Most depression is addressed with medication, psychotherapy, or a combination of both. There is research to support that combined therapies are more effective than psychopharmacology alone. But what about a fresh approach?
Depression is sometimes described as feeling like being caught in a downward spiral or a vortex. A friend of mine uses the term “catastrophizing” to describe the bleak outlook that depression sometimes presents. There are real symptoms, physical, mental, emotional and spiritual that are repeatedly reinforced through unconscious negative self-talk and negative underlying belief systems. Cognitive behavioral therapy and other psychotherapeutic techniques can help by exploring conscious thoughts and behaviors driven by the negative underlying influences, but they cannot get to the root cause beliefs that keep the cycle of sorrow continuing.
Similarly, medications can provide relief of the symptoms, but that is as far as they can go, not to mention the potential side effects that they bring with them. I never understood those disclaimers on the drug ads that warn that antidepressants can increase the risk of thoughts of suicide until a friend began to take them. She said the only way she could describe it was that they reduce the extreme impact of being so emotionally down by reducing the all extremes. The emotional lows are not so low, but there are no emotional highs either. Life becomes blasé, so the thought of ending life creeps in.
Hypnotherapy provides an alternative approach to looking at root causes. Now although hypnotherapy is not a treatment and does not diagnose or treat any problems with a physical or mental etiology, a hypnotherapist can work with your doctor, counselor or psychotherapist on a referral basis to help you explore what underlies your suffering.
Hypnotherapy can go beyond merely addressing symptoms. In fact, last year, the Wellness Institute, which offers professional training to psychotherapists and counselors in hypnotherapy, identified four significant benefits that hypnotherapy can offer. These closely correspond to my own experience working with people in my training from the Hypnosis Motivation Institute and Atlantic University, so here is my version of them:
1. Uncovering Internal Resources
During hypnotherapy, you can explore your own internal subconscious resources. The role of the hypnotherapist is to help guide you in this exploration and make sure that your own internal resources can remain accessible to you even after the session ends. Accessing internal resources can enhance your coping skills and increase your resiliency, which are two areas battered by being depressed.
Direct access to the subconscious and the superconscious can also enhance your spiritual connection, whatever you conceive that to be, whether you feel that you have reached a higher power or just a higher aspect of yourself. Since being depressed creates feelings of isolation, being able to connect or re-connect with that inner channel to wisdom can be helpful.
2. Going Deep
In the hypnotic state, you directly access your subconscious mind. Being able to access the place that is the source of dreams and phobias under your own control, guided by a hypnotherapist, often allows identification of the underlying negative associations that have become part of the much larger problem. Hypnosis provides a mechanism to safely examine deep emotions and the buried baggage that goes with them.
Integrated Imagery Regression Hypnosis can help you correlate your present situation to earlier experiences, allowing you to understand your own belief system with insights unavailable to the conscious mind. Your situation may not seem logical because it is not. The place that dreams and phobias come from is not a place of logic. The conscious mind is the source of logic and reasoning, and it is only 12% of your mind’s potential. The rest is the unconscious, where inspiration, but also fear and emotion reign supreme. At the very least, gaining some insights into what happened or is happening at a subconscious level can help you become more forgiving of your own younger self and understanding of your present self.
3. Reframing the Negative
If you trace negative beliefs and conclusions safely back to their source, sometimes the subconscious mind will be able to allow a reassessment of the events that have piled so much negativity around them. Like an irritant in an oyster that results in layer upon layer being wrapped around it, the subconscious collects negative associations that emanate from their underlying causes. With a hypnotherapist guiding you, you may be able to apply the wisdom and insight of your present maturity to change the long-standing way that negative associations have been held in your subconscious.
You do not necessarily have to continue to accept those myths of your own emotional making that say that you are alone, unloved, not good enough and so on. This is not just Pollyanna affirmation, this is working inside your own subconscious to help change your underlying belief system for the better. That is what self-improvement is all about and that is what hypnotherapy is for.
One of the most powerful aspects of hypnotherapy is that it allows you to rewrite the history of events that you carry within your subconscious. This is not about changing the facts about what happened, but rather about changing your associated emotional attachments and responses to events and emotions. This powerful tool can allow you to re-imagine the circumstances in a more positive way, even subconsciously experiencing the “what if” of a different result to the situation.
Much of our emotional baggage comes from second guessing and regretting how we handled situations and then fearing and doubting our ability to manage similar feelings and situations. The extreme example of this is when we build some unfortunate event that harbors significant negativity in our subconscious into such a powerful force that it can paralyze us with fear, overwhelming the logic of the conscious mind. Powerful emotions, negativity and impact on our day-to-day lives can come from the negative forces within us that help spark the cycle of depression as well.
Being able to revisit, rethink and rework a traumatic event or emotional response within the subconscious that has become so layered with negative associations that it affects our conscious life is a powerful tool indeed. You can address your own needs at a deep and direct level, and reduce the power that those deep wounds carry.
Hypnotherapy alone does not diagnose or treat depression or any mental or physical illness. However working with your health care provider, a hypnotherapist can help you in ways that psychotherapy and drugs cannot. A holistic approach to mind, body and spirit seems to me to be very appropriate when trying to deal with issues of depression.
McCraty, R. & Childre, D. (2002). The appreciative heart: The psychophysiology of positive emotions and optimal functioning. Boulder Creek, CA: Institute of HeartMath.
Salewski, C. (2015). What’s the best way to treat depression: Medication, psychotherapy, or hypnotherapy? Retrieved from http://web.wellness-institute.org/blog/whats-the-best-way-to-treat-depression-medication-psychotherapy-or-hypnotherapy?
Salisbury, A.F. & Hasegawa, Y. (1995-2005). Transpersonal Hypnotherapy Protocols Workbook. Golden, CO: Transpersonal Hypnotherapy Institute.
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