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With a hand on the railing, you pause to look down a steep flight of stairs. Your breath grows shallow, your heartbeat bangs in your ears, and peripheral vision darkens…
These symptoms are similar to what many individuals suffering from anxiety experience, whether it’s a fear of heights, the dark, enclosed spaces, spiders, snakes, or dozens of other terror-inducing situations.
But is there a drug-free option to help relieve these panic-inducing symptoms?
Stage- and life-hypnotist Dan LaRosa’s story unfolds through a narrative on his website.
“One night, I saw the most amazing show…” Through an impromptu invitation he and friends attended a comedy hypnosis show. “And, that night everything changed for me.”
The hypnotist had people “performing in all kinds of hilarious routines and I was totally blown away by what I witnessed … what impressed me most was what he said at the end of the night. He said that hypnosis was the fastest and best way to change your life.” Mr LaRosa said, “It was a life-changing moment.”
Mr LaRosa now conducts his own comedy hypnosis shows, but also offers life hypnosis for weight loss, nervousness, overcoming fears, regaining sleep, and retraining the brain.
“I’m now actively working with clients,” he said. He has helped people to overcome fears from flying to public speaking. He has also worked with habit control and phobias.
Anxiety, for example is “too much running around in the mind and not being in the moment… be in the moment.” Hypnosis gets people to quickly change beliefs they want to change.
Negative thoughts can trigger anxiety. Mr LaRosa explained, if something is “terrible,” the subconscious sends up terrible thoughts, “and when you feel bad, you say, ‘I knew there was something wrong.’”
He said people have to learn a strategy to overcome negative feelings; the right thoughts will change the feelings.
“I use is the 3 – 30 – 3: three fingers, 30 seconds, and three ideas are programmed ahead of time to make a different outcome,” he said. The three ideas are affirmations: “I am calm. I am relaxed. I am confident.”
“To verbally express” these thoughts sends a different message to the subconscious — triggers for calm, he said. “Relax. You can’t be relaxed and anxious at same time. Relax and be calm or relax and be successful.”
The strategy Mr LaRosa promotes is a “pattern interrupt,” he said. So, how does it work?
When triggering negative thoughts occur, “let’s call it anxiety, a fear,” he said, “rub your thumb and two fingers together, take three long slow deep breaths, and focus on breaths for 30 seconds — long inhale, and release slowly — and change your focus.” Mr LaRosa said the exercise “interrupts the fear with something positive. Even a placebo affect. If you believe it will work, it will work…it’s amazing.”
Regarding hypnosis, he said: “Here is how it works, there are ways we use suggestion in hypnosis.”
If a person is afraid of public speaking, Mr LaRosa said, “Take that thinking away for a moment. A hypnotist can change [a client’s] thinking: ‘You’re a great speaker.’ The point is, the suggestion comes in loudly [to the subconscious] and the person believes it on a subconscious level. The person believes the programming.”
In 2002 Mr LaRosa was in Europe, waiting in line behind grade-school students and teachers waiting to ride an elevator up the Eiffel tower when a teacher who was a chaperone expressed fear of heights and elevators. Mr LaRosa taught the teacher an exercise “that involves breathing — it was a cure for anxiety in the moment … take a deep breath… it really works; it’s a breathing pattern where you take in a deep breath, count to four.”
He said, “You want to breathe by expanding your stomach like a balloon, one, two, three, four, hold for a count of seven, and release to a count of eight…”
Several things happen during long, deep breaths, he said. First, “The breathing really is relaxing. It helps tense muscles, and guess what happens when you’re focusing on breathing? You’re distracting your mind, the conscious mind, that’s the real trigger when people are anxious.”
With other clients he uses age regression, to pinpoint origins of problems and “replace negative thoughts with something else. Attitude and perception will change if you change your beliefs,” Mr LaRosa said. “We get stimulated by a thought, feel nervous, the heart rate goes up, breathing goes up, and people magnify their fears.”
Thoughts can spiral. “The subconscious creates fear, but the fear is made up. Nervousness is created by thoughts — what if…”
Two of the “most important things,” Mr LaRosa said are thoughts: “Don’t think what can go wrong, think what can go right, and breath; it works.”
Regarding anxiety, he said, “People don’t want to feel afraid, they want to be in control.” But anxiety prompts the body to send out signals, stress hormones.
Paraphrasing a thought he once heard, he said, “The mind can make heaven from hell or hell from heaven; it can help or hurt you, but it doesn’t matter to your subconscious, it responds to your thoughts.”
Learn more about Mr LaRosa at danlarosa.com, which states, “Everything you are is a result of your subconscious programming. Change your programming and you will change your life.
Meds Mask Anxiety
Ronna Brier, a consulting hypnotist at Newtown Hypnosis at 107 Church Hill Road, explains her path to hypnosis.
According to newtownhypnosis.com, she “wanted to better understand decisions that people make in their lives,” and how people repeat habits and remain “stuck in negative cycles or patterns.” Ms Brier saw the “power in our thoughts and belief systems. If we believed our life to be our current destiny, so it would be. If we believed we deserved more or could make change that too could be the course of our future.”
She also “became interested in learning more about the subconscious mind and how it governs us. The site states, “The desire to help people to create positive change in their habits, behavior and ultimately their lives” led her to pursue studies in hypnosis.”
