Andrea was a 32 year old professional woman who was referred to me by her primary physician. She had back surgery one year ago to free up a restricted nerve which was causing her a lot of discomfort. Her surgery was successful although she continued to have pain. Although her pain was less than before but she said it still interfered with her sleep and limited her extremely active lifestyle.
Andrea described her job as constant motion; she was a sales rep and did a lot of traveling and was on call 24/7. The financial rewards were enormous but over the last few years she liked it less. Further into our initial conversation I learned that Andrea was brought up in an athletic family; her father was a high school track coach who instilled his militaristic views on fitness to his family. When she wasn’t working she was a long distance competitive runner. In addition to all of this stress, she recently went through a divorce.
We talked a lot about her lifestyle, the surgery and how things are marginally better now compared to before surgery. I then asked her if she was happy. She didn’t understand what that would have to do with the pain so I explained that what we think about most on a day-to-day basis has a significant affect on how we feel physically, emotionally and even the types of situations we attract into our lives. I also added that apparently there was a physical component to her pain which surgery seemed to improve but that there also could be an emotional component still in need of attention.
I told her about a sixteen year old boy, Jeff (not his real name), who had come to me for IBS. He was not progressing as well as I thought he should, so during a session I asked him to look forward in time and see himself free of IBS, after the session he said he couldn’t envision such a scenario. He said everyone knew him as the kid battling IBS. He said it was part of who he was.
In a subsequent session in which we dialoged back and forth I asked him if the healthy Jeff would be able to help the IBS Jeff through this transition, to which he agreed. I then asked IBS Jeff if he thought it was a good idea to take a rest and let healthy Jeff lead the way, which also got a positive response. This is called parts therapy and can be an extremely powerful tool to free up inner conflict creating resolution, freedom and relief. After this session Jeff quickly began experience relief from his IBS symptoms.
Andrea was intrigued and excited to pursue hypnosis. In her first session I helped her learn how to deeply relax and to also stimulate the flow of endorphins which can be extremely comforting. When she came back in two weeks for her next session she was smiling and experiencing some relief but still had some discomfort. She agreed to try dialoging during this session as had I described doing with Jeff.
In hypnosis, I asked Andrea what she thought the source of her remaining discomfort might and she was quick to respond. She said she hated her job and always had. Her father had a sales job and he pushed her into doing the same. She also hated running and maintaining her family’s ridiculous fitness standards. I asked her what changes she might make that could help her with her discomfort and she said her first move was to search out a job that she was passionate about and also starting to listen to her body more rather than punishing it with endless exercise. She also said that because hypnosis has brought her such clarity she would continue practicing self-hypnosis.
At the conclusion of the session Andrea was very emotional. She had been driven for so long by values she couldn’t live with and to experience such immediate and complete freedom from the weight of such a burden can be an amazing experience. So many times I see clients who think they know what their problem is only to learn it was something completely different.
Andrea came back for a couple of more visits. Her pain was gone and she was excited about her future. She, of course, still wasn’t sure what path she might take but she certainly knew that positive healthy change was coming and was very open to consider all possibilities.
By: Paul Gustafson RN CH