Spirituality can be defined as a feeling or sense that there is something greater than oneself. It can encompass faith in a guiding entity or be evoked by being in an awesome natural environment, entering an ornate lobby, or listening to inspiring music. Becoming aware of the great power of the subconscious mind through hypnosis, as described in last week’s blog, usually leads to enhanced spiritual understanding.
A spiritual understanding can lead to healing by helping patients put things into perspective. For example, a child who is anxious about an upcoming important athletic event might be asked to consider in hypnosis if the results of this competition would be of importance in 5 years. A “no” answer can help calm the child.
In the case of a child who is grieving for the loss of a pet or even a relative, hypnosis can be used to help the child cope better. I have coached such children to use hypnosis to imagine inviting their loved one to a safe, comfortable place, and to interact with them there. Following such experiences, children report feeling much better and appear to be further along their grief process.
Some children have to deal with their own mortality as a result of a life-threatening disease. In this case, hypnosis can be used as a way of helping them cope with their fears about death or suffering. Some children explore in hypnosis what might occur after they die, while others gain relief by achieving an understanding that they have the inner strength to cope with their suffering, and that it will only be short-lived.
To help children with chronic illness to put things in perspective, I often ask them, “Suppose you had the opportunity to trade in your disease for good health. But in exchange you would have to give up all you have gained from your illness, such as the show of love from your family members, the friends you met as the result of your disease, and the wisdom you have gained from your experiences. Would you make the trade?” Most of the children answer “No,” including those who are in the process of dying. The implication of this answer is that the children are learning to embrace their illness and thus be more at peace with it.
I believe that a state of hypnosis is similar to the state that can be evoked by a religious ritual including prayer, in that individuals using hypnosis can open themselves to connect with something beyond themselves. For this reason, sometimes I coach patients to use hypnosis to direct loving kindness thoughts towards someone whom they would like to help.
Perhaps counterintuitively, I often suggest that such a loving kindness approach be utilized in dealing with difficult situations. For example, on one occasion, a girl told me that her former best friend had not talked to her for half a year. I suggested that she use hypnosis to send positive thoughts to this friend, including that she should be healthy, happy, calm, and at ease. Within two days her friend texted her, and their relationship was reestablished. In another case, a boy used this approach to deal with a teacher he felt was mean to him. He reported that within a few days the teacher became very nice towards him.
Many older teenagers grapple with questions regarding the meaning of their lives. Such struggles sometimes lead to development of anxiety or depression. Exploring this question with the subconscious of many of my patients has yielded some fascinating answers. Some of these include that the purpose of life is different for each individual, and it is up to each person to define their own meaning. Many subconsciouses have endorsed that the purpose of life is to help each other, and that different people use different tools with which to help such as the written word, music, art, acting, counseling, healing, building, or donating.
The subconscious often states that it knows patients’ futures, but does not want to reveal it. A reason for this is that if a patient knows what is going to happen it might alter what he or she does in the present, which may be harmful. For example, if a patient knows that she will become a physician, she may choose not to explore fields that do not seem to be related to medicine, and yet could be very helpful in making her a better-rounded individual, who would be better poised to help patients from different backgrounds.
Hypnosis can be used to tap into a spiritual state of mind that can help in the healing process, as well as help address and cope better with stress-inducing existential questions.
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