Hypnosis for Cancer Patients: Part 4
Ronald Shone, B.Sc., M.A., B.Sc. (Psych), DCH
In this fourth article on hypnosis for cancer patients we shall deal with the post-treatment period, which for many patients is much longer than the treatment period, and a much more difficult time. Once the cancer treatment is finished patients then undergo monitoring, usually on a two-month basis. While undergoing treatment the patient is extremely well looked after. One can almost become institutionalised and become very depended on the doctors, nurses and others who look after you. But once the chemotherapy or radiotherapy has finished it can feel like a sudden break, and one is left to one’s own devices. This is somewhat an unfair statement, because the Macmillan Cancer group play a very important supporting role during this period. Be this as it may, a lot depends on the individual and how they cope. Coping with side-effects. Coping with minor illness that portends a more serious return of the cancer. Coping with volatile energy periods. Coping with the possibility of the cancer returning (as mine has done!). Most of all, coping with one’s imagination and its tendency towards negativity.
Hypnotherapy, cognitive behaviour therapy, mindfulness and many other therapies deal with coping strategies: coping strategies for bereavement; coping strategies for anger management, coping strategies for anxiety; etc. But there are no clear coping strategies for dealing with cancer – especially the post-treatment period. Coping strategies depend on the stressors that create the anxiety, but they also depend on the person’s personal resources for dealing with such stressors. These two aspects are important and need to be focused on: the stressors a person must face and the resources a person has for dealing with such stressors. We shall deal with both in this article.
It is difficult for the non-cancer patient to know what goes through the mind of a cancer patient. To some extent this is because the cancer patient does not want to reveal such thoughts because they can upset their close associates – in particular, family members and friends. But also, because they cannot, or find it difficult, to articulate what their thoughts actually are. All this leads to additional stress.
The post-treatment period also brings home that life will never be the same. It reveals very soon that life will be an on-going struggle to keep the cancer under control and to mentally deal with the on-going negative thoughts. Life-style choices need to be changed, holidays become a major issue of when, or if, they take place. The cancer patient can sometimes feel that they are not only dealing with their own thoughts and emotions, but are also dealing with those close to them. All these issues require coping strategies. The need to build one’s resilience; to strengthen one’s own inner resources and take some responsibility for life with the constant threat of cancer.
Coping with environmental stressors
Most environmental stressors are not particular to the cancer patient. Minor illness, family problems, stress at work, etc are stressors that all individuals face. These become a problem if there are too many, or if they are too intense (such as divorce). Stress management form the focus of developing coping strategies for such environmental stressors. There is a considerable literature on stress management which the cancer patient can usefully consult. They suggest such coping strategies as avoiding stressful situations, delegating decision, organising your daily routines, taking time off for yourself, having a massage, etc. Most of these coping strategies are directed at specific stressors. But there are many such environmental stressors, and it would be inefficient to develop one for each such stressor. A more useful approach, especially for the cancer patient whose energy level can be low, is to develop a general approach that can be applied no matter what the environmental stressor happens to be. It is important for the cancer patient to keep stress under control since stress reduces the effectiveness of the immune system.
We have built into us the fight-and-flight response. Unfortunately, in modern society this is often constantly being activated whenever the person perceives threat. Such threat does not have to be an advancing dangerous animal. It can simply be a work situation, a social event, or something psychological. In such circumstances, a person feels stressed. The feelings of stress arise from the activation of the sympathetic nervous system: the purpose of which is to remove oneself from the stressful situation. Unfortunately, it is not always possible to do this. We may be able to run from a dangerous animal, but it may not be possible (at least in the short run) to run from an over-powering boss, or a family feud.
There is, however, an opposite response: the relaxation response. The purpose of this response is to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which induces a sense of relaxation and calm. But unlike the fight-and-flight response, the relaxation response must be learnt and cultivated. The importance of relaxation is well recognised by the Macmillan Cancer Support and is offered as part of their complementary therapies. Hypnotic relaxation is an alternative and has the advantage it can be engaged in at home at any time. Furthermore, hypnotic relaxation is well developed as part of hypnotherapy and is known to be very effective at reducing stress.
