Dealing With Abreactions

In this week's blog I'll be discussing how you can deal with an abreaction be it in the therapy room, on the stage or in the street.

What is an abreaction?

An abreaction can be defined as any response be it physical or emotional that doesn't sit with the suggestion that's being given by the hypnotist/ hypnotherapist. Therefore, if the hypnotist suggested that the subject would be happy and they burst out crying that would be considered an abreaction.

When used in therapy an abreaction can be a useful tool to remove repressed emotions, cause the client to revivify events or to aquire a greater depth. The therapist can pair this technique with a safe place anchor which is where they are able to take the client back to a pre-setup safe place should the abreaction be too overwhelming for the client.

My experience with abreactions

During my time as both a hypnotherapist and a hypnotist I've experienced abreactions in many forms. As it happens, within the first couple of weeks of finishing my training I experienced my first abreaction during a stage show. Luckily, I'd be adequately prepared during my training. Here are a couple of the abreactions that I've experienced:

Peter Kay

During an impromptu set I performed a routine where I asked the subject who his favourite celebrity was. He told me it was Peter Kay. So I made the suggestion that he would 'wake' to imagine that Peter Kay was standing next to him. He opened his eyes and I could see he had a tear in them and he said I can't do this. I found this to be quite a strange abreaction.

Big Hands

Another abreaction I remember was in a therapy session where I suggested that on the count of 5 they would be back in the room feeling fantastic. When they opened their eyes they started freaking out saying; 'my hands, my hands are really big, they feel massive!'

How do you deal with an abreaction?

When you encounter an abreaction the most important thing to do is to remain calm. When (that's right when) you encounter your first abreaction it can be quite daunting. If you start flailing around you're likely to make them panic or abreact more.

So you're calm, the next thing to do is to remain in control. The reaction may have been caused by a suggestion that hasn't been interpreted correctly or a suggestion that has brought something to the surface. You need to remain in control at all times.

I've found it useful to take them by the hand and ask them to look you in the eye. You then tell them to take a nice deep breath in and close their eyes. You say this firmly, 'take a deep breath in and allow the scene to fade.' This was taught to me by the great Rory Fulcher and it has served me well.

You may encounter some resistance, I've experienced people who have refused to close their eyes. If you encounter this Speak more directly and repeat the above.