What is analytical hypnotherapy and hypnoanalysis?
There are many kinds/schools of hypnotherapy, and they all use hypnosis as a basis. In this article, I am going to explore analytical hypnotherapy (hypnoanalysis) more deeply to see when it is useful, who and what it can help with and how it works in practice.
This article is written with over 20 years' experience of taking many hundreds of clients through this process.
When might analytical hypnotherapy be useful?
Many severe or ongoing symptoms are because of childhood experiences. If you look back over your life and recognise that symptoms or patterns of behaviour have been with you since childhood, teen years or your 20s, then analytical hypnotherapy could be the best type of hypnotherapy for you.
To give you an example, typically, someone might come to hypnotherapy for help with weight loss. The first step we take is to explore their weight and eating history. If they have just got into some bad habits and want to lose some weight, they will probably benefit from clinical or solution focused hypnotherapy.
However, if their weight issues have been with them most of their adult life - if they have yo-yo dieted for years, if their eating is bound up with their emotions - then childhood emotions are very likely to be at the heart of this ongoing issue.
Other examples include someone who has suffered from anxiety or depression on and off for years or people who repeat patterns of behaviour in relationships. Long-standing eating disorders or addictions, social anxiety, and some deep-rooted phobias such as emetophobia or tokophobia also respond well.
Why is hypnoanalysis needed?
Analytical hypnotherapy aims to release old trapped and buried emotions left over from childhood or teenage trauma. This trauma can be severe or even involve situations or experiences you might feel were not at all important.
The subconscious mind has a mechanism that protects you as you go through childhood and, every time you experience emotions, your subconscious mind does not think you can handle them at that moment in time. So, it will take them away (most of them) and bury them.
As you go through childhood, these buried emotions accumulate. It’s like a balloon inside which gradually fills up.
Around puberty or just after, this mechanism to protect you from your emotions closes. It feels it no longer needs to protect you and that you can now deal with them as an adult.
If there are not too many emotions in the balloon when the mechanism shuts down, that person will probably not experience too many deep-rooted issues. However, if the balloon is quite full, high underlying anxiety can be the result.
Imagine anxiety as a scale from 0 to 10. A child with a balloon without much in it will probably start adult life on about a 2 on that scale. As life progresses and they experience difficulties, their anxiety might raise higher, but rarely reaches the upper end of the scale where they find they are not coping.
The child who already has a full balloon can start off at 5, 6, or even higher. For this child, as they reach their teens or 20s, they begin to become aware of issues stemming from high underlying anxiety. The symptoms can start even earlier before the mechanism has shut down.
As more difficult things happen to them as they go through life, the anxiety keeps raising until they may find themselves in crisis.
What types of childhood experiences fill up the balloon?
There are generally four typical types of experiences a child may be exposed to which can fill the balloon.
Any one of these can create a full balloon:
- A child who is shy or anxious – the mechanism will always have to kick in more for a child who is naturally shy or anxious versus a very confident child.
- Having an anxious parent or caregiver – even if a child is very confident, if they have anxious caregivers, this can produce the same effect as an anxious child.
- Any form of upheaval – this can be as small as moving house, changing schools through to divorce, bereavement, family arguments, illness in the family etc.
- Any form of abuse – this ranges from being bullied at school through to psychological abuse, physical abuse, neglect, or sexual abuse.
Often, clients will say to me “Oh, but it didn’t affect me as a child”, to which I point out that it didn’t affect them because their subconscious mind stepped in to protect them. This can be why children appear so resilient. However, the emotions are still there in the balloon that they carry around with them and which resonate all the time.
Similarly, clients may have had lots of counselling, which is great. Counselling can give them the chance to explore what has happened to them and to look for strategies to cope. They feel they have come to terms with the past, however, counselling works with the conscious mind. The old feelings of the child are still there, trapped in their balloon deep in the subconscious mind creating the symptoms and difficulties. The coping strategies may work but they can be exhausting.
What are the symptoms of very high underlying anxiety?
The subconscious mind is there to protect us, and high underlying anxiety is extremely bad for our health. So, having protected us as a child, now it will start to look for ways to either release the anxiety by external projection or to push it down through behaviours – self-medication.
Typical examples of projection are fears, phobias, OCD, social anxiety, etc. Some fears and phobias are because of experiences or are situational, rather than a generally high level of underlying anxiety and these can usually be treated very successfully with clinical hypnotherapy. Deeper rooted phobias include social anxiety, emetophobia, tokophobia, vaginismus, genophobia, etc.
Typical examples of self-medication will be the use of alcohol, drugs, food, gambling, sex, poor relationship choices, and all other forms of behaviours that are destructive and/or addictive.
How does analytical hypnotherapy work?
The subconscious mind buried the emotions and will let them go again over a period with a gentle process. I use a process based on pure hypnoanalysis with my clients. This calls for the hypnotherapist to hold the process within which the client's subconscious mind is allowed to roam freely without any pushing or assumptions.
The first part of any session is relaxation. As with all kinds of hypnotherapy, clients experience a natural shift in their conscious awareness, moving into a daydream state.
Their subconscious mind is then asked to go backwards in time to childhood (it may go anywhere!) and, just like a daydream, the mind roams, linking and connecting. The client describes it out loud – where they are, what is happening and any feelings – physical or emotional. They do not need to work things out or justify or explain, it is pure description.
There is no regression to certain points or "Today we will go to...". The subconscious mind can be trusted to undertake the journey without direction just with the time and space to undertake it.
Every week the balloon gets squeezed and emotions are released. The subconscious mind will continue to work every moment, of every hour, of every day in between sessions in the background. Many emotions are released at night in dreams, so clients often find their dream pattern changes. Occasionally, there is a breakthrough during the day as something may pop into their mind – maybe something they haven’t thought about for years and they wonder where on earth that came from?
Emotions released are always the emotions of a child from an adult perspective, I have never had a client who has been unable to face the release. Everyone is different, so some clients release loads on the couch whilst others are much quieter. However, the emotion is being released.
There are few rules other than the client needs to agree to say everything without any editing – this can happen for instance if they feel a little memory is unimportant, or too embarrassing to say. I always have this discussion with them and gain their agreement to do so. I am on this journey with them to support them and so building trust is incredibly important.
Quite often the mind will repeat a particular memory or place over and over – it often uses these repeats to drain huge amounts from the balloon.
What can you expect from hypnoanalysis?
Analytical hypnotherapy cannot change the past. However, in releasing the trapped emotions, it completely changes the way the client views themselves and how they feel about the past or the people in it. It is like a huge weight they have been carrying around has just gone leaving them feeling lighter and freer than ever before.
For most, they find that once the balloon is drained, the symptoms have disappeared, and it is at this stage they can make major changes in their lives if needed. If they were on antidepressants when they started the journey, now is the time to get help from their GP to withdraw. If they are an alcoholic, now is the time for a managed withdrawal.
The last session or two are usually clinical hypnotherapy sessions to integrate the change into their lives for the future.
Analytical hypnotherapy – pure hypnoanalysis – can help to resolve very deep-rooted issues left over from childhood.
Those issues that have often failed to be resolved with all kinds of other interventions. I have had clients in the past who have been through many different forms of therapy or psychiatric intervention.
The subconscious mind protects us as children from emotions we are not equipped to deal with and then attempts to help us with the fall out as we grow into adulthood.
It takes about five months from start to finish to allow for gentle release but, given that many other forms of psychotherapy take years, this is still incredibly fast to resolve issues and symptoms which have sometimes been with clients for many years.