Winning the Mind Game! - Managing Burns & Trauma with Self-Hypnotic Tools

By: Elizabeth Bohorquez, RN, SRN, CPH
Sarasota MEDICAL HYPNOSIS Institute



Ever hear the saying, "The Mind is it's own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven." Well I don't know if the author, John Milton, ever had a big medical challenge like those facing trauma or Burn Survivors, but it sounds like he just might have experienced something out of the ordinary, perhaps like some of you reading this article.

It is interesting to note and also good to know, that managing a traumatic event such as a serious burn, is not unlike managing of host of other things, perhaps some that you have already experienced. Maybe you are an athlete, or have read about "playing in the zone." While "winning the mind game" is certainly imperative for high level sports performance, it is just as important for someone working on high level "life outcomes" following a major lifestyle traumatic event. Individuals recovering from a medical or surgical intervention, and certainly from any high stress trauma such as an accident, burn or other traumatic event must learn to manage their mindbody connection at very high levels if positive outcomes are indeed the goal. There are many reasons for this,m one of the most important being that out of control stress chemicals left to roam the body, can lead to diminished healing....both physiological and psychological. Also in the most important list, heightened stress chemicals lead to increased pain.... bith physical and emotional. So let's go ahead and discuss building the necessary managemnt skills...

The First Order of Business: Developing Focus and High Level Cincentration Skills

All of the tools we will be discussing are hypnotic in nature. Focus and concentration are paramount to stress chemical reduction, and lead the way in diminishing physical pain and body sensations. They are also the keys that open the subconscious mind for all kinds of programming and re-programming. Just as with everything else, practice is so important. When developing the ability to focus and concentrate, daily work is imperative. While skill building doesn't take a lot of time, commitment to the process is absolutely necessary, and just as a football player would not consider learning new plays in the middle of a game, neither should the individual looking to heal his mind & body, consider learning new tools in the middle if a high stress situation.

When the body is experiencing any kind of stress reaction, be it physiological or psychological, muscle tension throughout the entire body is greatly increased. Most of us are completely obvious to this tension, and tend to ignore it unless we begin to experience "screamers" like neck and back tension, headache, gastro-intestinal symptoms, tightness in the chest, and shallow breathing. The appearance of these sensations often leads to "panic attacks" and chronic re-appearances are closely connected to depression and other emotional disturbances. As the individual begins to "police" their body wit fear and anxiety, both the mind and body literally increase the amount of tension in all areas. The chemicals and hormones that are actively produced under these circumstances, not only affect the working of small and large muscle groups of the body, but also impair the ability to concentrate, retrieve necessary information from the subconscious mind needed to assess the situation, and to heal.

One of the self-hypnotic tools most helpful in managing body sensations is called body scanning, or mental biofeedback. This tool allows the brain to be retrained to release stress build-up at low levels on a sub-conscious level. The placing of this subconscious program is quite simple. The participant instructs the mind to focus on small muscle groups, and observes them for sensations. Sensations are messages from the muscle groups, alerting one to the amount of tension being held captive. Once the sensations are located, the mind is instructed through imagery to open the area, thereby releasing the stored tension. As the mind is directed to continue the scanningf process, it relearns the difference between stress and no apparent stress. When someone begins this practice of mental biofeedback, it is interesting to note that many areas that store tension appear to be tension-free. The reason for this is the inability of the person to focus well on the small muscle group. As the practice continues, one becomes a much better detective at spotting muscle tension. This is a very important point, because one cannot release what is not observed.

Body scanning is also a valuable tool for increasing focus and flexibility, the gbasis of pain and emotional management. Training the mind to scan the body in a very relaxed state, transfers to the skill of being able to focus, release, and move on to another area of focus. The very same technique is utilized with emotions, as well as thoughts. Before we can change something, we must learn to look at it carefully. Once the ability to focus in any and all areas is enhanced, the options for change are widened tremendously. Some common areas for work in those recovering from burns or other trauma include pain and symptom management, emotional scarring, as well as post-tramatic syndrome.

