Hypnosis for Cancer Patients: Part 3
by Ronald Shone, B.Sc., M.A., B.Sc. (Psych), DCH
In this Part 3 we deal with some additional suggestions and affirmations relevant to some aspects of the cancer treatment. We first cover the side effects, which some patients can find most troubling. (Some patients find the side effects so troubling that they stop the treatment!) Next we consider affirmations for dealing with pain. Not all treatments involve pain, but when it occurs it can be very debilitating. It is fortunate that pain responds very well to hypnotic suggestion, and so hypnotherapy is a very useful tool to have in helping one’s rehabilitation. Next, and most importantly, we give affirmations for a positive attitude. It is well known by oncologists and cancer patients that a positive attitude may be the most important ingredient for a successful outcome. Having a positive attitude needs working on and maintained; not only during treatment, but also beyond. A positive attitude focuses the mind. To reinforce such a positive attitude, we also provide a powerful set of affirmations stressing I AM. All such positive affirmations take advantage of the law of attraction: what is in your thoughts you attract to yourself. So, the message again is repeat, repeat and repeat.
Side effects of cancer treatment
The side effects of cancer treatment are many and vary from person to person depending on the cancer being treated, whether chemotherapy, radiotherapy or targeted therapy is being administered. There are hundreds of different cancers and so it is not possible to deal with the side effects of each individual cancer. In Part III we focus on general affirmations that can apply sometimes to common specific side effects or to side effects in general. General affirmations can be just as effective as specific ones, since the unconscious mind will know what is meant.
We have already given one visualisation for dealing with the side effects of chemotherapy in Part II: namely, the control panel visualisation. Here we focus on affirmations. Side effects occur throughout the treatment, and so these affirmations should be repeated frequently. They can either be presented as an audio file by a hypnotherapist or simply written down and repeated. Either way, repetition is the secret for success.
When these affirmations are listened to or said out loud, the unconscious mind will create different images on each occasion. Go with such images: even enhance them. As with all the affirmations present in this article, belief and expectation are important ingredients. A cancer patient needs to believe in their ability to control the side effects: they must expect to control the side effects. All negative thoughts need to be abandoned, e.g., avoid such statement said to oneself: ‘I always feel sick’, ‘I am losing my gorgeous hair’, or ‘I am always in pain.’ The moment one is aware of making a negative statement (a negative affirmation) to oneself, replace it immediately by a positive one. What the mind focuses on tends to become a reality.
Here are a useful set of affirmations for dealing with side effects of cancer treatment.
- You are in control of the side effects from the chemotherapy drugs.
- Side effects of chemotherapy are not absolute; and you choose to be free of them.
- You have a control knob for each side effect, and these can be turned down or even switched off.
- You are in control and can switch any knob right off.
- If there is any hint of discomfort, take a deep breath and turn the appropriate knob to the off position.
- You will find strengths you didn't know you had to deal with any side effects of treatment.
- From the beginning of time the mind and body have known how to heal themselves.
- Your body and mind knows how to be healthy and so knows how to remove cancerous cells.
- Your immune system works automatically and effortlessly.
- Your white blood cells surround any invading viruses or bacteria, like white knights on white charges.
- Nausea and vomiting are minimal or not at all.
- Vomiting will become less with each treatment.
- Your immune system can block and destroy all the cancer cells in your body.
- Your unconscious mind can put a stop to the cancer cells replicating.
- Your powerful immune system can reduce or eliminate all side effects of chemotherapy.
- Your mouth is free of ulcers.
- Your hair continues to grow as normal.
- Side effects of the chemotherapy are not part of you.
- The number and degree of side effects are purely statistical averages and they do not apply to you.
- Your white blood cell count remains high at all times.
- You wash your hands before preparing food and after going to the toilet.
- Your bone marrow produces lots of white blood cells and more quickly.
- You have the optimal number of platelets in your blood so reducing the chance of a blood clot.
- You will engage in good mouth hygiene, brushing your teeth at least twice a day.
- Sea sickness bands will help reduce your nausea.
- You will be full of energy during treatment; tiredness is not for you.
- Your memory and concentration will remain optimal throughout your treatment and beyond.
- Your enjoyment of food and drink will be unaffected by the chemotherapy.
- Drinking plenty of fluids and fibre will avoid you having constipation.
- You will not experience many side effects at all; and those you do will be minimal and mild.