A first coping strategy for dealing with environmental stress for the cancer patient is to utilise hypnosis for developing the relaxation response. This can involve affirmations for relaxation while in a state of hypnosis; or utilising creative visualisation images, also in a state of relaxation. We shall deal with both here. In the first instance, it is necessary to achieve a state of hypnosis. This can either be done by a hypnotherapist or, ideally, by self-hypnosis. The audio files associated with Part IV all involve creating a state of hypnosis. Once this has been achieved, either direct affirmations are given for relaxation, or creative images are engaged in which also induce a state of relaxation. The audio files will soon be available free on my web site (shoners3.co.uk). Here we supply only the affirmations and some creative images. These still can be used by the cancer patient with or without hypnosis.
For the cancer patient who is not utilising the services of a hypnotherapist, or has not learnt self-hypnosis, they need to acquaint themselves with the following 45 affirmations. Ideally, they can be recorded and played back while sitting with the eyes closed and in a relaxed state. The affirmations need to be repeated frequently so that they become part of your thinking.
Affirmations to enhance the relaxation response
1. I am calm and collected.
2. Every breath I inhale calms me down; every breath I exhale reduces my tension.
3. I overcome stress of all kinds.
4. I overcome all fear.
5. I am free from anxiety and continue to be so.
6. All is well in my world.
7. I am clam, relaxed and free from tension.
8. Anxiety is a thing of the past.
9. I am stress free and at peace.
10. My future is free from stress and anxiety.
11. Each day I feel healthy and strong.
12. My mind is relaxed and calm.
13. I am at peace with myself.
14. I am at peace with the universe.
15. I conquer stress on a daily basis.
16. I am calm and relaxed in every situation.
17. My sleep is peaceful and quiet.
18. Stress is just dissolving away.
19. I release myself from all stress.
20. My body shows no signs of anxiety or stress.
21. My needs to be anxious will now disappear.
22. Anxiety is no longer a part of my well-being.
23. Anxious thoughts just dissolve away quickly.
24. I always feel in control.
25. I am always calm, relaxed and at ease.
26. I am relaxed around others.
27. I accept uncertainty, it does not bother me.
28. I accept that there is uncertainty in life.
29. I am a unique person.
30. I have wisdom.
31. I respect myself.
32. I no longer worry or concern myself about what others think of me.
33. I satisfy my own special needs.
34. I can handle all situations.
35. I can overcome all problems.
36. I know that whatever I believe I can achieve.
37. I release myself from the burdens of the past.
38. I accept my limitations.
39. I free myself of past hurtful memories.
40. I see things clearly.
41. I respect my emotions and feelings.
42. I now realise that worrying is a waste of time and energy.
43. I can handle problems easily and efficiently.
44. I am calm and at peace no matter what is happing to me.
45. I am happy and content.
As with all hypnotic suggestions, the aim is to believe in them. It is no good saying to yourself, “I am always calm” but then thinking that that is simply not true. The best way to think of these affirmations is as a set of goals, and not as you were in the past.
Here are four images to aid in activating the relaxation response.
Pictorial scene for relaxation
You are in a forest in which you are making your way to a mineral spring, a familiar mineral spring (1)… You now reach it and you are there, all alone. You undress and slip into the warm water. The water is soothing and it is relaxing all of your muscles (2)… You can feel the beneficial effects of the minerals that are passing through all the parts of your skin, and into your body. And as the minerals enter your body, they are relaxing all of your muscles – large and small. You can feel the soothing freshness on your face (3).
And you are now getting out, slowly, feeling very relaxed and just wanting to lie down. And so, you lie down in the warm sun, the warm rays shining on your body and mixing with globules of mineral water, relaxing you still further, and sending you into a beautiful deep sleep, not a natural sleep, but a deep hypnotic sleep. Becoming all the time more and more relaxed, and deeper and deeper asleep. Everything is utterly peaceful and tranquil (4).
And as you are lying there looking up at the sky you are going deeper and deeper. And the day turns into night, but you are so relaxed that you don’t want to move. And the night is warm also and you can see the stars in the sky and the moon that is full. And you are going deeper still. In fact, you are going to go considerably deeper with each day and each night that passes. Yes, with each day and each night that passes, you will go deeper and deeper into trance.
And now the day returns once again, warm and pleasant. And now the night returns, dark but warm. And the night turns into day, and you are going deeper and deeper all the time.
[Just keep this up for a while. Then slow it all down to the present.]
1. The more these suggestions are used, the more familiar will become the mineral spring. Picture it in full. See its surroundings, the colours, whether there is a waterfall there, (although it is best to consciously introduce one!). Make the whole scene so familiar that it becomes your private place for rest, relaxation, and the gaining of inner strength. And that is exactly what it will become to you. After using this instruction a few times, you will simply have to imagine the place and youy will immediately elicit the relaxation and warmth in their body, without having to repeat the instructions at all – a picture is worth a thousand words.
