Unconscious Mind Transformations You Can't Afford To Miss
Susan, 73, Female, PTSD, lost loved ones
When Susan arrived for our first interview, I was immediately impressed with the way she carried herself and her elegant style. She wore a warm jacket with a polka-dot pattern, dark navy-blue shoes and carried a vintage handbag. I have always held seniors in great respect for their many contributions to the world and, their storytelling and, in many cases, their manners.
At 73 years old, Susan exuded an aura of having had much life experience. Her handshake was firm, her soft hand reminding me of my own grandmother, and she had a lovely smile as she said, “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Dr. Moghazy.” She seemed quite comfortable and relaxed, and actually put me at ease, commenting on the lovely smell of my Denver office and the welcoming environment the furniture provided.
She began by telling me her story and why she had agreed to participate in my clinical research. She was married to her sweetheart for 49 years, and they had adopted a child who died of cancer some 15 years previous. She and her husband also had adopted numerous pets over their married life, she said. Then, while on a road trip to California five years ago, their car was hit head on by a semi-tractor-trailer, killing her husband and their dog, Cooper. She awoke from a coma three days later and was told that she now was alone. She had undergone numerous surgeries since then and although she physically survived the accident, she now felt her life was empty and lonely, living by herself in a large mansion.
“I need to let go of the guilt and anger I’ve been living with these many years after losing my two loved ones, Dr. Moghazy.” As she spoke, tears ran down her face dropping onto the scarf she wore, and I was quite moved by her sincerity. Additionally, she said she wanted to enjoy her life without stress or pain, to be more calm and able to sleep and eat better.
I explained to the her the purpose of my study and what I would need her to do—not much more than just to participate in the process and allow her subconscious mind to do the rest. I gently asked her to attach the earlobe sensor to begin measuring her HRV, but her pulse was undetectable in the earlobe. This is not common, but I have seen it before. So, we took the reading from the gap between her thumb and index finger, and then it worked perfectly.
Asked what level of pain she currently was experiencing on a ten-point scale (the Visual Analogue Scale or VAS), she answered “5.”
Here I should explain that sometimes a person suffering from PTSD will feel physical pain when they’re experiencing the memory of the traumatic event that haunts them, but when they are in the state of hypnosis, they feel no pain. That is, their physicality is disconnected from the present moment, as are the conscious and subconscious minds. This is demonstrable from the many experiments in which people feel no pain when operated on while in a state of deep hypnosis.
So, by asking he client to rate their pain on a scale of 10, I am allowing the conscious mind to be part of the healing. Sometimes people will come after one session and say, “Well, I’m not sure I was hypnotized,” so by involving them in subjectively identifying their pain level in each session, we have a way to connect them to their deeper mind and demonstrate how their treatment is progressing. It helps create a new perspective for them.
On the SUDs scale, she reported feeling 65% stress. The HRV reading objectively measured coherence and stress levels that mirrored her subjective VAS and SUDs evaluations, as you can see in this chart.
The dramatic up and down swings are an indication of lack of coherence between her heart and her brain (emotions and thoughts), indicating a typical fight-or-flight stress response.
Next, I asked about her symptoms and what was impeding her from living a more satisfying life. She said that she wasn’t sleeping well, and often had nightmares. Her appetite was deteriorating day by day and she found it increasingly difficult to even leave her house. As she spoke her shoulders visibly slumped, she frequently broke eye contact, and occasionally wrung her hands. Since the car accident, she said, she experienced frequent feelings of guilt, shame, anger and frustration. She said she had tried biofeedback, EMDR, talk therapy and counseling for a long time, but so far nothing had relieved her symptoms for more than a few minutes. Her therapist knew that I was conducting my doctoral degree research on trauma patients, so she referred Susan to me.
Following the protocol, I set up, I began assessing Susan’s level of suggestibility; that is, her ability to learn and accept suggestions under hypnosis. This is done by observing many subtle characteristics of body language, such as how the person sits. If their feet point outward, it is a clue that they are more physically open than the person who sits pigeon-toed, which may indicate that they are more detail-oriented and skeptical. Even how they tend to sit on the couch offers clues, as well. If they sort of throw themselves on it with arms flung out, that indicates something different than if they carefully arrange the pillows before taking a seat. The first indicates a more open person who will accept suggestion more directly. For instance, I might begin a session by saying to them, “You are sitting on the couch listening to my voice, and are entering into the state of hypnosis, feeling very relaxed.” We call this person a physically suggestible behaviorist. These types are very much associated and connected with their body.
