According to the psychologist, Spiegel, self-hypnosis can be a useful tool to help individuals suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) overcome problems associated with the troubling symptom of disturbing, intrusive memories of the original trauma.
Spiegel states that self-hypnosis may be particularly useful because certain qualities of the hypnotic experience have much in common with qualities of the experience of the symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), examples of which include :
– a feeling of reliving the traumatic event
– feelings of dissociation (detachment from reality)
– hypersensitivity to stimuli
– a disconnection between cognitive and emotional experience
Spiegel argues that this similarity between hypnotic phenomena and the symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) make sufferers of this most serious and disturbing disorder more hypnotizable than the average member of any given randomly selected population.
It follows from this that those suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may be particularly likely to be helped by the utilization of hypnotic techniques and procedures, particularly ‘coupling access to dissociative traumatic memories with positive restructuring of those memories’ (Spiegel et al., 1990). By this statement, Spiegel is suggesting that hypnosis could help bring traumatic memories more fully into conscious awareness and alter the way in which they are stored in memory by associating / pairing / linking them with feelings of safety (such as the feeling of being safe and protected in the therapist’s consulting room) rather than, as had previously been the case, high levels of distress.
In this way, Spiegel suggests, when these previously disturbing memories are recalled in the future, because they are now associated / paired / linked with feelings of safety, they cease to induce distress.
In effect, then, the traumatic memories have become positively recontextualized and deprived of their previous power to induce feelings of fear, anxiety and terror.
David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)