Hypnotherapy can play a role as a ‘complementary’ therapy as an adjunct to conventional medical treatments.
Causes of cancer:
It is probable that multiple factors contribute to cancer. We are told that cancer cells exist in the body all the time but the immune system generally keeps their numbers under control. For some reason, this system may fail to do the job adequately,
resulting in cancer.
Probable contributing factors include:
* Environmental eg carcinogenous chemicals, pollution, radiation from electronic technology.
* Chemical substances made for ingestion (eg pharmaceutical drugs, additives in processed foods) sometimes are identified
as a processed food may not directly cause cancer (unless containing carcinogenous chemicals), refined sugar has been
claimed to actually feed cancer.
* Genetic: There are inherited rogue genes that increase risk of certain types of cancers. However, statistics reveal 9/10
women who get breast cancer do not have a family history of breast cancer.
* Lifestyle: Alcohol, obesity and cigarettes have been found to increase cancer risk.
* 'Emotional carcinogens'.
Role of emotions:
A 'mind-body connection' with regard to disease is now widely accepted, even among practitioners of conventional medicine. That means that how we think and feel can have an effect on the physical body. For example, people who are depressed
or feel lonely and unloved are more prone to illnesses. Heart disease patients who become depressed are more prone to heart attacks. Stress is acknowledged as having a physical impact on the body, contributing to or exacerbating some physical conditions.
The flip side of the mind-body connection is reflected in encouragement to achieve a state of calm through meditation. Commonly dispensed advice includes 'think positive' and we have all heard the old adage 'laughter is the best medicine'. Beneficial effects of positive emotions are demonstrated in programmes that promote visits by clowns to children's hospitals and pets as companions for the elderly who live alone. Support groups, by providing helpful advice and emotional support, seek to alleviate stress and foster improved emotional and mental states of their participants.
With regard to specific diseases, there is a particular personality type that is regarded more at risk for heart disease.
Likewise, particular personality features and emotional factors have also been identified by researchers as being commonly associated with cancer and its prognosis.
Among such factors identified are 'unexpressed emotions' (such as sacrificing own needs for others, resentment, anger, stuff that is unresolved, bottled up, 'fermenting', becoming 'toxic') and a sense of powerlessness – all of which represents handing over personal power to others. Men in particular are not good at dealing with emotional stuff. The macho way is to ignore emotional problems and tell themselves they are 'ok', it is 'in the past' and they need to just 'get over it' and 'move on'. While women are better at talking about their feelings with a friend and shedding tears as an emotional release, this alone is not sufficient to deal with unresolved emotions effectively. Unless addressed in the subconscious mind (where they are stored, 'bottled up', 'blocked out', 'pushed to the back of the mind') and resolved completely, these emotions just fester and ferment, becoming toxic – and some types may produce what I call 'emotional carcinogens'. These negative emotions are consequences of handing control of one’s life to someone else.
For optimum effect, treatment probably needs to be multi-dimensional. Medical treatments (such as surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy) are the options favoured by conventional medicine, although trials are also being conducted with
experimental vaccines for some types of cancer. In addition, giving up 'bad habits' (cigarettes, alcohol, over/unhealthy eating) and adopting complementary approaches such as dietary (eating a wide range of natural food), physical exercise, resolving emotional stuff and taking back control (using hypnotherapy), utilising mind power in healing (hypnotherapy and meditation) are commonly used. Counsellors play an essential role in helping patients deal with the trauma of the diagnosis and coping with cancer. Ongoing emotional support provided by families and support groups also plays an important role in mental and emotional wellbeing.
Occasionally, we hear of individuals who have achieved success following alternative treatments only. Chemotherapy is a 'non-specific poison' that attacks healthy body cells as well as the cancerous cells. The side effects (collateral damage) are very
unpleasant, the milder ones being nausea, loss of hair, destruction of healthy red blood cells, fatigue, and the more serious can be burns to the lining of the alimentary canal, compromising the immune system and opportunistic infections, even PCP.
