Friday, August 28, 2009

Claustrophobia, Elevators, Hypnosis and Michelle Part 2

In Part 2 of this posting, I describe our hypnosis session and what was uncovered. Three days after our session, I spoke with Michelle’s mother who described the effects of our session. I offer my evaluation and comments on this hypnotic intervention.

Claustrophobia, Elevators, Hypnosis and Michelle Part 2

Michelle felt comfortable having her mother present during the session,
so the three of us moved from the waiting room in the front of my office
to my office to the back,
where Michelle sat on my recliner and her mother sat on a chair in the doorway.

The session began with new age type music;
Steven Halpern’s “Higher Ground”,
playing in the background.

I used a standard hypnotic “induction” called progressive relaxation and when Michelle allowed herself to relax and go into “the altered state” of hypnosis, I deepened her trance state by bringing her to a very safe place.

Michelle was a great hypnotic subject.
In a comparison to the general public,
regarding the ability to go deeply into hypnosis,
she is probably in the top 10 percent,
going very quickly, easily and deeply into “Somnambulism” (the most effective state of hypnosis).

When I work with a new client,
I must plan the session I will use with them, as we are talking.
The “small talk” is very important for me because I get insight to decide which hypnotic techniques from the hundreds available, is right for my client.

In talking with Michelle and her mother,
I decided that a combination of three techniques,
which I have used before, in cases like Michelle’s,
would probably work very effectively.

My plan for Michelle was to use
-“Parts Therapy” to identify the claustrophobic part of Michelle that was so fearful of elevators and once that part is found,
I would use;
-“Regression Therapy” to go back in time to the very first time this fearful part was formed.
This “First time” experience is known as the “ISE” The Initial Sensitizing Event and sets the foundation for the fear to grow;
and finally
-“Gestalt Therapy” to change her perception of the fear itself,
in order to eliminate the fear completely and permanently.

After Michelle was in a deep hypnotic state, I had her seek out that claustrophobic part of her subconscious (Parts Therapy).

When that part was found, we worked together to get in touch with how Michelle physically felt when in an elevator.
We followed that feeling to earlier and earlier times in her life
(Regression Therapy), until we found the ISE.

Her ISE was when she was four years old in Disneyworld.
She recalled being in her father’s arms as they were entering an elevator.
He reacted to the thought of being in an elevator with a powerful panic attack, running out of the elevator.

She realized that that was why she became claustrophobic.
Her father, who was her protector, demonstrated that there is something to desperately fear when in an elevator.

She was shown, exactly how and why this fear was accepted by her four year old self (Gestalt Therapy)
and with a little more insight,
she realized that the fear was not truly hers,
but an adopted fear that was no longer necessary.

Her hypnosis session went absolutely perfectly!

When the session was over, Mary said that she remembered the elevator experience but never realized that it was that experience that caused Michelle’s fear.

Michelle said that although she now remembers the experience, the memory had been repressed.

We went back out to my waiting room to discuss the session in greater detail.

I wanted to know what concerns Michelle still had.

For people who have just experienced hypnotic intervention for the relief of a phobia, the greatest concern is the “What-If’s”.
Specifically, What if it didn’t work?

When I brought up the “What-if” concern, both Mary and Michelle said that that was their largest concern.

My response to the What-if’s, is that she must challenge herself.

My suggestion was to go directly to the Rockaway Mall and go into every elevator in the place.

Challenging herself to gain back the control that she had lost.
To challenge herself to gain control and not let the fear control her any longer.

When they left my office, I felt absolutely confident that Michelle was going to be fear free and would gain control back in her life.

Three day later, I received a call from Mary.
“Garry, I have to tell you…”

Her tone of voice concerned me, quiet and serious.

“Damn” I thought,
her tone of voice sounds as if the fear that Michelle had was still present.
I was truly surprised.
Michelle’s session was picture perfect.
I would not have changed a single thing about the session; it was that perfect!
So why did I get the feeling that I was going to hear some bad news about the results of our session?

I was overreacting and wrong…

“I can’t express to you the results of your session with Michelle”
Mary started,
“Except to say, Thank you so, so much!”

I felt as if a weight was removed from my shoulders!
I was relieved, happy and curious as to how they knew so quickly that the phobia was gone.

“As you suggested, when we left you we went straight to the Rockaway Mall.
We went into every single elevator there and guess what?...
Not only did she have no fear at all,
but she was actually laughing in the elevator.”

When someone with fears similar to Michelle’s,
has had a lifelong phobia and gains their control back,
it is not uncommon for them to laugh
when they are in a situation that would have caused a phobic attack.

Laughter is the indication that they are aware of the fact that they are no longer controlled by their fear.
The laughter is the release they feel when the fear is replaced by a sense of control.

I always appreciate feedback from my clients. Some email me and I am thrilled to post their comments on my website.

When I heard how good Michelle was doing, I felt thankful that I was able to help a young person eliminate a fear that had been ruining her life and had brought her such heartache.

Even though it was Michelle who obviously gained the most from our session, each and every session I have, where I can contribute to someone’s happiness, I also gain.
I am thankful for that opportunity to participate in a situation where there is mutual joy and closure.

