Most people have heard of the placebo effect. Basically, a placebo is a powerful mental suggestion that something is going to cure or fix something else. For example, I go to the doctor and say that my finger hurts. The doctor says, “You’re in luck. I just got in a new shipment of finger-fixer pills – most powerful thing on the market.” Even if he hands me sugar pills, there’s a good chance that my finger will stop hurting if I believe that the pills have the power the doctor has suggested.
As I’ve worked with clients who are struggling to stop drinking, I’ve learned that alcohol is working for many people just like the sugar pills. If you ask an alcoholic why they drink, they’ll have a lot of interesting answers. Some drink because their job is stressful. Some drink because they’re lonely. Some drink because they’re sad. Some drink because their marriage is terrible. Some drink because it makes them more confident or more social.
Alcohol is either an amazing wonder drug that makes stress go away, gives you friends, makes people happy, improves marriages and increases confidence… or it’s a placebo. Think about that. What if it isn’t actually the alcohol that fixes the problem but your mind – just like the sugar pills?
What if getting off work relieves your work stress, not the bottle at the end of the day? What if hanging out with other people in a bar makes you less lonely, regardless of the drink in your hand? What if being happy made you happy, instead of obscuring your sadness with a drink or six? What if going out to the garage and taking a break from arguing with your spouse was helping you deal with your marital discord and not the beer in your hand? Heck, what if your spouse liked you more when you didn’t drink and your marriage began to look more like it did when you got married? What if you actually have plenty of confidence and you learned to unleash it without having to drown your perception of social awkwardness?
Alcohol isn’t actually fixing anything. Your situation, your mind frame and your belief that alcohol helps, is fixing everything. So go to the bar and order a ginger ale or 7UP with a slice of lime. Hang out with your friends. And let me tell you that ginger ale can cure anything that ails you. Because it can – if you believe that it can.
Hypnosis is an effective way to help people find and resolve the underlying issues that may lead to drinking too much, drug use, over-eating and all kinds of distracting behaviors. If you’ve “tried everything” and you’re still facing the challenge, give us a call at Hawaii Hypnosis Center (808-221-7353).
The Two Sides of “Too Much”
Find the Underlying Reasons for Addictive Behavior
We’ve all met someone that does something too much—maybe they drink too much, eat too much, shop too much, work out too much or have too much sex. While the treatment for these “too much” behaviors is generally focused on the addictive nature of the substance or activity, it is rarely focused enough on the underlying reason for the behavior.
While many support programs are linked to theories of physical addiction, hypnotists are finding success by focusing on the underlying feelings that cause people to resort to the harmful substance or activity in the first place.
“While some people may find themselves genetically predisposed or physically addicted to substances or activities, most are just drinking, using, consuming or engaging to distract themselves from feelings that they don’t like,” explains Beverly Craddock, of Hawaii Hypnosis Center. “When a person feels sad or angry, and they feel like they have no way to control or overcome the feeling, they may choose to engage in something that makes them forget about the feeling for a while.”
For some “too muchers,” they have forgotten why they started distracting in the first place. The reasons for the compulsive action may have been clear many years ago but are now lost in time.
Hypnotists work on habitual behaviors by addressing underlying feelings. When a client comes to them after being diagnosed with an addiction, they work in conjunction with the client’s physician and mental health provider to address all areas of the person.
“If the subconscious feelings are left out of the equation, people often find themselves returning to the behavior and not knowing why,” adds Craddock. “Some programs try to train people to use willpower to overcome a physical addiction, but there aren’t many people who can overpower their own subconscious mind.”
People that are hurting inside sometimes don’t know they are hurting. In some cases, they have suppressed or distracted from a feeling for so long that they don’t even consciously know why they are engaging in the distracting behavior. Some people have been through organized programs only to revert to the “too much” behavior because they don’t understand the underlying emotional reasons for it. These people often feel like “failures” because of the reoccurrence. Family and friends in the support structure may also begin to distance themselves out of a feeling that future efforts will yield continued failures. And multiple failures can reinforce the mistaken idea that they aren’t personally strong enough to conquer their own issues, when in fact they just can’t get in touch with the actual cause.
A hypnotic approach to addressing “too much” behaviors is also an approach that avoids labeling the person with the behavior. Hypnotists understand that the behavior and the person are different. Just because someone engages in a “too much” behavior right now doesn’t mean he/she should be defined as an alcoholic, a drug addict, a shopaholic or a workaholic. Labels aren’t permanent if the hypnotist can help the person change his/her mind from the inside.
Other “too much” people that find success with hypnosis are those that haven’t yet hit “rock bottom” but can see it coming. They often want to work on their issues but can’t leave their job or family to enter a rehab facility. They may also be in high-profile positions or have found that therapy meetings just aren’t cutting it.
