Hypnosis remains a fascinating topic, related to mental magic or special powers or altered states of consciousness. There are still many ways of understanding what goes on in traditional clinical hypnosis, but people who have allowed themselves to experience hypnosis know that it seems different from ordinary daily living. Part of what happens is related to the very human ability to cooperate and communicate and to be absorbed intensely in a single topic. Also to have beliefs and expectations.
Recently I have been talking with smokers, vapers, hookah users, and others who are concerned about being more vulnerable to SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) coronavirus and who want to stop or at least reduce damaging their respiratory tract (and the immune system) so they can better survive the virus. This makes sense, although I don’t have data to show to you. I began thinking back to times I was using and teaching hypnosis more regularly. Dr. Herbert Spiegel had developed a logical narrative that he used in trance states that engaged the patient with the following three thoughts: “I need my body to live”, “Smoking is a poison to my body”, and “I owe my body respect and protection.” He would then expand these ideas with images such as feeding your favorite pet and then noticing that the box of food had a warning label: This Food May Cause Cancer In Your Pet.
I have recently suggested to a smoker that she think about her two lungs as if they were two innocents, two children, who were pleading with her: “Please, please don’t shove any more of that stuff onto me…it makes me sick… I deserve a better chance…why are you hurting me like this?” I reminded her that her lungs could not read the cigarette package, that they depended on her to take care of them. And suggested she think deeply about this scenario (and practice it) as a way of getting control and protecting herself.
The above is one way of approaching a self-hypnotic state, using emotional imagery. Therapists often teach people how to use self-hypnosis, scheduling 2 or 3 brief sessions daily. For example, they might sit in a comfortable chair in a quiet place. They gradually close their eyes and slowly repeat a phrase, such as “My lungs can’t read the warning. They don’t want to be suffocated and damaged.” Feeling strong and appropriate protective emotions is recommended.
* I like the book Trancework by Michael Yapko, which is really a textbook. Herbert Spiegel and David Spiegel wrote Trance and Treatment.