The latter we call an emotional behaviorist or emotional suggestible individual. They are more disconnected from the body. They often have a delayed response and a fear of losing control. They tend to not show emotion and their faces are mostly unanimated like a mask, as if they showed emotion, they would lose that control. In these cases, I will give them indirect suggestions rather than direct ones. Indirect suggestions would be something like, “While you are sitting comfortably on the couch with your feet well supported by the floor beneath them, and listening to my voice, your mind begins to feel calm.” In the arm-raising induction, which I will explain below, these types are highly resistant, again because they fear losing control to the hypnotherapist, although that’s not true. They are more likely to connect with emotional suggestions, such as “I feel happy,” or “I feel successful.”
Eye movements also can reveal a lot. For instance, if I ask a question and their eyes go upward, I think of them as a visual person. If the eyes go sideways, they likely are more auditory oriented. Downward motion of the eyes can indicate they are living inside their emotions.
In the arm-raising induction I administer to prepare the subconscious mind, I will ask the client to become aware of their hands and imagine how one begins to feel heavier and the other lighter. In most cases, there is an automatic response in which the lighter hand will begin to rise up. Their choice of which hand they choose will give me an indication as to whether they are operating primarily as a right- or left-brained person. If the right hands lifts, then I can deduce that they primarily are left-brained, and vice versa. Left-brained people tend to be more emotion-dominant, whereas right-brained people are more connected and identified with their body. If someone can lift neither hand, or has a delayed response, this means they are quite disconnected from their body and/or they resist because they don’t want anyone else to tell them what to do, again, a fear of losing control. If someone raises their hand quickly and waves it all around as if they didn’t really know what to do with it, it indicates that they are hyper-suggestible and are living with a high state of stress. If they a very slow to raise the hand it tells me they will enter into a state of hypnosis in a slow manner, and not to expect a quick response from suggestions. They will take time to respond. People who have PTSD (especially in sexual assault cases) typically display this delayed response or no response at all because they were hurt in their body and they don’t want to feel this pain in their body, but rather to disconnect from it. They would rather feel numb. These actually are the best subjects for hypnosis because hypnosis serves as an escape mechanism for them.
For them, the body is an ugly, hurt place. They often are overweight and eat unhealthy foods, almost as if they are punishing their body or protecting it with layers of fat. QMH is powerful tool to get beyond the resistance to them feeling their body. However, they must come to the point of understanding that healing comes from inside, not outside. Dieting or working out is not going to work for them until they come to that understanding. When I hear that other types of medicine or treatment hasn’t worked for them, I know that we have some work to do.
I sometimes conclude an analysis of the subject’s handwriting, which can help the subject understand more about their behaviors and even discover hidden issues or concerns they might not even be aware of.
Preliminary tests such as these give me ideas for to how to proceed with the hypnosis sessions, and each helps to confirm my overall observations. In Susan’s case, I determined that she was a physical behaviorist and physical suggestible.
In our first session, I let her know that research shows that people can overcome PTSD. I used stress inoculation in QMH to give Susan tools to have a calmer and more peaceful week when she felt the onset of stress and pain from her PTSD. Stress Inoculation Therapy (SIT) is one of the most powerful techniques I used to create immunity against pain and stress triggers.
I applied the Arm Rigidity Techniques (ART), in which she made an arm and fist stiff, then squeeze all her negative feelings and emotions into the arm, and then release on my count or finger snap. The goal here is to teach her brain that the opposite of tension is relaxation and release. Letting go or the arm’s tension is a natural way of creating a relaxation response. Our brain doesn’t know the different between reality and fantasy, and when we are at the state of hypnosis our subconscious mind has tendency to create a virtual reality of what we want and desire in the future. It’s an opportunity to construct what we desire the most and allow our unconscious mind to believe it. When the person is back into the conscious mind, the brain already has released the necessary “I feel good hormones” (Serotonin and dopamine) and shut down the stress hormones (cortisol, adrenaline).
At the end of the session, I discussed the importance of the law of repetition and association for replacement behavior, and as homework I encouraged Susan to count herself down whenever she took a nap to count herself up every hour. A very common phenomenon in PTSD is hyper-suggestibility, and quick reactions in the physical body to the high stress and pain levels. The goal of QMH is to give Susan the ability to maintain her physical body under her own control by giving her tools to use at home. For example, the “5-minutes Self-Hypnosis Exercise,” is a very powerful technique to get the physiological body disconnected from the current moment of suffer and pain. The outcome of this exercises can be profound, when the person realizes that they are in control of the painful memories and situations, not vice versa. See the following figure for the full details of the “5-minutes self-hypnosis” homework. I also asked her to write a simple yet powerful affirmation, “I am enough,” before going to bed every night, and sign and date it as a way to accept herself and feel hopeful about her future. This can be very effective because it allows her to be accountable and in control of her emotions even before going to bed at night.
