SPOTLIGHT ON HYPNOSIS: ANGER IS A LOADED WEAPON
By Jimmy Eldred Quast
Years ago, when I first met the psychoneuroimmunologists, Dr. Candace Pert and Dr. Michael Ruff, who also happen to be married to one another, it was a fulfilling moment for me. As I saw it, their groundbreaking science with neurochemistry and emotions had finally provided some solid scientific underpinnings to the field of therapeutic hypnosis. Pert and Ruff have not only linked emotions with neurochemistry, but have substantiated years of accumulated clinical data that has seemed to indicate a relationship between physical disease and negative emotional states. Dr. Pert said she was also interested in my work because hypnotherapists were the only practitioners she could find who were already applying the principles she espoused. Our common interest formed an immediate bond between us.
For the purposes of this article, however, I have chosen to limit the discussion to just one problematic emotion - anger. Anger is not only a loaded weapon, it is a poorly constructed one. If one fires this weapon at any person or thing or idea, it always backfires! When anger occurs frequently, the accompanying neurochemistry can be a serious health threat, and it makes no difference whether the anger is expressed or bottled up. As I will explain shortly, anger may be one of the leading causes of death - not for the person who is the target, but for the one who is angry.
In the past I have written about the relationship between anger/resentment and migraine headaches. Indeed, according to Dr. Leslie M. LeCron, a clinical psychologist and author of several books on hypnosis, the emotional makeup of migraine sufferers is nearly always predictable. They are outwardly placid, non-aggressive and tend to be a perfectionists. Inwardly however, they bottle up hostility, resentment, and rage which often goes unrecognized even by them. The person may also be feeling considerable guilt and/or conflict over the fact that they are harboring rage, because of an ingrained belief that anger is a wicked and unacceptable feeling.
Occasionally, when I have been assisting an individual become more resistant to stress in their life, I have stumbled upon their behavior pattern of hiding resentment and hostility. When that happens, I usually ask at once, “Do you get headaches?” to which I am never surprised to hear, “Yes I have terrible migraines.” I am pleased to say that significant reduction or elimination of migraines has often been a welcome side-effect of my work with stress reduction hypnotherapy. Of course, I also have people referred to me for the specific purpose of trying to relieve their migraine headaches. In these cases I always employ hypnotic techniques aimed at desensitizing deeply buried feelings of rage. This doesn’t mean that the client becomes incapable of getting angry when appropriate. However, the meaning of anger, and their relationship with it, becomes profoundly more appropriate and normal. Also, once this is achieved, the client will no longer be easily manipulated by others who have learned how to push their emotional buttons of suppressed rage and/or guilt. The combination of healthier emotions and the elimination of oppressive migraine headaches usually has a very positive ripple effect throughout the person’s daily life. Would you call that a healing?
Let’s take a brief look at arthritis which has a similar relationship to anger. Dr. Wayne Zimmerman, an orthopedic surgeon in Tacoma, Washington says, “The mind and the body cannot be dissected and do not function separately, one from the other.” His clinical work, along with that of many others including Dr. LeCron, indicates that, regardless of the many possible causal factors in arthritis, there is almost always an underlying emotional characteristic of hostile, resentful, and aggressive feelings that remain unexpressed and bottled up. In my own practice, I have continued to be amazed at how much relief can be available to arthritics when using hypnosis to resolve deep feelings of anger.
In August of 2005, I presented in this column the first-hand story of a client of mine who had suffered excruciating phantom pain in an amputated leg. At the height of her dilemma she could only writhe and cry during the 3 to 4 daily attacks, each of which lasted between 60 to 90 minutes. Medications were completely useless. When I first met her, I was immediately struck by her intense anger which was directed at her missing leg and also at the doctors whose errors had allowed gangrene to occur in her broken leg after the cast was in place, ultimately necessitating amputation. She said, “I became aware of an interesting coincidence between pain and conscious or suppressed negative feelings. Feelings like anger, fear, etc., may trigger the release of strong survivor body chemicals to which my guillotined leg nerve endings were and are sensitive.” A major part of my hypnotherapy with this woman was directed at altering her anger at a very deep level. The results of our efforts were described by her as follows: “Following the first session with the hypnotist, and the use of the tape [recording], I had only one attack in two weeks, and that attack I was able to shut down myself. I couldn’t believe the radical change in pain, with no drug hangover! At the second, third and final sessions, we went over other indicators of an impending attack, and I have been in control ever since.”
About two years ago, Evergreen Cove Holistic Learning Center brought Dr. Bowen White to the Historical Society Auditorium in Easton. Dr. White is an M.D. who works with Dr. Hunter “Patch” Adams. You may recall the movie Patch Adams in which Robin Williams played the leading role of the doctor who puts on a clown suit to bring some humor and humanity to the practice of medicine. Well, Dr. White, replete with clown garb, put on a very educational program that kept a packed house in absolute stitches as he delivered what might otherwise have been a rather dry medical presentation. At one point in the evening, Dr. Bowen (I have forgotten his clown name) shouted, “Does anyone here know what causes cardiovascular disease?” When no one spoke, he paused a few seconds before giving us his answer. During that pause I was thinking to myself, “I know what I have been taught and have used in my hypnosis practice. But you aren’t ever going to say that.” To my great astonishment, he yelled, “ANGER!”
In fact the famous internist, Dr. Larry Dossey, points out that resentment and a lack of satisfaction with one’s life is a far more consistent predictor for heart disease than any of the 5 common indicators that we hear about so often. Furthermore, it doesn’t seem to matter whether the resentment/anger is bottled up or expressed in this case. The one thing we know for certain is that statistically most of us will lose our lives to a heart attack or stroke. What do you think? Is anger a loaded weapon?
Note: hypnosis for medical issues may require a physician’s referral.