Blog: Buddhism in Action Part 2: A Depth Hypnosis Case Study
By Isa Gucciardi, Ph.D.
Most of us are very attached to having what we want happen and preventing what we don’t want from happening. But when we try to create a life in this way, we develop misconceptions about ourselves and the people and world around us. In the Depth Hypnosis method, when considering the issue a client presents and their emotional history, practitioners draw upon this Buddhist idea that we suffer when we are unaware of the way our attachments and aversions drive our behavior, or when we have misconceptions about what our life presents to us and about what that might mean for us.
In a recent post, I described how the Depth Hypnosis methodology is designed to support individuals in reestablishing or deepening their relationship to a part of themselves that has an unbroken connection to wisdom and compassion—to their Buddha Nature. The following case study demonstrates the way Depth Hypnosis draws from Buddhist understandings of the causes of suffering and the concept of Buddha Nature in the treatment of imbalance.
When a young woman whom I’ll call Traci came in for help with hypnotherapy to stop smoking, it became clear through the answers to the questions about her emotional biography that she smoked because it was the best way to keep people away from her. As a practitioner, I made note of Traci’s aversion to having people close to her and how that contributed to her continuing to smoke. Further questioning revealed that she felt she did not have the right to say no to people (a misconception). When Traci smoked, no one asked her for anything or asked her to do anything, so she did not have to say yes to things she did not want to do.
In order to help Traci stop her habit of smoking, we had to address her aversion to having people close to her and her misconception that she could not say no to people. Before Traci dove into this work, I helped her connect with the wise and compassionate part of herself, which could also be described as her Buddha Nature. Traci made this connection during her second session, when she participated in an altered state process very similar to a guided meditation. Through the meditation, she encountered a sunflower that helped her feel happy and connected to the sun.
In the third session, we were ready, with the anchoring and guidance of Traci’s Buddha Nature in the persona of the sunflower, to address her aversion—her desire to put distance between herself and others by smoking. I asked Traci how she felt when she wanted to separate from others, but could not have a cigarette. She said she felt tense.
Because Depth Hypnosis is a highly somatic form of therapeutic intervention, we used the feeling of tension in her body that Traci had identified as related to not being able to say no to people. Once she located the place where the tension was arising, we used one of the somatic techniques of the model to create a bridge between Traci’s tension and the situation where she first felt the tension. We were seeking to resolve the aversion by moving directly into it. We can do something like this within this model because of the palpable support and guidance from the client’s Buddha Nature.
As it turned out, the bridge from Traci’s tension brought us to the situation where her desire to get away from people and her belief that she could not say no came together. She found herself as a five year old being sexually molested by a family member. Supported by the wise and compassionate part of her self, she was able to be present with the feelings arising from the experience and process them in a healthy and integrative way. More Depth Hypnosis processes were done to support Traci as she did this work and to help her integrate the experience so that she would no longer be experiencing the pain of the five year old in her present day interactions with other people. It was this unrecognized pain (untapped pain or unacknowledged pain) that caused Traci to smoke in order to avoid situations where she would have to say no.
The processes of Depth Hypnosis are at once simple and complex. The work of healing and integrating aspects of the self in this way is discussed in more detail elsewhere in my work. Through the execution of this process, Traci was able to begin to change her relationship to herself as a five year old in this past circumstance. She was also able to begin to change the pattern of behavior in her current circumstances where she felt she had to avoid others so she would not have to be subjected to patterns of relating where she could not say no.
We continued our work together and within six months she was able to give up smoking for good. Not only did the work we did together help her stop smoking, it also showed her how the symptom of smoking she had come for help with was rooted in a misunderstanding of her need to avoid people in order not to say no to them.
By compassionately taking responsibility for her current addiction, which arose out of that misunderstanding, and correcting it, Traci was able to quit smoking and also came to know herself more deeply through the therapeutic process. From a more traditional therapeutic point of view, she learned how to hold onto her personal boundaries more effectively and she released the trauma of the molestation so she could establish more equitable types of relationships. Her aversion was diminished and her misconceptions were resolved. She also established a stronger relationship with her Buddha Nature and had more access to its wisdom and compassion as a result of her decision to take responsibility for changing her addiction.
Editors’ Note: Isa will be teaching the Depth Hypnosis Foundation Course August 7-13 at the Sacred Stream Center in Berkeley, CA.