To be calm and confident: just close your eyes
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One of my biggest struggles over the past year has been finding a way to cope with fear and anxiety about recurrence after breast cancer treatment. I’ve tried everything: therapy, meditation, antidepressants, exercise, massage, even energy healing. And I have to admit it was with a slight whiff of desperation that I turned to hypnotherapy.
What’s the first thing that springs to mind when you think of hypnosis? Perhaps you’ve seen a hypnotist show where a man makes drunk people bark like dogs. Maybe you picture an illusionist like Derren Brown. It could be that, like me, you can’t help thinking of Sir Hiss from Disney’s underrated 1970s version of Robin Hood.
Of course, hypnotherapy is absolutely nothing like any of the above. It’s more a form of deep relaxation, the aim of which is to get your mind into that almost-but-not-quite-asleep stage of consciousness.
Chloe Brotheridge is a hypnotherapist, coach and author of the bestselling The Anxiety Solution. She describes this relaxed-but-awake state as a kind of ‘download mode’ where our minds become more open to suggestions.
‘During hypnosis we get into a deeper, meditative state,’ she explains. ‘The conscious mind quietens down and it allows us to access the subconscious, where we’re more able use our imagination in useful ways.’
The idea is that, without your conscious mind banging on about your to-do list or berating you for being weird in a group WhatsApp message earlier, your unconscious mind is able to take in the hypnotherapist’s positive messages. It could be anything from feeling healthier and happier to reducing anxiety and improving confidence. You don’t have to be suffering from post-cancer fears to benefit.
‘Hypnotherapy can be used for almost anything to do with how you think, feel and behave,’ says Chloe. ‘Personally, I’ve found the best results in helping people feel more relaxed and confident. The process itself is very relaxing and produces an open and receptive state where we can learn new ways to be. It can help us to change our inner dialogue so that we're kinder to ourselves and we can use our imagination during hypnosis to see ourselves as more confident in different situations, such as during public speaking.’
Of course, there are still sceptics who can’t get the image of Sir Hiss out of their minds. ‘It's quite common to feel sceptical because of the way hypnotherapy is often portrayed in the media, but the reality is that it’s safe, relaxing and helpful,’ Chloe assures me. ‘Top athletes use visualisation to help them to prepare for their events, and hypnosis enables us to use visualisation in a similar way to help us make changes to how we think and feel. Hypnotherapy recordings are inexpensive, effortless and you can listen in bed as you drift off to sleep. You have nothing to lose in giving it a try - many people are surprised at how well it works!’
So did hypnotherapy cure my fear and anxiety about breast cancer coming back and spreading to another part of my body? The answer is not a straightforward yes, because there is no wonder cure for the sense of dread you feel with every headache or back twinge after being told you’re at high risk of recurrence. But, along with other steps I’m taking such as exercise (which has been shown to reduce risk of recurrence), eating well, getting enough sleep, managing stress and going to therapy, it’s been an enormous help.
I’ve always found it easier to drift off to sleep if I’m listening to a podcast, as other people’s voices seem to quieten my whirring thoughts. Unfortunately, though, I’ve often fallen asleep listening to depressing news podcasts - no wonder my subconscious was a nervous wreck.
Now, I like the idea that my brain is being treated to positive messages last thing at night. I believe that I feel lighter and more optimistic when I wake up after falling asleep to a hypnotherapy recording. Some might say the benefits are ‘all in my mind’. To that, I would say: yes, exactly.
Visit calmer-you.com to try the High Functioning Anxiety Hypnotherapy Pack. Chloe has kindly given Well Well Well readers a code - enter WELL at checkout to save 20%
This week I’m…
One of the three people in the UK still watching The Apprentice but, honestly, this series is a classic of the genre
Appreciating a sense of awe with Enchantment: Reawakening Wonder in an Exhausted Age by Katherine May
Still thinking about Marcel the Shell with Shoes on, which my eight-year-old and I both loved during an afternoon cinema trip on school-strike day last week
Excited to see the endlessly amazing Self Esteem live in London this weekend
All in your mind... Well if that's where the anxiety is, then it sounds like that's where you want the relief to be. Glad you're finding relief, it's the results that matter.
I too find listening to something before bed calms my mind, especially if I'm stuck in a to-do loop. My go to is the audiobook version of Neil Gaiman's Norse Mythology (read by the author). It's perfect because I've heard the stories before so many times so there's no stress to stay awake. It's reminiscent of being read to sleep by a parent (I wonder how Neil would feel about our one way relationship). But I'm always surprised I don't dream about Norse gods and giants and such.
I'm fascinated and terrified by hypnotherapy in equal measure. I really enjoyed this and think we need to hear more balanced accounts of it like this. I've never done it myself, mostly because the stories I've read/heard talk about it like a witchcraft that has an ever-lasting effect on your sanity. But I think, like most things, it probably has a small but incremental healing effect over time.