It is easy to misunderstand Hypnosis and Hypnotherapy, and to underestimate their therapeutic benefits. The main premise of Hypnotherapy is that ‘Everything begins in the mind’. The technique of clinical hypnotherapy involves accessing the patient’s sub-conscious by inducing a deep relaxation of the cognitive mind. It can also include advanced techniques such as past-life regression. Let us understand in detail how hypnotherapy approaches cancer.
The mind is the “invisible body”; if there is a bodily breakdown, the origin can invariably be traced to the mind. If one subscribes to this view, then any illness can be understood using the same logic i.e. a negative, thought-emotion pattern leads to disease.
What causes Cancer according to Hypnotherapy?
The predominant view suggests that the primary emotions involved in cancer are ‘Guilt’ and ‘Anger’. When combined, they give rise to the need for ‘self-punishment’, which can manifest as cancer.
Guilt and anger
Guilt can emerge from the perception of “not having done enough” as well as “having done wrong” which then leads to anger and a consequent need to over-compensate.
For example, it has been found that breast cancer is correlated with a perceived sense of guilt for not nurturing/not feeling nurtured, which then turns into anger. This anger (towards self/others), when suppressed for an extended period, finally manifests on the physical body as breast cancer.
Unproductivity or inability
Another view proposes that cancer results from a feeling of ‘un-productivity’ or ‘inability’ to do something in a particular area of life which then gives rise to deep regret, resulting in cancer in the corresponding physical organ.
- Inability to nurture: linked to breast cancer (4th: Heart chakra)
- Inability to speak-up: linked to throat cancer (5th: Throat chakra)
- Inability to “digest” life: linked to stomach cancer (3rd: Solar plexus chakra)
Complementary, not Alternative
Hypnotherapy seeks to support and complement (not replace) mainstream medical treatments. When illness occurs in the physical body, it is important to recognise that it has been present in the “mental plane” as a negative thought-emotion pattern for a long period of time.
This repetitive pattern, which has led to a bodily-breakdown, most definitely requires a combination of interventions, through
- Mainstream medicine to address the “hardware” (i.e. the physical body).
- Complementary approaches like Hypnotherapy to address the “software” (mental and emotional aspects).It is important to note that even if the same “software” continues to run on a new “hardware” (healed physical body), recurrence is likely.
How does Hypnotherapy address cancer?
At the emotional/mental level, Hypnotherapy would focus on:
- Tracing the origin of the Guilt-Anger axis and resolving it through ‘inner-child work’ i.e. releasing the residual emotional charge of traumatic memories.
- Re-igniting the mind’s capacity to guide the individual’s own healing through guided-imagery.
- Improving ‘quality’ of life (even if ‘quantity’ of life cannot be enhanced) by coaching the individual to reach a place of acceptance in the here and now.
At a physical level, Hypnotherapy can work on mitigating the side effects of chemo and radio therapy, such as hair-loss, weight-loss, nausea, etc. Managing pain is another area where Hypnotherapy has proved hugely beneficial.
Case study – Naso-pharyngeal cancer
Ms. Rohini Gupta (name changed to protect privacy), who was diagnosed with naso-pharyngeal cancer, sought help from a Bangalore-based hypnotherapist. Here is Rohini’s feedback, in her own words:
It all started off with a trismus in my jaw which made it difficult to open my mouth. Slowly the pain spread through the right side of my face, all the way up to my head. It took about six months before my cancer was correctly diagnosed. It has been about a year and a half since my last chemotherapy.
- Mainstream treatment: I was given a combination of chemo and radio therapy. The treatment was very intense, leading to new side-effects each day.
- Family support: My main asset through the cancer experience was my ever loving family. We are a joint family and everyone offered me great support, love and strength. They kept me calm … and sane.
- Alternative therapies to complement mainstream treatment: I also used a number of alternative therapies to help me keep up my strength: Homeopathy, Yoga, Meditation and also some Hypnotherapy sessions. Hypnotherapy was very new to me and the reality turned out to be very different from what I had expected.
How hypnotherapy helped in cancer treatment
I must confess that I was a bit hesitant about the whole concept as I had imagined that the therapist would somehow control me totally! It turned out to be very similar to the deep relaxation that I was familiar with, in my Yoga and Meditation.
I never lost control during my sessions and felt very relaxed. The Past Life Regression angle simply didn’t work in my case; my therapist said that perhaps I was not ready for it, yet.
The guided imagery was good though, it brought to the surface the stuff that was hiding inside and had been worrying me for a while. Much of it was not new, but now I could give these issues some focus and energy, and to begin to really deal with them. That was important for me.
I cried a lot in the first session, and a little more in subsequent sessions which lightened me quite a bit. I would also listen to the guided imagery every night for some time. This helped me sleep a lot better as well. I am sure that Hypnotherapy played a great role in supporting my healing journey.
- What is the recurring chatter that goes on in your mind? How strident is your inner critic?
- Are you carrying or holding on to emotions like deep hurt, resentment or grief? In what way are they serving you? How can you let them go?
- Everyone has insecurities and vulnerabilities. How can you open yourself and find the right guidance and support?
We are grateful to Dr. Yuvraj Kapadia and Dr. Neeta Yuvraj, Directors, of EKAA (formerly called California Hypnosis Institute of India) for their inputs. EKAA is a non-profit organization which offers certification courses in Integrated Clinical Hypnotherapy, thereby integrating Hypnotherapy with other healing modalities. For more information, please visit their site.
After obtaining a degree in Psychology, Vidya Ramaswamy felt her subject learning had been limited since it stopped with the study of the mind. Believing that humans are “whole” beings, she decided to pursue a discipline which appreciates the inter-connection between body-mind-spirit. She qualified herself as a Clinical Hypnotherapist from the California Hypnosis Institute of India (CHII). Vidya now works with cancer patients on a daily basis as a Treatment-Coordinator/ Therapist at the Ojus-Sampurnah Integrative Medicine Clinic in Bangalore and practices as an independent Hypnotherapist as well.