today, i interviewed a well-known hypnotist called trudy beers. (i apologize, i will edit it, i swear - but i was excited to share it, i thought i'd go back and edit it later. )
trudy beers is in her mid-50s and lives an old school sun-filled loft in tribeca. there are no crystal balls or taxidermed alligators, just lots of certificates that prove she's the real thing. she's been practicing hypnosis, reiki and the power of suggestion for about 40 years. when i was in the midst of my chemotherapy, another friend of mine who had recovered from breast cancer recommended i go to her.
my friend, who had radiation for her cancer, gave me these words of wisdom:
"you have to stay positive and you MUST believe in your complete recovery."
hypnosis operates on the theory that your mind controls your body. if you commit yourself, mind-body-soul, to your recovery and wellbeing, you will get there. it's similar to the way athletes prepare themselves for strenuous events, sort of like psyching yourself up.
everyone - including allopathic doctors and nurses - has experienced the way in which an emotional crisis of some kind precipitates an illness. so why can't the opposite - meaning, a resolution of that crisis - start one's body on the process of healing.
one drawback with mind healing, like most kinds of faith, is that if you get lazy or tired or let doubts creep in, you begin to slide. you need to convince yourself that you are well and then your subconscious mind will convince your body. hypnosis works on your subconscious to help you stay focused (and stubbornly attached) to your goal of returning to a balanced state. hypnotists should give you a tape or cd or mp3 to listen to as you fall asleep at night so that you can program your subconscious to keep you on track.
keep in mind is that every kind of healing process requires a multi-pronged approach. as trudy says, "it takes a village..." the more serious and more entrenched the illness, the more ways in which one needs to support one's body and mind in the process. so you still need to be conscious about eating clean, organic, healthy foods, you need to find ways in which to exercise - or maybe get regular massages - to stimulate your circulation and your organs. you still need to drink fresh vegetable juices.
honestly, it seems there is no easy way out. if you want to recover from cancer or any other serious illness - if you really want to - you can, but you will have to work like crazy.
like any other practitioner, she will tell you what i keep saying (not that i am always successful at this myself), you have to give up sugar. this means ALL sugar. cane sugar, white flour, white potatoes, alcohol... depending on how bad your cancer is, you might have to give up fructose as well, which means fruit and potatoes, all types of grains, and absolutely anything your body could turn into sugar to feed those hungry cancer cells. personally, i felt that while my cancer was active, i should give up caffeine as well, because there was no need to speed anything up.
hypnosis does work in tandem with standard western treatment for cancer. the idea is that your mind can help you steel your body against the destructive nature of the therapies.
i've tried various mind-body games myself. like, while getting my blood pressure taken at the doctor's office, i imagine i am on the beach. i zone out and feel the sun on my forehead, turn the office noise into the sound of the waves. i can bring my blood pressure and my pulse down really fast.
i've also gotten my blood pressure taken when i am still fuming over some argument or frustration and watched it shoot up, so i know it's possible.
try it yourself. walk on to the subway platform on a really hot day and keep thinking about being cold. imagine icy places. keep telling yourself you are chilled and - if you focus - you can really keep yourself cool for ten minutes or so. i haven't been able to do it for longer than that, but maybe with practice.
the goal of hypnosis or suggestion is to help you release psychological blocks - the emotional remains of unhappy incidents in your life - and return calmer to your day-to-day life. according to chinese medicine - and a lot of spiritual healers - breast cancer is connected to women's romantic relationships and lung cancer to grief and sadness - so these cancers might be an especially receptive to emotional unblocking.
in a lot of ways, it's similar to prayer. the idea is to separate, to forgive and to lift your spirit to a higher level.
the way trudy works is this: you contact her and do a phone consultation. then she sends potential patients a 12-page questionnaire she calls her "intake form."
the questionnaire goes into great detail about your personality, your tastes, your styles, your character traits. are you patient? are you easily distracted? you list what disappoints you, what irritates you and what pleases you. i found it very similar to what acupuncturists, homeopaths and naturopaths ask you to fill out. the idea being that your personality or habits tend to affect the way your body gets ill and also the way it gets well.
a good hypnotist reads your intake form and spends some time processing the information so that, by the time you get to your appointment, she feels like she knows your starting point.
in trudy's case, an appointment takes about three hours. after going through your challenges and your intake form together, you eventually end up on a cozy chaise longue with your eyes closed. a trance state is like a deep meditation. you feel like you are almost asleep - you know that feeling - you are just drifting off, the world is starting to recede. you can hear the voices in the background, but you are not quite listening because you float in and out of dream states.
for me, i feel like this at the end of the yoga class, when i am lying on the mat in shavasena, totally relaxed and listening to the teacher. (personally, i often fall completely asleep here as well, but i am a tired, stressed-out single mum.)
trudy leads your subconscious mind to release what she identifies as the four negative or blocking emotions - fear, shame, guilt and anger. in the relaxed trance-state, apparently, one is happy to give them up. one leaves feeling lighter and freer.
then she gives you a recording of the session to listen to every night as you go to sleep. eventually, your subconscious starts to act on the suggestion that is programmed into your mind.
according to trudy, you will just need a single session to get the process started. then your own mind and body takes over.
is it worth the $400-500 fee? as trudy says, "it's worth ALL your money to stay well. you won't need the money if you go." i haven't tried it myself but, as i said, i know that trudy has had a lot of success, especially with breast cancer.
on the other hand, if you, like me, had children to feed and shelter no matter what your physical state, you can't think only of your immediate needs.
clearly, there are a lot of scam artists out there - pseudo psychics and tarot card readers - so make sure you do your research. there is an organization called the national guild of hypnotists that certifies practitioners and seems to have a database. ideally, ask friends and people you trust for real life references. if you ,or a friend you delegate the responsibility to, is looking online, make sure you can cross-reference their testimonials (because there are lots of people who write them for themselves).
if you really can't afford it, sometimes it's worth it to talk to the practitioner and see if you can trade or barter. or try a payment plan.
and if all that still doesn't work, maybe hypnosis isn't the thing for you. maybe there's a way to do a D.I.Y version? if you do some research into the french dr. coue, perhaps you could have a friend with a voice you really trust, record some affirmations for you. then listen to them as you fall asleep. just to reassure you, the power of suggestion or reprogramming the subconscious is a scientifically-proven method that many doctors use with their patients today.
the advantage of going to trudy - and she does practice on skype as well, so distance needn't be an issue - is that you get a personalized set of affirmations that integrate your larger issues.
just remember there are lots of alternatives out there. but nothing works alone. it took a lot of people and events (think back, you'll remember) to get you sick. it takes a team of people to get you well.
focus. believe. you will get there.