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Self-Regulation (Attention and Self-Care)

In order to be of excellent service to a client, the hypnotist serves best by serving self, which means tending to one’s own personal, physical, mental, and emotional needs in order to attain and sustain a healthful presence. In my role as a professional helper, it is my intention to cultivate what J. Eric Gentry refers to as Self Regulation. This is a process of resetting the human nervous system to a relaxed, parasympathetic dominance. When a human is presented with something that evokes a flight, fight, or freeze response, the anus tightens, the body moves into the sympathetic nervous system responses of fight or flight, and the higher functions of the brain turn off, including the Broca’s Section which controls understanding and use of language skills. There is a natural flinch factor of protection, like jumping back from something unexpected, or blinking to protect the eye. Fight or flight responses incorporate seemingly automatic movement toward or away from something perceived to be a threat. The freeze response is a hesitation or inability to move toward or away from a perceived threat.

In Gentry’s doctoral level supervision class, we first practiced the breathing exercise outlined below, and then we practiced self regulation breathing during our time on campus, while actively monitoring ourselves for when we experienced the anus tightening experience. We made a note of what was going on that evoked that response in the body, the thoughts that were triggered by what was going on, the feelings, and we kept a journal of the week long experiences. Each of us got to look closely at what it was about those comments of the client, supervisee, and in this situation the comments and stories of our classmates, that provoked us to lose our connection with being fully present and able to bear witness to another person’s unfolding. In addition, we used half of each class for a Quaker Clearness Committee in which we practiced our growing supervisory skills, observing, listening, asking questions intended to deepen the experience. The issues that caused my anus to tense were my own unresolved issues. I made personal note of what provoked me so that I could address those personal, unresolved issues in my own therapy with another professional therapist. My unresolved stuff has a capacity to reduce my ability to serve the client if I do not recognize and address those issues.

It is my assumption that the ideal setting for a relationship of growth and development for me and my client is one in which I can bear witness to a client’s unfolding experience with a relaxed sense of well being. If I go tense, my anus goes tight, my brain turns off, I cannot hear or speak with my relaxed state fluency, and I abandon the client. If the client pushes too many of my buttons, elicits too many of my own unresolved issues, I may turn to silencing the client, preventing the full expression and resolution of the client’s presenting and underlying issues, another form of abandonment. I believe the professional helper / educator role is best served in cultivating a relaxed state of well being, an awareness of one’s own values, an ability to self regulate and bear witness to the unfolding of a sacred process of growth and development in a bounded and unbounded learning environment. Bounded means that all parties to the encounter are safe; the space is conducive to being relaxed, the unfolding of experiences is expressed and reflected. Unbounded means that something greater than the participants can unfold, spontaneous transformations, spiritual phenomenon that I perceive to be essential to human health. It is my intention to maintain a relaxed state of awareness and being. I need to practice what I teach as a hypnotherapist.

As an insight oriented, humanistic hypnotist, I practice on the assumption that the client is always aware at some level, and is in charge of the session. The client will not allow me to be wrong for long. I am in charge of creating a safe, sacred space, eliciting the client to unfold his / her own expressed goals, practice observing for the outcomes, exploring and experimenting with processes that are used for recognizing one has achieved one’s goals / objectives. As a professional helper, I need to be in charge of me. I need to be fully present for me and the client simultaneously. My body is an instrument of rapport and connection. When I can hold myself in a consistent state of relaxed well being, I can be fully present. When the client pushes my buttons and my anus goes tight, I am not present for the client’s needs; I’m stuck in my own stuff.

Gentry’s proposal is that that Self Regulation requires awareness of state and willingness to breathe deeply into the abdominal area for 20 to 40 seconds. His dissertation topic was the use of this approach to reboot the nervous system, relaxing the anus, restoring parasympathetic dominance. Gentry proposed a specific method. Bring attention to four bony points in the pelvic area, the bones one sit upon, and the bones at the top of the pelvis, the hip bones. Imagine drawing a line connecting those four bony sites of the body in a box like shape. Imagine expanding that box in the pelvic area, breathing into that part of the body for 20 to 40 seconds. Imagine that box expanding as if it was a drop and drag image in a computer. This breathing strategy reboots the nervous system in 20 to 40 seconds, relaxing the anus and restoring relaxed parasympathetic nervous system dominance. The brain’s capacities for higher functions including speech are restored promptly. It’s that simple. Now try it. Observe how often in a session you notice your anus got tight, and notice to what topic you wandered off in your mind that your client reminded you of.

Get a small notebook to capture the thoughts, feelings, body impressions that are distracting you from being fully present with your client, get them out of your head with a note to yourself, and then reboot your attention to resume being present for your client. Use the notes generated by your awareness of tension in your anus to steer your own process of therapy with another professional.  Continue to Page 2

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