In this article, guest writer and certified hypnotist Roland Berg, shares his inspiring story of how he helped a veteran suffering from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) experience a dynamic shift as a result of using symbology.
One of the amazing things about using hypnosis to help people make changes to their lives is its ability to affect major change without knowing what the issues truly are.
I volunteer with a group of alternative care providers that offer their time to provide services for US military veterans. Most of the veterans we serve have been formally diagnosed by military or VA staff with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
While the symptoms and severity may vary from case to case: the one thing that remains consistent is that it interferes with the quality of their lives.
Many sufferers present with one or more comorbidities that are commonly associated with PTSD, such as chronic pain, sleep issues, hopelessness, and loss of their sense of self (just to name a few).
Many of the veterans who seek my assistance have a very good idea of what changes they need to make. While some even have long lists of things they would like to work on.
However, occasionally, there is one who really can’t describe, in anything other than the broadest of terms, what the issue is or what it might be related to.
The latter is what I’d like to talk about in this article.
Discovering The Issue
On one occasion, a man (to protect his identity, we’ll call him John) asked if I could help him with his PTSD. He was very troubled and told me that he felt heavily burdened and worried all the time.
When I asked what he was worried about, he replied ”I don’t know. I just worry all the time.” We chatted for several minutes as I attempted to gain some insight into his sense of worry.
After a few failed attempts at using conversational techniques to try to unlock the mystery of his worry I found myself wondering, “What am I going to do here?
He really has no conscious idea of why he’s worrying or what it is he’s worrying about. I really wasn’t getting anything to work with.
We talked for a while more while I bought myself some time to come up with a plan. Then I had an idea. I looked at him and asked if he could ”see” himself as he was that day.
He nodded his head.
I then asked if he could “see” himself as he would like to be from that day forward. Again, he nodded. At last, I had something to work with! I had a starting point and an ending point for transformation.
The Plan – The Use Of Symbology
Now that I had a starting and an endpoint, I could begin to formulate a plan for how to help John resolve his issue. I decided that John would be best served by some form of symbolism.
If he truly understood where he was and where he wanted to go, and could visualize these two states – there was a good chance that his unconscious mind could process the transformation for him.
Symbology as it is used in hypnosis is the use of a symbol to represent a thought, emotion, or a particular state. The subject is instructed to create, or access, a symbol that represents the issue that the subject would like to change or modify.
Once this symbol is available to the subject the unconscious mind is fully able to change the symbol to represent the thought, emotion, or state that the subject desires to achieve.
What happens next is nothing short of amazing. In order for the unconscious mind to transform the symbol of the undesired state into the symbol of the desired state, it must resolve and process any issues that support the undesirable state (and that prevent the subject from achieving the desired state).
Very complex changes can be made very rapidly using this technique because of the tremendous processing power of the unconscious mind, and its directions to the body via the autonomic nervous system.
In some cases, you simply start with one symbol and ask the unconscious mind to transform that symbol into a new symbol that represents the desired state.
Sometimes when it is possible to clearly describe the new state, it works best to ask the subject to create a symbol for the desired state and then direct the unconscious mind to transform the old symbol into the new symbol. This is the approach I chose for John.
The Change Work Begins
I asked John if he’d ever been hypnotized before, and began to explain how the process works and what types of things he might experience over the next few minutes.
I then requested that he do me a favor and put his worry aside for a few minutes for the benefit of the work we were about to do. After all, he could always have it back later if he wanted it.
He agreed, which suggested that he has control over his worry and that he needed to focus on me.
So I began the induction, using the straightforward “Eye Lock” technique. It worked perfectly and John was quickly in a state of hypnosis.
A few simple deepeners and John was where I needed him to be to begin his work. The actual change work went something like this… “John, I want you to extend your right hand and create an image of you as you are today in the palm of your hand. Let me know when you have that image.”
After a few seconds, he nodded his head.
“Now I want you to extend your left hand and create an image of you as you want to be tomorrow. Let me know when you see that image.” Again, he nodded.
“John, as you look at those two images, those symbols, your unconscious mind will begin the process of transforming who you are today into who you would like to be tomorrow.
“And as that process occurs your hands will begin to move closer to each other. They will move toward each other only as quickly as your unconscious mind can resolve your issues and transform you from who you are to who you want to be.”
John sat quietly. After a short time, his hands began to move toward each other very, very, slowly. I continued, “That’s right John… You’re doing very well… Continue to let your hands come closer together as your unconscious mind transforms you.”
While John’s hands moved closer together I added: “Notice that as your hands get closer together the image of who you are today begins to fade and the image of who you want to be tomorrow grows stronger.”
Just before his hands touched, I told John that when his hands touched, all that would remain is a brilliant image of the new John. The remaining image would represent the life he desired going forward. The transformation would then be complete.
When his hands touched there was a noticeable change in his appearance. His posture appeared more erect. His face looked less strained, almost peaceful. I told him that I would let him sit for a few minutes while he got familiar with his new self.
After a couple of minutes, we began the process of bringing him out of hypnosis. I told him that in a moment I would count from 1 to 5. When I counted one he would feel relaxation begin to leave his body.
On two he would feel positive energy entering his body from every direction.
On 3 he would take a great big breath pushing that positive energy into every cell in his body, every part of his being.
On 4 he would feel that his chest, throat sinuses, and head were clear, and feeling refreshed.
And lastly, on 5 that he would return back to the room feeling totally invigorated, alive, and as though he had just awakened from the most incredible nights’ sleep.
Several seconds later the count began. 1… 2… 3… 4… 5 and with a snap of my fingers John was awake. It took several seconds for him to come completely back to the room. He smiled. He sighed and shook his head.
He said, “Wow, I feel like a tremendous weight has been lifted off my shoulders.”
He continued to sit quietly, smiling and occasionally shaking his head for a minute or so. He thanked me and stood to leave looking like a completely different person.
The entire process took about 20 minutes and by all appearances had a very positive outcome. My hope at this point was that his transformation would be permanent and that his environment wouldn’t push him back into the state he was in when I first met him.
I could only wait and see…
A few weeks following our session, John returned to work with other service providers. During the group intake process, the facilitator mentioned that I was there.
He told the group: “You need to work with the hypnotist, he’s great. He fixed my problem!”
When the group asked him what his problem was he smiled and replied “I don’t know. I can’t remember.”
Of course, he fixed his problem himself. I just helped him activate the resources he had available inside himself.
As you can see from this example, symbology provides a powerful technique for creating dramatic change in a subject even when the subject doesn’t know, or can’t communicate, what the issue truly is.