Hypnosis, Regression & Trauma

Addressing trauma is becoming very central to the healing industry. Brené Brown, Gabor Maté, Stephen Porges are a few of the important current voices addressing the matter of trauma healing. One of the things we have learned is that talking about trauma is oftentimes mostly retraumatizing. The field of trauma healing has moved into areas of trauma reprocessing through practices like EMDR and hypnosis.

Hypnosis is helpful in trauma treatment for a few reasons. One, we process emotions very differently under trance than we do in the waking state. When we remember a traumatic event and talk about it, it is a static event, like a horror movie, that just loops and retraumatizes us. When we reprocess trauma in trance states, the trauma situation is dynamic. By this I mean, the experience is alive, in a way. We may see or feel different things than we did when the trauma occurred. Oftentimes, the experiencing of the trauma in this dynamic way, is healing. We may experience a deeper understanding of the situation, we may feel divine presences, we may be watching from above, we may gain new insights. All of this helps the trauma to be reprocessed, to get worked through, and for the client to feel unstuck.

In my work as a regression hypnotherapist, the client and I go well beyond the “this current life” perspective. Oftentimes, the client has “irrational” anxieties, phobias and triggers that have no explanation from a current life view. (Of course some early childhood traumas can occur preverbally and not be available to conscious recall or may be repressed to protect the individual). Regression therapy is oftentimes like “exploratory surgery” as we are exploring feeling states and feeling/reaction patterns without a clear destination, other than to alleviate suffering.

As I teach regression hypnosis, it is important for me to highlight a few very important requirements to make a session safe, healing and productive. I teach students to develop their own styles, but I insist that they work with prayer to sanctify the process. Just like a surgeon works in “antiseptic space” so as to limit infections, so does a regressionist need to create sacred space to protect against spirit level intrusion. One time, and only once, I did a large group regression without prayer and the results were very negative, unlike what usually happens. I can go into more detail in another post, but suffice it to say that I never did that again! And my sessions have been at best healing and productive and, at worst, neutral.

The other important element for a safe regression is to never use force. When a client is done or wants to finish, listen to them. Less is better, especially when working through trauma. The more you can give the client control, the better they will feel afterwards and the more likely they are to continue to work with this modality. Actually, giving the client control of the process is already part of the healing experience.

Given the above two requirements, my technique is an odd one and difficult for students to grasp, especially the largely New Age population that attend my courses. What I do when trauma arises in a regression, is that I hold the space and amplify the emotion. So if a person is going through something intense, my words most oftentimes are, “Good, let that come through…”. The tone of my voice is important so that the client gets a sense of safety, that I am not scared or overwhelmed. I might add, “you are surrounded by light and protection, let it come through…” Oftentimes the client is going through a death, or an assault or mourning something intense, so why on Earth would I hold them in that space?

A few reasons: (1) We are emotionally disallowing in the waking state. When we see someone crying, we usually say things like, “there, there, it’ll be ok..” and shove tissue paper at them. It is usually a reflection of our discomfort with their expression of emotion. So we have learned and teach the repression of emotion. I remember learning a long time ago that, “the emotions we shove into the basement, just lift weights down there”. Repression and suppression of emotion doesn’t work. We pay a price for it. Our bodies are built to feel, release and handle the release of intense emotion. I believe it is spiritual to feel your feelings. Our bodies are not built for the suppression/repression of emotion. Many illnesses and destructive habits are born of unfelt feelings. (2) In a regression, I am “emotionally allowing”. I want to facilitate the release of these emotions, but to release them, they have to be felt. We can’t skip the feeling part of the process. I had to learn how to get comfortable with my deep well of feelings and work them through so I can help clients work theirs through. I see a world that is largely “emotionally constipated”. Is the preponderance of thyroid disease at least in some way connected to “choking” down emotion? I think so.