“We see many people who want help but don’t want to wait to lose their job or their family or to be diagnosed with an ‘addiction,’ says Craddock. “For whatever reason, they can’t commit to a lengthy or public program. They are looking for something that can address the underlying reason for the behavior and help them achieve the personal strength to address the rest.”
Hypnotists focus on helping clients identify their own feelings, which are most often the actual trigger for the behavior. From there, clients are able to discover whether the “too much” behavior is now manageable because the trigger is no longer there or whether they prefer to live without the distractor because they have no need for it now.
“From our perspective, drinking, eating, shopping or using aren’t the actual problem,” concludes Craddock. “The problem is when these behaviors become destructive. Telling a person they can never touch a drop of alcohol, eat a piece of pie or have a credit card again is setting them up for failure or even isolation in our social society. We look to address the reasons for the destructive behavior, and we don’t believe that the substance is always to blame.”
Read the Article in Natural Awakenings Magazine
Addiction… is the word itself a harmful label?
Anyone who has experience in the marketing world can tell you that the way in which people speak about things makes a big difference. Words matter - not just in the way we think about things but the underlying ways in which we feel about those things.The person who originally labeled climate change as “global warming” probably wishes they could have that description back. The old moniker of “global warming” lead many people to question the science when massive winter blizzards hit the East Coast and Europe. A popular internet meme showed a man shoveling six feet of snow and asking, “How do you like all that global warming?” The term “global warming” itself lessened the credibility of the science. Despite near universal agreement by scientists that climate change is occurring, the general public has been slow to accept the concept. Merely the mislabeling of the phenomenon of climate change made the science harder to seriously discuss and set back policy change by nearly a decade.
From our perspective as hypnotists, the treatment of addiction has met a similar challenge. By calling the problem of drinking too much or drugging too much an “addiction,” the focus of the problem shifts to the substance itself. In reality, alcohol or drugs aren’t the problem. It is their use that is the problem and use is a human problem.
This isn’t to say that the focus should be on the users’ integrity, personality, or character. People who are drinking or drugging too much deserve compassion and care. They are generally good people who were looking for a way to escape something they were feeling. No one truly chooses to mess up their lives, their families, their finances, and their careers with these kinds of challenges. The focus should not be on the motives of the user, rather we believe that the focus should be on the underlying reason that people use.
The label of “addiction” turns the attention to the physical and/or psychological power of the substance or activity to keep a user hooked. But as any person who struggles with doing something too much, the stopping of the substance is not the hardest part. Yes, it can be very difficult to experience the withdrawal symptoms of alcohol, meth, heroin, cocaine, or pills, but most users have one time or many times been able to outlast the physical symptoms on their own… only to find themselves back in the cycle weeks, months, or years down the road. If we as a society are going to truly be successful, we must look beyond the addictive period of these substances and turn our attention to the real reasons people begin to use them and return to them even after the addictive nature of the substance has long passed.
It may challenge some people’s long-held beliefs to consider the fact that a meth user who hasn’t used in two weeks is NOT suffering with addiction - at least not a physical addiction. Meth clears the system in anywhere from 24 to 72 hours. Yes, there are brain changes that occur through usage that may lead to desires to re-use but those desires can be overcome. What can’t be overcome for most people is the feeling of sadness, unworthiness, loneliness, or self-loathing that they’ve been running from all along. When that feeling returns due to work stress or relationship stress, the mind of the user may believe that drugs or alcohol are the only real “solution.” Without tools to overcome the underlying feeling, the user will return to the use - not because they’re “addicted” but because they’re feeling a deep emptiness that they cannot fill in any other way.
As hypnotists, we approach these too much behaviors by seeking the real cause of the use - even when the original issue has been resolved or long-since forgotten. If we can clear the subconscious mind of the erroneous or outdated weakened thinking, then the user should be able to use their own willpower to overcome the addiction.Unfortunately, most treatment methods today are focused on getting the user through the withdrawal period and sending them back out on the street. The user remains fundamentally stuck with the real problem and the bad habit is likely to return.
Hypnosis doesn’t “fix” a user. It allows the person to do the work that allows all the other things to work more effectively. That’s why hypnosis is becoming such an integral part of the treatment at successful addiction centers such as Passages and at the Mayo Clinic in-patient program.
When the underlying issues are resolved in a meaningful way, a user can find the other things that will help keep them on a clean path. Whether that’s complete abstinence, step programs like AA or NA, rehab, behavioral therapy, lifestyle changes, or a combination of all of them.
We often tell our clients to focus on what works for YOU. Each user is different. Everyone’s reasons for using are different. Everyone’s solutions will be different. Find what helps you be successful.