The breezes at dawn have secrets to tell
you must ask for what
you really want.
Don't go back to sleep.
People are going back and
Across the doors
where the two worlds touch.
The door is round and open.
Don't go back to sleep.
Listening to the Body's Wisdom: Combining Bodywork and Hypnosis
By Surja Jessup
(Reprinted,- with some additions- from Massage Magazine March/April
If the body could
speak, what would it say?
The body reflects our thoughts, emotions, and
spirit- my hands have intuitively felt this for as long as I have practiced
acupressure and bodywork. A stiff shoulder can carry the weight
of the world, a locked jaw may hold unspoken words, an injured disk
might be expressing a lack of support. Could this language be revealing
the subconscious mind, and could it possibly hold a key to the healing
Several years ago when I began my private practice
as a holistic heath educator and body-worker, I attended a workshop
entitled "Alchemical Bodywork". Although I couldnˆt
imagine how hypnotherapy could relate to massage or acupressure. I was
intrigued with the idea of Alchemy, which I understood from reading
Carl Jung, could be understood as a metaphor for "transforming
lead into gold" in a person's consciousness.
That workshop and subsequent training showed
me that using hypnotherapy with bodywork is very effective-because
usually the person receiving touch is already in a light trance state,
where there is heightened suggestibility, and receptivity to the subconscious
mind. (This actually is a definition of a hypnotic state.) Hypnotherapy
provides tools to deepen relaxation and intuitive knowing, which empowers
the person receiving a session to find his or her own meaning in the
body's symptoms and to find self-healing images. Hypnotherapy lends
itself to many kinds of bodywork, such as soft and deep tissue massage,
acupressure, and more subtle kinds of energy balancing that work with
the chakras in the body's energy field.
Milton Erickson, and M.D., and a pioneer in the field of hypnotherapy,
taught at Wayne State University in the 1940's and subsequently had
a private practice using hypnotherapy until the time of his death in
1980. His case studies, described in Jay Haley's book, Uncommon Therapy,
illustrate that the subconscious mind is deeply intelligent, and can
be accessed in a hypnotic state for healing and creative problem solving.
I chose to study Ericksonian Hypnotherapy because it is magical and
evocative, and trusts the resourcefulness of the client.
In addition, I became certified in Alchemical Therapy, a
comprehensive transpersonal method of hypnotherapy, which synthesizes
techniques from Jungian Psychology, Psychosynthesis, Shamanism, and
traditional Hypnosis. Together, these modalities provide tools for journeying
into the body and accessing images, feelings and memories, which can
be "reframed", that is, seen in a new context or visualized
differently to create a positive outcome. David Quigley, who developed
Alchemical Hypnotherapy in 1979 began training students at Heartwood
College in 1983., and started his own Alchemical Hypnotherapy Insitiute
in Santa Rosa in 1988. Today there are several other programs in Alchenical
Hypnotherapy throughout the country.
Through Ericksonian and Alchemical Hypnotherapy combined
with bodywork, I began discovering ways for clients to find meaning
in the body's experience which could then be transformed through metaphor
into positive images for self-healing, As I practiced combining bodywork
with hypnosis, I discovered it is enjoyable, relaxing and sometimes
even a sacred and revelatory experience for the client.
I went on to become a trainer of Alchemical Hypnotherapy,
and taught the process at certified programs throughout the country.
As I taught, it became clear to me that the applications of hypnosis
and bodywork were endless. I began to practice my own version of Alchemical
Bodywork, called Body/Mind Transformation. In cases of chronic illness,
I found several doctors who supported using hypnotherapy
and bodywork as an adjunct for their patients' medical programs. My
sessions encouraged a client to access his or her own healing resources
which complemented the medical teatment plan. The following case study
illustrates this process:
Ruth was experiencing chronic myofascitis (soft
and connective tissue inflammation), in the right shoulder joint. She
was also diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome. She had worked as a
hairstylist for more than 20 years, and recently it had become increasingly
difficult for her to work. While giving her a session of soft tissue
massage and acupressure, I asked her permission to use some hypnotherapy
to imagine taking a mental journey into the injured shoulder to see
what was there. Ruth was very receptive, and easily discovered images
and feelings in her shoulder. Much to her surprise, the "guardian"
of this body part appeared. It looked like a small comical robot who
was quite rigid and kept repeating. " I just do what I am told.
