Firstly, we need to know what anxiety is before we can attempt to alleviate it using hypnotherapy. Once we’ve understood what is it and looked at how it can affect us, then we can begin to look at hypnotherapy’s role in helping to reduce anxiety and what that result might look like for us.
Anxiety – What is it?
Perhaps it can best be described as a practical response to a dangerous, uncertain world. What we must remember is that we did not just suddenly arrive here with our cars, mobile phones, schools, hospitals and everything else which defines the modern era. Our incredible development from pre historic times is attributable to the growth of the most complex object in the universe – the human brain. The brain is actually a collection of small brains all acting together, with the most recent addition being the main cortex, the intellectual part, which allows us the ability to have conscious thought.
There is also a more primitive part of the brain which regulates things such as breathing, digestion, blood pressure etc. It regulates what we know today as the fight/flight mechanism. So, when we are in a dangerous situation, the primitive part of the brain receives the information from our senses (sight, hearing, smell) and works to keep us safe and well.
Signs of Anxiety
Anxiety is triggered when the brain recognises a dangerous situation. Symptoms include:
- an increase in energy levels as adrenaline and cortisol is released into the body so we can respond quickly to danger
- our breathing rate and heart rate increases to prepare us to flee danger
- our ability to think clearly is severely reduced as taking time to think about danger could be fatal
- an urge to use the loo as the body empties the bladder/bowels to prepare us for a quick escape
In a moment of real danger, all these symptoms would help us to fight or flee.
But if there isn’t any danger, why do we still feel anxious?
One other way in which our brain receives signals that there is danger is through our thinking. Every time we think negatively, we create anxiety and that’s because the primitive part of the brain cannot tell the difference between what’s real and what’s imagined. So, when we are thinking the worst, worrying about all sorts and expecting bad things to happen, the primitive part of the brain responds as though those thoughts were real. We get out of our brain what we put in, so if we’re thinking negatively we can expect to be anxious.
Consequence of negative thinking
Firstly, every negative thought is stored in what is called the stress bucket. The more negatively we think, the more that gets put into that bucket. The more that’s in the bucket, the more we operate from the perspective of the primitive mind, and suffer with anxiety, anger and depression or a combination of all three. Negative forecasting and thinking negatively about the past are all signs of heightened anxiety.
Secondly, we may not even realise our stress bucket is full until it begins to overflow, as our anxiety level may increase gradually over time. But we know when it overflows because we react badly to what might usually be pretty trivial matters, such as missing the bus for work, knocking over a drink at the breakfast table, a bill coming through the post that we weren’t expecting and so on.
Can hypnotherapy help with anxiety?
Yes, it can. Importantly, we can’t be in both parts of the brain at the same time. So, we need to operate from the perspective of the intellectual mind in order to reduce our anxiety. In just a few sessions, hypnotherapy can help us to:
- Create new neural pathways in the brain, as we consider alternative, beneficial behaviours
- Loosen the grip of negative thinking by engaging the creative power of the intellectual mind
- Wire our brain to access new, healthy, beneficial templates so that we react to situations in the best way possible for us
- Empty the stress bucket, removing the negative emotional content from memories which cause anxiety
- Quickly access a relaxed state, preventing the triggering of the stress response
So, can hypnosis cure us of anxiety?
The simple answer is, we don’t want to remove all anxiety from our lives because, in healthy amounts, it is necessary for our survival. Anxiety is only a problem when there is too much of it. So, we want to reduce anxiety to an appropriate level for any particular situation, which will allow us to remain calm so that we can think clearly and cope better.
When we are positively engaging with people, taking part in positive activities and thinking positively, we remove ourselves from the confines of negativity. The more we do this, the more the brain can work to empty the stress bucket.
Ultimately, having an understanding of what’s taking place within the brain is the necessary first step to creating calm. We can then use the state of hypnosis to ensure we get the very best out of our brain.