash, possess and otherwise manipulate characters and plot. Movies such as “Whirlpool” (1949), “The Manchurian Candidate” (1962) and almost any Dracula film have defined hypnosis in the public imagination as a form of demonic mind control, and that image itself may undermine people’s hypnotizability. So psychologists trying to teach hypnotic suggestibility often start with a simple explanation of what hypnosis is and what it’s not. Being hypnotized does not turn a person into an automaton or a puppet, for instance; almost always it’s a mundane experience, as familiar as a daydream. The therapist might have a person simply stare at a spot on the wall, for instance, then gradually relax, feeling his or her arms getting lighter and lighter, as if the bones were hollow, say, as if connected to helium balloons. Highly hypnotizable people often are best at demystifying the trance. “You’re not losing control, like in the movies,” said climber Morton, who described her experiences in a recent issue of the American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis. “It’s more like you drift off a little. You’re temporarily distracted by a particular image or lost in thought, like when you drive home from work and arrive without remembering how you got there. It’s a very natural state, the kind we go into all the time, and it helps to think of it that way.” In several studies, research psychologists have found that a straightforward description of the sensations and images that occur during hypnosis can also help skeptics and other trance resistors become more suggestible.


In his ongoing project, Lynn shows volunteers a videotape of highly hypnotizable people explaining their sensations and what they thought about while in a trance. On one video clip, a hypnotist has a subject clasp his hands together and then imagine they’re welded together. The hypnotized man suddenly cannot separate his hands; they’re stuck. “If I stopped imagining and admitted to myself that they could come apart, then of course I could have made them come apart,” he explains afterward on the tape. “But I figured that’s not the point of the suggestion. The point is to get involved in the make-believe, no matter what. So, I just kept imagining that my hands were welded blocks of steel and did this until the suggestion was over.” Using imaging technology, neuroscientists have taken pictures of people’s brains during hypnosis. The snapshots show a decrease of arousal in the cortex, the brain’s manager and planner, and an increase of activity in areas involved in focusing attention. This makes some sense to psychologists who practice and study hypnosis. While in the trance, a person is usually concentrating on bringing to mind some vivid image, which could account for heightened attention. The drop in cortical arousal accompanies a decline in moment-to-moment alertness. In effect, psychologists say, the person is conscious enough to hear and understand suggestions such as “You will feel strong and healthy after surgery” or “You will feel calm and relaxed when taking the test,” without applying his or her usual skepticism or irony. If the suggestions are helpful, the theory goes, they may become a part of the person’s subconscious memory. “This is all happening beneath the level of consciousness, so the suggestions are not something the person has to think about or remember,” said Marc Schoen, a Los Angeles psychologist and assistant clinical professor at the UCLA School of Medicine who has used hypnosis for more than 20 years. * Patient control Like other therapists who specialize in hypnosis, Schoen has treated everything from social anxiety to pain from cancer and cancer treatment. Typically, he works with people once a week for six to eight weeks. When effective, the therapy blunts emotional over-reactions to a particular person, situation or drug side effect, say, that normally would intensify pain, interrupt sleep or otherwise trigger anxiety. With practice, many people learn to do this on their own. In effect, they adapt the therapist’s methods to put themselves into a brief trance, reinforcing suggestions or thoughts they’ve found helpful during a session — self-hypnosis. Schoen may also use traditional cognitive therapy, in which people learn to consciously identify these same emotional triggers, then avoid them altogether (if possible) or calm themselves before getting upset. But when hypnosis is successful, he said, no conscious mental effort is necessary to short-circuit a painful emotional reaction. “It just doesn’t happen; you don’t feel the same fear, the same apprehension,” he said. “In that sense, it’s a form of desensitization.” Henry Polic II, a movie and TV actor in his 50s best known for his work in the 1980s series “Webster,” got a referral to Schoen last summer during treatment for malignant skin cancer. Polic was on a drug and radiation regimen that caused a paralyzing nausea, plus swelling blisters in his mouth so severe that he had trouble speaking and swallowing. While hypnotized, the actor imagined himself in Key West, Fla., at sunset, as he remembered it from a vacation years ago. Meanwhile, Schoen was informing him that the water washing on the sand was clearing his body of illness and relaxing his tissues. It took a few sessions, but the swelling dropped by about half, Polic estimated, and the blisters near the back of his throat disappeared. “Gone, and I mean gone; I could swallow again,” he said. “I have no idea how that happened, but it did.” Nor does anyone else know. Distraction may play an important role, some doctors say. It’s well known, for instance, that the brain can virtually shut down pain signals when preoccupied; many athletes and soldiers have known the surprise of suddenly discovering a cut or wound once the fray is over, well after suffering the injury. If nothing else, those who respond to hypnosis have learned to escape into their imaginations for a time. But there’s more going on, and many psychologists argue that it has to do with the placebo effect, the self-fulfilling belief that a condition has been treated. In 1995, a team of researchers from the University of Connecticut reviewed six weight-loss studies that compared the effect of cognitive therapy — identifying eating triggers and defusing them — with and without hypnosis. About 70% of the overweight people who got hypnosis lost more weight and kept it off longer than those who got only talk therapy. In a 2002 look at 20 studies on hypnosis and surgical pain, Mount Sinai researchers found that adding hypnosis to standard post-surgical care sped recovery almost 90% of the time, in terms of levels of pain, anxiety and the need for painkillers. “The hypnosis seems to change expectations, in the same way that a placebo does,” said Montgomery, an author on both studies, “and this change appears to have a strong effect on what people actually experience.” Montgomery, like other psychologists, is now running a study of hypnosis on people undergoing surgery, in this case breast cancer patients. On the day before surgery, a trained hypnotist puts the patients into a trance for about 15 minutes, telling them that they’ll feel “healthy, full of energy, strong,” after their operations. * The motivation factor There’s reason to believe that even a very short — i.e. relatively inexpensive — approach could lessen a patient’s pain and drug use after surgery, psychologists say. For whatever

