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Hypnotic Techniques to Help Manage NMO Pain – Breakout Session – 2018 NMO Patient Day

Dyan Haspel-Johnson:

Hello, everybody. You all have on your seats a form. And if you can just fill it out, and sign it, and then just we’ll collect it before you leave. I’m going to be doing an experiential sort of a hypnosis in this group. So that’s why you have that form. So if you can fill it out, I’d appreciate it. I am Dyan Haspel-Johnson. I am a licensed psychologist, hypnotherapist and somatic experiencing practitioner. I’m in private practice in Santa Monica. So not far from here. I just have this slide up because I have created a package for NMO patients, which is a free resource for all of you. That’s going to be available later this year. And what’s included in that package is a 24 minute self hypnosis audio that you can download onto your computer or onto your devices. And that is specific for NMO that I’ve incorporated in a hopefully very relaxing way.

Dyan Haspel-Johnson:

All of the research, some of it is sort of metaphor, but symptoms, concerns, things with NMO experience. And there’s also going to be a video of me explaining what hypnosis is, what self hypnosis is, how to use the self hypnosis, when to use it, where to use it, all kinds of things like that. And then there’s also going to be an ebook that you can also download. And again, that’s a free resource. So it’s going to be available through my website, but also through the Guthy-Jackson Charitable Foundation. So you can either sign up on the back and they will let you know, or you can email me and just put NMO in the subject line and I’ll keep all your information private, of course. And let you know when those resources are available for you.

Dyan Haspel-Johnson:

Okay. So I came to this, I don’t have NMO, but I suffered with pretty severe chronic pain my entire life, with fibromyalgia, and with a lot of other chronic pain issues, and with immune issues and just a lot of health problems. And I discovered hypnosis when I was in graduate school. And I was also working in a holistic medical practice. And hypnosis really changed my life. I mean, I say it’s sort of saved my life. I think what it really did was it brought together all of the other treatments that I was doing. And it allowed me to become more self reliant, to manage my pain differently, to support my immune system differently. It helped me with just so many different things. And so I then started working with patients in the medical practice that I was working in, and later in my own private, psychological practice.

Dyan Haspel-Johnson:

And I started, I’ve done a lot of teaching of hypnosis for continuing education to professionals, as well as in groups like this. And then also individuals in my office. And I have found that learning self hypnosis is such an incredible resource that we all have. And I think it’s pretty easy to learn. Almost everybody can be hypnotized. And doing it in the comfort of your own home or on your own time, I think can really help with managing pain. So the question is, is what is hypnosis and what is self hypnosis? The American Psychological Association Division of Hypnosis defines hypnosis as a state of consciousness involving focused attention and reduced peripheral awareness characterized by an enhanced capacity for response to suggestion. So what does that mean? That means that when we focus our attention on certain experiences, or certain sensations, or perceptual phenomenon, it can really change our susceptibility to suggestions and it can change other perceptions. So, that can happen naturally.

Dyan Haspel-Johnson:

And that can happen through a guided hypnosis, like what we’re going to do later, or what’s in the resource that you can download later. But it happens naturally in every day experiences. So for example, when you’re watching a sunset, or listening to the waves of the ocean, having a great conversation with someone, and all of a sudden the hours become like minutes and time just whizzes by, or you don’t notice the background noises, or you notice you’re so busy with something, or something that’s a relaxing experience, or a pleasant experience that you don’t notice your pain as much, or you start to feel a little bit better. At least for that time, that’s a pleasant naturally occurring hypnotic experience.

Dyan Haspel-Johnson:

It can also happen in the reverse. So I tend to think of pain and chronic pain sometimes as an unpleasant hypnotic experience. We have pain and we get so distracted. We get so worn down, we get tired, we start to feel like we’re not in control of our lives anymore. Like it’s taken over. And the more that we feel like it’s taken over and we have anxiety maybe about am I going to be like this later today? Am I going to be like this tomorrow? Am I going to be like this next week? It’s sort of starts to spin. You’re nodding. I know, because I’ve experienced that myself. And I’ve worked with a lot of people who have described this to me. So these are natural ways, both pleasant and unpleasant, that hypnotic experiences occur in our every day lives. I think understanding that is really important because when you understand sort of the mechanism for how we perceive things, I think you get a little bit more of a sort of like a step in to maybe beginning to change it and to shifting your attention.

Dyan Haspel-Johnson:

Okay. That sounds so simple. We all know it’s not quite as simple as it sounds. But I think first of all, it’s important to recognize that pain does serve a function. The body doesn’t have words, so it has to express itself to us and get our attention somehow. And a lot of times when we have pain experiences, it’s the body’s way of saying that it needs care and it needs attention. A lot of times, particularly with conditions like NMO, where it’s so complex, and it’s so nuanced, and there’s this chronic element to it. Sometimes it can kind of start spinning. And it’s like, you’ve gotten the care that you need, and the body’s not kind of getting the memo. So I think that when we can shift our attention and use some of these skills that we’re born with, in whatever way works best for you, that can really help with changing from sort of the unpleasantness of some of the hypnotic experiences, to the pleasantness of the other resources that you have going on in your body, in your mind, in your spirit.

