Hypnosis for First Responders

A review article in Medical Acupuncture stated that first responders should be trained in integrative medicine approaches, including hypnosis, to help relieve pain and stress.

The first recorded use of hypnosis for anesthesia during surgery was by Recamier in 1821. In 1829 Cloquet used hypnosis to perform a breast amputation before the French Academy of Medicine. Around the same time in the U.S. a nasal polypectomy was performed on a patient under hypnosis by P. Wheeler. John Elliotson (who introduced the stethoscope to England) reported numerous painless operations using hypnosis in the journal Zoist. The Scottish surgeon James Esdaile reported over 2,000 minor and 345 major operations using hypnosis in the 1840s and 1850s. In 1849, Crawford Long (who pioneered the use of ether in America) stated that physicians were recommending hypnosis for pain relief during surgery. It was in recognition of the established use of hypnosis for anesthesia that Liston, who performed the first surgery under ether in England, remarked, “Gentlemen, the Yankee trick beats the French one.” He was referring to the American discovery of ether as being more reliable than hypnosis (under the name of “mesmerism”) and developed by French physicians, neurologists, and psychologists.

Chemical anesthetics proved more reliable, but that’s not to say that hypnosis is not useful. Hypnosis has been in use for pain far longer than ether, chloroform, and later chemical anesthetics. Consider that chemical anesthetics are not 100% reliable, either. A report of the Royal College of Anaesthetists suggested that in 1 of 19,000 operations a person becomes conscious while under general anesthesia. In the case of a caesarian section, the odds increase up to 1 in 670.

There is nothing new about using hypnosis for emergency pain and trauma. Hypnosis was in great use as anesthesia during the Civil War, then fell out of use with the development of ether and other chemical anesthetics. The need for rapid treatment of war neuroses during World Wars I and II and the Korean conflict brought renewed interest and activity in hypnotherapy, and resulted in the merging of hypnotic techniques with psychiatry. The British Medical Association, in 1955 reported its approval of hypnosis for the relief of pain in childbirth and surgery. Since then, hypnosis has been widely used and studied.

In 2002 the International Journal of Emergency Mental Health published a study by Levenson and Acosta, two mental health clinicians associated with the NYPD, who were at Ground Zero of the World Trade Center beginning on September 11, 2001 to assist with crisis intervention and Critical Incident Stress Management. Their study considers the stress-response of police officers on site and offers clinical techniques and guidelines for emergency mental health practitioners and first responders for use with victims of critical incidents.


Tips for Achieving Your New Year’s Resolutions

The beginning of a new year is a time when we think about our goals for the year to come. The practice of making resolutions for the new year goes back at least 2,000 years to the ancient Romans, and continued in America with the Puritans. Today, new year’s resolutions continue to be an important routine for the personal and professional growth of many Americans. Popular areas of focus are:

• Health & habits (smoking, drinking, eating, sleeping)
• Career and education
• Finances
• Relationships, family, friends, and social life
• Personal qualities (kindness, patience, helpfulness)

Achieve your resolutions using these strategies:

1. Focus. Don’t try to accomplish everything at once. Unless your goals are interdependent, pick your most important goal and concentrate your entire will on it.

2. Write it down. Putting pen to paper leaves a greater impression on the mind than a passing thought. Write your goal in bold letters on bright paper, and put it where you will see it regularly. A written goal that you see visually is not only a good reminder, but a powerful suggestion to the mind.


3. Be specific. Identify both your long-term goal and the individual actions that you must take to reach it. Focus on the specific actions and steps that you have to take next.

"In human affairs of danger and delicacy successful conclusion is sharply limited by hurry. So often men trip by being in a rush. If one were properly to perform a difficult and subtle act, he should first inspect the end to be achieved and then, once he had accepted the end as desirable, he should forget it completely and concentrate solely on the means. By this method he would not be moved to false action by anxiety or hurry or fear. Very few people learn this.”― John Steinbeck, East of Eden

4. Accept it. Most changes require work and adjustment, which create stress. Acknowledge and accept any feelings of frustration and discomfort you might feel, then...

5. Release the stress. Try these classic relaxation exercises, tips, and recordings.

6. Don’t skip a beat. If you get off track, get right back on immediately. Do not spend time worrying or beating yourself up. Juts focus your mind again on whatever was working best.

7. Share. People who share their new year’s resolutions are more likely to keep them. Share your goal with people who will be supportive. It adds accountability to your goals.

8. Track your progress. Use a visual representation of your goal. If your goal involves progress over time (e.g., losing weight), a journal, or better yet a chart or graph that you see and update daily, can work wonders.


10. Trust that you will adjust. No matter how hard it may seem today, humans break habits and take on new ones more quickly than we expect. Be persistent, and you are likely to feel that it is automatic and normal in less than a month.



A Daily Practice


New Year’s resolutions remind me of one of the best daily practices I could recommend for someone who wants to hold themselves accountable until conscious practice makes unconscious habit.


Pythagoras of Samos (570-495 B.C.) was the first to be called a philosopher (i.e. “lover of wisdom”). He recommended two moments for thoughtful reflection, when one goes to sleep and when one awakens. According to Porphyry (VPyth 40), he recommended singing these verses before going to sleep:


Also, do not receive sleep on your tender eyes,

before you have thrice gone through each of the day’s deeds:

Where have I fails myself? What have I done? What duty have I not fulfilled?



But before getting up, these:


When you awaken from sleep, the honey to the heart,

first watch very carefully, what deeds you want to perform this day.


More on the practice of Retrospection