Have the hypnotized patient imagine walking along a path in the woods with the therapist, deepening the trance as you enjoy details of the scenery. As you walk, you approach a waist-high boulder, covered with moss and dirt. Nearby is a large hammer with an axe-like handle that is lying on the ground. Have the patient nod when he/she can see the hammer and then have him/her pick it up. Suggest that the boulder represents feelings toward a specific person, a traumatic event, etc., and symbolizes all the frustration and resentments he/she has, encompassed in this mass of stone. Some patients may wish to visualize the boulder resembling a sculpture of a person.
illustrative verbalizations. "In a moment I want you to start beating on that boulder, hitting it harder and harder, until you're completely exhausted. And when you're worn out and too tired to go on, signal me by lifting your "yes" finger. Even though you won't be heard here in this office, you can yell and scream, and do or say whatever you wish in this place of ours beside the boulder. I'll make sure that no one will intrude on our scene in the woods. So you can feel free to hit that boulder, and yell or scream, or say whatever you want, here in the mountains, and no one will hear you. You can yell or scream the things you've only said inside before, or that you've always wished you could say, while you hit that boulder. And each time you hit it, pieces of it will break off or crumble."
Urge the patient to "keep hitting that boulder until it's completely demolished. And by that time you'll be worn out and exhausted, and you'll have gotten all those feelings out." You may typically urge the patient to continue for four, five, or more minutes.
Periodically encourage the patient with verbalizations such as, "Come on, hit it again, harder!" "Keep on going. Get it all out. You don't have to keep it inside anymore." "More, and more, and more. Keep going. Don't give up. Just keep hitting that boulder, and yelling or saying whatever you want, until you're just too worn out to continue! And then that "yes" finger can lift. But don't stop until you get it all out and are really exhausted." It is important to convey some of the anger and intensity in your voice during these verbalizations.
Occasionally, an especially inhibited patient or someone fearing loss of control may balk at hitting the rock. Explore his/her hesitancy. In some cases, you may have the patient imagine laboriously pushing the rock over the edge of the deep ravine, just behind the boulder. Another option is to dissociate the patient, having him view someone who looks like him, yelling and screaming and hitting the boulder.
post-abreaction ego-strengthening Next, SUg-gest that the patient can now drop the large hammer. And together, walk up a small rise to a beautiful meadow with wild flowers, where the sun is shining and there is a gentle breeze. Describe a lovely group of trees nearby, with soft green grass underneath. Suggest that the patient can lie down on the grass and watch the clouds peacefully drifting in the sky, while you sit nearby.
The patient may now be told: "Before we go on today, I need to hear something positive that you're willing to share with me about yourself." [This requires patients to shift frames and perceive some positive things about themselves]. If there is some hesitancy, persist. Next, particularly when the patient is responsive to kinesthetic, ideosensory imagery, the patient may be told: "I want you to payvvery close attention to your toes. Something interesting is going to happen. In a moment you'll become aware of a warm, glowy, tingly sensation in your toes. When you notice that feeling, signal me with your "yes" finger [or, alternatively, "Nod your head"]. [After the signal:] Good. And notice, with a sense of curiosity, how that sensation begins to spread throughout your foot, and when it has flowed all the way up to your ankle, signal me again." Proceed in this manner up to the knees, the top of the thighs, through the trunk, to the shoulders, then down the arms, and throughout the head.
After the pleasant, warm, tingly sensation has spread through the entire body, following Watkins' model, the therapist may state: "These pleasant sensations come from your own positive feelings about yourself, from your inner resources and faith that you can resolve your problems." [Be careful to say only what you know is true about the patient.]
"And now this warm, glowing, tingly feeling can become even stronger, and when you feel it getting stronger, you can signal me again. [Pause] That's right. And this added sensation symbolizes another resource that you have. It represents energy coming from me and my belief in you, my faith that you have the strengths and resources you need to grow and solve your problems. [Be sure at this point to say what you honestly feel.] And this added energy represents my part in our relationship, as a partner in working with you to get to where you want to be. It symbolizes my caring, and respect, and belief in you and the inner resources of your unconscious mind. And you can allow yourself to feel it as a positive, strong energy, circulating all through your body."
In awakening the patient, suggest that the tingly feeling will probably be gone, but that the glow can remain.
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Hypnosis is a capital instrument for relaxation and alleviating stress. It helps calm down both the brain and body, giving a useful rest. All the same it can be rather costly to hire a clinical hypnotherapist, and we might not always want one around when we would like to destress.