Cancer and Pain
Some types of cancer can lead to extreme pain, such as ovarian cancer and bone cancer. But it is not restricted to just a few cancers. Most cancers involve pain. A cancerous tumour may invade nerves, internal organs or bones. Sometimes a tumour presses on a nerve causing pain. A tumour may also cause organs to swell or be blocked, which also causes pain. But chemotherapy and radiotherapy drugs themselves can also cause pain. These pains are felt inside the body and are often continuous, and so need to be addressed if the cancer treatment is to be successful. But it is not just pain. The pain can lead to depression, sleepless nights, and being unable to work. The cancer patient in pain just constantly thinks about their pain. The first line of defence that an oncologist would use for pain, is further drugs specifically targeted for pain. Not surprisingly, oncologist favour the medical model. But alternative therapies can be used to alleviate pain in addition to the drugs advocated by oncologists. Such alternative therapies have the advantage that they do not lead to drug addiction. Morphine is the most effective drug for extreme pain, but it can be addictive. Hypnotherapy is one such alternative therapy, but surprisingly it is not the one often advocated. More usually physiotherapy or acupuncture would be first recommended. However, whatever form pain relief takes; it is important to address it early.
There has been considerable research into the use of hypnosis for pain relief and thus there have been several techniques developed for alleviating it. But not all techniques are suitable for cancer patients. For example, distraction can be utilised for mild pain. But cancer patients experience chronic pain that persists, and so distraction may be found difficult. There are other techniques, such as hypno-desensitisation, where a person deals first with a mild pain, then a more severe pain and continuing until the most extreme pain can be controlled. Yet another is glove anaesthesia, in other words numbing the pain. A hypnotherapist can discuss possible techniques that may be suitable with a cancer patient. Here we focus on visualisation and direct suggestion. A good visualisation can lead to distraction when a person becomes very absorbed in the visualisation. In the case of direct suggestion, we provide several affirmations for dealing with cancer pain.
In the case of visualisation, the idea is to imagine your pain as a person or creature. Once you have achieved this you talk to it. You ask it questions, and even ask how you can get rid of it! The point is that the person or creature is simply a creation of your own psyche, your own unconscious mind. It is your right brain operating by means of pictures, as in your dreams. There is nothing magical or supernatural about this. If you conjure up, say, a lion, then there is nothing strange in the unconscious endowing this with speech. Walt Disney was a past master at this. You next carry out a number of changes to the image.
Pain as person or creature
Get into a relaxed position with your eyes closed. Now imagine your pain as a creature or person. Let your unconscious mind determine whether it is a person or a creature. A probable more effective image is a creature because then you can imagine it large, dark, ferocious and dangerous. Have the image as menacing as possible. Talk to the creature asking it why it is creating such pain for you. Tell it that you do not want the pain, that the pain is not good for your well-being. Ask it whether you have suffered enough from the pain and whether it is time to let the pain go. You can even get some advice from the creature. Ask what would drive it away: what would drive the pain away.
Now you do a number of things to the image. First you change its size. Reduce it down so that it is miniscule and so can do no harm. Shrinking it clearly has the effect of reducing its impact. Next, change its colour. Make it a more appealing colour. Let your unconscious mind determine what that colour should be. What is important is that it is a bright or soothing colour. Move the creature further away, which also reduces its size. You may even turn the image into something funny or ridiculous. All these changes have the effect of reducing the pain associated with the image. See and feel yourself with reduced pain or no pain at all.
In the next visualisation we use a TV screen.
A TV visualisation
The object is to visualize a large TV screen that initially is switched off. First you outline what you will see when you switch on the screen. For instance, you may say to yourself that when you switch on the TV you are going to see the inside of breast, stomach, pancreas or whatever. This is where knowledge of your particular cancer can help. Find pictures of whatever cancer you have so that you can form some image on the TV screen. If you find this difficult, imagine seeing an operating theatre with doctors surrounding a patient – namely, you. See and hear them discuss cancer and the fact that they can cure it. The basic object at this point is to be able to visualise your cancer in some way or other. Suggest hearing it, feeling it and seeing it - colours and all.
Now have the set switched on. Two possibilities can occur at this point. Either you ‘see’ nothing or you ‘see’ something. If you see something, then again two possibilities arise. Either you see something close to what you suggested you would see, or you find that your imagination throws up a totally different image of its own choosing. If you see nothing, then you must keep trying. If you see what has been suggested, then fine. If your imagination throws onto the screen some bizarre scene which contains your cancer, then accept this readily. At this stage the important thing is to get some image of your cancer on the TV screen.
