By SUSHMA VEERA
Our minds can help us heal our bodies. SUSHMA VEERA speaks to hypnotherapist Dr K. Gayathri on harnessing the benefits
HAVE you ever tried to go on a diet but failed miserably? Or have you tried to quit smoking, only to end up smoking more?
It is not you but your subconscious mind that is being protective of your body.
Raised eyebrows notwithstanding, psychiatrist Dr K. Gayathri of Sultan Abdul Halim Hospital, Sungai Petani, says one can achieve personal goals through hypnotherapy.
“Our subconscious mind is protective of our body. So, when you try to stop eating, it will tell you to eat, that your body needs food. Hypnosis can help to overcome unconscious obstacles which prevent you from losing weight and from keeping weight off after a successful diet.”
The same goes for those who want to quit smoking or overcome a phobia.
“I used hypnosis to help overcome my fear of heights. It is not something I focus on every day as I am no mountain climber but my fear is not as it used to be.”
A recipient of the Mahadevan Travelling Fellowship, Dr Gaya, as she is fondly called, explains hypnosis and hypnotherapy.
“Hypnosis is the technique when you take a person into a trance state. In hypnotherapy, therapy is used as a method on a person who is in that state.
“Hypnotherapists do not posses any special powers. The reality is that people have those powers in themselves. In hypnosis, we help them to access and release their hidden potential.
“During that state, the body becomes relaxed. Your body is given a rest from mental, physical and emotional distress that that has plagued you all day long.
This “rest” has so many benefits, especially if it is practised daily.
She adds: “Some have the fear that they may reveal their secrets when they are hypnotised. This is not true. You are in an altered state of consciousness — one where your concentration is improved and your imagination is working for you and not dwelling on all the reasons why you will fail.
“As a branch of Mind Body Medicine, we get our mind to work on helping us heal our body, an adjunct to the medications we take in numerous medical conditions such as auto-immune and heart diseases, and renal and skin problems, and in some situations as sole therapy in palliative care.
In a hypnotherapy session
The hypnotherapist will take down your case history to become familiar with your mindset and personality. Each hypnotherapy session is specifically designed for the patient.
“Then we take the patient into hypnosis and manage the experience so that he is in the right depth of relaxation. The purpose is to use psychological and emotional resources. Using imagery and other techniques, we access the patient’s unconscious mind. The unconscious mind holds all the positive experiences, confident emotions and inner sense of wisdom. It is a useful tool in psychiatry. But it is also useful for mind-body healing since many of the body’s functions take place automatically or unconsciously.
“Using hypnosis, we have a method to slow down metabolism, reduce anxiety, improve blood flow and healing conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome and panic disorder.”
Where her journey began
Although Dr Gaya admits that psychiatry was not her first choice of posting at the hospital, she has no qualms about it.
“I have always loved children and requested for a posting in the paediatrics ward. I used to take ‘work’ home with me. When the children didn’t get well, I would worry about them at home. This started to affect me and my family life.
“Although I have a Master’s in Paediatrics, I realised that I was not cut out for that department,” recalls Dr Gaya, a medical graduate from Kasturba Medical College Manipal, Mangalore. After three years, Dr Gaya requested for a transfer.
From psychiatry to hypnotherapy
When there was an opening in psychiatrics in 1998, Dr Gaya thought, why not? After all, she has always liked topics relating to the mind and body.
“My early years in psychiatry taught me so much about human nature.”
In 2003, Dr Gaya was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. “My mother had it and she eventually died of cancer. I decided that was not going to happen to me as I have two young children.
“I knew that medication alone would not be enough. I recalled seeing a book — The Power of the Subconscious Mind — that my father used to read.
“I became interested in hypnosis after reading it. Then, one day, as I was glancing through Medical Tribune magazine, I came across an advertisement about a clinical hypnotherapy course run by the London College of Clinical Hypnosis in Kuala Lumpur.”
Despite having to travel to Kuala Lumpur every month for classes, Dr Gaya’s husband encouraged her to join.
“That was four years ago and there has been no turning back since then. After my certificate, I planned to do my diploma so that I can use the learning on my patients. I diligently practised self hypnosis with imagery, and healed my gut.”
She says that the course opened her mind to the power of hypnotherapy.
“I continued with my medication for colitis. But before hypnosis, there was constant inflammation. After hypnosis, it disappeared. To be healthy, I need to do hypnosis every day. This is a condition which medicine can control, not cure.”
Subsequently, Dr Gaya was awarded the Mahadevan Travelling Fellowship and went to Harvard University to study at the Mind Body Institute at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH).
Dr Gaya was supervised by Dr David Henderson, a psychiatrist and head of the Global Division (Chester Pierce Division) of Psychiatry in MGH. He is also a professor at Harvard University.
“I was shadowing many doctors but two — Professor Emeritus Dr Herbert Benson of the Benson Henry Unit of Mind Body Medicine in MGH and Dr Chester Pierce, a psychiatrist who founded the global division of psychiatry at MGH — have had an impact on my career.”
Her experience there was an eye-opener on hypnotherapy and its vast benefits.
“I have taught my two children what my late father taught me — use our subconscious mind to relax our body and set our goals.”
Dr Gaya says her boy aged 12 and daughter aged 10 would immediately recognise if she was trying the method on them.
“They ask: ’Amma, are you trying to hypnotise us?” she says, with a laugh.
Family is important to Dr Gaya and she tries to spend as much time as she can with her husband and children.
She enjoys gardening, travelling and reading books, including historical romances.
“It’s fictitious and funny, and I get to escape from the real world,” she says, a blush stealing into her cheeks.
DIY hypnosis guide
1. Find somewhere you are unlikely to be disturbed.
2. Set aside 10 to 15 minutes every day.
3. Make yourself comfortable.
4. Some people count down from 10 to one while some people focus on their breathing — slow your breathing down.
5. Lean back in you chair or bed and start to watch your thoughts come and go.
6. Find that moment of peace — provide a suggestion in a special hypnosis way. Hypnosis language uses your whole brain and is fast and effective.
7. Imagine yourself achieving your goal even if that is simply a sense of relaxation.
8. When you are finished, simply count from one to 10 and open your eyes.
9. If anyone disturbs you before then you can come wide awake.
10. Visit a qualified clinical hypnotherapist first so that you know exactly what to do.