their personal views of hypnosis, people awaiting surgery have one thing going for them that many others don’t: motivation. It doesn’t take a psychologist to explain why people going under the knife have tremendous anxiety, not only about the success of the operation but also about complications and recovery. They long for hypnosis to work. “You have to really want to do what the hypnotist is suggesting you do, for obvious reasons,” said psychologist Lynn. His preliminary results suggest that most people on the low end of the suggestibility scale can learn to be two to three times more hypnotizable than before, once they overcome skepticism and resistance to imagining and they establish a rapport with the therapist. For cancer patient Polic, hypnosis has helped make the difference between living in misery and leading an active life, with the luxury of being able to laugh now and then. He doesn’t feel like a million bucks, but his skin isn’t burning and he’s not crippled with nausea. Using CDs of recorded hypnotism sessions, he has learned to put himself into a brief trance when needed, when side effects flare. “I was never a skeptic of hypnosis, but I’m amazed so far at what a difference it has made,” he said. He is due for another round of drug therapy today. On Thursday, he’s scheduled for another hypnosis session. “I’m headed back to Key West.”


Copyright © 2004, The Los Angeles Times

Chronic Pain to Discomfort by Fr. Martin Patton

Recent changes effective last January 1st (2001) are requiring hospitals and doctors to treat pain. New standards require that every patient’s pain be measured regularly from the time they check in and proper pain relief begun. The patients will rate their pain from zero, no pain, to 10, the worst pain imaginable. Physicians will prescribe those pain medications that sometimes help but most often because of the side effects are not tolerated well by the patient or the body develops a tolerance for the drug and it loses its effectiveness. These medications are effective for “Acute Pain” but have little effect on “Chronic Pain.” Medications while helpful are not always the answer. Many of our clients come to us because “It hurts!” “It makes me sick” “It’s still there — that nagging pain!” “I haven’t been able to sleep!” Chronic Pain is universal and long term! Chronic pain itself has become a major illness. The common types of chronic pain that I see in my office have to do with postoperative pain, headaches, back pain and the pain of arthritis.

Chronic pain management requires a comprehensive approach. Physical therapists can give relief by determining the best exercise. Chiropractors and massage therapists may be able to release the nerves and muscles. We as hypnotherapists release the pain by teaching skills of relaxation and stress reduction and behavioral changes. One of the affirmations I give to my clients who have cancer is: “If you continue to do as you have always done, you will always get what you have always got!” They learn to relax and take the world with a little less stress. Any complaint of pain brings a caution. Do not attempt to work on a chronic pain in which the pain may be a symptom of an as yet untreated, medically treatable physical condition. It is highly recommended that you get a doctor’s referral before working on a client. Pain is God’s way of letting us know that there is a problem. Once the cause of the pain is established then it is proper to use clinical applications of hypnotic modalities to release stress, and develop within the patient the ability to dissociate and turn off the pain. As long as the suggestions are acceptable, the patient will freely comply with the hypnotherapist to release or dampen the discomfort until it dissipates completely.

