Catharsis and the release of repressed psychic energy
The essence of repression as described by Sigmund Freud consists simply in the act of turning – and keeping – something away from the conscious. Repressed material exerts continuous pressure from the subconscious mind, where it resides, toward the conscious mind which repressed it in the first place. This continuous and constant psychic pressure from the subconscious has to be held in equilibrium by an equal and opposing constant unrelenting counter pressure. It follows then that to maintain a repression requires a constant expenditure of energy.
Freud insisted that the purpose of repression is the avoidance of what he termed unpleasure. The repression consisting of thoughts and feelings will have done its job if the negative feelings associated with it are not experienced. Therefore to release a repression those very feelings one sought to escape from must be fully experienced and the thoughts filed as experiences.
Once filed as an experience without the emotive charge the once repressed experience can now be used like any other experience to help us cope should the same or similar challenge ever face us again in the future.
Without the necessary emotional resources being available and on file in the subconscious a child experiencing a traumatic event may find the normal mental processes being suspended. This will of course occur unconsciously and the event is said to be repressed. This is a survival mechanism used by a mind overwhelmed by an experience that cannot be be dealt with at the time. The event is not forgotten but kept in a kind of ‘cold storage’ to be dealt with when the necessary mental and emotional resources have been acquired. In order to ensure that the repressed material is not forgotten or ignored forever the gap, in what was supposed to be learned from the experience, is replaced by a physical symptom somewhat like a calling card.
What happens in session
In Analytical Hypnotherapy the client is guided into a relaxed state of mind with conscious analytical mind in suspension. While in this light state of hypnosis the client is then instructed to report whatever thoughts, feelings and memories that emerge. The client is reminded to report what emerges in the order in which it is revealed and to refrain from excluding any of the associations on the grounds that they are judged too trivial, irrelevant, shameful or secret. Success of the therapy depends on the client complying with this fundamental rule to reveal everything that emerges.
It is rare for a therapist to come across a client who does not try to reserve some area for himself – a no-go area if you like. Therapy is prevented access to this area of the mind classed as off-limits. This is done subconsciously by the client in an attempt to protect the repression and is is called resistance by Freud.
Resistance is an inevitable and important part of the therapeutic process. It is disappointing to a therapist if unable to provoke these resistances and demonstrate them to the client. In fact overcoming these resistances is an essential function of therapy.
The most important ingredient in Hypno-Analysis or Analytical Hypnotherapy is rapport between client and therapist. It is this trust that encourages the transference of feelings on to the therapist and thus giving the client the opportunity to resolve emotional issues that have been repressed. The therapist takes on the qualities of the person with whom the client needs to resolve these issues and it is common for the client to see saw between admiring and loving the therapist to feeling outright hostility toward the therapist. It is by means of this phenomenon that transference becomes a powerful tool to access the the no go areas and to secure repression release.
When a repression is located the client may report it the way a TV reporter would report from the scene of a crime. The client therefore describes the traumatic incident in the past tense and as if it had happened to someone else. The therapist would then direct the client to relive the incident in the present as if it is happening right now. The client would then regress in time and experience the incident fully this time without any interruption to the normal mental processes which occurred when it did happen all those years ago and resulted in the debilitating symptoms the client is now presenting.
The client would then be directed to experience the incident over and over again until every scrap of emotional charge is released and the client sees the incident as just another experience without any of the emotional response that once accompanied it. The first time through the incident may see the client crying uncontrollably and with each subsequent reliving of the incident the therapist will notice the client revealing more and more detail. Eventually the client will run through the incident without showing any emotion and in a bored kind of tone. This is normally the signal that all the negative emotion associated with the repression has been released and it is not uncommon to see the client let out a sigh when it is complete.
The role of the Therapist in Hypno-Psychotherapy
It is not therapist’s job to advise the client, offer any explanations evaluations or judgements during this process but rather allow the client to fully experience the emotions that emerge without interruption and be kept on task. The therapist must at all times recognise that the client is the supreme authority in his own world and the therapist has not authority to tell the client what anything means or how the client should or should not interpret what comes up. Any therapist that does so is not serving the client but his own ego. The therapist is like a guide on a safari. He ensures that the client is on the right path, has bullets in his rifle and is safe. When the time comes it is the client who is paying to shoot the lion not the guide. A good therapist will ensure that the client feels safe and is fully engaging in the process and not just reporting from a safe distance. Though the therapist will not be advising the client about how to view or interpret anything that emerges in session he will often question the client to clarify what is said and to cause the client to question beliefs stubbornly being held on to.
As part of my own training as a Hypno-Psychotherapist I was required to undergo the therapy before receiving my qualification. How else could you gauge the effectiveness of the treatment you intend to administer if you yourself have not experienced it? I found it a very rewarding and insightful experience during which I released a number of repressions and as a result I cured myself of a number of conditions I had suffered from all of my life.
Following are just some of the conditions Xavier and Mary Nathan treat at their private hypnotherapy practice in Peel, Isle of Man:
Depression, Panic Attacks, Anxiety, Sleeping Difficulties, Post Traumatic Stress, Underachievement, Lack of Confidence, Fears and Phobias, Irritable Bowel, Smoking, Eating Disorders… and many more.