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The Anxiety Metaphor

I am a professional remedial hypnotist and what I discuss here in this article is built on my understanding through my training and the work that I have done with an ever increasing number of people.

Mental health is a sensitive subject. Your mental health is very personal. Each of us has a very different experience of mental health yet many treatments can be very generic. Some generic treatments can be successful with some people. I can’t help thinking sometimes though that in some cases it is just so that something can be seen to be being done.

I used to work for a charity that dealt with vulnerable people. It came up during one day of mental health training that we as a society do not have the resources to treat everybody as individuals despite having just watched a film where many people with various mental health difficulties have stated that that is what they wanted and what they needed.

I was practising hypnosis part time at the time so I put my hand up and sited two clients that I had worked with recently: One was clinically depressed, had been for 5 years. Her GP was starting to wonder if it was Bi-Polar but this did not seem to make any difference to her hope or to her treatment options. She had been given leaflets with information how to cope with depression. I worked with her for 4 sessions– 8 hours – and she said that she was 85% better and has improved since then as well on her own.

The other one was a man who had suffered severe crippling anxiety for about 20 years. Panic or anxiety attacks were happening every three days on average over the smallest of things such as what to have for lunch. I saw him once for just under two hours. He told me a few days later that he had been feeling fine for the first time in 20 years and did not need a second appointment.

I was not bragging and I am not bragging now. My point is that they had been in the system that does not have the resources to treat people as individuals for 25 years between them. In 10 hours of hypnosis between them – where they were listened to and treated as individuals – they were back on their feet again. These are not isolated cases. I could mention many more as could many of my colleagues.

Hypnosis allows you to engage and guide the subconscious mind – the emotional and creative part of your mind – into thinking and feeling different so that you are able to behave differently.

Some hypnotherapists use scripts to treat ‘anxiety’ or ‘depression’ but these scripts have not been written by someone who has spoken with each individual client and I maintain that it is the client that needs treating not the ‘anxiety’ or the ‘depression’.

I remember in my early days spending money on a day course about how to treat anxiety. By the time we got to lunch we had only just covered diagnosis of which type of anxiety is which and I remember eating my lunch thinking why does it matter? Surely we just need to find out what thoughts are making them feel bad and change them.

Bare with me here as this may not sit well with some of you at first but I beg you to give it some consideration. I work from the premise that there is no such thing as anxiety or depression. They are not things that come down upon us. You do not have anxiety or depression. You are not an anxious person as I have heard so many people claim. You are just doing something that makes you feel anxious or depressed. I am not pointing fingers or blaming. I am just saying that your mind can be trained to do something different so that you start to feel different.

The idea of there being something such as ‘anxiety’ or ‘depression’ is a metaphor to help our understanding and help society categorise those if us who are suffering. You are not a victim. Life has just taught you some bad habits that can be unlearned and replaced with better ones.

If you sit in a room with 10 other people ‘with anxiety’ for example, none of you are having an identical experience yet we call it ‘anxiety’. It is very personal. Often, once we work out what is unique about yours and what you are doing to feel that way, there is a solution much simpler than you have learned to expect.

I had a perfect example recently. A man much senior to me who had lost his job 5 years before had never recovered from the feelings of worthlessness that this experience forced upon him. In fact those feelings had snowballed. He had his head in his hands within two minutes of arriving and told me that he could not go on living like this. He was feeling anxious, depressed, angry, wishing he was back in his old job and having violent thoughts about people that he cared about which disturbed him.

He had spent £2500 on a week long course ‘how to cope with anxiety’ which had done nothing for him (a course is not personal) and he had tried counselling and CBT (which can be very successful for some people I am not criticising them) but nothing was making any difference.

He told me that it felt like he had a thorn in his mind and his brain was swollen around it. I locked his mind in on this idea, identifying the thorn and where it was in his mind and then I pulled it out. He kept looking suspiciously at my fingers where it was and flinched if I moved it any closer to him. The thorn was as real to him as my hand. I threw it out of the window for him.

He was delighted and I told him that it as no wonder he had never healed after this experience if the thorn was still in the wound. I said now that it is out, the healing has already started. We did a little more but he was gone after one hour and half and he cancelled his second session a week later as he was feeling fine at last. No longer stuck in the past. That is about as individual as it gets.

Anxiety is a metaphor and it is not a helpful one for the individual. In many ways it is empowering to think that if you are doing this then there is a way to do it differently, you just need someone to listen to you carefully and to guide your mind where it needs to go.

I should mention that hypnosis is not a miracle cure. It is for some, but different people respond to different things – again – we are all extremely complex individuals which is my point and why when selecting a hypnotist you should select someone that does not use generic methods, someone that really understands hypnosis and the subconscious mind and someone that uses more than one hypnotic approach.

Be careful of anyone that spouts the line ‘hypnosis is a normal state of mind that you drift in and out of naturally every day’ – they do not understand hypnosis – it is so very much more than that – hypnosis is the response to suggestion, a moment created between two individuals that can move mountains.

Hypnosis is not magic even though it can come across that way sometimes. I believe that hypnosis should be the first thing available and the first things that people try when they start to have problems. Many of them will find instant relief or a significant difference made within 1 to 3 sessions. There will unfortunately be some who do not benefit, but imagine the extra resources that will be freed up and available to them after quick success with so many.

Hypnosis is psychology, not magic, and all psychology is metaphor for neurology. Metaphor is a powerful way that our inner mind – the creative and imaginative part of your mind – can understand the chaos of the world.

Pay a little more attention to yourself, to how you feel, to how you are thinking and notice that there is more going on than ‘anxiety’ or ‘depression’ and it is going on in your thoughts where you have the power to have the thoughts you want rather than be had by the thoughts that you do not want. You may just need a little guidance.

Alex Vrettos

Alex Vrettos is a Remedial Hypnotist working in Worthing in Sussex but he also offers Skype sessions. His online home is where he writes about anxieties, mental health and hypnosis on a regular basis.

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