I failed at hypnosis

posted in: Hypnosis | 1

A columnist called Christine Jackman from the Brisbane Times in Australia described her experience with hypnosis in a recent article.

I don’t know the whole story and can only judge from the description given by the columnist.

Christine went to see a hypnotherapist because of insomnia problems. She said she “had been trying hypnosis to address my chronic insomnia, which my doctor had theorised was caused by me being an inveterate people-pleaser who worried too much about failure.”

And while the hypnotherapist promised her that she would be “simply drifting in a pleasant, dream-like state” during the session, apparently, Christine said she “sat with my eyes closed for a long time and wondered why my left knee was itching so intensely. But as an inveterate people-pleaser, I felt this was my failure.”

After the third session, the therapist asked her “What are you frightened of?” In her mind (I believe), Christine answered that “That the throw rug you have in this armchair is infested with lice”. “Then we had what in therapy circles is called a “breakthrough moment”. The therapist heaved a heavy sigh, laced with irritation. “You’re really not committing to this, are you?”

Christine left to never come back and most likely will be one of those “victims of hypnosis” that speak badly about it, believing, it didn’t work for them, and may be even belittling it.

Which is sad!! Because apparently, many things went wrong!

Let’s go through it step by step:

  • Christine expected something special would happen. Something that would miraculously make her insomnia go away. May be in her mind she thought, that hypnosis is something that is being done to her.
  • Related to this she didn’t know ad may be the hypnotherapist didn’t explain it in all its details that all hypnosis is self-hypnosis. That means that the hypnotist does not have the power to initiate hypnosis. It is the client that needs to be willing to initiate the process, and follow instructions. And avoid the self-talk and the inner chattering.
  • Now it gets interesting here and at that point. You see, Christine came to see the hypnotherapist for insomnia. She attributes it to being a people-pleaser who worries too much about failure.  I will talk about this in a moment but it is clear (to me) that someone who worries and suffers from insomnia isn’t able to quiet the mind. There is a lot of self-talk ongoing. It is the job of the hypnotherapist to address this. If a client like Christine has lots of self-talk and is then asked to relax ….. to planets crash. It is a contradiction to each other. Christine came to learn how to relax, and apparently never was given that chance. It is here, I believe, where things really go wrong in the relation between the two
  • To avoid the worry and self-talk part, the hypnotherapist needs to pace the clients’ experience. The hypnotherapist cannot simply ask the client to relax. The client who worries and experiences insomnia most likely is with the hypnotherapist because the client hasn’t learned to relax. If Christine would have been able to relax, she wouldn’t need to see a hypnotherapist. But the hypnotherapist didn’t get that and most likely only wanted her to relax (I believe!). Ultimately, the hypnotherapist should have become Christine’s inner voice and guide her to a different outcome.
  • Christine states that she terminated the therapy after 3 sessions and this feels rushed, even so I don’t know how long each session was. I wonder, if there was a sufficiently long pretalk by the hypnotherapist about hypnosis, and about the possible experience that the client can expect during a hypnotic session. Hypnosis can be a fasttrack solution but I am not of the opinion that it should be rushed. Rushing is what causes a session to fail because may be the hypnotherapist believes that it should be rushed, which leads me to the next point.
  • I personally only start my therapeutic sessions with a client only after a detailed exploration of the symptoms and the respective belief system of the client to uncover what really causes the symptom. What causes the worry, the insomnia, where is it coming from, what are the benefits, and the historical roots. What are the current circumstances that Christine experiences, that contribute to the insomnia? Christine mentions that she is a people-pleaser, and that this causes her to worry about possible failure ultimately leading to insomnia. Sounds like a chain of symptoms that really go beyond insomnia only.
  • I loved it when Christine says that the hypnotherapist stated: “You are not really committed to this.” It is one of the favourite things someone can say – “hey, you don’t want to change because consciously or unconsciously, you sabotage yourself!” Yeah – it is possible but it is the job of the hypnotherapist to explore this possible reason. And then address it. Not to blame the client, when things don’t go right.
  • All in all, there was a total break of rapport and communications breakdown. In NLP, we believe that the outcome of the communication is the result you get. Well, both had some responsibility in the overall session’s outcome but as a hypnotherapist who works with clients who are already hypnotised by their problem, the hypnotherapist has the job to lay the foundation for change. For however long it takes. Even Milton Erickson, so often quoted in the NLP and Hypnosis Segment of the society, didn’t solve all his cases in one hour only. He took his time, and sometimes a long time. But he became so successful because he really cared for his clients.

So, here we are now, with my little analysis. I hope it is helpful and I believe, that there is so much more to say.






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