Hypnosis and Emotional Trauma

What do people do who have been hurt long ago in their past and believe that they cannot tell anyone or terrible things will happen?  They don’t talk about it and if possible, they never even think about it.  The price for those decisions is very high.  Rewards that they want in life, escape or avoid them.  Normal expectations such as a career, marriage or a family become unreachable or unsustainable.  Sadly, all that is happening without the intention of the person. That is the result of Negative Hypnosis, a powerful suggestion that places fear in the way of ever finding a way out from under that memory.
In almost every culture the issues of shame and guilt are too often filled with rejection and painful emotional and even physical consequences.  Denial seems to be the main rule in coping with the event both for the participants and for their social group.  The social group may be as small as the persons who hold the memory and their perception of how their story will be received by others near their primary group.  It may include the entire society the person belongs in or wishes to belong to. Traumas in the areas of abuse are particularly troublesome.  Abuse that is physical such as a beating can often be healed with time.  Physical wounds eventually will close and may not even leave visible scars.  Emotional wounds, on the other hand,  can last longer and in some cases, may never heal if they are kept secret.  Look at the difficulty in reporting and proving incest and rape against children and women. The same can be said for soldiers, both male and female, who have gone to war and witnessed or participated in events that boggle the imagination of tranquil-living civilians.  What is considered nightmarish and terrorizing in peacetime living, can be an everyday occurrence in cases of war or ongoing terror and fear.  What can be done for these people?
We have been hypnotized into believing that their story does not deserve telling and that to tell it is to bring shame on themselves and even on one’s family and society.  In my life career in psychiatric nursing and most recently as a hypnotist, I have come to believe that secrecy in the service of horrible memories does not serve their holders well.  Memories have a way of magnifying themselves if left unchecked.  Our defenses act as editors or filters that can screen out vital parts of the information that is necessary for the holder to find reconciliation, comfort or wisdom in their survival of the experience. This Negative Hypnosis can be reversed with Hypnosis therapy.
John was a soldier on his third combat tour in Viet Nam during some of its worst fighting.  He had come through unscathed and had become a sargent who had gained a reputation among the other infantrymen as an expert in matters of combat.  If one had to go on a patrol or mission, this was the non-commissioned officer (Non-Com) to be led by.  His men always came back safe.  On this one day, things would be different.  John was ordered to lead a patrol into a new area and probe it.  Only light enemy activity was expected.  Instead John led his men into a clearing that was an ambush site.  He was wounded and the only survivor.  He escaped death by pulling a corpse over himself and then listening, motionless, as the enemy came through to finish killing the wounded Americans; his men that he vowed to keep safe.  The intelligence reports were wrong and when John healed and returned to duty, he learned that there was suspicion that the enemy had more strength and his patrol was expected to take high casualties if that were the case.  He was never told in his pre-patrol briefing.  He was angry with the intelligence agents but angrier with himself because he did not see through the officers’ plot.  He assumed the blame for the deaths of his men.
John returned home, honorably discharged with medals for his valor.  He tried marriage and it failed because of his short temper; a symptom of his post traumatic stress.  Similar experiences followed as this likable and intelligent man tried to apply himself to civilian work.  Always the memories and flashbacks of that fateful day would seize control of his mood and ability to concentrate on his work.  He became more aloof from his workmates and his bosses.  He began drinking and taking drugs to try to control the emotional pain.  As depression set in and his addiction blossomed, he began to care less and less about his work or even his future.
It took 25 years to convert John from a handsome, very intelligent and dynamic leader into a man of the streets who could unleash his temper without care of consequences.  It took 25 years for this wrecked human being with so much promise in his youth to arrive for treatment in the Veterans Administration hospital on my unit.  Shortly after that admission, he became diagnosed with HIV infection and within the year would die of AIDS.  No one knew the story of John’s patrol until he had a flashback and was reliving the event of the fight.  It had taken months of knowing John and building trust and being with him alone through that terrible flashback to get him to tell me his story.  By then, he was regarded by the staff as a manipulator and street trash and no one questioned how this boy, raised in a proper Hispanic family evolved into the personality of a cunning cat.  No one could bring themselves to visualize or imagine themselves having his experience in war.  No one really wanted to go there to find within themselves, the road to compassion for this and many others.  There were 47 veterans at any given time on that unit and most had similar stories of killing and of watching death and of being so terrified that they lost sphincter control.  All of those stories were garnished with feelings of shame or guilt.  The code among the men was to keep the stories private and never again speak of them except, with rare occasion, to other combat veterans who could understand but tended to support their self imposed secrecy codes.
These men did not qualify for treatment of the newly designated Diagnostic Code for Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, ironically, another byproduct of the Viet Nam War.
The interesting thing about the majority of the men was that they reported telling no one about their war experiences except other war veterans and then, only if they were considered very intimate and trusted friends.  For a quarter of a century, these people, who had started out in mostly good moral families, far removed from violent lives, were harboring the secret feelings about their experiences and the nightmares and flashbacks that would follow.  In their minds and hearts these veterans had come to be hypnotized into believing that the things that they had seen or done in war were so incomprehensibly terrible that no one would be able to understand.  In many cases they even feared for the safety of anyone who would share in that knowledge.  They had withdrawn into a very tightly bounded world created out of belief systems that prevented entry by outsiders…. except in very special circumstances.  That is the basis for negative hypnosis: a belief that is self limiting and often self defeating or dangerous to the holder.  Positive Hypnosis Therapy can help to reverse that negative thinking.
The key to changing negative hypnosis in an indivdual or group is to get permission to explore the dynamics of the belief.  “Is that really the whole truth?”   Once permission is granted, then one can begin to explore the exceptions to the rule. Without that permission the holder of the belief is trapped into dedicating valuable energy into maintaining and nurturing the destructive belief system.  The remedy lies in the application of positive hypnosis to cause a shift in the energy needed to supply life to the negtive belief or lie.
Positive oriented hypnosis allows a person to have access to the entire subconscious file of an event.  Rules of morality or propriety do not apply in the subconscous mind.  It is a storage space filled with recordings of events as they were.  In the conscious mind we have the presence of rules and commandments that can alter our perception.  Rules can be dogmatic and therefore, leave no room for interpretation or visualization of non-supportive information.  With hypnotic therapy, one has the benefit of an unattached observer who can ask questions that will tease out the broader picture.  These gentle questions and suggestions  can lead to a realization that the matter in question is not as large or powerful as it first appeared.  In fact, one might find that the importance that it was being given may even be laughable.  Re-orientation then becomes possible and the traumatic event can now become fuel for a new positive perspective, one that better serves the person and everyone connected to the old beliefs.
If you know of someone who is stuck in traumatic memories, you can reccomend seeing a Certified Hypnotist.  Perhaps it is you that is stuck with old issues.  In either case, the services of a qualified hypnotist can be invaluable in changing or re-establishing your life.
Andy Leon, BSN, MS, CH
Consulting Hypnotist
Charlottesville, VA 22903
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