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Hypnotherapy and the Release of Past Traumas

Updated: Jan 12, 2022

While working with clients suffering from emotional, mental and often physical symptoms of trauma, using regression therapy, one needs to be always careful to avoid re-traumatizing the individual. That does not mean, however, avoiding re-experiencing the past events fully. In the therapeutic process of deep healing, release of past traumas and subsequent transformation, there are few very important elements:

  1. The energetic somatic release of the painful emotions, which in turn releases the shock and body armoring embedded in the person's musculature and nervous system.

  2. Containment of the process and of the client’s energy. Creating and maintaining a safe space while the hypnotic trance is induced, managed, and terminated, all in a particular, orderly way. I titrate the emotions through the extinguishing process. I assist the clients in creating a safe inner state with anchors that they can always return to and use as a refuge from overwhelm. Ego strengthening process begins before the therapeutic part of the session, and continues throughout the journey, with corrective experiences of self-empowerment. There is an agreed upon signal to use if the client wishes to interrupt the process or take an intermission. To speed up and deepen the healing, I insert a key word during the first treatment (chosen by the client), allowing me to access the subconscious mind of an individual faster during consecutive sessions and avoid long inductions.

  3. The corrective experience. Regardless if the client is tapping into their childhood (bringing forth often unconscious memories) or experiencing other life's all-together, they abreact feelings surfacing in the adult version of themselves (present self) to express for the previous self what they could not express at the time of the trauma, thus overcoming inhibitions. Their experience is legitimized and validated, even if the memory is apparent. Clients learn to attribute the abusive behavior to the abuser, not accepting blame themselves, and to discriminate between self-identity and introjected qualities taken on from others. They reconnect memories and emotions to events, giving meaning to past events that were experienced as bewildering. Ultimately, the aim of therapy is to leave the dualistic perspective all-together, not to perpetuate a victim - abuser dialectic in the client's mental and behavioral patterns. New neurological pathways replace old once, enabling a person to experience a sustainable sense of wellbeing and peace.

Louis Cozolino (The Neuroscience of Psychotherapy, 2002, p. 27) has a number of suggestions for how to facilitate neural integration in psychotherapy. He proposes that neural growth and integration in psychotherapy may be enhanced by:

  1. The establishment of a safe and trusting relationship. Without feeling safe, no client is going to risk the vulnerability of working to heal trauma.

  2. Gaining new information and experiences across the domains of cognition, emotion, sensation, and behavior. This means that we need to address all the ways individuals process information. Some people are visual, some are auditory, some kinesthetic. In facilitating a session, we obviously don’t want to expect a non-visual person to “see” or a non-kinesthetic person to “feel”. We emphasize the narrative of experience with someone who does best with verbal language, while we utilize the physical with someone who does best with ‘hands on’ experience. Some people relate literally, others to symbolic or poetic metaphor.

  3. The simultaneous or alternating activation of neural networks that are inadequately integrated or dissociated.This aspect is crucial for effective healing. Cozolino (p. 46) states that “all forms of therapy are targeting dissociated neural networks for integration.” We engage the person as they were at the time of the trauma, which means some of their processing was not functioning properly. In a moment of trauma, the hippocampus goes offline. It is the brain structure instrumental in the synthesis of experiences which provides a conscious structure, context and a time stamp to the experience in the process of memory encoding. In traumatic states, Broca’s area, a circuit of interaction with other brain areas that plays a vital role in the production of language, located in the left hemisphere, may be inactive. So trauma resolution involves re-experiencing the events with corrections, so that the hippocampus can understand context (that particular man/woman/, but not all men/woman are abusive) and time-stamp the experience (prevent a memory in the past from seeming to float in time and invading the present). We want to encourage the person to speak her/his truth and verbalize her/his feelings in order to activate the Broca’s area of their brain during a re-living of traumatic events. Here we are activating both the fear circuits and language circuits in ways that enable clients to reorganize their damaged neural connections.

  4. Moderate levels of stress or emotional arousal alternating with periods of calm and safety. We all have limits to how much intensity we can tolerate, and when we have reached that threshold, it is time to take a break. We ‘take a break’ by treating shock, allowing quiet time for reflection, helping the client find internal resources, nurturing the client with external resources, and attending to his/her overstimulation. We ‘take a pause' so that we can then return to disturbing material when affective regulation is under better control, and there is more capacity for an integrated brain response. Psychoanalyst Fred Pine calls this “striking while the iron is cold” because it delays the intervention from a moment when the conflictual issues are bubbling over and the client is not able to handle it (Developmental Theory and Clinical Process, 1985, p. 153). The therapist must be careful, however, not to delay “striking while the iron is hot” (when the timing is right for the issue to be confronted) as a rescue of the client who doesn’t need rescuing or as a means of avoiding therapeutic work that is personally challenging for the therapist.

  5. The integration of conceptual knowledge with emotional and bodily experience through narratives that are co-constructed with the therapist. The fifth item on Cozolino’s list means that we must reach our clients in their physical and emotional experience, as well as their mental or cognitive understanding. Talk therapy alone is not sufficient to heal trauma. The memories are carried deep in the unconscious, embedded in the body, recording “fears set down at a young age in the amygdala, the one part of the brain that never forgets. That's why therapy is seldom successfully done in a session or two, and is never simply a matter of ‘explaining’ to people how their thinking process is effecting them, or how counterproductive their behavior” may be (Mary Sykes Wylie & Richard Simon, Psychotherapy Networker, Sep/Oct 2002, "Discoveries from the Black Box: How the Neuroscience Revolution Can Change Your Practice").

Attached is a recording from a successful regression therapy session, in which all the elements are present.

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