Hypnosis & Hypnotherapy: Healing Past Injuries, Pain, and Mind-body Conditions



Do you have any residual pain from work, automobile, or surgery-related injuries?”

This question on my client intake form can lead me to aspects of pain and healing that I have encountered, but have not seen mentioned in the general hypnosis literature. Blocked unfelt emotions, created at the time of a physical trauma, may remain locked in, preventing full physiological healing. And unexpressed feelings of physical hurt may produce a similar result.

Some medical research studies show that persons who do not take pain medications heal faster.

For those clients who can use hypnotic processes well, a simple resolution can be obtained with regression and other techniques.

This tallies with the current hypnosis literature, where it has been regularly noted that some persons would have severe inexplicable difficulties following surgery. After regression and reprocessing in trance, during which the negative events heard or experienced while unconscious from anesthesia are re-experienced, rapid recovery can take place. This has occurred innumerable times among clients, despite commonly held views that retention of such events is impossible. This is a subset of the general processes I have used for past injuries, still painful, whether recent or those more ancient.

I have personally experienced the release of such tension leading to healing an injury. I first came to America to enter Arthur Janov’s Primal Institute. Playing soccer in a park with other patients, one ran up, missed the ball, kicking me full force on an instep knob of anklebone. Agonizing pain followed, which I mostly held inside, being a stoic, manly British ‘stiff upper lip’ type at the time. The inside of my right leg soon acquired a rainbow patchwork of purple, dark blue, green, and yellow, from under the arch of my foot up to the knee. This coloring persisted along with great pain for well over a week. He must have hit a nerve. Worrying, I recalled what Janov had written in one of his books, the original edition of The Primal Scream, about a child having some fingers squashed by an auto trunk lid. After being immediately encouraged to cry and loudly express his howls of pain, the fingers healed rapidly.

I decided to try it. I lay down, and began taking my consciousness down into the pain in my leg, feeling it and expressing the sounds of the suppressed agony as I relived the incident.

Releasing the howls and tears, I felt a rush of stored tension leave the tissues of my leg where I had been holding it, unbeknownst to me. My very cells needed to cry and moan.

The pain diminished dramatically, and healing commenced from that day onward. Janov would call it Primalling the pain. Now, as a hypnotherapist, I would describe it as the resolution of pain and injury by revivication, in a self-induced light hypnotic trance. The label is immaterial; the process deserves significance, a fact to be kept in mind with all terminology.

An early hypnotherapy case taught me more. A female, late twenties, came to me for some now forgotten issue. Just before trance induction, she casually stated, “I was in a car accident as a teen, and I still have a lump on the back of my head.” I decided to explore this in trance, and she stated on regression to the accident:

“I am in an alley at night. I look up and see headlights, and know I am going to be hit. Then I wake up in hospital.” 

I guided her to visualize and speak to the lump/tissue cells in her head, and let them know, “I survived, you can relax now, everything is OK.” 

As if dealing with a separate psychological part, as in ego-state therapy, I had her releasing the stored terror that I had intuitively surmised was still locked in, then visualizing a metaphor of the tissues turning into limp noodles, etc. Then we went on with her other issues. On emerging from trance, vacantly reaching for the back of her head, she exclaimed, “The lump is gone!”

Here is a case of a more recent injury. The client, male, mid-thirties, came in two weeks after his second session. Falling off a skateboard over a week earlier, he had descended on the base of his spine, crashing his coccyx on a concrete surface. He was in severe pain that was hardly diminishing. Revivifying the incident in trance, he began releasing the retained hurt and emotions as moans and grunts.

I asked, “Were you unable to stand up at first?” (From my own experience with a similar injury). “Yes.” Guiding him through reliving the pain and shock, I asked him if his terror was the thought, “I’m crippled.’” My own past thought in the situation similar to his. “Yes!” he replied, accompanied with a huge sigh of visible relief. He then realized that he had suppressed his fear and pain in order not to scare the teenager he was playing with.

Releasing the impacted agony and verbally articulating the huge fear he had locked in allowed the initiation of integration and resolution of the encapsulated tension. Emerging, he stated that the remaining pain was insignificant, so healing could ensue.

I would describe this process as healing a form of Post-Traumatic Stress, (PTS). In the psycho-hypno-therapeutic literature, PTS release is more commonly focused on the release of disconnected, repressed/suppressed, split off past psycho-emotional stress. Usually this approach is to relieve psychological negatives in the here and now, presenting mainly as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, (PTSD). Any related physical issues, whether of a more psychosomatic or psychogenic origin, or accompanying physical injuries resulting from the initial trauma that also heal as a consequence of treatment are generally regarded as a secondary or ‘side’ benefit.

