We have been asked: What is the difference between cognitive hypnosis and cognitive hypnotherapy? The answer is: In therapy you process.

It may be justified to clarify the concept of processing, which is generally used in the context of therapy, in more detail. In a concrete sense, it is about reshaping, improving experiential material in ways that lead to development. Processing can be used synonymously with processing. A processor in a computer is the engine itself, the one that drives the information processing or information processing forward. In the same way, our brain processes large amounts of information. To process or process experiences means that you do something with them to be able to incorporate them, make them become a part of yourself instead of something that feels foreign and that can be harmful.

The Swiss psychologist Piagets has given a clarifying description of what processing is all about when he used the concepts of assimilation and accommodation to describe children’s development. According to him, one needs to process new experiences, assimilate them, in order to assimilate them and change, accommodate. He likened this to our digestion. The body cannot assimilate food unless the digestive system first processes it, turning the food into something we can digest. Correspondingly, impressions and experiences need to be processed so that we can incorporate them and adapt to the new. According to Piaget, this is an ongoing process that leads development forward.

At every moment we are inundated with information via our senses about what is happening and existing inside and outside our body. This is related to the experiences we previously stored. Most things are processed automatically by our inner part without us noticing that it is happening. Processing also takes place during sleep when we dream. But we notice that it happens only if our experiences are so complex or of such a negative nature that our inner part is unable to process them on its own, do we notice that processing takes place.

Our experiences are constantly a mix of what we take in at the moment via our senses and what we pick up and refer to from previous experiences we have stored inside us. Through processing, our new experiences are integrated with what has been stored from before. Processing creates wholeness and context, while lack of processing leads to fragmentation.

Our ability to process varies. As we are not feeling well, it is limited. The better we feel, the greater our ability to process, even things that are complex and demanding. When processing takes place to the degree that is needed, it makes us feel more alive and whole inside. But if we continue to repeat old undesirable behaviors as if we were standing and stomping in place, this is a sign that our inner part is not able to process alone e.g. in dreams. Then it may be justified to seek help from someone who can put us in touch with our inner self in a reliable way.

Sometimes it can happen that our experiences become so overwhelming that we don’t have the ability to process them directly and fully. We are unable to feel and express emotions and create meaning and context. It can happen in different types of crisis situations both in childhood and in adulthood. For example. strong fear can result in all or parts of the experience being pushed away, relegated to the inner part, inaccessible in an ordinary waking state of consciousness. But it is important to understand that it is not the events themselves that create problems but the fact that we did not then and there develop adequate reactions, i.e. healthy natural ways of reacting to them.

In general, it can be said that it is unhealthy for us to carry unprocessed experiences somewhere within us. They burden our body, which gives rise to various types of symptoms. In addition, it reduces our way of working.

Sometimes it can take a while before the symptoms appear. Perhaps you have been so engaged by a work task or by something in your private life that you have not had time to listen to yourself or actually to your body where the symptoms are manifesting. Then maybe something happens that you experience on some level within you as so burdensome that you “tread through”. You might e.g. are faced with a situation that you feel you cannot cope with in your current condition. You may be offered a new, more exciting and well-paid job than the one you have, but which is also more demanding. Or you will become a parent. Life constantly makes new demands on us. Then symptoms may appear that show you are carrying underlying unprocessed experiences. Your inner part thereby shows that it is no longer healthy for you to carry unprocessed experiences.

Oddly enough, the trigger may also be that you feel well enough and are strong enough to deal with your underlying issues. Then you have surplus to deal with something that you may have been wearing for a long time. When you don’t feel so well, you don’t have that capacity and therefore you suppress the problems.

But not all of our psychologically conditioned problems originate in unprocessed experiences. To a greater or lesser extent, they are a product of old ingrained habits that no longer serve any purpose. If the problems are exclusively a product of old habits, a shorter period of mental training is usually sufficient, i.e. a form of help for self-help. If these habits came about as a secondary effect of underlying unprocessed experiences, the training, when it has given what it has to give, can often slip into therapy. The self-strengthening effect that training provides is a prerequisite for the unprocessed experiences to begin to come to light in ways that enable us to process them successfully.

How is the processing for e.g. in a hypnotherapy?

To get into a hypnotic state, we can focus on observing everything that happens inside and outside our body, which leads us to hand over to our inner part (so-called subconscious) to act, operate, control what happens. Our inner part then helps us free ourselves from negative and other unnecessary thoughts, feelings, ideas and physical sensations and reactions, which leads to us gradually experiencing an increasingly strong well-being. We get deeper and deeper into ourselves and thus also into hypnosis.

If we carry unprocessed experiences, then the hypnosis training can slip into therapy and we come step by step in contact with what has been repressed and hidden within us. Thanks to the initial self-strengthening mental training and through self-strengthening conversations with our coach and therapist, which always take place in parallel with the hypnosis sessions, we have become strong enough to confront our previously repressed experiences. Because we now experience what is happening under safe circumstances, we are now able to react in ways that make us feel and function better than before. But this is not something that happens all at once. We reconstruct the course of events bit by bit and likewise we gradually learn to reprogram by reacting to the events we previously experienced as somehow negative in new, more constructive ways.

It is important to never force a process, but let it advance at its own pace. As the therapist neither initiates nor forces the process, it starts spontaneously when we are mature and strong enough to face our unprocessed experiences and process them at the pace we can manage. We gradually dare to live in all the thoughts, feelings and perceptions and physical reactions that our experiences arouse and we dare and can react in natural and adequate ways.

The principle of processing is the same regardless of the type of experiences involved. What is finished becomes an integral part of us and our life story. We can pick it up when we want, but it’s not something that lies and gnaws inside us and creates problems.

Jonas Sandberg

1 The Swiss Jean Piaget (1896-1980) has in several books described children’s intellectual development in terms of these two processes, assimilation and accommodation, which together lead to adaptation.

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