Archive for the ‘Cognitive Hypnotherapy’ Category

The Mind Can Change The Brain – Altering The Belief System

by Bill Engle October 8th, 2013 No Comments


« Back to full list of articles

The Mind Can Change The Brain –  Altering The Belief System

“The mind can change the brain:” according to psychiatrist Jefferey Schwartz in a Newsweek Aricle, on February 26th, 1996.  During that month of February, Dr. Schwartz and four colleagues reported in the Archives of General Psychiatry that the mind can be at least as powerful as medicine when it comes to remodeling the brain Behavioral modification, (altering the way a person behaves,) and cognitive therapy, (altering the way a person thinks,) can alter the biology of their brains.  Listen up, folks!

It is true that a leopard can’t change its spots – just as a person cannot change the color of their skin.  But as human beings, we can adjust our thinking, which in turn alters our behavior, which leads to a change in our personality.  Inevitably, this person, along with all the characteristics, identities, individualities, mannerisms, dispositions and traits become subject to some form of physiological change.  Actors do this all the time.  In order to induce a positive message into the subconscious, the old message must be removed.  Since the undesirable old message is not automatically erased by the desired new message, it must be nullified by inducing a positive message.  In the following example, the positive fresh message serves to replace the fixated, stale message:

“Your old feelings, attitudes and fixations about smoking have now been dismissed.  They are now erased and extracted from your subconscious, so that they are replaced only by positive confirmations.  Repeat after me:  As far as my health and my breathing, I have but one desire – and that is, that I breathe clean, fresh air, rather than saturating my system with smoke.  Throughout the day, I shall breathe only the fresh air given to me naturally.”

The first principle in attempting to alter negative behavior is to realize that we are all creatures of habit.  Since positive habits are far more beneficial than bad habits, the key is to initiate a positive habit strong enough to overcome the bad habit.  This can be accomplished by developing new patterns, or by selecting a habit so effective and enjoyable that it acts to overpower the undesirable bad habit.

The second principle, in order to affect a change is to “rename” the habit, for instance, “I am having a nicotine urge,” rather than an attack.  Verbalizing the truth sometimes makes for the best medicine.

The third principle, provided the case is true, is to attribute the urge to a “biochemical imbalance in the brain” and begin developing new patterns.  (Admitting that the problem is chemical, rather than having a mental weakness, is closer to the truth, relieving unnecessary guilt – then the impetus to change becomes easier).

The fourth principle in order to affect change is to “refocus” on some positive, constructive activity for fifteen minutes.  This engages another part of the brain and alters the brain circuits that initially caused them to become stuck.  Between developing new patterns, “renaming” and “refocusing” it is possible that the mind can ‘rewire’ neural synapses that link to phobias and depression.

An overview of the treatment with hypnosis of non-viral/bacterial dermatological conditions:

The skin is a mirror of the inner self, and we frequently use phrases which reflect this; ‘getting under your skin’, ‘thin skinned’, ‘itching to do something’, for example.  These all reflect the fact that it is recognized as a measure of our vulnerability.  We use these phrases without thinking about them.  It is only when the skin begins to malfunction that these expressions really start to have a meaning.

To understand where non-viral or bacterial skin conditions come from, it is appropriate to look at where the skin develops when we are in embryonic stage.  The epidermis and nervous system originate from the ectoderm, and as such, when the embryo fully develops a strong series of connections exist between the two.  Therefore, an imbalance within the nervous system may frequently be reflected in the epidermis itself.  It can be a signal of an implicit vulnerability to a situation, or a response to that initiating trigger itself.  Therefore, treating the symptom alone for psychogenic disorders is not as effective as treating the trigger as well.  This is why Hypnotherapy for skin conditions can be so productive.

Hypnosis is effective for the treatment of dermatological conditions in three specitic ways.  Firstly, treatment of the root cause; secondly, remission of the symptom, and finally through treating the conditioned response to the symptom.

It is very important to be aware of the very distressing effects which these types of conditions have on the individual, and his/her sense of self.  An initial consultation would consist of, among other things, finding out what the client enjoys doing, and what they do to relax.  This information is then fed back to the client in hypnosis to establish biofeedback connections with positive associations.  When talking about something we enjoy, we begin to come out of ourselves, and take our mind off things which are a concern.  This demonstrates that there are times when the client is not so aware of their problem, and this they do naturally by becoming occupied in something else.  This is done also to establish that the symptom is not always constant, and therefore manipulable.

One of the most important questions which the Hypnotherapist must ask before treating the client with Hypnosis is to find out which of the three component parts of the problem, the cause; the symptom; or their reaction to the symptom is the thing which is of most concern to them.  The empasis here is on which element of the condition they wish to take control of first.


With any condition with a psychogenic component, the client suffers from feelings of being out of control, this made worse by the visibility of the symptom.  This visibility has social implications and can hold the client back from forming the social bonds which in themselves can take them away from the problem, i.e. manipulate the symptom.  Unlike standard treatment, where the client is booked for a course of sessions, the client is asked to initially come back after a three week period.  This is the length of time usually considered for an idea to become sufficiently fixed in the mind.  The client will then designate the speed and frequency of subsequent sessions.  This is to allow the client another area of control which strengthens confidence in themselves and their commitment to the Hypno-therapeutic process.