What I see as common practice in the New Age is to take our traumas and put them in beautiful golden boxes, for example, and then have these ceremonies where they are tossed into the ocean to sink and never be heard from again. This doesn’t work and actually creates shame in the client as they feel they did something wrong as the trauma reactions are still there. They even lie and tell their spiritual friends that the ceremony worked wonderfully. This is just a pretty version of repression. More of the same. Traumatized clients don’t need help in discovering new ways to avoid their painful feelings. They need brave and wise practitioners to walk them through their traumas and help them get to the other side. No one dies from feeling their feelings, but many lives are shortened from avoiding them.

I understand that it is difficult to break the habit of wanting to “rescue” people who are in pain. But rescuing is something you do if the pain is in the present moment, if someone has fallen in front of you and is in pain, by all means help them. But when someone is coming to a regression to do deep healing work and is experiencing something painful, encourage the feeling to come through. Don’t rush to take all that pain and throw it in a golden box. They don’t need your help to avoid the ugly and messy aspects of deep and repressed emotions. They already experts at that. They need to feel safe to feel, to be encouraged to feel, and to have someone believe in them, that they have the strength and courage to work this through. It has been my experience in my almost 20 years of practice that this works. People work through these emotional congestions. They feel lighter. The past doesn’t burden them in the same ways as it had previously. If there is one thing the regression world need is more practitioners that have worked through their own pain, felt the feelings, honored them, learned and retained what they came to teach and then released and moved on to new experiences. I think this one odd aspect of my personal practice is what makes my work unique, very difficult to pass on and keeps me in demand.

Another important caveat to mention is that I have never given the suggestion, “behind this door are some of the most horrific experiences of this or any of your lives…”. Never. The most common suggestion I give is, “behind this door is something very good for you…something you are ready for…”. Now when I give the latter suggestion and the client finds behind the door something intense, I assume that is exactly what they need to work through, and my experience has proven that. Very early in my development as a regressionist, a client came seeking to resolve a chronic laryngitis that had no known medical cause. In the regression, he came to the doors and the first had a man with a spear behind it. I assumed this was bad and took him to door number 2. Guess what? Man with spear was there too. I didn’t get the message and we went to door 3. Yup. Man with spear. I didn’t know what to do so I had him imagine a bench and sit there and contemplate. He understood quickly. This man had killed him by spearing him in the throat and he had died with this anger and resentment and it stayed somehow energetically lodged in his throat. He was shown what were the conditions that led to his death by the spear and what had happened afterwards. He got the big picture. He was instructed to reexperience the death with peace and understanding. So he did and has never had a recurrence of the laryngitis. This taught me to both trust the process and know that there is a wisdom in a regression that is much wiser than me.

So, get out if the way. Let people feel to heal. Guide, facilitate but most of all, get out of the way. Be a soul listener. Listen to the whispers of the soul. They will guide you towards exactly what the client needs to experience to heal.


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6 Responses to Hypnosis, Regression & Trauma

  1. viking1mama says:

    I had done work towards emotionally healing myself all though my life. TONS of work. Despite all my efforts, so much of my trauma still feels unresolved. I don’t know where to go with it. At this point, I know what I don’t need, which is more of what brought me to where I am today.

    I agree with what you said, Peter, and would like to add a few of my experiences and conclusions to show how what you described looks from the victim’s side.

    Traditional talk therapy is very helpful to understand the dynamics of the abuse and trauma that is going on or which happened. I believe that we need that.

    I do not believe that humanity, regardless of culture or time period, was ever emotionally healthy. We were, by necessity, survivors. We were. by circumstances, dysfunctional because we never had the luxury of studying or knowing what constituted emotionally healthy behavior.

    The world was wild, untamed, and frightening. Lifespans were also very short. We were more reactors than anything else, and to fancy that society had evolved to a point where parents and other adults were being proactive with respect to their children’s upbringing is highly unrealistic IMHO, but I digress.

    I was very lucky in my early recovery to have had a therapist who specialized in adult children of alcoholics. She warned me that traditional talk therapy isn’t helpful for adult children because it assumes that the trauma occurred within an emotionally healthy environment and to people who had emotionally healthy baselines. Neither is true for adult children who are born into families where the dysfunction is raging on the day that they are brought home from the hospitals as newborns.

