We all have a stress switch in our nervous system and in our brain. Sometimes I think of it as the “trickster” within. The good news: hypnotherapy can help you treat stress. Let’s begin to find what activates this switch and what can turn it off.
We have all been taught to do relaxation exercises, mindfulness training, meditation and physical exercise to reduce stress. This does work at different times for different people and in varying situations. But what about those times when it doesn’t work?
What are the situations in your life that activate your stress switch? There are many common categories for most people that flip the switch from calm to activated (the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale was developed through research to identify these life stressors). Below are some examples.
Family situations, such as:
- Holiday get-togethers or family gatherings
- Illness in the family
- Illness in yourself, your spouse or children
- Divorce or separation
- Elderly parent coming to live with you
- Discovery of infidelity
Financial situations, such as:
- Loss of income, job or financial assistance
- Change in the economy
- A new financial burden you had not planned on
Work situations, such as:
- A new boss
- Loss of a co-worker
- Company policy changing
For many people, almost any type of change in the status quo can create fear, and it is fear most often that triggers the stress switch. When situations are closest to you, effect you the most and seem to bring new burdens into your life, that is when you seem to lose complete control of the switch.
How often have you said to yourself, “I can’t believe I’m reacting this way or that I am this stressed out over such and such”?
We all have an internal “trickster”. This trickster, or should I say these tricksters, because there are many of them, are made up of little child parts of ourselves. They have not realized that there is now an intelligent adult with lots of experience in solving problems and many more skills than the child had way back when. So how do these little tricksters undermine us and keep us stuck in old patterns, even after we have taken so many mindfulness and meditation classes?
Let’s give an example.
A very intelligent woman, we’ll call her Carol, came to us feeling burdened by her grown daughter and her three young grandchildren. The daughter was in her late thirties, had graduated from a great University and had numerous skills that she could market to employers. And yet she was working for a minimum wage and continually “living off” her parents. She was asking Carol for large amounts of money, time and energy, not considering that her parents really had their own lives they needed to attend to.
Carol realized that her “stress switch” immediately went on as soon as she saw a call from her daughter on her cell phone. She could feel her mind racing, heart beating, and anxiety in the pit of her stomach. She usually had a headache before she even answered the call.
Now, if we think about how many times a day (and a week and a month and a year) this was happening, we can begin to see the recipe for an illness. The problem was that her response to these phone calls from her daughter were so automatic, that she never had time to use the tools she had learned. Carol finally realized, through hypnotherapy what was actually happening.
She began to see that her stress switch had begun when she was a small child believing that she had to take care of her parents. Whenever her mother or father got sick, or had problems, including financial ones, she marched out her internal trickster who took the form of “I can do it!”
This part of her believed and fooled everyone into thinking that she, as a five-year-old, was so smart, so competent and so mature that she could solve problems that even the adult (alcoholic ) parents in the home could not solve. This trickster even learned to solve the problems that the adults themselves created through their alcoholic behavior.
Because this five-year-old trickster had so much power in her family, she was constantly rewarded and praised for all the adult skills she had developed. She even learned how to bring in some money to help pay the bills.
So let’s go back to that stress switch that gets activated in Carol. As an adult, whenever this switch is activated, it puts out a call for the little trickster. It calls out the little five-year-old who can solve all the problems by taking on more and more burdens in order to insure survival and of course to get the praise. Another benefit of this family dynamic of rescuing is that once the problem is solved, at least for now, Carol’s stress switch calms down; that is of course, until the next phone call, which is often, not very far into the future.
Through hypnotherapy and the book, Breaking Free From The Victim Trap, Carol and her family have learned to recognize how that trickster shows up in her life to fool her into believing that:
- Her grown and very competent daughter is helpless and needs her mother to solve all her problems
- She must respond to every request of her daughter and put her own needs last
- If she doesn’t, her daughter and grandchildren will end up in the streets and it will be her fault.
Carol is now taking back her own power to deactivate that guilt and stress switch. She is growing that little trickster up and informing her that her guilt tricks will not work any longer.
Without hypnotherapy, she would just have continued rationalizing her rescuing behavior, resenting her daughter, and reacting to the stress switch instead of learning how to finally turn it off!