The word ‘hypnotism’ used to scare me. My mom taught us to avoid it, though I never understood the reasons behind the warning. I certainly didn’t want someone else taking control of my mind.
I recently discovered hypnotherapy for myself. After several appointments with Sandy Drenner, a hypnotist and Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) practitioner in Orlando, I can tell you firsthand there is nothing to fear. She helped me process some self-esteem issues and also helped me to form new beliefs about how I define success.
And when I discovered hypnotism can benefit mesothelioma patients and their friends and family, I knew it was time to learn even more about it. So I spoke with Drenner at length about the topic. I hope you enjoy the conversation as much as I did.
The Hidden Wonders of Hypnotism
Q: How can hypnotherapy be useful for patients with mesothelioma and their loved ones?
A: Clinical/Medical Support Hypnotherapy can provide support physically and emotionally. Clients can be taught how to calm the body using self-hypnosis, how to manage the effects of pain, allowing the body more physical comfort. Hypnosis can also prepare clients for upcoming medical tests and surgery, allowing the body to be calmer and receive treatment.
I have been privileged to work with people with cancer. I find hypnosis a great adjunct to medical treatment. It is designed to complement what the physicians are doing and thus create the best environment for the body to heal.
For patients and loved ones, it can be a very therapeutic way to process emotions and even grow spiritually if desired. And for all of us, it can aide in accepting the transitory nature of this life that all of us move on or transition to another place.
Q: We’ve talked about “hypnotism” as a word that some people, myself included, have an adverse reaction to. Can you describe what it is?
A: You are correct in that statement. Many people imagine a wide-eyed man saying, “Look into my eyes,” or “Stare at this watch.” One of my biggest challenges as a hypnotist is debunking some of the myths.
First, hypnosis is a natural state where selective thinking is maintained. Athletes call it being in the zone. If you watch sports, and watch the eyes in particular, you can begin to spot when that happens.
If you have ever been driving home, and lost in thought, that is another form of trance. You stopped at the red light, turned left and smoothly drove into your driveway, but you really don’t remember the drive. During this time, there was communication and synergy between the conscious and subconscious mind, and in effect, your subconscious said, “I know the way home, just think about that thing.”
In formal hypnosis, we are able to develop the same communication, and this allows for greater and many times faster change, lasting change.
Q: What are some of the myths associated with hypnotherapy?
Myth: In hypnosis, you lose control; people make you do something.
Truth: The ego is always present, and that means you will never do anything you are morally opposed to.
Myth: You can get stuck in hypnosis.
Truth: You cannot get stuck in hypnosis. It is a natural state that you will easily come out of. If you listen to a recording and fall asleep, you will wake up feeling very refreshed.
Myth: Hypnosis is a truth serum.
Truth: Actually, not at all. Remember the ego is always present. People can lie in hypnosis if they want to. This is why trust is so important between the hypnotist and client.
Q: I like to describe hypnotherapy as “working on the subconscious.” Is this accurate? Why or why not?
A: I prefer to say that hypnosis is working with the subconscious. All of your beliefs and memories are stored in the subconscious. And your memories and beliefs affect your habits and how you feel about yourself. Not just spiritual but every belief.
That means if you began believing at a very young age that clowns are very scary, you might be in my chair at age 62 asking for help so you can go to your grandchild’s birthday party! We can let go and adopt a new belief using hypnosis.
And on a more serious note, if you begin believing that you are no good or a failure, you will act upon that belief in negative ways. Hypnosis allows you the freedom to adopt a new belief.
Q: What drew you to this field?
A. Like many people, hypnotherapy was unknown to me and I was not sure if it was real. But, as is so often the case, life intervened. One day I found myself outside at a national sales meeting. To me, it was oppressively hot that day, and I began to sweat profusely and my heart began pounding. All I could think about was I needed to find an air-conditioned room ASAP! It was the closest thing to a panic attack I have experienced.
To help calm me down, my vice president began telling me a story of how she discovered hypnosis and the many benefits of hypnosis. She ended the discussion with, “You should buy a book and try it.”
So when I returned home, I did just that. As I followed the instructions and learned how to practice self-hypnosis, my sleep corrected immediately as did other personal issues. As I grew more proficient in self-hypnosis, relaxing the body and the mind, I then learned how to target areas I desired to change.
As my husband was finishing his degree in mental health counseling, I seized the opportunity and formally studied hypnotherapy. It was a radical step. Hypnosis is an unregulated field, and I wanted to train intensively.
I chose a school that not only taught, but then had coaches on-site as we broke up in groups to hone our skills. I have experienced every therapy I do with people, which is important for me as a professional.
I moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, for two months and studied hypnotherapy, advanced hypnotherapy, clinical/medical support hypnotherapy and also received a certification in blissborn, a therapy for comfortable childbirth using hypnosis.
The following year, I studied NLP, and have three certifications in this. Most recently, I studied inner mind sourcing, which is a blend of hypnotherapy and NLP. I have close to 2,000 hours of training.
Q. Talk about what a hypnosis appointment is like. Is the client hypnotized the whole time? Will they remember it? And how long is a session?
A. You should expect to fill out paperwork and then have an interview process to determine what your goal is and what your expectations are. For instance, some people may want to cut down on alcohol consumption. We would need to determine exactly what that means. It could be one drink a year or three drinks at dinner.
Hypnosis is usually induced the first session. Expect to be invited to get in a comfortable position, many use a recliner, and to direct your focus at relaxation. There are many ways to enter into hypnosis; you may be directed to stare at a spot on the wall while the hypnotist guides your thoughts into relaxation and then move to achieving your goal, or something similar.
Just like when you daydream, you are aware of sounds around you but usually don’t care much; that is what typically happens in hypnosis. Most people remember much, if not all, of what is said. If you are nervous about this, you can request to record the session.
Depending on the type of issue being resolved, a session can last from 60 to 90 minutes.
Q. How can patients and their families find a trustworthy hypnotherapist in their area?
A. First, I would do a search for ‘hypnosis associations’ online. For instance, I am a member of the International Medical and Dental Hypnotherapy Association (IMDHA). On this site, it lists hypnotists and their focus. There are several associations, and some are naturally more active in the area of the country they are located.
Seek Out Resources, Recommendations from Other Cancer Patients
Look for clinical or medical support training in a hypnotist. This training is focused on assisting clients with medical issues. Some hypnotists focus on primarily one thing, such as smoking cessation, so you want a hypnotist with your needed focus. If you are currently seeing a licensed counselor, ask if they have a certification in hypnosis. If so, ask if they have training in medical support hypnotherapy.
Don’t forget to ask others in similar situations if they have sought a hypnotherapist and ask about their experiences.
Finally, let me say, you, the readers, are my heroes. You are learning to navigate a very challenging time in life. My prayer is that you find the support and care you so richly desire.