Now have the scene change. One possibility is to see the picture move off from the left to the right – but this is not essential. What is necessary is that you are able to replace one scene by another very readily. If necessary, switch channels! The new scene is one that you are going to work on; one in which you are going to see, hear and feel some drama unfold which eliminates, or reduces, the cancer pain. You can make this as vivid and as fantastic as you like and can continue the image for as long as you like. The object, however, is to produce a series of interrelated images which have as their final outcome a fully healthy person who is free from cancer pain. This final stage is very important. You are not engaging in wishful thinking, but rather in goal-directed imagery. You are visualising what you would like to be and so creating healing forces in you to achieve that goal. The goal is what initiates the forces of change and correction. To repeat, you are not engaging in wishful thinking, but rather in goal-directed imagery. For the success of goal-directed imagery in dealing with pain, you must desire to be free from pain, believe that you can reduce or eliminate the pain, and finally expect that you will be free from pain. A positive attitude must involve all three elements: desire, belief and expectancy.
Affirmations for cancer pain management
Pain responds to direct suggestion. It is therefore useful to have a set of affirmations specifically directed towards cancer pain. Here is my suggested list. Here we present the list in the first person. A hypnotherapist producing this list as an audio file with soothing music would replace “I can let go of my pain” with “You can let go of your pain”. They do no mention cancer, but a cancer patient will know that these suggestions refer to their cancer pain.
- I can let go of my pain.
- I can reduce my pain so that it is manageable.
- My subconscious mind knows how much better I will feel by reducing my pain to a manageable level.
- I can be free of overwhelming pain.
- My pain is trying to protect me but it can be over-protective.
- Overwhelming pain means I am unhappy and my subconscious mind does not want me to be unhappy; it wants me to be happy.
- By having overwhelming pain the body lacks energy to deal with other things; and my subconscious mind wants me to have energy to deal with other things.
- My subconscious mind knows that having too much pain is damaging the body.
- My subconscious mind will do everything to make me happy.
- My subconscious mind can find an alternative way to control the pain so that it is not overwhelming.
- I can let go of the pain now.
- My subconscious mind can find other ways to signal discomfort that does not involve excessive pain.
- My subconscious mind will reduce the amount of time that I perceive pain to the shortest time for my well-being.
- My pain can just dissolve away and leave an alternative more acceptable sensation, such as tingling.
- My subconscious mind can deposit my pain somewhere else so that its sensation is reduced.
- A pain is a signal to stop what I am doing and rest, and so the subconscious mind can find a better way to tell me to do this that does not involve excessive pain.
- I can lose super sensitivity to pain knowing that I have just enough to register that I should change what I am doing and rest.
- I am becoming much more interested in what is going on around me and so pay little attention to my pain.
- I have the confidence and belief that I can control my pain down to a tolerable level.
- It's OK to let go of my excess pain so that I can now heal.
We have already pointed out that having a positive attitude is the most important ingredient for a successful treatment of cancer. Because this is so important, we present here 85 positive affirmations. Although this may seem a lot, if included as an audio file with soothing music they will not appear daunting. Even so, saying them aloud or even writing them down can be very therapeutic.
