Friday, November 12, 2010

What I Learned from a Hypnotist

A hypnotist came to speak to our OCD GOAL group this week to address how hypnotism could be used to gain control of one's feelings and thoughts. Although what she had to say was a little too new-agey for me, I do agree with one's ability to affect one's physiology by working to gain control of one's runaway thoughts.

I didn't levitate, cluck like a chicken, or speak in tongues. At best one could call what I experienced "stumbling through a carefully scripted daydream." While the hypnotist described the ability to heal ourselves as having "all of the tools we need inside us," I really see it as having the capacity to improve the way we think.

She took us on a guided tour of our kitchens. She asked us to close our eyes and led us slowly through the motions of going to the fridge, taking out a lemon, slicing into it, and finally biting it. After we opened our eyes most of the people in the room described tasting the lemon, salivating, or feeling its sting pucker their lips. That was proof, she explained, that our bodies register everything our imaginations experience as if it actually were happening.

Do you see the direct application to OCD? When we worry that the worst is going to happen, it may as well have happened because our bodies don't know the difference. That's why it's so important to work on gaining control of what we do with our thoughts. If hypnotism can help us do that, if even only as proof that it's possible, so be it. As for me, I've gotten what I need to out of hypnotism already!


  1. Interesting approach, though I have to say that I am pretty firmly skeptical of the benefits of hypnotism, especially for OCD. But to each his own!!

    I feel like what I have learned from therapists is kind of the opposite of what the hypnotist seemed to be suggesting - trying to "control" our thoughts and feelings, I have been told, is the problem in and of itself, rather than the solution. We have all sorts of thoughts that run through our heads throughout the day. But when we have a certain OCD fear, we latch on to thoughts that relate to the content of that fear, try to evaluate them, neutralize them, or banish them, making them seem that much more important when they really aren't any more important than the myriad of other thoughts and feelings we have throughout the day. I think the fact that, when we worry about something it almost seems like it's actually happening, is just further evidence of how important it is to NOT respond to those worries as if they were real and important by performing compulsions. Because, in doing so, we are just making those fears, which already appear so real to us, seem that more realistic. Attempting to control our minds and our thoughts just makes the worries seem more important and real, while consciously making the decision not to respond to them compulsively strips them of power and significance.

  2. Hi, Fellow OCD Sufferer! Thanks for your comment. I agree with you, and in fact, I think you expressed what I intended better than I did. It's not that we want to CONTROL them, but control the way we react to them. I think I'll edit my post based on your reaction; I simply was not clear!

  3. Yeah, my therapist likes to say that the ocd uses our same nervous system. It's not "pretend" when we feel scared. But we can learn to chip away at the credibility of the ocd's grip on our physiology by doing exposures.