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FAMILY LIFE

Hypnosis Offers a Safe Way to Get at Problems, Relieve Stress

May 17, 1990|MIKE SPENCER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

You say the kids, the spouse, the job and the water shortage--in no particular order--are about to put you over the edge and you're not quite sure where to turn?

Well, a little mesmerizing might be all that's needed to keep you from taking that walk off the pier.

Hypnosis can not only ease stress, say the experts, but it's a lot safer and cheaper than tranquilizers.

Dana Point family therapist Rex King is one believer, using hypnosis for a whole variety of complaints, from the monstrous to the mundane.

"I have found it particularly useful when a patient has blocked from his or her memory a significant event or experience from the past," he says.

"Often we will find someone who can't make progress in therapy because they won't allow themselves to face a particular experience. And through hypnosis, we can root it out."

He has also used it to help people stop smoking or to control their weight--even on some athletes to prepare for an event or contest.

And, in his role as a counselor at CPC Hospital in Laguna Hills, he's currently exploring the use of hypnosis to help patients recovering from alcohol and/or drug abuse.

Despite its proven success in a number of areas, hypnosis is avoided by much of the public, King says, because Hollywood has given it a bad name.

People are afraid that some "evil eye" will turn them into mass murderers or make them cackle like chickens or otherwise make themselves look foolish, he says.

They are also afraid of losing control.

"And that's all very silly and unfortunate," says King.

The fact is a person under hypnosis cannot be forced to do anything he or she would not do without it. That's the reason so many people are not able to stop smoking with the help of hypnosis; they really don't want to stop.

"With many overeaters, it's the same problem. Their denial (that they really have a problem) is stronger than their expressed desire for treatment.

"You can't make anyone do anything against their will."

Another popular misconception about hypnosis, says King, is that people are always placed in deep trances, usually with shiny objects.

"The most common hypnosis is what we call 'walking hypnosis,' " says King, "and it's the kind of thing people experience all the time.

"For example, you are waiting for results of some medical treatment and you're worried. The doctor walks in, pats you on the shoulder and says, 'You're looking better today.'

"Instantly, you feel better. Nothing has changed in your physical condition, but the power of suggestion--a form of hypnosis, if you will--puts you in a better frame of mind and you really do feel better."

It's the form he finds best for working with stress patients, he says. "Before hypnotizing them, I will determine in conversation some of their most pleasant memories or places where they are most at peace--a river, a lake or mountain spot.

"Then, under hypnosis, I will give them visual suggestions about those places, allowing them to manifest them in their own minds.

"Later, when they're in a stressful situation, they are able to recall those scenes and relax themselves."

King also reminds us that we have all at one time or another hypnotized ourselves. "When you sit in front of a fireplace or a camp fire and stare into it, after a while, you become entranced.

"That's hypnosis," he says, and the odds are Orson Welles wasn't even in the neighborhood when you did it.

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