Dyan Haspel-Johnson:

There’s a lot of research that has shown that hypnosis and the shifts in perception that occur during hypnosis actually change the activity in the brain. They’ve done a lot of functional MRIs, and they’ve really consistently found that there are some changes, there are some changes with neuroplasticity and it can really help. Self hypnosis can really help with reducing symptoms, and reducing pain and helping with coping. And there’s a bunch of references in your handouts. But just to go over it, I don’t think that there has been research with NMO and hypnosis. But there has been some research with hypnosis to help with a lot of chronic pain conditions, including MS, including chronic regional pain syndromes, including fibromyalgia, surgical pain, a lot of different types of pain, acute and chronic. And the data is really pretty good. So I think it can be very helpful in terms of helping you to be a little bit more self-reliant, feel like you have some things that you can do on your own.

Dyan Haspel-Johnson:

And I think that that’s something that’s really powerful just sort of as a perceptual thing. I think when you have conditions where you’re having to check in with doctors and it’s a day-to-day, what can I do? What can I do? What are the symptoms going to be tomorrow? Am I going to be better? Am I going to be worse? I think that when we develop tools within ourselves to be more and more self-reliant, it’s very empowering. And so that’s one of the reasons why I wanted to kind of do this presentation. I did pick patient breakout sessions in 2012 for this group. And I was so inspired by literally every person I met. And so I’ve really continued to follow the research. And that was why I created this resource that’ll be available later this year for all of you. As just such a powerful, wise, inspiring group. Every single person I’ve met has been really, truly an inspiration to me.

Dyan Haspel-Johnson:

Okay. So just to back up a little bit. The difference between hypnosis and self hypnosis, is that hypnosis, which we’ll do a little bit later today and which I do in my office, is something that’s guided by a practitioner like myself. And sometimes that’s called hetero hypnosis, because it’s another person that’s guiding you. Self hypnosis is something that you do on your own. What I like about some of the research that’s been going on, particularly with people like MS patients, is that they’re teaching themselves hypnosis and finding really great results. So this is something I’m going to guide you in something today. But one of the reasons, again, that I created a resource for you, and that I want to talk to you about self hypnosis is that I think it can make you more self reliant and helping you to manage your pain, manage some of your other symptoms, manage some of the anxieties, or the feeling of depression that sometimes people experience.

Dyan Haspel-Johnson:

And it’s pretty easy to learn. Almost everyone can be hypnotized. And you just find the time and the place that’s best for you to do it. In the handout that you have of the PowerPoint, there’s also jus some little notes. And you don’t have to look at it now. Just so that you know that you don’t have to take notes about this hypnosis that I’m going to guide you in. I kind of made a few notes about the content of it. Just as a reminder to you, if you want to go back, and I really encourage you to sort of think back on what we do today and what we’re going to do in a minute. And in your own time, if you found it helpful, you can do it on your own so that it can really just help you to build a practice for yourself or the beginnings of a practice for yourself to help you to build that resource.

Dyan Haspel-Johnson:

So I’m going to do a little hypnotic induction on you, and you can either keep your eyes open if you’re not interested in experiencing that and you just want to observe, or you can close your eyes and know that there’s nothing that you’re going to be doing other than listening and having your own pleasant experience in this. And you’ll be free to open your eyes at any point. I don’t know if all of you or none of you have had experiences of hypnosis in the past. So it’s very natural. Like I said, it’s a naturally occurring phenomenon. So I think you’ll really enjoy it. But, you’re in control. You can open your eyes at any point. So just allow yourself to be as comfortable as you can be in these chairs. And just, if you like, just close your eyes, and just listen to the gentle sound of my voice. And you might notice how the sound moves into the quiet pauses and how those pauses connect the sounds.

Dyan Haspel-Johnson:

And at this time, here exactly where you need to be, doing exactly what you need to do. Free to experience whatever it is that’s comfortable and right for you. Know that there’s nothing to accomplish right now, and nothing to prove, nothing to worry about. And you’re free to let all of the background sounds and thoughts, activities and sensations, for now just drift into the background. Fade into the background. Know that if necessary for you to draw your attention or awareness outside of this pleasant and relaxing experience in order to care for yourself, you will do so. But for now, you’re free just to be. To be supported and to connect in whatever way best allows you to relax most fully.

Dyan Haspel-Johnson:

To notice how between each word, each word is connected by this gentle pause, this space, where you can just rest. And you might notice how, as you inhale, you receive all that you need at this time and in this space. And after you do, you take a little pause where you can just be. And as you exhale, you might notice at the body releases some of the tension, some of what you no longer need just as it has millions and millions of times before. And you pause just outside of yourself, calm and centered, before the body guides you in receiving exactly what you need. So easy, just to listen to my voice, just to follow this rhythm. And you might take this time to notice a place in the body or in the mind, an image or a feeling where you feel most yourself, most comfortable in being yourself. And you might notice how as you notice that place, or image, or a space between the words, how you connect with a resource and how you can expand that resource.