Postoperative pain can be the most severe and the pain just can’t be controlled by medications. The most common is the pain caused by the use of staples or glue to close the operation. After the pain becomes apparent, it makes no sense for the surgeon to go in and redo it, so the patient must learn to tolerate the chronic pain. Actually in my classes for cancer patients I tell them to ask the doctor not to use staples to close and if they can’t do that, could he bring in a plastic surgeon to close. Now you know the doctor will never ask another doctor to close his operation but he will do the nicest close you have ever seen. But, as you are aware we don’t usually get the clients before the surgery! The scar left by surgery is usually not lined up with the severed nerves and there is usually a pucker. The staples allow the scar to widen. And on some women the scars on knees and on the body embarrass them and cause self-consciousness. In Therapeutic Touch and Body Talk there are methods to reduce the appearance of the scars even if they are old. To control the pain you need to soften the area around the scar, making it soft and supple.

Body/Mind Connection by Anne Spencer




by Anne H. Spencer, Ph.D.

Lilly Tomlin once said, “When I speak to God, they call it prayer. When God speaks to me, they call it schizophrenia!”

A decade ago when I told clients that we could talk to their immune cells and make a change for the better, their doctors thought I was schizophrenic. Times have changed. Now mainstream America is fully aware that traditional medicine is not the only answer. Alapathic medicine is one of perhaps several solutions to a current medical challenge.


Every day in the popular press, (newspapers, magazines, radio and TV), we are hearing of amazing results when alternative therapies are used to heal. It seems that all of these therapies have one common ingredient. It is: The patient wants to get better and is willing to go along with the new protocol, having hope and faith that it will bring a better quality of life. Some call this self-hypnosis at its best! I would agree.

When a form of hypnosis is used with the healing prescription there are positive results. Hypnosis is given many names these days. They are: relaxation response, stress reduction imagery, mental imagery, guided meditation, visual prayer, guided prayer, trance, visualization, imagery, journeying, safe place imagery, becoming centered, the list goes on… It matters not the name, as long as the desired results are achieved.

Because of all the positive results that have been achieved through alternative medicine the National Institutes of Health have created an Office of Alternative Medicine. Larry Dossey, MD is an internal medicine physician and co-chairman of the Panel on Mind/Body Interventions of the NIH Office of Alternative Medicine. He says that they are gearing up to do research into alternative therapies that up until recently have been considered “fringe” and unorthodox. Areas of study will include meditation, biofeedback, psychotherapy, hypnosis, prayer, distant or psychic healing, art, music, and dance, to name a few. Senator Harkin head of the Senate Appropriations Committee which controls the purse strings of the NIH issued the following mandate.

“The committee is not satisfied that the conventional medical community as symbolized by NIH has fully explored the potential that exists in unconventional medical practices…In order to more adequately explore these unconventional medical practices the committee requests that NIH establish within the office of the director an office to fully investigate and validate these practices. The committee further directs that the NIH convene and establish an advisory panel

to screen and select the procedures for investigation and to recommend a research program to fully test the most promising unconventional medical practices.”

Dossey adds: “It is crucial that lay persons realize that the NIH Office of Alternative Medicine was created not by developments from within medicine but by pressures from outside the profession.


This means your efforts can have a major impact. Write your senators and representatives. Key points you should make: * Educate them. Many have never heard of the new NIH Office of Alternative Medicine (OAM). * Urge them to support funding for the NIH-OAM. Without it, these developments will die on the vine. * Ask them to take a serious look at the formal report due out from the Office. It will document the scientific evidence underlying many alternative therapies. * Above all, point out that many alternative methods not only work and are extremely safe, they are cost effective as well. In this era of escalating health care cost, cost effectiveness is a compelling argument in favor of alternative medicine.”

May I add, that as a hypnotherapists it is imperative for you to be in close contact with your state and national elected officials. They are your servants, you elected them, you have a profession that is fast being recognized for its benefits to medicine. Now is the time to make your voice heard. If you wait, some other profession will take up the banner and you’ll be left on the sideline wondering why.

Larry Dossey, M.D. is on the honorary board of the International Medical and Dental Hypnotherapy Association. As we have talked he assures me that Hypnosis is being carefully studied and documented for its place in the Alternative Protocols. A door marked HYPNOTHERAPIST in every health care facility worldwide is now more than a dream. It is well on its way to becoming a reality. It will require well trained professionals in the art and science of Hypnosis. I expect that many of you will be among those who will staff these facilities. It is part of the aim of the International Medical and Dental Hypnotherapy Association to be the source of recruitment for these health care providers.