In my lexicon, psychosomatic represents the more mentally produced symptoms, such as turning emotional pain into physical pain, known as a conversion symptom in psychotherapy. I use ‘Psychogenic’ to describe mental problems that cause actual physical results in the body, such as “stress,” which I regard primarily as unfelt, unresolved emotional reactions causing physical tensions in the body, e.g. joint deterioration illnesses such as Sudden-Onset Arthritis.

The approach above starts with the physical trauma and works backwards, the reverse of the more usual psychological exploration. This indicates that therapists who are familiar with resolving PTSD can meld any other suitable processes they may already know into this method where applicable. Advanced hypnotherapists already use hypnoanalysis, parts therapy, regression therapy, reframing, timelines, and imagery in their work, and I have indicated uses of some of these methods. Resolution can be followed by the use of white light or any other preferred healing imagery.

I find it is therefore necessary to view past physical trauma from this more inclusive, holistic perspective. Single-factor approaches limit the amount of healing possible. Integration of all factors, including, in addition to the internal psychological and physical, the marital, social, employment, and historical factors comprising a person’s experience, offers greater possibilities for deeper healing. An extended pattern may need identifying for a full healing process. If enough can be resolved, the body/mind’s unblocked natural healing processes can resume and complete the job.

I will continue with a case of Trigeminal Neuralgia, which is a type of inflammation affecting a cranial nerve that innervates the face and jaw. It is known to be excruciatingly painful, and has been ascribed to a possible virus.

A male client in his mid-thirties came to see me for an unrelated issue. I noticed that his face was asymmetrical during my intake, as if he had had a minor stroke, which I thought was unlikely at his age. I named the condition to be Trigeminal Neuralgia, and he assented it was indeed so. Three months earlier he was on a different medication, which he started during a sobriety program for recovering alcoholics at a high-end hospital. An “allergic” reaction to this medication was the presumed cause of his case.

Hypnoanalysis back to the time of onset uncovered the following in trance:

“What was going on in your life at the time?” I asked.

“My marriage was breaking up!”

Processing and resolution of the partly suppressed and repressed feelings followed. It was an interaction between the action of the drug and his emotional nerve chemistry at the time. And perhaps a concurrent, partly fused conversion symptom, which is displacement of emotional pain into physical pain. I then went on to his presenting issue. On emergence, his face was symmetrical, the pain having been reduced by 80-90%, in his report.

One week later, a small amount of pain remaining, I inquired in trance:

“Tell me how the nerve appears when you picture it.”

“It is all pink, except a small circular gray “dead” patch that was the focal point of the nerve damage.”

I guided him to visualize it diminishing in size, changing color to a matching pink, the color of the healthy nerve tissue, while simultaneously using hypno-linguistics, offsetting double binds, as demonstrated in my hypnosis manual, to bring the damage and pain down progressively to an eventual zero. Upon his return two weeks later, no further treatment was necessary. I believe it would be hard to find a physician who would believe Trigeminal Neuralgia could be accessible to a psychological and mental healing. If this man had indeed a coexisting viral infection, it was subsidiary or irrelevant.

In my experience, a huge range of medical or physical problems can be primarily or partly the result of non-physiological factors.

This particular area is a sub-specialty of mine. Hypnotherapy reveals that a physical (or psychological) condition can have any source, so presuming medical generalities to be ‘gospel’ only limits the hypno-practitioner’s exploration unnecessarily. It is more useful to have a range of methods and tools such as: hypno-analysis, regression, hypnotherapeutic healing, and direct symptom alteration or removal. This way, we do not rely primarily on information from medical or psychological “authorities,” which is not only unhelpful at times, but can prejudice the practitioner’s mind and preclude other avenues of investigation. Medical (and psychological) information may be a guide, but should not be given unquestioned credibility; it’s just another set of potentially useful information to be tested out.

There is a current growing tendency in both fields to analyze, identify and label difficulties, concretize and convert them into “factual” things, rather than ongoing processes that may be available for change. Openness and flexibility are the required qualities to be stressed.

“Deal with what emerges,” was Gil Boyne’s phrase. He has a video of uncovering fear of rejection as a source of painful Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ), and one of a fear of maternal castration as the source of a severe stutter! So much for speech therapy in this case!

Another client, in his mid-fifties, had painful tendonitis and joint inflammation in the wrist and thumb area, subsequent to putting his hand out to break a fall. He had tried every available medical remedy without success, including, finally, a surgical resection of a tendon. In my intake, his employment was identified as a court reporter.

