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When People Cannot Say No

We all crave things; affection, chocolates, more time to play video games, shopping!

But sometimes the need for pleasure can go a little awry morphing into a relentless unhealthy compulsion. Addiction describes an illness where the obsession for something takes over a person’s thoughts, actions, and relationships. Little by little the source of pleasure becomes the only thing that matters to them.  

More Than Willpower

Addictive behaviours are not a new phenomenon. Throughout history, people have struggled with addiction to substances such as alcohol, opiates, tobacco, and stimulants. Ancient texts, dating back thousands of years describe the way lives have been destroyed through gambling, overeating, and sexual activity.

No one knows what makes it so difficult for some people to say ”No, thank you”. 

Today we understand that this inability is the result of illness that stems from a complex interplay of biological, psychological, and environmental factors.

It affects the individual, their families and the communities where they live creating much suffering. There is a need for multi-disciplinary support, psycho-education, kindness and a wider understanding of how the illness works.

Understanding Addiction

Research suggests there some people have genetic variations that influence the way rewards are processed in the brain. Sometimes, adverse childhood experiences, trauma, and chronic stress can reshape neural pathways leading to specific vulnerable populations. When people have poor coping mechanisms or experience a sense of isolation, they may seek external sources of comfort becoming more at risk to addictive substances or behaviours.

The first step towards understanding addiction is to put away the stereotypes. These only hurt, discriminate, and dehumanise the individual. The most important quality anyone can offer is compassion and the recognition that addiction does not discriminate based on race, gender, socioeconomic status, or other demographics. It can and does affect people from all walks of life. 

Even therapists require special skills and new insights as they help people rediscover themselves and begin to heal and grow again beyond the disease.

Clinical Hypnosis and Addiction

There are few miracle cures for addictive illness. However, studies suggest that clinical hypnosis can offer several unique components of support.

Pre-contemplation is

the phase where the client has not yet decided that they require treatment. People at this stage may not even recognise that they have an illness. Often it is the family or community that encourages them to seek treatment.

The client may be hostile at this stage but talking it through with an empathetic counsellor can be helpful. The research shows that when clinical hypnosis is included in these sessions clients become more receptive to change. The experience of going into clinical hypnosis is relaxing. It reduces stress and helps people to see things more clearly. Many describe feelings of finding a reconnection to their sense of self and some feel encouraged and motivated to try new behaviours. 

Repeated sessions of clinical hypnosis are emotionally empowering. Clinical hypnotherapists use words of encouragement that can work even after the session has ended. They help clients to rebuild confidence, create a safe space for reflection and provide an emotional resource to cope with challenging or demoralising thoughts outside the consulting room.

Regaining Control

Learning to regain control of one’s life is a process. Strong emotions often emerge in the consulting room, especially where there is or has been psychological trauma. 

Clients may have to work through big emotions of guilt and shame or face the personal identity crisis of hitting rock bottom. The journey to recovery is rarely simple and clinical hypnosis can establish a safe internal space to explore unspoken feelings, fears of failure and even feelings of rage.

The techniques include powerful methods to reframe unhealthy thinking, reduce the impact of triggers and interrupt harmful patterns that can lead back to addictive behaviours. Many therapists also teach their clients how to use self-hypnosis to manage their cravings, reduce stress and provide an internal compass for coping.

Collectively these methods assist relapse prevention and help the client find the emotional confidence to continue during the difficult parts. Repeated experiences of clinical hypnosis help to establish new neural pathways laying the foundation for more positive feelings and resources and away from the unhealthy responses that led to the addictive behaviours.

A New Beginning

Working with addictive behaviours is not easy. Clients often come from messy domestic circumstances. Therapists may be required to impose boundaries, model healthy relationship behaviours and have the courage to challenge their patients’ on unhealthy thinking.

It takes a very special kind of therapist to walk with a client as they struggle to find their equilibrium. But, one of the most fulfilling aspects of working with addictive behaviours is the opportunity to witness the transformation and growth of clients as they progress from hopelessness and into their new lives through their recovery journey.

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