When working with mental biofeedback or body scanning, one works closely with the actual body sensations. Fractionation, or periodization is the process of bringing these tools into the daily life, and practicing in small increments during the day. As this is a new skill, it is often necessary to set up little reminders. I suggest using something simple like a small note tacked in strategic places, by the phone, desk, refrigerator, car radio or other frequented area. Many times during the day one observes the body sensations by doing a quick body scan. This takes less than a minute. As the tension areas are observed, and opened using the mind, the stress chemicals are released, and the mindbody is left to function at a higher level. As the mind gets used to this practice, it woll literally take over. One begins to notice that there is less stress build up during the day, and this translates into many advantages, not the least being a more focused mind state, decreased pain, and a sense of control over different situations.

There are many other focus tools that also work well. Unfortunately, as space limited here we will move on to the very important issue of thought and emotional management.

The Second Order of Business: Managing the Thoughts and Emotions

Self-Awareness is key to optimum life performance. Just as the sports coach brings attention to the technical problems of the athlete, the "inner coach" must bring the same quality of attention to the thought process and emotional states of any individual looking to score well in life. And, of course, this is true for the individual recovering from a trauma such as a burn. Without these abilities one often works from the position of "stress overload." This sets the mind up for confusion, and difficulty in making quick, spontaneous, and right decision. When the focus is narrow and inward, the subconscious mind cannot function. Stress chemicals are being produced at high levels, muscle tension is mounting, metabolism changes, and the brain is not well oxygenated. Hardly the scenario for mindbody healing!

As the individual learns to become aware and observe the mind processes, the ability to release is developed. Again, one cannot release what one does not see or observe. The person winning the mind game knows himself well, and is on the alert for emotional states that are not for him/her at that time. Emotional states can be highly charged chemical concoctions, interfering with all mindbody functioning. The individual looking to get and stay at optimum health must be willing to face and work with the truth.

The better one is trained in managing thoughts and emotional states, the more consistent one becomes in winning. Skill building in this area is known as "awareness meditation" and precedes "interactive self-hypnosis", or the ability to program the mind for improved consistent performance. Often times these steps are excluded, and the individual becomes critical of the use of hypnosis. The problem, in my experience, is not with the hypnosis, but with missing very important parts of the inner work, that of releasing muscle tension, managing thoughts and certainly emotional states.

The Third Order of Business: Programming the Mind for Success

Self-hypnosis is an extremely valuable tool and is the basis of all outcomes, both positive and negative. If the mind is playing negative pictures, the results will be the same. What ever the mind perceives as true, becomes true. We image all the time, whether we plan or not. As we learn to respect the workings of the mind, and become aware of the connection to the body, we can utilize this powerful mechanism to improve ant and all areas of our life. There are often self-imposed roadblocks, old beliefs, thought patterns, and automated emotional responses which keep the individual side-lined, and off the path leading towards the goals. Once it is made clear that all is ready to move through the blocks, not only will this occur, but the subconscious mind will assist in making suggestions and plans.

In hypnosis, the hypnotist will work to help re-frame and re-program the inner library for success. When the individual is trained and practices self-hypnosis, it is relatively easy to reassess a situation in the moment, and program the change right then and there. One also has the ability to request suggestions from the subconscious mind, as to possibilities for management of a situation. It is tantamount to having a powerful "inner coach" right there, in every moment, moving the individual towards the planned goal, whether it releasing physical pain, diminishing a negative emotional state, reconstructing the self-image, or developing acceptance of a past trauma as key to moving forward to a higher realm of healing and existence.

Unfortunately many indivifduals program for what they don't want, or seem to prefer staying in the problem or pain, and this is exactly what they get. As you develop awareness techniques, start listening to "casual mindtalk" of others, pick out the negative programming, and observe what happens.

Many people keep looking for magic and then entertain disappointment or depression when it doesn't knock at the door. They dream of a quick results without putting in the work required. Those who achieve excellence know that the way to the top, and the way to stay there is through consistent work and commitment. The Mind Game is not different for those working with physical and emotional trauma, and just like with the athlete, for those who do commit, the benefits are pure gold!