Part of the basic education that I give all my hypnosis clients on their first visit is “The body can’t tell the difference between imagination and reality.” I may not be obvious at first, but just think: your mouth starts to water when your friend describes a delicious meal, or you jump involuntarily when there is a sudden loud sound in a movie. There is no food in your mouth, yet your body produces more saliva. You know that you are perfectly safe, but your body goes to battle stations, pumping lots of adrenaline into your system, when that car suddenly explodes on screen.
So what do battle stations and a watering mouth have to do with pain control? It’s simple. When a hypnotherapist uses specific kinds of imagery with a client in hypnosis, the client’s body produces numbness. A common technique is called “glove anesthesia”.
The hypnotherapist suggests that the client remember a time he or she was so cold that some part of the body became numb. Everyone has had that kind of experience. For me, it happened at a football game when I was in high school. I hadn’t noticed that my feet were numb until I stood up and almost fell over.
Typically the hypnotherapist asks the client to imagine one of their hands in a bucket of ice water so that the hand gets cold enough to become numb. Then the client might be asked to imagine that the numbness is like a thick glove on the hand. So any touch on the gloved hand just feels like a mild kind of pressure.
Once the client indicates that their hand is numb, the hypnotherapist can test by asking the client to close his or her eyes. Then the hypnotherapist uses his or her fingernails to pinch the skin on the back of client’s hand hard enough to leave a mark. If glove anesthesia is present, client will only feel a little pressure. The client is astonished after opening his or her eyes to see the nail marks on their hand.
The way that hypnosis helps to creates glove anesthesia is by amplifying the client’s imagination. The stronger the imagined events, the stronger the response from the body.
Once the clients have learned to create glove anesthesia, they can be taught to move the numbness to any area of the body that they wish. For example, someone with chronic headaches could move the numbness to the painful areas of the head.
Teaching someone to use hypnosis to control pain with glove anesthesia usually can be done in one session. It is an easy way to use a little self hypnosis to produce relief for someone in pain.