Stress increases the vulnerability of the autonomic nervous system and this has a direct effect on the epidermis.  This increases the dermatological symptoms and sets the client into an anxiety loop.  The worse the external stress becomes, the more the autonomic nervous system reacts in response, the worse any dermatological reaction.

One of the most effective ways the Hypnotherapist can help in alleviating the symptom is to teach the client Self Hypnosis for stress reduction.  This allows the client to regain a level of control of certain autonomic functions of the system, such as breathing and regulation of the heart rate.  This serves the twofold process.  It demonstrates that autonomic functions can be manipulated using hypnosis, and by reducing the stress component of the problem, the symptom itself will reduce.

Treating the Trigger

There are two categories into which individuals with a problem fall.  The first is those who need to know why they do something before they can move away from the problem, and those who feel they have already dealt with that aspect of the problem and simply require a remission of the symptoms.

Those people who need to know why they have their problem require treatment involving analysis or regression.  The aim of these techniques is to give an insight into the root cause of the problem.  This work can be done in a context free manner, so it is not necessary in hypno-therapeutic treatment for the material to come to consciousness, only that the emotional content is released in a cathartic manner.  The underlying principal is that the release of the emotional component will eradicate the need for the symptom.

For those whose primary concern is the eradication fo the problem, i.e. those who feel that the initiating reason for their condition is not relevant to them anymore, the trigger still needs to be dealth with.  In these instances, dissociation techniques are often used.  These techniques concentrate on a resolution or re-integration of a problem part – the part which caused the problem.  With dermatological conditions which provoke a conditioned reflex such as scratching, the most distressing aspect for the individual is the feeling that they are scratching without any conscious awareness, such as in their sleep.  The principal of dissociation brings back the part which scratches, and reintegrates it into the whole, therefore eradicating the need for the symptom, and bringing the trigger under conscious control.

Dealing With The Symptom

As the symptom provoked can itself cause additional problems, such as poor self image, and a lack of confidence, this aspect is addressed through ego-strengthening techniques.  This reduces the stress and helps take the client out of themselves, and away from focussing on the condition.

As some dermatological conditions respond well to exposure to ultra violet light, creative visualization in Hypnosis can be used to take the client to a warm beach, where they can safely experience the healing effects of the sun.  If the client is receptive to imagery, the same physiological and psychological changes will be produced as if they were actually experiencing it.  Changes in skin pigmentation corresponding to sun exposure have been seen in the therapeutic applications of visualization.  Finding out what the client uses effectively to ease the symptom can also be fed back in hypnosis, and therefore amplified on the unconscious level at which the problem has been operating.

A final aspect in dealing with the symptom in this type of hypno-therapeutic intervention is the generation of new, healthy skin.  This can be done in one of two ways.  Either the client is asked to remember a time when their skin was healthy, i.e. a time before the condition occurred, or imagery is used of how they wish themselves to look when their skin is healthy.

Coping with the Reaction to the Symptom

In addition to the symptom itself, the conditioned response needs to be extinguished.  Scratching or itching, which gave temporary relief to the client from the condition, itself becomes a habit.  Even when the trigger has been removed and the new dermatological reaponse generated, the reaction still remains in place and must also be deconditioned.  If this is not done, at any time in the future should the individual become stressed or their immune system depleted, the habit can resurface and cause an apparent re-occurence of the symptom.  Once the client becomes aware that their skin condition is deteriorating, they begin to focus on that area, they become more stressed, and the pattern becomes a vicious circle until the condition starts afresh.  The scratching or itching can be dealt with by hypno-desensitization, a gradual process which weans the individual off the behavior.

Glove Anaesthesia

Glove anesthesia is a hypnotic technique which can also be used in hypnosis to allow the client to alter perception of sensitivity.  A specific technique which uses suggestions of cold and numbness is used for dermatological conditions.  This is used to produce vaso-constriction for a numbness or coolness to reduce sensitivity to the itch itself.  This is done by teaching the client how to produce analgesia in their hand.  They are then taught how to transfer this lack of sensitivity/numbness or coldness to any part of the body they wish.  This stage of the treatment reduces the physical need for the itching or scratching, and allows the skin to begin to heal until the habitual element of the behavior is extinguished.  In certain instances, warmth can be generated to produce vaso-dilation to increase the blood supply to the area where it is needed, and speed up the physical healing process.

To the doctor of the Mind, however, something lies behind whatever specific physical matter or cause-effect the laboratory scientists search for.

What Produces Illness?

There seems to be substantial evidence that it is caused by frequent negative statements and/or experiences, especially in one’s early life; warnings given by authority figures; prolonged anxiety or stress, and fear from incidents based on strong emotions; or fed by an active and creative imagination.  These participate in creating an unhealthy body.

Frequent negative messages can affect the body.  In other words, an unhealthy mind can create an unhealthy body.  Conversely, a positive, healthy mind can create a healthy body.  And, there is much evidence that a positive mind can actually cure an unhealthy body, as well.  Generally, when that happens, especially if the condition has been serious, we call it a “miracle.”

It is a known fact that the more a client practices Hypnosis, the greater depth is achieved.  Thus, over a period of time even clients who can only achieve light trance will soon allay their fears of the Hypnotic state and will easily enter the deeper states needed for analgesia/anaesthesia and or pain relief.