I don't relax, I©ˆm just here to be efficient and get things
done". I encouraged Ruth to appreciate this little fellow who had
been working so hard on her behalf to support and protect her.
However, as Ruth began to do this, she said,
"it was as though the robot's mask fell away, and I saw my mother
underneath, telling me, 'you've gotta work hard, life is a struggle'
". Ruth was then able to honestly confront the internalized mother,
and share some deep feelings with her. After
that her shoulder felt more relaxed and open. As I gently massaged the
shoulder muscles, Ruth imagined escorting her mother out of her body.
Then I asked her what the robot was doing." Oh", she said,
"it's not a robot any more. It's become an elf. I see him curled
up in my shoulder. . He knows how to relax."
This was a remarkable healing image Ruth had
accessed. Because she had been told by her Physician that she would
have to pace herself and relax, or face surgery. She owned her own business
and could take time off, but until then, she had been compulsively driven
to work constantly. I suggested to Ruth that it would be easy for her
to pace herself, and with the help of the little elf in her shoulder,
she could balance work and relaxation until her shoulder and hand were
better. Ruth later told me this process had deeply affected her, she
had taken some time off and her arm and hand were feeling much better.
Hypnosis utilizes the client's own resources
for healing. I am always amazed at the client's ability to find exactly
what she or he needs in the inner world. Metaphors empower people to
find solutions to their problems in unique and creative ways. Guided
imagery can also be used in acupressure or massage sessions to
deepen relaxation through imagining a safe place in nature such as a
forest with a babbling rook, or a warm sunny beach..
Hypnotherapy can also be used to
improve performance or to become more creative. A client named Tim was
referred to me for acupressure and hypnotherapy. He wanted to learn
how to relax and alleviate chronic anxiety and to overcome a creative
block in order to write music again. A medical exam had revealed that
he was in excellent physical health except for a tendency to be asthmatic,which
was also exacerbated by anxiety.
After a few sessions of acupressure massage
we did hypnotherapy as well. I asked him to imagine a room in his heart
area. He entered the room and found a lead box. Inside was a teenager
who felt ashamed. A guard patrolled the lead box, and said to the teenager,
"I will never let you out. You don't deserve good things and you
never do anything right." Interestingly, Tim defended this guard;
he said, " he has protected me for a long time. If I hadn't had
this guard I would have gotten into a lot more trouble. "
In subsequent sessions Tim got in rapport with
the guard, who began to soften and relax. Eventually the guard
let the teenager out of the box with the condition that the teenager
use his newfound freedom to be creative rather than rebelious. Soon
Tim set up his keyboard, and he has been composing, writing lyrics and
recording music. Tim's experience illustrates that one of the magical
aspects of Alchemical Hypnotherapy is that it honors the positive
intention of all our inner parts-even the darkest ones. In this way,
all aspects of the self which have become fragmented or hidden, can
be owned and brought out into the open. Alchemical
Bodywork provides a way to dialogue with the body, and rekindle the
imagination of the inner child. Through imagery and listening to the
body, symbolic meaning is revealed. When the images are transformed
to be aligned with the client's present needs, it seems to effect positive
behavioral change in the outer world, as well as to create more trust
Adding hypnotherapy skills to a therapeutic
bodywork practice, provides a profound tool for practitioners who want
to add another dimension to their practice, and for clients who want
a holistic bodywork experience.
Surja Jessup, M.S. CH.T. has been in private practice in Berkeley Ca..
as a holistic practitioner since 1987. She has a master's degree in
Health Education and certification in Clinical Hypnotherapy and Acupressure.
She studied bodywork with Marion Rosen at JFK University in Orinda Ca.,
and acupressure at the Acupressure Institute in Berkeley. She teaches
at the Acupressure Institute as well. She may be contacted at
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