I said, “You were a court reporter, and you were injured in the precise area absolutely required for your job, where you hold a writing implement, and it would not heal. You were disabled, and had to leave and get retraining. What a coincidence!”

In hypnoanalysis, we uncovered the contributing causes of his symptoms. He had wanted to leave his employment, as he felt trapped in irresolvable difficulties produced by an aging judge presiding over him, who had become an arbitrary tyrant. However, my client was unable to do so without losing many years of insurance and pension benefits. So he was trapped. But the injury allowed for a medical release while also avoiding these negative consequences. Unfortunately his subconscious, only being aware of the timeless now, had continued maintaining the pain and injury long past the time needed, and presumably would have continued indefinitely without my intervention. After uncovering, he gained the insight to acknowledge the redundancy of maintaining the injury in a connected conscious, and other-than-conscious, mind. Emerging from trance, he picked up a sheet of paper, held it suspended between his right thumb and forefinger, and said, “This is the first time I have been able to do that for 2 years!”

Incidentally, this relates to how the mind can prevent healing, as well as being directed to accomplish it. After two similar cases, I surmised it was not possible to reduce pain and heal difficulties where legal monetary damages were pending, even if the case had been won. This was true despite a strong conscious desire for relief. It seems that the fears of letting go of control, until the money is actually in the person’s possession, predominate. I wonder if a deposit in their lawyer’s bank account is adequate or only actual receipt into their own personal account!

To show how different the causations of similar appearing conditions, such as ‘joint pain,’ may be, here is a case of bursitis, a painful inflammation of the shoulder joint. My client had experienced the healing of shooting pains down his leg, after uncovering a deeply buried teenage desire to kick his father in the testicles. He perceived this at the time as retaliation for feeling his father was, unintentionally it appeared in retrospect, emotionally emasculating him and rendering his teenage self impotent. In a later session, he informed me that he was in great pain due to a flare-up of his chronic bursitis.

I recalled Arthur Janov, in the first edition of The Primal Scream, stating that an unexpressed anger can remain as a permanent stored tension in the body, and he used the desire to punch someone being physically stored in the arm as his example. Guided again by an inspired guess, I took him back to that past state-of-mind in trance and probed:

“At the time you wanted to kick him, did you also have an urge to punch him?”

“Yes!” he exclaimed immediately, as he re-experienced it. Then he said, “A ball of violet energy and light is emerging from my shoulder…is moving and hanging in front of my eyes,” where it remained for a few moments or so. His original presenting issue was an inability to visualize!

At his return session, he said his shoulder was still sore for a couple of days, the inflammation perhaps needing time to subside. But the pain then faded, and has not since returned.

About Stanley Siegel

Stanley Siegel, LCSW, is a psychotherapist, author, lecturer, and former Director of Education and Senior Faculty member of New York's Ackerman Institute for Family Therapy. After creating and writing the "Families" column for Newsday he went on to co-author two popular books: The Patient Who Cured His Therapist and Other Unconventional Stories Of Therapy(Penguin/Dutton 1992; Penguin/Plume, 1993; Marlowe and company, 1999) and Uncharted Lives: Understanding The Life Passages Of Gay Men (Penguin/Dutton, 1994; Penguin/Plume 1995) which have been translated into 5 languages. With nearly 45 years of experience in the field of psychology, Siegel has developed an unconventional and tradition-challenging approach to psychotherapy[4][5][6] that has led to his book Your Brain on Sex: How Smarter Sex Can Change Your Life[7] which was released in October 2011. He was a sex columnist for Psychology Today and the author of How Sex Heals and The Secret Wisdom of Ancient Parables. Siegel founded Psychology Tomorrow Magazine and Wellness Providers Network. Siegel has taught at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, Adelphi University, and the University of California, Berkeley; was the founding Director of the Family Studies Center in Huntington, New York, and has served as a consultant to hospitals and mental health centers throughout the country. Regularly quoted in the media, he has appeared on ABC's Good Morning America several times,[8] as well as many other television and radio programs, and has acted as a consultant for film and television. Siegel was invited on The Oprah Winfrey Show to discuss "How Healers Heal Themselves." He served as the Dance Editor of Show Business magazine, writing weekly dance reviews and reporting on the contemporary dance scene. His daughter, Alyssa Siegel, LPC lives in Portland, Oregon and is a contributor to Your Brain on Sex. After a lifetime in NYC, he moved to Los Angeles in 2016