2. Imagine yourself taking handfuls of water and rubbing your arms and face, and other parts of the body not in the water. See yourself ducking or swimming.
3. It is most important, both here and earlier in the scene, to actually feel the water. Feel the water on your face. Let the feeling be one of luxuriousness, as if the minerals were giving you a tingling feeling as you enter your skin and into your muscles.
4. You can keep up these suggestions, but you should find, by this stage, that you are extremely relaxed.
You are in the desert; the sun is beating down and it’s very hot and dry. You have no water, since you used up the last of your water some hours ago. And you are very thirsty, very thirsty indeed … The sun is hot and your mouth is dry and your lips are parched. Hour after hour you have been walking over the sand dunes and becoming more and more thirsty, and your mouth more and more parched.
[You can continue this saga until the full effect is felt. You can, however, obtain the full impact of the suggestion by continuing in the following manner.]
You now reach an oasis with palm trees and a pool. Yes, you now reach the pool and drink the cool clear water. It’s so refreshing … And now you sit under a palm tree, relaxing in the warm sun and the day passes into evening, but you are so relaxed that all you just want to do is sit here, undisturbed.
The three baths
You are going into a Roman Baths with two rooms. The air is warm and you undress. Already as you undress you begin to feel relaxed, knowing that you are going to have a very relaxing massage and bath. You are very much looking forward to this, and as you are undressing the expectation is already giving you a feeling of calm expectancy.
You walk in and lie down on a table ready to be massaged. You are very much looking forward to this massage because you know that it is going to make you feel relaxed and comfortable. And now the masseur begins to massage your neck muscles and your shoulders. The masseur’s hands are going over your muscles in a steady circular motion, taking away all the tension and all the worries of the day. And you are beginning now to relax more and more. Your eyes are closed and all you feel is the relaxation and calmness spreading through your body. You are very warm and calm, feeling more and more relaxed. You can hear the masseur saying to you to relax all your muscles and let all the tension drain out of your body. And this feeling of relaxation is getting stronger and stronger.
Now you go into a second room that contains three small baths, like jacuzzies. Each pool is a different colour. The first pool is red, and it is red because it contains a very special aromatic oil. And you now step into the pool, which is not deep and very easy to get into. The water is warm and relaxing. You take the water in the cups of your hands and rub your arms and face. You dip into the water if you feel like it. What you do feel, though, is the water over the surface of your skin. And the aromatic oil in the water is going very quickly into the pores of your skin. Very quickly the aromatic oil gets into your blood stream and goes to your brain. And because of its effect, which you are now beginning to feel, you are beginning to be unconcerned about anything except your own suggestions. Nothing else matters except what you wish to tell yourself. Yes, the aromatic oil in the water is taking away all your cares and worries of the day. It is very quickly making you unconcerned about anything except your own suggestions. Nothing else matters except what you wish to tell yourself. Yes, the aromatic oil in the water is taking away all the cares and worries of the day. It is very quickly making you unconcerned about anything except your own suggestions. For this period only, the only thing that matters to you is what you wish to tell yourself. Nothing else matters, nothing else is of importance, nothing else is of concern to you. The only thing which concerns you is the suggestions you are giving yourself. The only thing that matters is what you want to tell yourself. And this feeling is getting stronger and stronger as you feel the water over your skin, as you feel the aromatic oil getting into the pores of your skin and going up to your brain. You are feeling so good, because you are free from all the worries of the day, all the concerns of the day. The only thing that matters to you is being here and now, feeling unconcerned about anything except what you tell yourself.
You now come out of the first bath and go into the second bath. This second bath is blue, blue because the water contains yet another aromatic oil. The water is warm and you can feel it over your skin. You are again wetting all parts of your body with the warm blue water. And the blue aromatic oil in the water is getting very quickly into the pores of your skin; you can feel the aromatic oil entering your body. It is quickly getting into your blood stream and going very easily and quickly to your brain. You are feeling good, very calm with a feeling of luxuriousness. And this aromatic oil that is making the water blue, is helping you to go into a deeper relaxed state. And you know that as you go deeper and deeper so you will find it easier and easier to follow all your suggestions. Yes, the blue aromatic oil is helping you to go easily and quickly deeper and deeper, where it is becoming easier and easier to follow all of your suggestions. More than that, it is so effective that you want to follow your suggestions; you want to follow them very much. You are looking forward to following your suggestions. The only thing that matters to you is what you are saying and the only thing you want to do is to follow all your suggestions to the best of your ability. There is going to be no strain in doing this, no forced actions, all you want to do is simply follow the suggestions because you want to follow the suggestions.