Explaining her approach, Ms Brier said, “Negative thought cycles — it’s where the trouble starts with anxiety and phobias.” The problems are “things that the conscious mind is not aware of but the subconscious is — the conscious mind is frequently unaware of causes of anxiety.” People experience anxiety, get medication, “but the anxiety doesn’t go away,” she said. Medication may “help you feel better, but the anxiety is still there.”
Hypnosis can “reach into the subconscious and get to the source and origin of anxiety,” she said. A hypnotist can do “regression work, bringing the client back to the cause” of fears and phobias.
Hypnosis is not mind control, Ms Brier said. “There is an unwritten contract” between participants, she said. “You cannot tell someone to do something they don’t want to do.” Through hypnosis, “You are conscious and aware and won’t do something” against your will, she said. Using smokers as an example, she said, “Smokers enjoy smoking and will come to hypnosis because a spouse asked them to, but they don’t really want to give up smoking.” Hypnosis will not work in this case.
Hypnosis can “strengthen the will to eat better or give up smoking,” but it is “not magic,” Ms Brier said. In another scenario, she explained how some people cling to their fears. “Their personality is attention seeking. Maybe they are going to get a lot of attention because of that fear, and maybe don’t want to give up the fear and attention.” It wouldn’t work, she said. “You have to have that desire, and hypnosis will strengthen your desire,” but hypnosis is “not a magic bullet.”
She said, “Hollywood can sell it much better. It’s not mind control. I think many people can benefit from short-term hypnosis.”
Hypnosis does work well for anxiety reduction, and weight loss, but she “would not replace [anti-anxiety medications], but this is a great adjunct,” and a client can “tackle anxiety from two ends.” Hypnosis “can also be a great adjunct to counseling.”
Regarding weight loss, Ms Brier said, “It’s deeper that overeating. There is often a psychological component.” Regression work could bring a client “back to the incident that started their habits.” Hypnosis can “reach into where our memories are stored — the subconscious does know the origins of our behaviors.”
Consultations with Ms Brier are free. “Anyone can come talk to me about hypnosis in general.” She will listen to a person’s concern, “and we’ll talk about if I can help.” She will then consider setting up several sessions. Hypnosis is designed to be short-term, she said. “You’re getting to the source and breaking the behavior or changing the behavior.”
She also teaches self-hypnosis. There are three steps. At the end of every session, clients go home with instructions for self-hypnosis and “they practice the steps, they have the tools to help themselves when they are not in the office with me.”
If someone comes to her for weight loss, they might say, “‘I hope this works,’ but that doesn’t make it affirmative or put it in a positive realm for subconscious.” By using hypnosis, she said, “We have to tell the subconscious exactly what we want: I enjoy exercising, I am a nonsmoker.”
She explained, “If we use positive words or positive thoughts,” it creates positive suggestions while awake. “I know I can, I know I can…” she said.
For someone with the anxiety of traveling, for instance, Ms Brier said, “A good, motivating talk will get you off the couch and get you in the car and drive in places you don’t want to be, but some people let their negative thoughts prevail and that is their belief system,” which causes anxiety.
Certified consulting hypnotist and longtime Newtown resident Kenneth Lerman is also an emergency medical technician (EMT) with the Newtown Volunteer Ambulance Corps (NVAC). Through NVAC training, he said, “They hosted a meeting on the use of hypnosis,” and how it could apply “as an EMT,” he said. “We see people really stressed,” he said.
“I say, ‘take a deep breath in through the nose, and out through the mouth and relax,’” and he will repeat the instructions several times, he said. Someone with a seat belt rash or a shoulder problem after a car accident may worry that a spouse will be angry, he said. He has to deal with their immediate stress, he said, but hypnosis “works on stress in general.”
He begins working with someone by asking questions about their stress: Have they always felt it? Is it work? What’s causing it?
“To me, the most important thing I can do is teach you self-hypnosis.”
He practices self-hypnosis in the mornings, and has lost 25 pounds, he said. Before eating he said, “First I have clear, cool, refreshing water — when I am hungry I am losing weight and that feels good. And when I eat I put down the fork, chew thoroughly, enjoy the flavor. I do this everyday, and I had to buy a new belt. I am an example that this works.”
Mr Lerman said, “If I can teach you hypnosis, to take control of your own life, I haven’t given you a fish; I’ve taught you to fish.”
He said, “There is a saying that all hypnosis is self-hypnosis.” The client and Mr Lerman must also “have a contract between us” that he will hypnotize them in order to meet their goals.
Some people may feel they will lose control and that “I will control you,” Mr Lerman said. But rather than lose control, “You’ll take control.” Nor will a person reveal secrets, he said. “You won’t tell me anything that you wouldn’t tell me in a normal state.”
People may also worry that they will not “come out” of hypnosis. Addressing that concepts he said, “The cat will come down from the tree. No one ever found a skeleton of a cat in a tree,” Mr Lerman said.
Among his successes is the client afraid of snakes. “It interfered with her enjoyment of the garden,” he said. Mr Lerman worked with her “for about an hour,” he said. Later that night, while home alone she watched Snakes on a Plane. “I’m sure she can go in the garden now,” he said.
Learn more about Mr Lerman at intro-spection.com He is certified as a consulting hypnotist by the National Guild of Hypnotists. Clients can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 203-987-4288.