- You are wonderful and excellent
- You are great and wonderful
- You love life, and life is love
- You are fully connected with yourself
- Your life is beautiful and full of experience
- You are filled with wonder
- You are mentally and physically healthy
- Well-being is your normal and natural state
- You create the world you want to be in
- You associate with people who support you
- With each day you decide how good you will want to feel
- Each day you feel more love: love for yourself, love for life, love for what you choose to do
- You truly deserve all your desires
- You are perfect in every way
- With each day you manifest that perfection
- You have inner beauty and outer beauty
- You are whole, you are fulfilled
- You have success and happiness
- You are free of limitations
- You see the world of abundance and opportunities
- You are able to achieve anything you desire
- You choose empowering and positive thoughts about yourself and life
- Each day you have more feelings of self worth
- Each day you are more positive and think more positively
- You are a wonderful being
- You radiate love, life and gratitude
- You now are releasing any negative emotions
- Tension and anxiety are now disappearing
- You focus your mind on the things you desire
- You are wonderful in every way
- Your energy vibrates at a high and powerful level
- You just know you can achieve your goals without effort
- You are healthy and attract energy
- You send positive signals to all parts of your body
- You send positive signals of health to all organs and systems of your body
- You are happy and content
- The cells and organs of your body are there to serve you
- Your cells and organs look after you each day
- Through your positive thoughts you radiate health throughout your body and mind
- You feel good, vibrant and energised
- You focus on what you want rather than on what you don’t want
- You have goals and know where you are going
- Your unconscious is supporting you in every way
- You have empowering beliefs about yourself
- You believe the world is working with you to achieve your goals and dreams
- You have all the resources within you to achieve full health and well being
- You have confidence and motivation to achieve all that you desire
- You see every day as an opportunity to grow and develop
- Every action is positive
- Your mind and body work in harmony
- You live in the moment
- You are completely in a state of joy and happiness
- Each day you love and appreciate yourself as you are
- You radiate confidence
- You are a charismatic person
- You see beauty in everything you do
- Your life is blossoming in true perfection
- You are a compassionate person
- You take responsibility for your life and actions
- You treat others in how you would like to be treated
- Your body is becoming healthier and more energised each day
- You are in harmony with your true desires
- You have positive thoughts and behave positively
- You can change your emotional state whenever you desire
- All things are coming together in your life
- You give yourself time to relax and recharge yourself
- You are letting go of the past
- You treat your body with respect
- You are getting healthier with each day
- You handle situations with ease and with strength
- You deal with all situations with calmness and confidence
- You learn from your mistakes
- You are a friend to yourself
- You are open minded and respect other people’s model of the world
- You are flexible in your thinking and behaviour
- You can adjust with any situation
- You are centred, grounded and balanced
- You are stable in mind, body and spirit
- You are creative; you can change
- You forgive yourself and are able to forgive others
- You let go of all past resentments
- You value yourself
- You accept responsibility for your actions
- You are able to deal with stress
- Your unconscious mind is allowing all these suggestions to sink in deeply
I AM Affirmations
Because it is very important to remain positive throughout the treatment of chemotherapy, and the above positive affirmations will certainly help, there are another set of powerful affirmation that can be utilised by the cancer patient. Again, they do not refer to cancer explicitly, but on hearing them a cancer patient will readily consider them relevant to their cancer treatment. Again, these affirmations are in the first person and usually begin with ‘I AM’. There are 40 in total.
- I AM the healing power of the universe.
- I AM transforming my life as I release myself of all obstacles.
- I AM who I AM.
- I remove all obstacles, I AM transformed.
- I AM the light.
- I AM compassionate and loving.
- I AM the truth and the light.
- I AM transforming my life now.
- I AM the power of healing.
- I AM love, I have love, and I AM loved.
- I AM the light that shines in the world.
- I AM all radiance and light.
- I AM full of energy.
- I AM all understanding.
- I AM enlightened.
- I AM whole, powerful and perfect.
- I AM the source of my transformation.
- I AM wisdom and understanding.
- I AM growing in wisdom and understanding.
- I AM all forgiveness.
- I AM all I wish to be.
- I AM the architect of my life.
- Today, I AM all I wish to be.
- I AM full of contentment.
- I AM creative.
- I AM full of happiness.
- I AM at peace with myself.
- I AM one with the power who created me.
- I AM patient, tolerant and diplomatic.
- My self-esteem is high because I honour who I AM.
- I AM one with the flow and rhythm of life.
- I AM at home in the universe.
- I AM healthy and strong.
- I AM grateful for who and what I AM.
- I AM open to new and wonderful changes.
- I AM a harmonious person.
- I AM gentle with myself.
- I AM forgiving of myself, and I AM forgiving of others.
- I AM very responsive to all these affirmations.
- I AM that I AM.
In these three articles on hypnosis for cancer patients, we have only dealt with the most immediate aspects of treatment and illustrated how hypnosis can be utilised in the chemotherapy treatment. But hypnosis can aid in other aspects not touched on here. Many patients feel angry and frustrated when they discover they have cancer. Anger is a negative emotion and needs to be replaced with positive feelings. Depression is another negative emotion felt by many cancer patients. Hypnosis can be utilised to help handle such depression. Yet another worry some cancer patients have is with body image. This is something that is conjured up by the unconscious mind, and so too can be helped with hypnotherapy.
Cancer treatment is only the beginning. There is the period of post-cancer in which some side effects persist even when the cancer is in remission. There is also the worry that the cancer will return. It is now realised that cancer treatment is not simply extending life. It must also deal with the quality of that extended life.
Ronald Shone B.Sc., M.A., B.Sc (Psych), DCH is a Clinical Hypnotherapist based in the UK more information at: www.shoners3.co.uk