You now come out of the second bath and go into the third one. This third bath is green. The water is warm and you can feel the water all over your body. This final bath has an aromatic oil which is taking away all final resistance you may have for going deeper and for following all your own suggestions. Yes, the green aromatic oil is getting into the pores of your skin and going quickly and easily to your brain, where it is removing any final resistance you may have to going into the deepest relaxing state, a state which is deeper than ever before, a state where you feel utterly relaxed, utterly calm, utterly free from worries and concerns, where the only thing you wish to do is to carry out all of your suggestions.
Now you come out of the third bath and return to the table where once again you begin to be massaged. But now as the masseur goes over your back all the three aromatic oils are getting mixed together and entering the pores of your skin much easier. And their effect is getting stronger and stronger and they are reinforcing each other. You are finding it easier and easier to let go and sink into a most deep, deep, relaxed state… deeper than ever before, more comfortable than ever before. You have no worries and no concerns. The only thing you wish to do is give yourself suggestions and follow them to the best of your ability. And with this very strongly in your mind, you drift down letting all these thoughts sink deep into your unconscious mind.
Sauna and massage
You are going into a sauna lounge. You have a sauna that relaxes all of your muscles. You are lying in the room, letting the warmth pass all over and through your body and, as it does so, it takes away all your tension, all of your stiffness away from your body, and you begin to feel much more relaxed and less and less tense. And the warm air is relaxing all parts of your body, from the tips of your toes to the top of your head.
You now come out of the sauna and lie down on your stomach, letting yourself relax ready to be massaged. And the masseur begins with your shoulders, relaxing the muscles of your shoulders and your neck. And as he [or she] does so, still more of that tension is just draining away. And now the masseur begins to work on your back and on your arms, rubbing and massaging away all the remaining tension. And as he [or she] does so, so you are feeling much, more relaxed and you are going into a still deeper trance state, limper and relaxed as the massage continues.
[Keep this up for as long as you want. Elaborate the scene if you like.]
Enhancing inner resources
Enhancing inner resources requires cancer patients to deal with periods of negativity; to remain positive; to encourage a sense of happiness; to boost the immune system; and to deal with triggers.
We dealt with negativity and positiveness in Part 3, and the affirmations on being positive and I AM should be utilised throughout the post-treatment period. Negativity has a habit of raising its ugly head very frequently, and so needs to be put at bay at frequent intervals. Remaining positive has been known to be one of the most important coping strategies for the cancer patient. But positiveness is not something you have or do not have. It can be cultivated. But it also must be constantly utilised. Dealing with negativity and enhancing positiveness needs to be constantly strived at during the post-treatment period. What is important to realise is that other people cannot over-come your negativity nor can they make you feel positive – only you can do this. However, a hypnotherapist can aid you in enhancing these inner resources, as can self-hypnosis.
Being happy, like being positive, needs to be cultivated and encouraged. It is not possible to be happy all of the time. But giving one a series of affirmations, especially under hypnosis, to feel happy raises the endorphins in the body and enhances a sense of well-being. The following is a useful set of happiness affirmations.