    It’s important to thank the trailblazers who got us to where we are today. Janet Woititz, Claudia Black, and John Bradshaw immediately come to mind. All three of those contributed significantly to healing my life, but not my soul.

    Why? Because what they lacked, and this could simply be due to society needing to learn certain aspects of recovery in chunks of understanding as opposed to understanding everything all at once, is that never went deep enough to reach my core, my soul. There were promises that I would get there some day, but I never felt that they truly knew what that looked like or how it would be felt. I believe that because I think if they did, then they would have talked about us and offered ways to get there, but they never did.

    This summer has been especially hard on me emotionally because my family of origin reared its ugly face again (except this time, I was ready to deal with it once and for all,) and my son made several very poor decisions which backfired on him harshly and resulted in him becoming severely suicidal for a couple of weeks. Because of what I have gone through and what i know spiritually, I got him over that hump, but it was hard and extremely draining on me.

    I found, not for the first time, that doctors really do not know how to deal with these negative elements and aspects of humanity. Give them a broken bone to heal or blood sugar that is out of whack, and they have the medical training to deal with that. Tell them that your sociopathic family is outdoing themselves again and that your son is in such despair that he thinks that killing himself is a solution, and they have close to nothing to say.

    My opinion is that medicine can address the mind and the body, but it does not address the soul.

    The work that you are doing, Peter, as well as those you mentioned right up front, addresses the soul. We need the regression so that soul can be liberated. It isn’t just that the emotions have been suppressed, but the soul has been shifted aside, overlooked, misunderstood, not recognized, and ignored to such degrees that its pain becomes crippling and numbing.

    Acknowledge the trauma, let the individuals feel it to know what it about, and then it can be released. It sounds very much that is exactly what you’re doing, Peter. I truly feel that once the trauma is dealt with via regression, the soul will be validated.

    All the minimizations of what someone is feeling, e.g., you survived, the incident is over, (incidents don’t end in dysfunctional systems, which is why we CPTSD,) and you need to forgive the perpetrator so you can move on etc., do revictimize the victim because none of that addresses the confusion going on at the soul level.

    We were created by the Creator in the beginning and we have been God’s beloved children ever since. Somewhere very deep inside us, we know that to be true. If what we do to the least of God’s brethren is what we do unto God, it is there no wonder that our repressed trauma is so painful.

    I am beyond delighted that you are doing the work that you are doing, Peter, and that you have chosen this most sacred path. We need therapists with your insights and outreach.

    May God continue to bless you, Peter, and made you hold fast to your ideals. Your work is so needed and it is exceptional.


    • petertfwoodbury says:

      Thank you for your in depth response. I agree that the way out is through and that we have disconnected from soul consciousness and have suffered as a result. Recent a guide told a client something like, “yes, the world can be a scary place and you may fear death but when you die, you’ll see there is no death and nothing to be afraid of”. So much is gained from uniting with the infinite available to all of us from within.

  2. Stephanie says:

    The regression with the man and the spear resonates with me a lot. Not just to trust the healing process of regression work, but with life in general. Many times when we try to avoid something meant for us, meant for our healing, it will continue to pop up until we deal with it. What I enjoy most about healing with hypnotherapy is how much control the client has in this process. Even with the doors where the man with the spear was there each time, it was still his choice to face this man. His choice not only helped him, which was the initial goal, but it’s helping others. It has created a healing ripple, so to speak.

    • petertfwoodbury says:

      Thank you. Yes, the client is given the option to open the door or not. They have control. And since it is coming from themselves, the experience has a deep impact.

  3. Debbi Ruel says:

    Please explore IFS, Internal Family Systems, founded by Richard Schwartz. It is relative to Cayce’s work in regards to Self, hypnosis, and earlier life related to trauma with a big “T” and also with a little “t”.

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