Dyan Haspel-Johnson:

Allow it to connect you more and more to this comfort, to this calm. That’s right. And what’s left is a sense of perhaps knowing at all things exist on a continuum. Hot and cold, are different degrees of temperature, and you can move from one to the other. Left and right. Both degrees of direction. And you can shift as you connect from sound to quiet, from quiet, comfortably back to sound. And you’ll find that even later tomorrow or the next day, and the day after, that perhaps if you wish to, you can come back to this relaxing place inside of yourself. The image, or the feeling, or the sound, or the pause to support yourself and to expand your comfort.

Dyan Haspel-Johnson:

And each time you do it will become easier, and easier, easier, and easier. And so in just a moment, I’m going to count back from three to one. And at one you’ll open your eyes, feeling more relaxed and refreshed, alert, perhaps stronger, more centered, healthy, and empowered, and all of the beneficial suggestions that I’ve given you will grow stronger with each breath for the highest good. Three, feel your fingers and toes. Two, fully in your body. And one, open your eyes wide awake and back in the room.

Dyan Haspel-Johnson:

How are you all doing? I see some smiles, so that’s good. Does anybody have any questions, or comments, or want to share anything?

Audience:

That was very relaxing.

Dyan Haspel-Johnson:

Yay! Good. What’s amazing about that is that I guided you with my voice, but this is an experience that you had on your own, that you tapped into. And that’s one of the things that I find so empowering. One of the reasons that I love teaching people self hypnosis is because I feel like, I always tell people, I feel like I’m showing them a buried treasure they have in their own backyard. It’s that you tapped into a resource. I mean, that was about 10 minutes. And so, one of the things I have found is that in the afternoon, between two and 5:00 PM, there’s actually a dip in the cortisol, in the circadian rhythm.

Dyan Haspel-Johnson:

And that’s the period where people often get really tired, or maybe some people probably get some flare ups at that time, or crave sugar or caffeine and want to take a nap. And so I have found that that period of time to do some type of meditation or self hypnosis is really effective, because it’s what the body sort of wants to do. So it breaks this kind of automatic cycle that we go in that we’re pushing, pushing, pushing to get things done. And so I think, and you obviously have a great ability to tap into that. So, that’s awesome. Yes.

Dyan Haspel-Johnson:

For me, when I do hypnosis or make people hypnosis recordings to teach them hypnosis, or the hypnosis that I have done as a resource for NMO patients is quite different than any other hypnosis I’ve ever done. So I always do things a little bit differently, but I would say one of my sort of signature moves is attention to the sound and the quiet. I think, for one thing, in my opinion, the pauses are really important to establish a certain rhythm. In this case, I think that the nervous system operates in these kinds of waves. So the heart beats as a muscle. The lungs function that way, the endocrine system pulses. And there’s a little transition between each of those movements. So I think it’s really important to allow that to happen.

Dyan Haspel-Johnson:

And I think it’s particularly important for people with health related issues, because what you’re really doing is you’re synchronizing to the body’s natural rhythm. In particular, you may have all noticed that I was, maybe you did, maybe you didn’t, but that I gave a lot of attention to connections between things. This is a condition where there is a breakdown of the myelin sheath, the optic nerve, connective tissue. So I think it’s really important for NMO to support connection.

Dyan Haspel-Johnson:

And so, for me, in particular with this group, I kept that very much in mind. Even in this… This is just a sort of 10 minute, quick something to give you all a sense of things, but that is something that I very much keep in mind. I’m keeping in mind in this little induction, and particularly in the other one that’s much more complex that I’ve designed for all of you, all of these nuances and in particular, how the body is functioning and dysfunctioning so that we can really support that. I think we have time for maybe one more.

Audience:

No no mine wouldn’t be too long.

Dyan Haspel-Johnson:

Okay.

Audience:

What I was going to ask, is the difference between like meditation and self hypnosis, are they kind of co-related?

Dyan Haspel-Johnson:

Yeah, that’s a great question.

Audience:

With the attunement with the body.

Dyan Haspel-Johnson:

It’s a great question. The quick answer is, it’s a debatable answer. And I actually sat on continuing education panel with a group of other people who were talking about exactly that. My opinion is in a nutshell, that I think that there’s a big overlap between different forms of meditation and hypnosis. However, most forms of meditation are really about sort of at oneness, or just being, being present in the moment, being present with yourself. Whereas, hypnosis does that, but also there is a specific treatment strategy. So for example, if I was just guiding you all in a guided imagery, that was just a relaxing… There at the ocean, without thinking about a treatment goal. That might be relaxing, but it’s not … in the studies, it’s actually not effective for pain and immune issues in the same way that hypnosis is.

Dyan Haspel-Johnson:

It doesn’t change sort of the gray matter of the brain in the same way or the neuroplasticity. In the case of meditation, you’re really just being, which is wonderful. I mean, that actually has been shown also in a lot of research, mindfulness and transcendental meditation particular have been shown to be really effective. And again, in changing gray matter and changing a lot of different things. But hypnosis, it’s very specific in terms of there are certain goals. And we’re moving towards those goals. Yeah. Thank you all so much.

 

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