1. You are safe and happy
2. Your unconscious mind knows that you want to be happy
3. Being happy is healthy for the body
4. Being happy makes you feel good
5. Being happy makes you feel that you can deal with all things
6. Being happy makes you feel protected
7. All feelings of unhappiness are just fading away
8. Because you are happy you no longer feel a sense of fight-or-flight
9. When you are happy you no longer have negative emotions
10. Because you are happy you now act and react in more positive ways
11. You are becoming happier with each moment
12. You let go of past hurts, and so become happier as each day passes
13. As each day passes you become healthier and happier
14. You no longer feel insecure and you feel so much happier as a result
15. Your unconscious mind does whatever is necessary to make you happy
16. Your unconscious mind will change your beliefs and your actions so as to make you feel so much happier
17. As each day passes you realise how wonderful you are and how more courageous and happier you are
18. From now on you are happier, more social, and more willing to engage with the world
19. You are joyful and happy
20. You smile more
21. You always feel comfortable around other people
22. You feel happy no matter in what situation you find yourself
23. You feel the happiness in your mind and in your body and in every cell of your body
24. Because you are happy you motivate yourself to do all the things you want to do
25. You have an inner happiness because you are a happy person
26. You are happy to be alive
27. You strive to achieve all your goals in a confident and happy way
28. You are happy and content
29. You learn from what has happened to you in the past, and that makes you feel good
30. The things you learn from the past makes you now a much happier and more confident person
31. You look so much better because you are a happy person who smiles more
32. Because you feel so happy you have so much more energy
33. You have an abundance of confidence, happiness, and energy
34. Being happy makes you feel safe and secure
35. Being happy makes you more sociable and friendly
36. As each day goes by you feel calmer, more relaxed, and happier
37. Because you feel happy you go out more, and become more sociable
38. You are becoming happier with each area of your life
39. You see yourself as a much happier person
40. You see yourself transforming into a much happier and more social person
As with all the affirmations presented in these articles, these are more powerful if played as an audio file with relaxing music in the background. Such an audio file can be found on my web site at www.shoners3.co.uk/happiness.html.
The immune system is a complex network of cells, tissues and organs that work together to defend the body from an attack of ‘foreign’ invaders. When the immune system is crippled in some way it can attack the wrong targets or lead to disease. The immune system can recognise millions of different enemies. The millions of cells of the immune system move around the body on the lookout for invading enemies and when encountered it activates powerful chemicals. These can regulate the growth and behaviour of body cells and lead to the enlisting of other immune cells that are directed to troubled spots. The essential feature of the immune system is its ability to recognise its own body cells from foreign cells. The body’s own cells carry markers to identify them as being cells of the body; but when the immune system encounters cells that carry markers identifying themselves as not belonging to the body, it quickly kicks into action and goes on the attack. Anything that activates the immune system in this way is called an antigen, e.g. a virus, cells of another person, cancer cells, etc. In some circumstances, the immune system can mistake body cells as ‘foreign’ and goes on the attack against its own body. This results in an autoimmune disease.
The cancer patient can influence their immune system with suitable affirmations. These are best given in a state of hypnosis. But simply repeating them in a relaxed state can still be beneficial. Here are fifteen affirmations for boosting the immune system.
Immune system affirmations
1. My immune system is working efficiently.
2. I heal quickly.
3. I am resistant to illnesses.
4. I send positive messages to my immune system.
5. My immune system heals my body.
6. My immune system fights off all infections.
7. My body bounces back quickly from any infection.
8. My immune system is constantly being strengthened.
9. My immune system grows more powerful as each day passes.
10. My immune system makes me more resistant to illness.
11. I have a strong immune system.
12. My immune system always works at peak performance.
13. My healthy immune system fights off my cancer.
14. My immune system can fight off all diseases.
15. I have a naturally strong immune system.
Triggers are something that sets off a memory or a flashback. It transports the person back to the event of his or her original trauma. Triggers are very personal and different things trigger different people. This is especially so for the cancer patient. Triggers activate an emotional reaction to some traumatic event. The trigger happens in the present, but elicits an emotional response for something that happened in the past. Usually it is a very strong reaction and feels as if you have no control over the event. What then can you do?
1. Breathe deeply and calm down.
2. Realise that the emotion is a totally innocuous present event and has no bearing on your present state of health.
3. Distance yourself from the emotion until you clam down.
4. Whatever is happening, it is a negative event, and needs to be dealt with without emotion.
5. Realise that what happened is in the past and is not happening in the present, other than in your imagination.
6. Whatever, or whoever created the trigger in you is not to blame.
7. Realise that you cannot change the past, or remove what caused the cancer, but you can change in the present how you react to the past.
There are so many triggers that cancer patients are faced with. The news constantly gives details of young and old dying of cancer. Almost anyone you talk to and mention cancer, they know of someone with cancer or who has died of cancer. The social media has enumerable patients either undergoing chemotherapy/radiotherapy or dying of cancer. It is almost impossible for a cancer patient not to be faced with such triggers. Dealing with such triggers is to utilise positive affirmations; avoid negativity; try to remain happy; and utilise the list above of what to do in the face of such triggers.
Ronald Shone B.Sc., M.A., B.Sc (Psych), DCH is a Clinical Hypnotherapist based in the UK more information at: www.shoners3.co.uk