A question about how to use hypnotic Age Regression Therapy with a teenager with obsessive-compulsive thinking.
Answered by Calvin D. Banyan, MA, CI, BCH
I have just begun working with a teenage girl, referred to me for obsessive compulsive thoughts. My client reports that there are several thoughts that she can get "stuck on." She says that she has been through psychotherapy and has taken medications for the problem.
I have only one session with her so far. During that session, I tested her and found that she easily reaches somnambulism. In hypnosis I taught her how to relax herself, and gave her some suggestions for feelings of wellbeing. I understand that if I don't do some additional work such as age regression, this will probably not last. So next time I want to work on doing a regression to cause, using Affect Bridge. But, I don't have an emotion or affect in which to use. Should I regress her by having her focus on the thoughts? I'm open to suggestions
Good question. From my experience, this is what I believe is happening and what you can do about it in order to help your client. We human beings are programmed to avoid pain and discomfort, and to move toward pleasure (or at the very least to move away from the discomfort, which is pleasurable relative to the pain, providing a sense of relief).
Looking at the compulsion this way, we can see that the behavior of thinking the thought is being done because it is useful. It is useful in that repeating the thoughts over and over in her head is a way of removing herself mentally (dissociating) from the emotional discomfort inside of her. She may not be aware of the feeling inside of her (she is probably very good at dissociating from it, and it is an automatic/habitual response to the feeling). This is why "talk therapy" alone is often ineffective. And this is why hypnosis, especially Age Regression Therapy, can be very effective.
It does not matter at this point what the emotion is. In my experience it is some kind of fear based thought, (or idea, belief or thought that leads to a feeling of fear).
You wanted to know how to do this. Should you use the Affect Bridge Technique? And, if so, how do you find the affect? Or should you regress on the thoughts, or something else?
In cases like this I prefer to use Affect Bridge Technique, because, if the client can tell you why or when the behavior started, these accounts prove to be unreliable once age regression hypnotherapy has been conducted.
So, in your next session, induce hypnosis, deepen to somnambulism, and start off by suggesting that there is a feeling that she gets which is associated with this compulsion to start thinking the thoughts. (Actually, the compulsion is the feeling.) So have her focus on the "need" to think the thoughts, and suggest that as she focuses on that feeling it grows inside of her. Continue to give suggestions that the feeling is growing, until you can observe signs that she is indeed experiencing the feeling. For example, she might start breathing faster, or her muscles may tighten, or she may begin to cry, or look as if she is going to cry. When this begins to occur, let your client know, and this will exacerbate the feeling further, giving you a good strong affect in which to regress on. I might say something to my client such as, "Good, I can see that you are experiencing the feeling either consciously or subconsciously, because you are breathing faster and look as if you want to cry."
Another way that you could do the regression is to focus on the thought and suggest that she go back to when she first felt the need to focus on the these thoughts. This may work but is a less desirable approach for a number of reasons. First, regressing on a thought is not as reliable as regressing on an emotion. The emotion will take you right back to the beginning (the Initial Sensitizing Event/ISE). The particular thoughts that you are focusing on for the regression may or may not be directly associated with the ISE. Also, when you get someone deeply focused on an emotion, it tends to take them deeper into hypnosis, which also increases the probability of success.
Still another way to work with the situation, with a good subject, is to simply suggest that you are going to go back in time to "when it all began." I believe that this is the least reliable way to uncover an ISE.
In summary, the compulsion is a feeling. Focus on the need or desire to think the thought and you will be instructing the client to focus on the affect. Continue to suggest that the affect is growing stronger until you can see signs of the affect. Now you can feel confident that you have a strong connection to it, strong enough to have a reliable bridge to previous times when it was experienced (Subsequent Sensitizing Events/SSE) and the ISE. Affect Bridge is the most reliable way to do this because conscious historical accounts tend to lack sufficient reliability.
Then proceed with the Informed Child Technique and Informed Adult Technique. Make sure that the affect has been removed (or desensitized). Now the pressure to think the thought will have been removed. It will then either stop or fade away (there may still be some residual habit which can be removed through hypnotic suggestion alone).
Always end each therapy session with direct suggestion for the change that your client wants. The experience has left them highly suggestible for suggestions that are consistent with what they experienced during the therapy process, such as now feeling safe and secure. Suggest an alternative behavior, for example, "from now on if you ever have one of those thoughts that you have experienced and bothered you in the past, it will also cause you to remember how really safe and secure that you are now."
I also recommend that you continue therapy as outlined in the 5-PATH® system, because there may be other emotions within your client, which if not neutralized, may lead to further compulsive thinking. For example, forgiveness therapies are very good at reducing feelings of guilt and anger. Your client has learned to deal/cope with unpleasant feelings by distracting by focusing on other thoughts. So, a good emotional clearing of the past is indicated in such cases. She may also benefit from education or counseling on how to respond to feelings that are a head in her life in a more satisfying way (i.e., The Secret Language of Feelings). I would also recommend she learn 7th Path Self-Hypnosis as a way of helping her to continue to keep herself emotionally stable in the future and give herself hypnotic suggestions for success in the future.