I also gave her a diaphragmatic breathing exercise to relieve stress, and a mindfulness exercise to cognitively feel present in the present, and to visualize the word “CALM” written in the middle of her forehead while taking a deep breath.
By the second session, Susan showed significant improvement in HRV, as evidenced by her chart here.
I asked her about her week and if and when she used deep breathing to release stress, in order to see if there was any resistance to it. We talked about good nutrition and how regulating the blood sugar helps create a happy, stable outlook on life. She reported that her pain level was reduced compared to the first session. VAS was =5/10 and SUDs was = 65%. We then measured her HRV prior starting the session.
I continued QMH in a form of stress inoculation (with anchors) and letting go of the past. I described how the heart is the center of love, and how focusing there is a powerful, effective strategy for letting go of fear. She reported beginning to enjoy activities she had been avoiding. We also spoke about how obsessively following news media can contribute to becoming hyper-suggestible to negativity and fear.
We spoke about using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), which I previously explained in Ronald's case study (see more details here), to be able to see the past and the present in a more balanced way. During QMH I suggested visualizing engaging in activities she had been avoiding in recent years. By being able to imagine herself calmly staying in what could be anxiety-producing situations, it would build her confidence that she could handle anxiety and confront difficult circumstances. I also guided her during QMH on how to vent negativity or where she felt “stuck,” the goal being to unpair the sights, sounds, or sensations of the present from the trauma of the past.
For homework, I suggested she write down what she remembered from this session. When she came to the part that caused anxiety during the session, I asked her to rate the memories using the SUDs, indicating how distressing it would be for her to imagine each activity, and to do this three days in a row in the morning immediately after waking up, the natural time for venting things one no longer needs. By the time the session was completed, her VAS was = 2/10 and SUDs was = 10%, a significant reduction from her first evaluations.
In two weeks’ time between the first and the sixteenth of July, Susan achieved with QMH what she wasn’t able to in five years of other therapies. Statistically, she showed a significant decrease in the HRV, a great indication of the relaxation and calmness she was newly experiencing—a true success story. After our final session, she turned to me and said, “You have saved my life. Thank you!
I followed up with her few months later. She was still doing well and sleeping and eating better.
How did Susan's unconscious mind opened to healing?
We have the very primitive part of our brain called the amygdala that developed in order to help us survive when we’re confronted with danger, responding quickly with a “fight, flight, or freeze” impulse. When it gets activated it releases stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline which constricts our blood vessels and makes our heart work harder, our breathing shallower, and our muscles tighten. This enables us to immediately take up one of these three alternatives to deal with the danger. But our bodies are not able to sustain these stimulants for long periods of time or repeatedly, so if they persist, we begin a downward spiral that saps our energy and enervates us, leading us into a downward spiral.
“However, sometimes we may experience a residual memory of a traumatic event, not an actual new threat, and the amygdala gets triggered as if we were again in danger. I don’t know if I spelled this correctly. I couldn’t find the reference to it online. Hypnotherapy offers us a way to get around these memories and responses, and to the part of the brain called the temporal cortex where the nucleus accumbens is located. When stimulated, it releases dopamine and serotonin, which immediately makes our muscles relax, our breathing slow down, and these increase our sense of calmness, and give us control again over our emotions.
“Think of these areas of the brain as being like your hand. Four of your fingers, which represent the prefrontal cortex, can fold down to cover the thumb, which represents the amygdala. When we’re confronted with danger, the fingers suddenly pop up and expose the amygdala, which then springs into action. Hypnotherapy enables us to bypass the amygdala and get us back into a timeless present in which we can better envision our safety and a brighter future.”
The reality is that 95 percent of our brain functions reside in the unconscious mind, which develops in our youth. In this part of our brain we develop the recognition of the known and unknown, the source of pain and pleasure. Those things that we’re familiar with, that are known to us, become a source of pleasure, and those with which we are unfamiliar become that which we dislike, a source of pain. These are all within the subjective perception of the person, whether or not they’re familiar with it or not.
At around age 9-14 we develop another filter, the critical mind, and this begins to determine if something goes into the subconscious mind or not. Some people will be more open minded than others; that is, they are more willing to try or experience something new. But if someone is set in their ways through the preferences stored in their subconscious mind, they are less open to change.
The 5 or 10 percent of this developing mind we call the conscious mind, the source for superior judgment, self-talk, and so on.
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About the author:
Dr. Moghazy Is an exceptionally qualified Doctor and passionate Hypnotherapist who enjoys working one-on-one with people in beautiful Colorado in person and online. He takes pride in the difference he has made in so many lives.
Using scientifically proven techniques, they will aim to discover the root of the problem and create a long-lasting, effective change. No matter what issues you’re facing, get ready to free yourself from the negative, subconscious blocks that are holding you back.
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