Obsessive-Compulsive Thoughts and Hypnosis

By Devin Hastings 12-20-2011

“The alley is dancing-shadow dark and the sounds of his thoughts seem to menacingly echo between the dark building walls as walks tentatively forward.

His anxiety builds as he wonders when he will next have one of his ‘terrible’ thoughts. And then, as if the thought were genie-like summoned, it comes to his mind too quickly for him to avoid.

While he attempts to flee the quicksand torture of his alien thoughts, his heart screams for relief.”

The above is how one of my OCD clients expressed what it was like for him as he lived in fear of his OCD thoughts.

My client Jon (alias) contacted me about hypnosis for OCD because his ‘OCD attacks’ were snowballing in frequency and intensity and he was becoming desperate enough to try anything including ‘voodoo hypnosis’.

Jon didn’t really think hypnosis could help with his OCD and so he was quite surprised at the end of first session to have experienced a brief period of freedom.

One idea that helped him begin the journey back toward a quiet mind is this: You can be ambushed by terrible thoughts/feelings but you don’t have to remain hostage to them.

Part of the power behind his liberating realization is this: fear is a powerful bonding agent to the very thoughts/images/feelings the OCD person does NOT want.

In other words, the more you fear the OCD thoughts/images/feelings, the more they must come to your mind. And hypnosis can absolutely help a person reduce their fear of unwanted, menacing thoughts.

By the way, because of their fear, a lot of OCD people forget that they are continually changing their feelings which, if you really think about it, means that they are changing their feelings. This is purposefully redundant because the truth is so obvious, it’s hidden: You CAN change your thoughts.

I ask my OCD-hypnosis clients the following: “Have you ever changed your thoughts-feelings?” The answer is of course, yes.

“And you have changed your thoughts-feelings often, haven’t you?” Again, the answer is yes.

“So do you now understand-realize that even though you may get hijacked by OCD thoughts/images/feelings, you don’t have to be held hostage by them because you have the ability to change your mind?”

Now sometimes this takes a while for the client to feel this in his/her gut as a truth but it is inevitable if my client is willing to let go of their OCD.

It seems funny to think that someone with OCD would not be willing to let go of their OCD symptoms. However, another hidden truth about OCD is that for many obsessive-compulsive sufferers, the benefits of their OCD far outweigh the benefits of being OCD-free.

This is also known as secondary gain or, unconscious benefit. Please understand this clearly: the OCD person has not consciously decided that their obsessive-compulsive symptoms are desirable. It was their unconscious-emotional mind that decided the obsessive-compulsive behavior was necessary for some reason (typically related to safety.)

Now, let’s look at what hypnosis really is: It is only, and will never be anything else other than a person’s ability to convince themselves of anything (whether or not it is in their best interests.) In other words, all hypnosis is self-hypnosis.

This then means that a hypnotist is in all actuality, a specially trained coach who uses words to help their client to convince themselves of useful beliefs and unconvince themselves of beliefs that cause harm.

And keep in mind that when a person’s ‘feeling mind’ (vs. conscious mind) is convinced of a belief, then that truth must express itself through their body and behavior. Why? Because that is how human beings operate – deeply held beliefs cannot not be expressed. ‘Feeling mind’ beliefs (beliefs in the heart) must therefore be expressed through a person’s behavior and/or their body. Listen to Henry Maudsley’s words: “The sorrow which has no vent in tears may make other organs weep.”

Can OCD behavior be learned (vs. genetic)? Absolutely and that is probably the primary cause. Think about smoking for a moment. Isn’t it essentially obsessive-compulsive? Have you ever watched someone dig a dirty cigarette butt out of an ashtray when they were out of cigarettes?

Now consider this: When most (but not all) smokers were children, weren’t many of them ‘taught’ how to be a smoker by someone significant to them?

Is cigarette smoking always an OCD behavior? No, but it is for many smokers. Of course there are ‘social smokers’ but they are far out-numbered by those smokers who ‘must’ smoke. Why else would someone stand outside in terrible weather to smoke unless it was a compulsion?

And allow me to dispute the ‘chemically addictive’ nature of cigarette smoking: If it were truly addictive then where are all the stop smoking clinics where you stay for several weeks? And, if smoking were truly addictive, then how does one account for all the smokers who simply put the cigarettes down one day and never smoke again? And, they suffer no chemical-addiction withdrawals?

Now, in the same way that the obsessive-compulsive behavior of a smoker can be taught, so too can other OCD symptoms be learned – and unlearned.

I know there are some who will angrily protest that it is absurd to compare smoking to OCD.

To you I gently ask that you bear in mind that I am a person who was tortured by many forms of OCD. I am not 100% perfect today but I am greatly improved compared to where I used to be – and that is what I offer my clients: Progress, Not Perfection (pun intended.)

OCD behavior manifests in so many different forms but for all of its expressions, it occurs for essentially 3 reasons. First, it is learned and it can even be learned in the womb. The science of epigenetics makes a strong argument for something I call “natal emotional education”. Second, OCD is, in many cases, a self-taught response to deep anxiety. Third, it is the result of habit that has caused a re-wiring of the brain (which absolutely can be un-wired.)

Having looked at a great deal of research, I am not convinced obsessive-compulsive behavior is genetic. Again, the relatively new science of epigenetics casts a lot of doubt onto the “OCD is hard-wired” theory.

The bottom line is this: No matter what the cause, there is significant evidence indicating that hypnosis and, to some degree, neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) can help the OCD sufferer.

What most people do not know is that there is an astonishing amount of good, clinical evidence showing what the positively harnessed power of a person’s mind can accomplish. In my book, “21st Century Medicine: Clinical Evidence For The Healing Power of The Mind”, I detail some absolutely amazing stories of incredible healing,

My point is that if the ‘feeling mind’ can create such truly astonishing changes in a person’s body and, since PET scans show that the positively directed power of a person’s mind can, and does, literally change the function of the brain, then it is a very short, logical step to understanding how hypnosis (and its brother NLP) can reduce and in many cases eliminate OCD.

I wish you courage and persistence in your journey to finding a peaceful and quiet mind.

And remember: “Worry is abuse of the imagination.”

Devin Hastings

As a final note: Whenever a hypnotist is dealing with any situation that is medical in nature, he or she must always obtain a fully informed doctor’s referral before attempting any hypnotic intervention. CDH

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