Hence, some cancer patients, particularly ones who reject the 'death sentence' their doctor has given them, refuse to subject their body to the destructive effects of chemotherapy and opt for alternative means of treating the cancer. They conduct
their own research on what alternative therapies have to offer and focus on healthy lifestyle changes such as a natural diet which includes foods which have been found to have anti-cancer properties. Exercise, meditation and imagery are
commonly included. Recovery from cancer whilst being treated by any means other than conventional medicine is attributed, by the medical profession, to 'spontaneous remission', because there is 'no scientific proof’' that alternative treatments actually
However, the fact that these patients have taken responsibility for their own health, have been assertive even to the point of challenging medical prognosis, is in itself recognised by researchers as a psychological factor that improves chances of recovery. That is not to say that rejecting medical advice improves chances of recovery.
What is important is the attitude – research shows that means not just being positive, but actively taking control rather than feeling helpless/ hopeless/ powerless, being assertive and involved in treatment decisions rather than just passively
accepting medical recommendations. It also means the patient taking back control of his/her life - taking back the power that has been relinquished to others. Just being ‘brave’ doesn’t seem to help – perhaps because there is an implied ‘stoical acceptance’ of the ’inevitable’.
Can the mind influence the body? Conditions described as 'psychosomatic' illnesses or symptoms suggest it can. Research in psychoneuroimmunology suggests it can. The 'placebo effect' suggests it can. Ironically, researchers testing efficacy of
new drugs simply dismiss it as a nuisance when subjects in the control 'placebo'group (taking sugar pills) achieve
results comparable to those on the active drug being tested.
Can hypnotherapy and meditation make a real difference in treating cancer? No concrete claims can be made and no guarantees given. However, we often hear that we use only 10% of our brain power and we read of the power potential of the mind to heal the body. We periodically read of 'miraculous' healings, so who can tell? 'Visualisation' is commonly used as an adjunct to medical treatments of physical conditions and reported as improving outcome.
Recurrence of cancer:
The experience of cancer is that it tends to be recurrent. Cancer is never referred to as being 'cured' until given the 'five-year all clear' - but I understand that is not even an iron-clad guarantee. Recovery from cancer is referred to as 'going into
remission', implying it is under control for now but there is always a chance it may come back. However, it is unlikely that recurrence is inherent in the nature of cancer itself, but is due to continue exposure to causal factors. Chemo can
result in cancer going into remission, but if the causal conditions and contributing factors remain unaddressed, then there is the possibility of recurrence of the cancer. If dietary factors and/or emotional carcinogens have contributed to cancer and they are not addressed as an integral part of the treatment regimen, they may contribute to recurrence. Therefore, in addressing
the emotional carcinogens with hypnotherapy and assisting the client to take back the power they had relinquished to others, (in conjunction with changing other lifestyle factors) I believe that there may be a chance of reducing the recurrence of the cancer.
Why use hypnotherapy? The emotional stuff that needs resolving and releasing is locked in the subconscious mind, so that is where we need to go to deal with it. While being 'positive' is a plus, its effect can be undermined or negated by unresolved negative emotions. To utilise 'mind power' for healing, hypnosis is needed to tap into the unused brain potential.
Hypnotherapy is a working partnership between therapist and client. The cancer patient must want to get well, believe in the power of the mind and be an active participant in the hypnotherapy process. Hypnotherapy is not a magic wand whereby the therapist 'makes things happen'. Ultimately, the client is responsible for their own success - taking control of their life.
I regard hypnotherapy as having multiple roles as an adjunctive treatment which is reflected in my approach:
(i) Clearing out 'emotional carcinogens'
(ii) Taking back control of own life
(iii) Utilising 'mind power' to enhance healing
(iv) Attitude, belief in ability, coping
(v) Possibly making a contribution to reducing risk of recurrence of cancer