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Saturday, 27 November 2010

Picture this

Previously on "The Knife You See":

As a result of having Ulcerative Colitis for 13 years, and despite medications a plenty, I faced the prospect of surgery almost exactly a year ago. In order to deal with this psychologically and to get some sense of control and calm I went to see a Hypnotherapist.

I found it so useful, that I decided to pass it on by learning to be a hypnotherapist myself. . .

I wonder if you can imagine the scenario, we are in one of those rather corporate rooms in the depths of a hotel. (Should that be an hotel?). The yellow-brown carpet with little crawly patterns made of small crosses in black stretch across the floor, the wood and chrome armed chairs with a purple seat and back, the whiteboard, the arc of chairs.

Perhaps, you can you see it?

Can you hear the air conditioning? The distant but constant traffic?  The clink of iced water in the glasses? The soft scribbling noise of biro on pad? Can you hear all that?

On the whiteboard the letters “IBS” are scrawled in black sitting like the dead body of a spider in the middle of a mind map.

We’ve been talking shit for a while now, running through the symptoms, the possible causes, diet, exercise, self esteem, confidence . .

. . .     U.C. is NOT IBS

I have subdued the impulse to spill my guts. Mention has not been made of Ulcerative Colitis but there’s been one mention of it’s evil twin Crohn’s disease. I have resisted the impulse to yak on about the difference between IBS (Syndrome) and IBD (Disease). Now we have been put into small groups to practice a new script.

This one is what’s called a guided imagery script. The Hypnotherapist takes you on an imaginary journey, and the things within that journey are actually encoded ideas that will influence the unconscious mind.  And that in turn can influence the conscious mind and the body.

Oh! I have just noticed that UnConscious mind and UC might have something in common. . . . I have thought for a long time that the gut might be the seat of a primal and brooding intelligence.

Anyway,  the script is good, I’m enjoying it and I’m getting waves of comfort and familiarity . . . . Yes familiarity is the word, the metaphor of a river, the idea of a steady constant balanced flow. That's the embedded idea.

Imagine the scene: Beautiful trees, a stream going through some woods, the stream clear and clean and sparkling. You and nature are in harmony. You take on the qualities of the stream. It’s good and it calms you down.

I’ve heard something similar before. A year ago. Hearing echoes of an old song reiterated in a new song. I like it. It comforts me.

But there's a beef for me. The thing is,  with U.C. it is really good to be calm and all that, but I'm not sure that it's going to sort out your "flow".

It'll help your head, but I think your gut will still have it's own particular problem. That's why it's an IBD not an IBS.

Curious to experience a thing from the other side. In my training so far I have had quite a few instances where I remember the conversations or hypnotic techniques of my Hypnotherapist.

Personally, I found this type of metaphor very useful. Even if it did not have the exact outcome I desired (like curing my guttering entrails) I would leave the hypnotherapy feeling much calmer and more in control. That in itself was worth a lot.

So there's a lot of questions and possibilities there.

The spectre of the psychosomatic view of U.C., the difference between IBS and IBD, the idea that whether U.C. is psychosomatic or not there is still value and comfort in having a calm mind. On balance I think hypnotherapy is a great tool (both from my experience and current training), and possibly you could you could achieve similar levels of calm through other activities. Meditation, playing a musical instrument, going walking, dancing . . . etc

Just a small point though, if you do use hypnotherapy make sure your hypnotherapist chooses their metaphors carefully; my first encounter with this analogy was a bit disastrous; the last thing I wanted was flow!

I wanted a dam.

Things are progressing well, by the way, I have hypnotised quite a few different people now, using a number of different "inductions". We've even covered hand levitation. Looking forward to full body levitation shortly :)


  1. I downloaded (awhile back, when it was all the rage) the Guy Cohen hypnotherapy recording. My first time through it was lovely and pleasant and relaxing, right up until I got to the point about floating. That damned Mary Poppins scene with uncle Albert floating about singing "I love to laugh" is so stuck to my brain that my super-relaxed mind gets all wound up and unfocused as I try to block it out. (See here: Despite my fear that this may bring hypnotherapy mayhem to anyone that happens to read this comment, I have to share it with the world! I can no longer suffer alone!

