During the initial eye fixation (Crasilneck & Hall, 1985) transition into trance there was pronounced facial and some full-body twitching and energetic squinting, lasting only briefly, and this was the case for every hypnosis session. The first session taught controlled relaxation, hand warming to ratify the mind-body connection, techniques for safe place and emergency exit from trance (Dolan, 1991 ), and ideomotor signaling (Weitzenhoffer, 2002). The signaling was enthusiastic and at times fingers seemed to lift her arm off the chair.
When this occurred the patient typically was able to smile and verbally acknowledge awareness of this new intriguing energy but did not judge how her body and unconscious were responding. It is interesting, therefore, that hypnosis afforded a relaxed posture regarding her experiences, as opposed to the rigidity described in the other modality. She remained an intrigued, involved follower and observer of what her mind and body appeared to be doing “on their own” during the course of treatment. Thus her presentation was strikingly redolent of van der Kolk’s assertion, “…
when a traumatic memory is activated, the brain is ‘having’ its experience, rather than recollecting it'” (2003, p. 26). As therapy proceeded a sequence of physical gestures emerged that were consistent and cumulative from session to session. In each meeting the patient went into trance quickly and intensely as usual, and then her body briefly replayed, in summary fashion, the sequence up to and then through the most recent installments. For example, an early movement was her right hand’s ascending above and behind her head. Next, she appeared to struggle against the force or pressure exerted on the hand and arm.
Finally, it became clear that the arm was either held or bound at the wrist into that elevated position. In the ensuing sessions, this sequence was rapidly replayed until she arrived at the next threshold of movements. By the tenth session it appeared that her body was reenacting a scene of oral rape. It was not necessary for her to texture and detail the events. Rather, she reported that while her physical experience was succinct she only needed it to be suggestive enough to validate that experience and provide a sensible scenario for what was happening.
Typically in the middle of a scene in which her body was approaching more textured and graphic contact with the experience she would say: “I know what is happening and I will not go any further right now. ” Then she would return to her safe place briefly and exit trance without incident. My suggestions collaborated with this approach, emphasizing, “your body will experience and communicate only what is useful for your understanding and your health now and in the future.
” Each repetition of this protocol-physically/emotionally engaging an enacted fragment, attending to reactions and meaning, deciding about the degree of texture and specificity to experience, choosing to reconstitute in safe place, and exit trance-deepened and validated her ability to manage not only the physical story but the physiological and emotional discomforts associated with it. Central throughout this work were reinforcing and utilizing the patient’s power to choose. For example, when a nuance or new piece of experience was becoming evident, there always was the inquiry: “It appears there is new energy now (in a hand, arm…).
Would it be all right to pay attention to that? Would it be all right to do that now? ” As always, the language is key to the art of hypnosis. “Pay attention” was preferred over “process,” “deal with,” or some other variant implying a verbal, semantically controlled sequence. Her ideomotor signaling was energetic and always clear in response. Interestingly, assertiveness and strength were available in this hypnotically abetted physical-unconscious domain, another stark contrast to her demeanor in the other more conventional therapy as described.