My teacher, Dave Dobson used to work with burn victims in hospitals. Many were stuck there for extended stays, and he never used the word “hospital”with them. He always called the burn unit the “horse pistol” or the “hotel”. And, that’s because most people have so many unpleasant associations to the word “hospital”.
Back in the days of black and white television Art Linkletter has an afternoon TV show that included a segment called “Kids say the darndest things”. Art asked some five year olds, “What is a hospital?” and they all replied that is was a place where people go to die. That’s not the most uplifting association for someone on an extended stay! As adults we have a very different and more complete appreciation of hospitals, but since we were all once five the first impressions still resonate in the background of the mind.
So to get his burn patients to have a more positive experience of their accommodations, Dave would use different terms like hotel, which opened up possibilities for humor. He’d joke about the lousy view and tasteless food at the hotel. How did they manage to stay in business with only three working channels on the TV?
Getting his patients laughing went a long way in helping them feel better about their stay, and in speeding their recovery. We all know that laughter is the best medicine, because Reader’s Digest would never lie to us.
I’ve used the same imagery with my clients who were getting ready to go into the horse pistol for surgery. One of them went in for abdominal surgery and had a great time joking with the nursing staff about the lousy accommodations at the “spa”. Not only did she get out of the hotel a day early because she never needed any pain medication, her doctor let her go back to work in nine days rather than in the four to six weeks that is standard after that kind of surgery. I did use a little hypnosis to suggest rapid healing and pain control too, of course.