10 March 2010

Sometimes your words just hypnotize me

haha. a summary of my three hypnotherapy sessions.

so i mentioned that i got a referral for hypno from my regular doctor. one of the girls in my prenatal group went to him and thought it was worthwhile, and since it is free for me with my referral, i thought it could only help. basically i am looking for any way to help me relax and stay calm during labor.

so this dr brown is like the only hypnotherapist in town. he is 60+ (maybe 70+?) years old and is a sweet guy. he had an interesting background of actually starting as a regular family physician. he was trained to deliver babies in his practice and one day (back in the 1960s or 1970s, i dont remember) a pregnant patient of his asked for some information about hypnobirthing because she wanted a non-traumatic hospital birthing experience. he had never heard of the technique, but asked some colleagues about it and gave her some information. she taught herself and he then attended her totally calm and natural birth. he was so intrigued by the experience that he looked into it a little more and eventually it took him on many interesting fact-finding missions (he did some work in birthing hospitals in australia and he did a fellowship at UNC). it all led him to drop the family practice career and become a hypnotherapist. he now treats addicts, psychological disorders, and the occasional pregnant lady.

at my first session, he mostly asked me about my personality and lifestyle and what my goals were for coming to him. he then explained what hypnosis is (a self-controlled state of alert relaxation. a brain-wave EEG looks the same as someone who is fully awake, contrary to the perception that the "hypnotized" person is asleep) and is not (you cannot be forced to quack like a duck or take your clothes off while "hypnotized). his major goal as a therapist was to give people the tools to be able to relax and visualize things for themselves at home. he is the guide, you are the do-er.

so actually, i had encountered this kind of relaxation stuff before. i swam competitively during many winters of my childhood. toward the end of one season, those of us going to one of the major regional meets of the year were gathered in a room to listen to a tape (sounds creepy right? get your mind out of the gutter). visualization in sports was not something new to me, often athletes come across this type of "training" at some point if they stick with a sport long enough. anyway, the lights were turned down and we listened to this 45-60 minute tape that was nothing more than a guide to helping us breathe deeply and focus on each muscle group, individually, and get it to relax. once relaxed we had some visualization described to us about the kind of race we wanted to swim. blah blah blah. not sure if the other kids took it seriously, but the experience stuck with me. i paid attention and actually tried to breathe like the tape said and to relax the muscle groups they mentioned. by the end, i really felt like my energy was a little altered. i really was relaxed and focused. maybe, as a normally impatient, go-go-go person i am not able to do this for myself and it works best if someone or something else helps me do it.

at any rate, to end our first hypno session, dr brown guided me with two short relaxation techniques. a couple deep breaths with eyes closed and suggestions to relax certain muscles in a sequence. it was nice. and it was simple.

the second time i went back to him i brought my laptop. he recorded a 45 minute guided relaxation for me. it was just general in its purpose. for my third, and final, session he did another 45 minute relaxation for my laptop that was more specific for labor and delivery.

interestingly, he said that the idea is to listen to these recordings, get familiar with them, be able to hear them in your own head, without the recording, and learn what it feels like to be that relaxed, and what parts of the relaxation are most helpful for getting you there. then you can tap into those resources during labor. the idea is not to "hypnotize" yourself during labor and lay there in the hospital bed still and silent in your own little distant land. you can be up, walking, present, and alert but still benefiting from the ability to calm yourself down and focus when things get hard. i like that about his approach at least. and actually, i learned that lamaze is considered a form of hypnosis, in the sense that it is a breathing technique with the goal to help you relax and focus your mind on something else (the rhythm and/or the breathing itself) during the pain of labor.

all very interesting stuff. hopefully i can find some time to re-listen to the recordings and help myself get relaxed. we shall see.


Susan said...

It really sounds like a skill for lifelong relaxation. Everyone who lives a hectic lifestyle should take time to sit, relax, and breathe with awareness. Sort of like sitting on the nice, sunny, warm beach can relax some people!!! Glad you did that and that it works.

Mary Ann said...

I agree with Susan that this could serve you well, Alyce. Going into childbirth being mentally prepared will make you that much more confident. But you and David will do just fine. I know it.
I had my first "Meditation and Movement" class at the local yoga studio yesterday. Never tried meditation before and I must say that I found it challenging. It's not easy to tune out the everyday distractions and focus on breathing. But I love the idea of "looking in" and trying to flush out negative emotions.