Gustafson, Healthy Hypnosis
Do you know that you are hypnotized
every day? Social hypnosis goes on all the time. We are
constantly bombarded with information and messages targeted
for our subconscious minds. Advertisers know that once a
message reaches our subconscious it grows as an accepted
belief. They also know that the process of becoming relaxed
and focused in front of a television screen softens our
critical conscious mind and opens our fertile subconscious to
receive their uncensored messages. Our conscious mind normally
evaluates everything we hear and see everyday of our lives.
Advertisers capitalize on this unguarded moment to convince us
that we want to buy what they have to sell.
The two ways that messages can reach our subconscious is by
just hoping that the conscious mind will let it in, or to
relax the analytical conscious mind allowing the message to go
Hypnosis either performed by a hypnotherapist, or through the
efforts of a Wall Street advertising firm, is based on this
simple technique. It can be as subtle as a 30 second
television ad showing the Marlboro Man riding off into the
sunset or as involved as a formal session designed to modify
behavior. It can be divisive or benevolent.
So what's the hospice connection? In ten
years of nursing I've never seen a more attentive motivated
group than the hospice family. Once you earn their trust, help
them to become more relaxed and focused, you can enhance their
ability to cope and manage the daily changes and inevitable
hospice surprises by what you say and how you say it.
Most people go into nursing because they want to make a
difference. In hospice nursing the opportunity to make a big
difference pops up everyday. Most hospice families are ready
and eager to hang on every word the hospice nurse has to say.
They want straight answers, guidance and empowerment. Seize
the moment. This is what all nurses are looking for, to teach
important things to people in need and get positive results.
Early on I realized that this group was starving for a
compassionate ear. After the shock of their diagnosis and then
chemotherapy or radiation, surgery, nausea, vomiting, hair
loss, and then the ultimate hospice referral, this group
always tends to have a few things on their mind. Listen to
Not only is this helpful to collect
information, but it's also a cathartic process for them to
experience. It puts them in position to hear your helpful
words. Finally they get someone who just listens. What a
pleasant surprise. Your job is easy, just ask open ended
questions, get comfortable and let them run with it. When you
think it is time speak, don't. Listen a little longer. Give
them all the time they want.
This simple process of actively listening does three things.
It supplies you with information, creates a trusting
therapeutic relationship and more importantly it helps them to
focus and relax. You can almost see the relaxation unfolding
as they speak. This may not necessarily be obvious on your
first visit but usually it is. There are, of course, some
families who haven't had a moment of peace their whole lives
and they are not about to start with you. Be open minded,
realistic and patient.
Once you have your hospice family in a better place, how you
speak and what you say can offer profound impact and
direction. Speak slowly, confidently, with direct eye contact
and use positive affirming tones. One statement should build
on the next. For example: 'you've shown that you can manage
his pain and there is enough medication in the house.' Any
victory along the way is praised and added to your laundry
list of positive review topics. Such as: 'you did a great job
repositioning him in bed, you've also made excellent decisions
using the break-through medication and you know you can call
us anytime.' This positive review is where healthy seeds get
By packaging up distracting emotional
debris you can better offer direction, validation and clarity
in a way that supports their continued growth and success. The
more order and control you create the more relaxed and focused
they become. The more at ease they are the more attention they
pay to everything you say. Your words and suggestions will
have a dramatic impact on their ability to cope and make
difficult decisions while dealing with their own issues of
Your words become their words and their actions. Whether you
like it or not you are in the position of authority and
knowledge of all issues involved with this life transition.
All eyes and ears are pointed in your direction so take
advantage of this opportunity to position them for success.
By understanding the principles of suggestion and how the
conscious and subconscious minds work, hospice nurses can
empower effective change with every visit they make. The
repetition of supportive constructive suggestions and
affirmations to those in a more relaxed and focused state of
mind can have an enormous therapeutic effect. Good nurses know
the obvious advantages of reducing stress and putting their
clients at ease, by also practicing these simple communication
techniques your hospice families will be more autonomous,
confident and in control during their difficult transition.
© 2001 Paul Gustafson
Paul Gustafson, RN,
BSN, CH runs Healthy Hypnosis in Burlington, Massachusetts. He
has ten years of nursing experience and eight years
specializing in the field of hospice nursing. His in-depth
medical experience offers a solid foundation supporting his
clinical approach to hypnotherapy. Visit the author's web site
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