If you are interested to learn more about fears and phobias, look at my 3 part article “PHOBIAS A to Z”

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Claustrophobia, Elevators, Hypnosis and Michelle- Part 1

This 2 part entry is about Michelle (not her real name) a 19 year old High School graduate who is going to be attending college in the fall of 2009. She has claustrophobia which manifests specifically in a fear of elevators and enclosed spaces. In Part 1, I describe in general, my experience with working with people who have phobias; getting a call from Michelle’s mother; my first impressions and the specific plan I decided to use to help Michelle eliminate this phobia and be able to fearlessly get on with her life.

Claustrophobia, Elevators, Hypnosis and Michelle Part 1

The elimination of fears may be one of my most favorite hypnosis sessions.
I do believe there is no other type of intervention that has such a powerful and immediately positive result as hypnotic intervention for the purpose of eliminating a phobia.

When people come to my office for the elimination of fears or phobias, it is as if they are sitting there in the waiting room, with a dark cloud over their head. Phobic people are consumed with their particular phobia.
If they are not currently in the midst of a phobic attack, which can manifest from a mild discomfort to a full blown panic attack, they are constantly dreading and anticipating the emergence of the symptoms.

Very often fears or phobias take on a life of their own;
compounding, strengthening and sucking the joy from the person’s life.
Often the phobic person’s fear has been ruining their lives for as long as they can remember.

There are many different types and causes of phobias (see my blog posting “Phobias from A to Z”)

There are also many commonalities between people with phobias.
-These fears are very often lifelong fears.
-They tend to become stronger over the years and manifest in other areas in the person’s life.
-The victim of a phobia feels hopeless and helpless against their fear.
-They feel alone in their fear; that no one truly can understand how the fear affects them.
-That no one takes their fear seriously; saying thing like, “just deal with it” or “Get over it, you’re such a wimp!”
-Often their self respect is negatively affected and they feel weak and helpless against it.
-The phobia itself becomes a tangible entity always present, ready to pounce and steal away what little joy the victim has left.

But, perhaps the most common and debilitating commonality is the “Tag Team” of “Anticipatory Anxiety” and the “Self-Fulfilling Prophesy”.
I call them a tag team because that is how they work; in tandem.
Anticipating the phobia, sets the stage for it to happen and unfortunately it almost always comes true.

Michelle’s mother Mary (not her real name) called me with many concerns for her daughter.
Mary said that Michelle would be attending college in the fall of 2009 and there were elevators in the dorm.
When Michelle saw them her phobias went into high gear.
Mary also told me that Michelle had been coping with the fear of elevators and enclosed places, by avoiding them.
She had sought therapy, but it didn’t help and she was curious if hypnosis could help her daughter.
We made an appointment for the following week.

In the office, my first impression was that Michelle was an attractive eighteen year old who reminded me of my daughter, when she was a senior in the same high school.

As I normally do, I began the session with introductions and a brief biography about how I became involved with hypnosis; how hypnosis works; the conscious and sub-conscious mind; etc.
The reason for this small talk in the beginning is for many and specific reasons.
It allows people to get comfortable with me and it allows me to decide on which of the hundreds of hypnotic interventions available for me to use, is right for my client.
I allow extra time for what may seem to be “small talk” but in fact it is critical, so everyone is calm and relaxed, before we begin the hypnotherapeutic part of the session.

I observed that Michelle was a bit nervous, which is very common and normal, but there was more.
She wanted it to work so badly and wanted to get right to the hypnosis.
Some people, who come to see me for the first time, may be a bit nervous and want to talk before the hypnosis session begins.
Michelle seemed distracted and I sensed that she did not want to talk at all. My sense was that she wanted to get right on with the hypnosis; small talk was unnecessary.

I asked her if my hunch was correct…
that she was OK with hypnosis,
that she felt and hoped it would work and that she just wanted to do it and hopefully she would be “cured” of this fear that has taken the joy from her life.

After explaining that I needed to know some more information from her, she relaxed and became less anxious to begin. I told her that we could get started as soon as I had all the information I needed.

Michelle relayed to me how the fear ruined her life;
How she had an opportunity to see the taping of the Tyra Banks TV show
and as soon as she saw the elevator she couldn’t go in the building,
causing annoyance to her friends and fear, embarrassment and frustration to Michelle;
how her boyfriend is losing patience with having to adjust his social life to accommodate her fears,
along with a few more situations when her life was negatively impacted by her fear.

I then asked her if she always had this fear and if anyone else in the family had similar phobias. She said that her fear was present for as long as she could remember and Mary offered the (important) fact that Michelle’s father and she had similar phobias. With a half smile, Mary suggested that perhaps “Michelle got it from us”, meaning her parents.

I explained to them both that phobias are not genetic or hereditary; they are environmentally started.

I felt that the fear started with a panic attack her father or mother experienced when Michelle was little and the fear imprinted in the subconscious of Michelle’s young mind.

I described to both Mary and Michelle, what I planned to do.
Under hypnosis, I would have Michelle enter “The Hallway of Her Mind”,
seeking the “Part” of her that is frightened of enclosed places like elevators.
Once we allow the memory to come out of the sub-conscious,
I can then do a process called “Reframing”
where I actually change the way Michelle felt about the memory.

The important thing to remember is that we do not eliminate the memory…
we can’t.
But we can change the way the person feels about the memory and thus, eliminating the fear associated with the thing that is frightening them so badly.

In the next posting
“Claustrophobia, Elevators, Hypnosis and Michelle Part 2”,
I will describe how the hypnosis session went and what was uncovered.
Three days after our session,
I spoke with Michelle’s mother who described the results and my evaluation and comments on this hypnotic intervention.