Hypnosis & Relieving Pain
Hypnosis & Relieving Pain
When I work with people who are facing death, I often hear that it’s not the dying that frightens them most, it’s the anticipation of pain.
Being able to work with and alleviate pain is a great gift of the hypnotherapist at the end of life. We need to know what to do with pain: how to see it, and how to work with it. As practitioners, it helps us if we can use our own experiences of pain in the present to prepare us for working with pain of future clients.
Some years ago, I contracted a very rare disease that came with a lot of pain. As the disease progressed, I would wake up each morning feeling more stiff and wooden. After a few weeks, each movement brought intense pain, even before I got out of bed. Added to that was the emotional and mental pain of not understanding- and certainly not wanting- the experience. It took almost a year to find out what was wrong, and the disease was so advanced by then that the doctors reported that I was close to death.
During that time, I was in almost constant physical pain, as well as the psychic pain of not knowing. I had great opportunities to practice what I had been utilizing as a hypnotherapist for many years, and I can tell you three things from the perspective of the one who’s hurting.
First, is that hypnotherapy works. I don’t know what I would have done without it. It helped to alleviate the pain, and also helped me to maintain my equanimity and presence in the face of a debilitating disease.
Second, it’s a profound challenge.. As practitioners, it’s important for us to understand that, and not to minimize, idealize, or have unrealistic expectations of our clients.
There is a fine balance required in working with pain. I had to be fully present with myself, and, at the same time, not get ‘caught’ in the feelings of discomfort and helplessness and worry as they flowed through me. Without shutting down to any of my experience, I utilized hypnotherapy to enter a deeper, quiet state in which I could be with the different experiences. I found that the pain would soften, my emotions would quiet, and my mental state would become more balanced and peaceful.
Third, is that pain is a great teacher. Ram Dass, who had a stroke that left him in a wheel chair, unable to talk normally, calls his experience ‘fierce grace’. Without romanticizing or idealizing the experience of pain, it was for me a powerful lesson in surrender, of being in the moment, cultivating skills and deep, quiet states of being, and of compassion that I carry with me to this day.
At the end of life, when pain is met with skill and compassion, it supports a peaceful death.