It saddens me to say that I’ve had more health care providers than I’ve had significant others. I’ve seen pain doctors, chiropractors, physical therapists, osteopaths, acupuncturists—there’s even a shaman in my past. But all I got in return were prescriptions to opiates, a head cyst from too much massage oil, and a panic attack in a sweat lodge. Despite all these medical suitors, chronic muscle and nerve pain (from getting hit by a car whilst crossing the street) was still a constant hum of discomfort in my body.
I never filled the opiate prescriptions and instead chose to medicate with cannabis. But even our old green friend couldn’t make the pain stop completely. It still beat on—an annoying drum track on my least favorite record. I’d been treating the pain in my body to no avail, so what if I treated my mind instead? Since the brain is the tool our bodies use to interpret pain, why couldn’t I just tell my brain to stop interpreting what was happening in my body as “pain”? I quickly fell into an internet rabbit hole to see if this was possible.
Down in the rabbit hole I stumbled upon “Quantum Healing Hypnosis”—a mystical sounding technique developed by hypnotherapist/Midwest grandma Dolores Cannon. She discovered that under hypnosis people can relive their past lives and also receive advice and healing from their Higher Self, what she calls “The Subconscious.” After spending ten minutes on her website, I was sold that managing my subconscious was the secret to healing my pain. I found one of Dolores’ proteges a few hours away (since Dolores’ dance card was full) and planned my physical road trip to have my mental head-trip.
The home of the hypnotherapist was surrounded by bamboo and an aura of mystery. I reminded myself that hypnosis would only work if I believed it would work, like a Tinkerbell in my brain, and therefore I went into the open door with an open mind. Patti the hypnotherapist was a petite Thai woman with a warm smile and a super comforting vibe. She gave me tea and truth bombs while she conducted her pre-hypnosis interview.
I was happy to hear that she was a supporter of medical cannabis and believed in its power to elevate humanity, which just reiterated how chill she was. I answered questions about my life/goals/beliefs and my pain. She suggested I stop using the term “chronic pain” and instead say “physical issues”. Bam! It was like she said the magic words. Immediately I felt a mental and physical shift and I hadn’t even been hypnotized yet.
And then it happened. The hypnosis magic I was expecting. Only it was more like a guided meditation than staring at a swaying pocket watch. I settled into a twin mattress cozy under a silk sheet. I closed my eyes and listened to the calm and even tones of the hypnotherapist’s voice. “Imagine you are in your favorite place; picture what is there.” As I imagined my happy place, I switched on the part of my mind that simultaneously creates and consumes brain-TV.
But after a while that changed. I wasn’t consciously creating the pictures in my mind anymore. They were playing on their own. They looked like memories, but I could not remember them actually happening to me… at least not in this lifetime. I started to doubt what I was seeing, but then I remembered Tinkerbell and just went with it.
The coolest part was where I went after the lives ended in my reverie. It was a huge white room that seemed straight out of a science fiction movie. On the wall was a big movie screen playing scenes from my past lives. In the middle of the room was a massive table covered with blue prints for my next life. Around the table was a menagerie of beings, the hypnotherapist called them “guides.” I’ve described this room to friends who lucid dream and also people who have taken ayahuasca trips (I have witchy friends). Turns out they’ve been in that blue-print room too, but with their own guides and personal life movies. I smell a screenplay brewing!
During the final part of the hypnosis my Higher Self finally emerged like Oz from behind the curtain. On the audio recording of my session, my subconscious sounds like an older, calmer, preachier version of my current self. “Success is a gilded cage”; “Don’t carry other people’s picnics in your basket”; “Leap and the net will appear.”
At this point in the session the talk turned to my physical issues. My subconscious told me to visualize the pain as scales falling off my neck and that over time the sensations would diminish and become bearable. This Higher Self also revealed that I couldn’t get rid of all my pain because I needed to have a little of it in my life. Having pain reminds me to take care of my body and my mind. It’s a reminder to check in with myself and not to push too hard. Basically, my physical issues are like my inner-mom reminding me to take care of myself and eat my vegetables.
The therapist pointed out that experiencing pain helps us to be more empathetic to the pain of others. And if I wasn’t having pain I wouldn’t have sought her out and I wouldn’t have had this unique experience. I “woke up” from the hypnosis feeling rested and surprised to find that my sensations of pain had diminished substantially. It was still there, this gnawing thing I came to rid myself of, but it felt different. It wasn't the same sharp agonizing feeling I was used to; it had shifted to a quiet and more bearable ache—just a small reminder that I was alive.