SPOTLIGHT ON HYPNOSIS: ALLERGIES - MENTAL AND ENVIRON-MENTAL
by Jimmy Eldred Quast
As I review the large body of literature on allergies, I am reminded of the tale about a group of blind men trying to describe an elephant. One of them finds a leg and declares that an elephant is a tree. Another finds the tail and says that the elephant is a rope. Another blind man finds the ear and concludes that the elephant is a fan, etc., etc. Each perceives the elephant according to his limited information and experience.
One thing is very clear - a majority of the population experiences allergies to one extent or another, and anything which acts as an allergen to one person will be harmless to many others. At the present time, the primary treatments are: avoidance of the allergen, complex medication to desensitize the allergic response, and/or various antihistamines to treat the symptoms. In standard medicine there does not seem to be any effort to find out the specific reason(s) why a person suffers with allergic reactions. At least I have not found evidence of such efforts if they exist.
In my own profession of hypnotherapy, and also within the psychology profession, one can find a much greater interest in getting to the roots of the allergy problem. I believe Andrew Saul, PhD does a good job of explaining food allergies in terms that most people can easily understand. He says that allergies are the result of a usually unconscious connection to some past illness or strong emotional upset. Food that you were eating at that time became unconsciously associated with the illness or upset. Because such connections tend to be unconscious, you probably would have no awareness of it. As a result the nausea, headache, or other symptoms that existed at the time this association was formed, will continue to be reproduced in the future whenever you eat that same food again. This is nothing more than another example of the principle demonstrated in the famous Pavlov’s dogs experiment. Once the sound of a bell was associated with food, the dogs always salivated to the sound of a bell alone.
Doctor Saul points out that most people who have allergies can, to some extent, produce the allergy symptoms by only imagining eating the associated food. If an allergy sufferer can create their symptoms this way, Saul suggests that this constitutes strong evidence that the allergy really is in the person’s head. Back when I was studying at the American Institute of Hypnotherapy, I was exposed to what I thought was an extremely interesting phenomenon that greatly strengthens this concept that allergies can be a product of the mind. It is well documented in medical literature that individuals who have multiple personalities will sometimes have serious allergies, just as many otherwise normal people do. However, in the case of multiple personality disorder, usually only one of the personalities will have the allergy. One example that I encountered was a man who was so allergic to orange juice that he could go into a life-threatening state of shock if he drank it. All but one of his several personalities were able to enjoy orange juice. However if he switched to the allergic personality before he fully finished digesting the OJ, he would become extremely ill. The famous cancer physician, Dr. David Spiegel, has used this very same multi-personality example in his lectures to make the point that we must have serious regard for the effect of mind and personality as we try to understand disease. This is seldom done in standard medicine at the present time.
Hypnotherapy has the advantage that it may be used to discover the root cause of an individual’s allergy. When I say root cause, I mean the original emotional event or illness that became associated with the food or other substance that now acts as a trigger for allergy symptoms. Using hypnosis, it is usually possible to access the unconscious memory banks and thus uncover this information. In fact, the answers usually come quickly. Once the connection between the original upset and the resulting allergy is discovered and understood, we can review it as many times and in as many ways as it takes to expend the emotional charge or misperception that has maintained the allergy.
An example may be helpful. This occurred at a medical convention during a workshop on hypnosis techniques. The presenter/instructor was attempting to induce group hypnosis. That is, he was trying to hypnotize all of the attendees of the workshop simultaneously. Most of the group were getting into a light to moderate level of trance when the instructor suggested that they imagine seeing and smelling a beautiful yellow rose. Immediately one of the attendees began to cough and choke. He had a runny nose and watery eyes for the rest of that session. In the afternoon when the group met again, the instructor asked the man with the congestion whether he had ever had a problem with roses. The man acknowledged that he was allergic to roses, but only yellow ones and didn’t know why. The instructor asked him to come forward and help with a demonstration of hypnosis for treating allergies, and the man agreed. The man proved to be a good subject, went quickly into trance, and when asked to go back to the cause of the yellow rose allergy, he began describing that he was about 9 years old and was riding a horse. He subsequently fell from the horse and landed in some rose bushes - yellow roses to be exact. He was okay except for being scratched up by the thorns, but as he was collecting himself he noticed that the horse had started eating some of the yellow roses. Wanting to know what they tasted like, he pulled a couple of rose petals and ate them himself. Shortly after putting the horse away he had an unpleasant respiratory reaction to ingesting rose petals. He was pretty sick for a while but, of course, could not know that the connection formed in his subconscious mind would result in an allergic response to yellow roses for years to come. In fact, he had mostly forgotten the details of that memory and certainly never made a mental connection between falling into the roses and being allergic to yellow roses. Upon realizing what had happened, he could vividly imagine yellow roses without a reaction and then another attendee at the conference was asked to go down to the flower shop in the hotel lobby and bring back a real yellow rose. The formerly allergic man was able to cautiously hold the rose and to smell it with no unpleasant reaction.
In the field of hypnotherapy, the approach just described is a very common and effective way of relieving allergies of all types. It usually works. There are other treatments for allergies including high doses of vitamin C, acupuncture, energy therapies, and the usual line-up of drugs. All of them can work too, but no one method works for everyone. I can only say that using hypnosis to ferret out the cause and to desensitize its emotional component has been very effective for me. In fact this is the same basic formula that I, and others in my profession, use for many other psychosomatic issues.
Note: hypnosis for medical issues may require a physician’s referral.