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Palo Alto School Representative

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Systemic approach and hypnosis

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"The tree of anguish that hides the forest of traumas" - Gérald Brassine

Gérald Brassine directs the Ericksonian school of hypnosis in Belgium, which he founded in 1984.
After being trained in the psychoanalytical approach and with an initial training in hypnosis, he left for Palo Alto, was trained at the MRI, notably with of Paul Watzlawick, John Weakland and Fish for one year.
There, he discovers a method that meets his goal in therapy: therapeutic effectiveness for the patient. Back in Belgium, he began to teach and founded his school with Thierry Melchior. He keeps the classic Ericksonian model that works with metaphor for 20 years. His professional life takes a major turn when he meets Kay Thompson. Indeed, in all the hypnoses he had received and had been taught, the patient received the metaphors, but did not speak. When first meeting Kay Thompson (who worked with Milton Erickson for 30 years), she puts him into hypnosis directly. He is standing, talking with her and exchanging. His frame of reference then changes with this encounter, and he decides to train with her in conversational hypnosis. In this practice, the therapist and the patient both talk.
There are two cases recounted by Milton Erickson in the literature, of an undeclared hypnosis. The best known case is that of the tomato plan. Erickson works with a patient in a normal exchange in which he slips propositions. The patient then has one foot in the unconscious and one in the conscious to respond.

In fact, his practice is based on a constant exchange. The posture of the therapist must be very respectful of the patient, in a constant and egalitarian exchange between the patient and the therapist. This posture allows the patient to find his truth, because hypnosis is the fruit of the imagination and not of suggestion.

As a therapist, it is necessary to collect a lot of information before practicing a hypnosis session for more efficiency. The work is done a lot on traumas and on somatization. The aim is to understand and change the past. This aim is consistent with the objectives of analytical approaches and constructivist approaches insofar as one deconstructs in order to then reconstruct the interpretation of an event.

The brain can modify our experience of reality. For example, if we imagine that we are in the sun, the body does not make the difference with reality, and the brain will manufacture melanin. In addition, everyone becomes hypnotized every day when we imagine something and react with an emotion. When, for example, we imagine a personal catastrophe with the death of a loved one, we become hypnotized.

During a traumatic incident (rape, assault, death of a loved one, difficult childbirth, etc.), we create dissociative protections: we enter a hypnotic state spontaneously, we make a unique and personal reframing of reality. These are hypnotic phenomena that mix together. They have a protective effect (anesthesia, exit from the self). They settle down and ''memories will be imprinted on the sensitive plates of memory''. To modify them, it will subsequently require another state of modified consciousness because they have been installed in a hypnotic state.

These phenomena exist quietly in our daily lives. For example, the sound of a gunshot in a film for a person who lived through the war, a sex scene for a raped person. This is where the dissociative protections wake up to protect the person.

Emergency protection, dissociative protection, is put in place during the traumatic event. And as a result of that, the dissociative protections become symptoms. Upon stimulation, even minimal, they wake up, they lower our threshold of sensitivity to various stimuli (thoughts, external stimuli such as movies, music, smells). This can happen even in cases where there is no memory of the traumatic event. In everyday life, they are very disabling.

This symptomatic expression, psycho-somatization, is unfortunately misdiagnosed and can be the subject of drug prescriptions for lack of a correct understanding.

In the treatment of trauma, the school of Palo Alto uses the symptom in the healing process. During hypnosis, one intensifies, increases one's expression. The patient amplifies everything he experiences. It is then the first time that the patient takes control over what he experiences, over his dissociative protections. He takes control of the phenomenon that had invaded him until then, regains control.

The risk when revisiting a trauma is to cause secondary victimization (the phenomena set up during the event reappear). Here, the patient is asked to intensify the phenomenon (paralysis, depersonalization, etc.). The patient then becomes master of what he feels. It increases all the phenomena one after the other.

The client then revisits the traumatic event with much more comfort, even if for the therapist, this directive is counter-intuitive because paradoxical at first sight.

In this exercise of amplification of phenomena, the client is shown that he has significant internal resources, since he can master the dissociative protections.

Then, during the next phase, the homing heads intervene. There are lifts of amnesia. When the memory is desensitized. It is the return of the repressed, the change of the scene during which one can for example reduce the size of the aggressor until one can crush him, releases other memories.

If after this step, the person still feels guilty, then we start again with the dissociative protections to take into account the "forgotten element" which must also be removed. For example, the fact that the rapist had put down his knife at a time, the abused child forgot the padlock (the emotional blackmail exercised by the rapist). One of the worst is “the lace of horror”: during a rape (of an adult or a child), the aggressor can provoke an orgasm in the victim. It is then the height of horror for her to feel betrayed by her own body. This is also part of the questions that are asked at the police station and which amplifies the collapse of the victim.

Once out of the amnesic elements specific to the trauma, we fall back on the prior traumas that created the dissociative protections. These are the same dissociative protections that had been put in place. Seekers quickly find other events. Even if these events have nothing to do with the present trauma, the dissociative protections already have the same form.

In the Covid situation, we start from the symptoms (anxiety, terror, feeling of inability to do...). We do not induce. When the client experiences bodily sensations, it is amplified to lead to PAAT (Autonomous Self-Therapeutic Process).

The image of Milton Erickson to illustrate the PAAT is as follows: at the exit of his property, Erickson finds a horse, but does not know the owner, which means that he is not from around. He then decides to mount the horse and let him choose his route. He simply takes care to keep it moving and on the road, but does not choose the directions at the time of intersections for example. He eventually arrives home to the surprise of his owner. When the latter questions him, he replies that the horse knew the way and that he only followed it.

This metaphor indicates that the patient knows the answer. The unconscious drives the car. The patient knows.

Example of a hypnotic interaction:
A patient has terrifying anxieties. He no longer knows what to say during presentations, even though he is a perfectionist. The first proposals are to make voluntary errors, which is not possible for him. So, in line with Palo Alto, we go with anxiety, to increase it. Then comes the dissociative protection: anesthesia, then the impression of a “chanel vision”, like when you see through binoculars where only the person you are talking to exists in the scene. The therapist invites the client to enter this tunnel, intensifies the fear, he is protected by this tube. Fear becomes terror.

- What is this ?
- It's my father who says: “You can't do it!
», « if only you wanted! [ Therapist does constructivism]
- Can you narrow it down?
- No
- [hypnotic phenomenon] Why?
- Something is holding me back.
- Go ahead, back!
Sense where it takes you. Wouldn't there be a box in which we find the roots of this impossibility? - [Yelling] Yes!
It contains all the humiliations, the wickedness. "If only he could be nice!" », years… - [We use the technique of 20 televisions with all these memories.]
- What do we do with this box?
- I can't remove it [resistance], I can't because there are also all the wonders of this child. I want to keep it.

From there, we have the production of a PAAT. He opened this box and found jewels, pearls, diamonds. It is associated with great joy. And there, reconstruction becomes possible.

This example shows how much the Covid is an opportunity to work on past traumas.

Words transcribed by Laetitia BONIN

Tags: post-traumatic stress , COVID challenges

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