  2. @Whittles,
    I saw that film when I was a kid, and that scene is actually very surreal, and now I look at it again . . . somewhat trippy. An unwitting cultural artifact of it's time.

  3. I enjoyed reading your description of the session. I can relate to the issue with attempts to point to stress as the cause. Stress is a trigger for me, and when I explain this to people they sometimes think that stress is the *cause.*

  4. @ Willow

    You see, that's the point very succinctly put.

    I'm going to remember that

    Trigger and cause. Different things.

    Thank you.

  5. Arkers, I hope that saying this is a really interesting post doesn't sound too cold-hearted - I'm sure that these things are a bit more important than "interesting" to UC sufferers. But:

    Trigger and cause, and psychosomatic - sometimes it's pedantic to go to a dictionary, sometimes it helps. My Concise Oxford Dictionary says that psychosomatic means "1.(of a physical illness) caused or aggravated by a mental factor such as internal conflict or stress. 2 of or relating to the interaction of mind and body." So meaning 1 seems to cover both cause and trigger.

    I like meaning 2. Seems to me many people get "psychosomatic" wrong. They think it means "he just imagines he's ill." (i.e. pull yourself together, man...)

    Neuroscientist Antonio Damasio thinks that emotions (deeper level than feelings) can, or do, originate in bodily states, with the gut being of particular significance. It looks likely, to put it no more strongly, that the mind and the body are so closely interrelated as to be the same set-up, that is, inter-acting systems.

    In which case, trying to puzzle out the degree to which stress is a cause, a trigger or a sympton of UC may be to worry unnecessarily, because the stress and the physical symptoms are part of the same set of processes. At a pig-ignorant, informal level, I'm in no doubt that my mental states and my guts inter-related like mad when I'm agitated.

    In which case, your hypnotherapy must surely help, whether people think it helps with the causes or the consequences of the physical symptoms.

    So, in short (is this making any sense at all?), good on yer. If it helps, it helps.

  6. Good point.

    I know that they mind and body are interrelated, but it does get me annoyed when people use it in the pull yourself together man sort of way.

    In 1938 the British medical journal published a study concerning the personality type that got U.C.

    I think it is discredited now.

    But a quick scan of it will reveal the attitude that I dislike, which I think rather implies that if you have U.C. it is because you are a little weak or odd.

    Even if there is a personality type that tends to get the disease more than another, that personality type doubtless has other excellent qualities of value.

    Furthermore, if I had known about hypnotherapy and its calming effects in 1990, I think that whatever personality I have, the mind/body interface could have been brought into play and maybe have saved my gut.

    I dunno.

  7. Personality types that get UC, oddness or otherwise thereof - all deeply infuriating stuff. Susan Sontag wrote about the dangers of holistic approaches to medicine that result in creating (inadvertantly, no doubt)a feeling in the sufferer that an illness is "my fault," or at least "I should have done something different." She points out that viruses don't make moral choices.

    Guess if you chain smoke, in a sense you might feel it is at least partly your fault if you get some foul respiratory condition. But you might well be an excellent person in all sorts of ways, nonetheless; sometimes people get lung cancer who have never smoked.

    I remember reading a quote from Deepak Chopra (couldn't substantiate this)which came dangerously close to suggesting that X's condition (cancer patient, I think)hadn't improved because s/he hadn't meditated well enough, hadn't got enough control.

    The whole mind/body illness thing needs a fine mix of sensitivity and common sense, I think. Actions along the mind/body interface might have saved your gut, but that doesn't make it anyone's "fault."

    All obvious enough, but I hope worth saying.
    A lot of stuff about personality types seems to me to look like garbage when you actually meet the individual in question.

    That's the damned trouble with people, they just won't fit neatly and properly, when you look closely enough...

    Good luck with the hypno, keep us posted.
    x Gloria


I'm always interested to hear any thoughts or stories of your own. Please do comment.