It Can Reduce Anger…Lessen Pain…Even Improve Your Sex Life

You’ve probably heard that hypnosis can help you lose weight or quit smoking. But it can do so much more! It can provide quick relief—typically in one session—for a number of health symptoms. And unlike many medications, it has no unpleasant side effects. Here are common problems that it can help…

Fear of Public Speaking

Many of us get a little nervous about speaking in front of groups. Those who are truly terrified suffer from ­glossophobia, a severe fear of public speaking that can cause intense anxiety, a rapid heartbeat, profuse sweating and the strong desire to run away.

Some of my clients have been promoted to management positions that require regular presentations. They’re grateful to advance their careers, but the public-speaking component frightens them.

During the hypnosis session: When my client is in a hypnotic state (see below), I might ask him to visualize walking toward the stage and actually getting there and speaking.

Example: “You are walking with ease. You feel secure. You are comfortable. You are well-prepared and know your subject matter thoroughly. As you walk onto the stage, you begin to feel extremely pleased…you are a fine speaker…and you are enjoying yourself.”

Then I will ask him to visualize himself actually making the speech and visualize the audience as friendly, approving people. I may have him visualize a particular person in the audience cheering him on. Or I may suggest that he is speaking to an empty room if that is what he has indicated comforts him. Once he sees himself, while hypnotized, speaking with calmness and confidence, he can easily replicate that in real life.

Dental Phobias

Dental visits are rarely pleasant, but they cause much less pain than in the past. Yet many people are so frightened that they put off necessary visits for years.

During the hypnosis session: I’ll often use a technique called dissociation, which permits a client to mentally escape from her immediate experience and drift off to a more pleasant place.

Example: “You are absorbed in a beautiful scene in your mind. You will be at the beach, and while you are concentrating on that image of a sunny day, the mouth will have no feeling.”

Notice, I say, the mouth. That immediately dissociates it from her body. It is no longer her mouth—she no longer feels it.

If the particular dentist does not know any hypnosis, then I end our hypnosis session with the suggestion, “When you sit in the dentist’s chair, every word said to you during this hypnosis session will be remembered and you will immediately take your mind to your scene of nature and all the hypnotic suggestions that you have received will be in force.”

Anger Management

Hypnosis can help you manage the expression of your anger.

During the hypnosis session: When an anger-management client is in a deep hypnotic trance, I suggest that he replay a recent anger situation in his mind. I then guide him through a visualization exercise in which he handles the original scene by counting to 10 before responding, and then he responds with calmness. I encourage him to reflect and analyze, rather than personalize, the confrontation. Habits rehearsed while a client is hypnotized can translate to the waking state.

Pain Relief

Research has shown that hypnosis is an effective way to reduce or even eliminate pain. A study of burn patients found that those who underwent hypnosis experienced much less pain and that their need for painkillers was reduced by half. Many hospital burn units employ hypnotists.

Hypnosis can reduce anxiety, fear, negative expectations and feelings of helplessness and victimization. When those feelings are reduced, pain is diminished. But what I consider a fascinating use of hypnosis for pain control is reframing the pain. Reframing permits the patient to experience the pain from a new perspective.

During the hypnosis session: I might tell a patient, “When your body starts to heal, you’ll feel some discomfort. That’s good. Your body is letting you know that it is recovering. You will enjoy receiving these messages.” This suggestion reframes pain so that it means something good.

Example: Imagine that two soldiers have each been shot in the leg. One feels terrible pain because he is focusing only on the injury. The other reframes the shooting and introduces a new ­aspect—perhaps this injury will cause him to be discharged and go home. With that thought, the pain becomes bearable.

Erectile Dysfunction

Many men have physical problems—diabetes, vascular disease, etc.—that make it difficult to achieve or maintain an erection. But this problem also can be caused by sexual self-consciousness. A man who worries about his bedroom performance is more likely to have erection problems than one who is relaxed.

During the hypnosis session: I will encourage the man not to concentrate on himself or how his body is responding.

Example: “Think only about pleasing your partner. From this moment on, whenever you are having sex, you will be focusing on your partner. You will know that your mind can control your body, and without your conscious intervention, your brain will send the correct message to your penis.”

Men who are self-conscious in bed sometimes feel the same way out of bed, so I might include a hypnotic script that fosters self-confidence. I also give a suggestion about expecting success.

Example: “In your body, your lungs function automatically. Your pancreas functions automatically. Your liver functions automatically. And so, your penis can function automatically, too. No need for you to worry about it.”

I end the session with a confirmation that “you will always remember that your body is exactly the way it should be and that it is just right.”

What Happens During Hypnosis?

Medical hypnosis is different from entertainment hypnosis, which you may have seen in a movie or on TV. You cannot be hypnotized against your will—you will not quack like a duck (unless you want to!) or reveal your deepest secrets. Hypnosis is simply a technique that changes the ways in which your brain interprets experiences. It’s a type of mind-body medicine that uses suggestions to help you reach a goal.

About 15% of the population responds exceptionally well to hypnosis. They are the folks who can use hypnosis as anesthesia during surgery. About 20% respond only a little bit to hypnosis. For most situations, that little bit is all that’s needed. The rest of the population falls somewhere in between.

I begin all sessions by asking questions—not only about the issues that the client is worried about but about his/her job, personality, family life, etc. It helps me figure out which words and phrases will elicit the best response. A hypnotist’s talent lies not so much in the ability to help the client become hypnotized but in the ability to choose the most appropriate words to say to the hypnotized client. We call those words the hypnosis script.

An induction is the technique that helps the client reach that state of suggestibility—the trance state. In movies, the client follows a swinging watch or pendulum. In my office, I ask the client to stare at a fixed spot on the wall, and then I’ll speak in a slow, quiet voice, using words such as comfortable, calm, safe and secure.

You may have already experienced hypnosis and not known it.

Example: You drove to a destination and then couldn’t actually remember having driven there. You were so absorbed in your inner world that you were oblivious to your surroundings. You essentially put yourself in a hypnotic trance.

The best way to find a good hypnotist is through word of mouth. There are scholarly hypnosis researchers who are poor clinicians and plenty of minimally trained lay hypnotists who do a good job. Sadly, there is no government licensing for hypnotists. You also can buy hypnosis CDs at