by Dr. John Butler
Arthur was 48 years old and came to me with a problem of not being able to sleep. When I asked him about his present life, he said he had been under stress for some time. A freelancer, his field of work was becoming increasingly competitive and he was working long hours, putting off social life and long-term plans. Sometimes he felt so desperate to sleep he would drink a lot more than usual, however he felt hungover, not refreshed, the next day. He was reluctant to try sleep medications, saying he didn’t want to give up on regaining his ability to sleep naturally. So he’d decided to try hypnosis.
Hypnosis is a powerful skill which is imparted to a client through acting in partnership with the hypnotherapist. Arthur proved responsive to this process, and like many clients, found his first hypnotic experience the most relaxed he’d felt “in years”. He then practised at home with a recording I gave him, and he arrived at the next session saying he had managed to sleep better, and to feel rested. This experience gave him much hope that he could regain a satisfactory sleeping pattern.
The increased focus of attention that occurs in hypnosis is highly suited to developing new skills and coping strategies. Arthur’s circumstances had changed, his work life was harder than it had been, and wasn’t likely to get better externally. So the task was to expand his skills to cope better – to move from a “panicked” stress reaction, which was very draining, to a long-term, sustainable strategy. Through mental “rehearsal” and analytical work in hypnosis, Arthur redesigned his approach to his life, reviewing values and choices made in the past. He downsized his outgoings, reducing the pressure on him to accept any work offers that came his way. He ring-fenced a basic program of exercise, healthful living practices and recreation. In hypnosis, we worked out self-commitments for Arthur that he consented to, not only on a conscious but also on a subconscious level (a most common reason for a failure to keep up self-commitments is subconscious sabotage), and in stages he incorporated these into his life.
In 6 sessions over 4 months, Arthur transitioned to an altered lifestyle, designed and chosen by himself. With less pressure, he felt more “true to himself”, sleeping was again something that “just happened” and he developed his relaxation skills by listening to the recording I gave him. An unexpected bonus was that he became more creative in his work, which he was finding very exciting. He joked, “Maybe it’ll be the next big thing, but if not I’m fine having fun with it”.