Could hypnotherapy help cure your anxiety?
From CBD oils to iPhone apps, there are now a whole host of treatments available designed to help soothe our anxious society, but for our writer, hypnosis has proved to be one of the only things that has managed to have a meaningful impact
A few hours before my first ever hypnotherapy session, I begin to get very, very nervous. Faced with a six-page PDF document titled “Before we begin, where are we now?”, packed with a series of questions ranging from the seemingly harmless – “If you were to do any job other than the one you have now, what would it be and why?” – to the brutal and raw – “What was the worst, most emotionally painful experience of your life?” – I quickly realise that what I’m about to do might not be a particularly enjoyable experience. How on earth was I supposed to open up and answer these questions to a complete stranger? Writing it down helped, but what lay ahead still presented a challenging experience. When I leave my two-hour session, which included what might have been the most honest conversations of my life, I feel exhausted.
But I still went back for another appointment. Trained hypnotherapist Jessica Boston boasts an impressive list of credentials, but her greatest asset is her kind, caring nature and genuine passion for helping clients. I wanted to go back, because after a decade of shuffling through various NHS waiting lists and treatments for anxiety and depression, she was the first professional I’d seen who was able to crack through the surface and shine some light on potential reasons for my behaviours. This isn’t hypnotherapy as seen on TV, complete with swinging pendulums and “deep... deeeep... sleep”, it’s hypnotherapy based on deep, deep self-reflection.
'ANXIETY AND CONFIDENCE SORT OF IMPACTS EVERYTHING. I SEE PEOPLE FOR WEIGHT LOSS OR BREAKING HABITS, BUT IT’S ALWAYS ABOUT SOMETHING BIGGER'
Boston’s sessions are divided into two sections. For the first hour or so, you talk, using the questions from the PDF booklet as a jumping off point, from which Boston identifies points of interest and probes deeper. For instance, during my first session, she quickly notices my over apologetic nature and links it to my teenage years, during which I was always getting punished at school. Over the years, it turns out I’d subconsciously held onto those moments, convincing myself I’m a bad person who's always on the brink of being in some kind of trouble. When she connected the dots, it seemed like the kind of revelation I should have had years ago and, suddenly, I felt a little bit less guilty for existing.
At this point, however, most of the experience is more akin to standard therapy. It’s not until part two that the "hypno" element is introduced. This, to my surprise, is even harder than the first half of our session. Hypnotherapy can work for everyone, Boston reassures me, “but especially people who have an over creative mind, people who tend to get lost in a vivid inner world and are really good at telling stories”. Hypnosis, she says, is “a way of rechanneling that creativity into something that benefits you rather than terrifies you”.
The problem a lot of people have when they first try it, myself included, is trying to relax in a situation that is unfamiliar – particularly if the reason they're there is anxiety. Jessica helps clients with all sorts of problems, from quitting smoking to weight loss, but the most common issue people come to her with is anxiety and lack of confidence. “Anxiety nowadays means something slightly different in everyone’s head,” she explains. “Anxiety and confidence sort of impacts everything. I see people for weight loss or breaking habits, but it’s always about something bigger. Weight loss is never about weight loss, it’s about a relationship with yourself. It’s never so cut and dry.”
THE HYPNOTISED STATE IS SUPPOSED TO HELP THE SUBCONSCIOUS BECOME CONSCIOUS
Back to being hypnotised. Jessica tells me to get comfortable on the sofa as she begins my induction, handing me a blanket to help with the relaxation. I close my eyes and start concentrating on my breathing. Jessica speaks softly and slowly, putting stresses on odd syllables in her sentences, asking me to reflect on the things we’ve talked about while simultaneously lulling me into a meditative state, like listening to a Headspace clip that is specifically tailored to my needs. This is all fine. I’m used to this. Things get interesting when she starts to ask me questions. Before we began the hypnotherapy section of our session, Jessica told me not to be embarrassed and that there are no right or wrong answers. The hypnotised state is supposed to help the subconscious become conscious. But as soon as it’s my turn to talk I suddenly become very aware of what’s going on around me and can’t help but panic a little bit. Where do I feel all of the things that cause me stress in my body? What does it feel like? What colour is it? I don’t have a bloody clue.
After a few questions, Jessica continues the session in a similar style to the aforementioned personalised meditation experience, this time guiding me to come back into the room, which she records and emails to me the next day. I’m instructed to listen to it everyday and write down how I feel afterwards in the booklet she gives me. These notes then inform our next session, during which we hone in on more specific problems in my life. When we begin our second session, I immediately feel far more relaxed, so much so that during the hypnosis I actually feel like I’m floating. Afterwards, I remember barely anything that was said while I was under, but luckily it’s all on tape and is once again emailed to me the following day.
So does it actually work? Am I now less anxious and more confident? It’s hard to say. My journey with hypnotherapy is far from over. Even Jessica said that her first encounter with it took a while, but once it clicked it became the only thing that had ever helped her to overcome her problems. It’s certainly given me a clearer sense of what might be causing my anxiety and, with that, I’ve noticed that I’m slightly better at rationalising when I’m stressed instead of whipping myself up into a hysterical frenzy. Taking the time to sit and relax with the recordings of our sessions also provide a great reminder of how to tackle things that hold me back on a day-to-day basis, kind of like cognitive behavioural therapy on the go that sinks in gradually. Hypnotherapy is not the magic, overnight fix all that many might imagine it to be and you have to put in the work if you want to see results, but as time goes on, I do feel as though I’m reaping the benefits. Less of a deep, deep sleep and more like a winding journey of self discovery, it’s helped awaken me to the roots of my problems unlike any other type of therapy I’ve tried before. I can’t wait to see what I might find at the end of the road.
Visit jessicaboston.com for more information