“Alice” had suffered high blood pressure (Hypertension) since she was around 16 years of age. She felt that her high blood pressure was a fact of life, but was spurred on to seek help because the 4 different medications she had been on for the last 3 years were causing significant side effects, including insomnia, loss of sex drive, frequent urination, anxiety and depression.
Alice was an IT professional, but had quit work because of her anxiety. She was keen to get back to work, but had sufficient savings to be out of work for another year if needed.
Alice’s blood pressure on her first session was 148/97, pulse rate 78. She was 33 and no longer in a relationship. When her long-term (5 year) relationship had finished, 9 months prior to her first visit with me, she had started drinking alcohol heavily, which had increased her blood pressure further. She had, however, ceased drinking completely 6 weeks before coming to me.
As a child, she’d had a problem with her feet and had to undergo several operations, which to this day still gave her feet significant pain on occasions. She felt that she could not walk or run properly, even though she knew, logically, that she could run and regularly played tennis (and nobody had ever commented on how she ran). This belief affected her self-image significantly.
Her parents had an abusive relationship even though they are still together. As a young child, her father hit her mother on several occasions that she remembered, though he never hit her.
She was bullied at school from the age of 6 to about 12, mainly about her feet.
Her diet when not drinking was excellent; low in salt and lots of fruit and veg. She might be described as ‘slightly overweight’, but no more than a few pounds.
She had a healthy lifestyle, playing tennis and swimming regularly and was a non-smoker.
The client’s goal of therapy-expectation
Alice wanted help with the anxiety (which she believed was a side effect of the medication). She did not believe that the high blood pressure was an issue that could be helped with hypnotherapy.
During the intake session I established the following :-
- She had a deep anger and resentment about her feet.
- She had a feeling of guilt about not being able to stop the abuse from her father against her mother.
- She loved her father dearly however she had mixed feelings about him because of the abuse.
- She had significant feelings of insecurity.
- She had a fear of criticism and loss of control. This had led to her being a perfectionist.
- She had significant feelings of anger. It seemed to be undirected, or directed at herself.
- Her unemployment was now effecting her self-esteem
My aims as a therapist
My aim was to help her get the anxiety under control and to reduce the blood pressure to a more normal levels, with the possibility that her GP may consider a reduction/removal in her drug regime.
Blood Pressure : 148/98
Pulse Rate: 78
During the initial interview, we established Alice’s goals and compiled a detailed profile of her lifestyle, family life, social life and relationships. We established that she had a deep seated anger, although she did not know what or who it was aimed at. We started to talk about her high blood pressure and what it would mean to her if she could reduce her blood pressure significantly.
Although she was very sceptical, she agreed that it would be a good goal to aim for. I felt that she had given up any hope of normal blood pressure. I simply asked her to keep an open mind and see what develops. I took her blood pressure at the beginning and the end of the session. I used both arms and recorded the lowest each time. I did this at every session.
I spoke in some detail about hypnosis and how it worked. We arranged to meet the following week.
Blood Pressure : 152/92
Pulse Rate: 75
In this session I wanted to deal with the deep anger and resentment she had about her feet as a child, especially the number of operations she had been subjected to. Her beliefs were that at some level she was to blame.
Following the Hypnotension programme, Alice was able to re-evaluate and normalise that period of her life and accept that her parents were trying to do what they thought would be of most benefit to her. During the session, Alice was able to let go of much of the anger and resentment she felt towards herself, her parents, and the situation.
Blood Pressure : 149/90
Pulse Rate: 77
We reviewed the work we did in the previous session and Alice reported that she had felt that there had been a shift in perception with regard to her feet. In particular, she felt that although the feelings of anger had dropped significantly towards her parents and herself, it had revealed a belief that she was a “cripple” and always would be.
Although this revelation had left her feeling upset and deflated during the week, I felt that this was a significant breakthrough. This underlying belief had always been there; her anger had merely shifted her thoughts away until now.
This identification, seeing herself as a “cripple”, was in fact crippling her. We worked through the Hypnotension de-identification exercise together, and whilst Alice found this a very emotional session, she described afterwards that it was a joyful moment when she realised that her “cripple badge” was gone forever.
She could then easily imagine herself as a fit and healthy person that had shaken off the bonds of the past, and she agreed to take time in the coming week to act as though she was not a “cripple” and to do things that proved it to herself and the world.
Blood Pressure : 142/86
Pulse Rate: 77
We discussed the previous session and Alice report a significant lightness in both mood and body. When asked what, in particular, had changed, she said “I just don’t know. I just feel lighter and have done all week”. She had not had any feelings of anxiety or depression which I believe had contributed in no small part towards her improved mood.
She had taken on her homework task and had joined a ballroom dancing class. Although she had only been once so far, she said she would never have done that before. Further, she had taken up two invitations to go out on a date; again, something she had not done for months.
In this session, I wanted to tackle the relationship with her father, especially the feelings of blame she felt. During the session, it became apparent that the conflict between her “love” and “loathing” of her father was troubling her to a large degree. Alice undertook an exercise in which she was able to have a frank conversation with her father, allowing her to establish a degree of understanding as to why the violence occurred and, although she did not condone the behaviour, she felt she understood it better.
Alice agreed to complete a “letter writing” homework task to reinforce the work of the session with her father.
Blood Pressure : 133/88
Pulse Rate: 74
We began this session by discussing her feelings towards her father. Alice described them as calmer than before she completed the letter writing homework task, and found that afterwards “it felt like I’d closed that part of my life and that it was over and done with”. She then said that she had done the same with her mother and although she did not elaborate on the content, she said it had made her feel better.
In this session we agreed to work on her feelings of control, and in particular, the need to have control. We discussed how the fear of loss of control that she exhibited was in fact a paradox: How can you have control if you can’t give it up when you need to?
We completed a Hypnotension exercise to tackle perfectionism, and Alice again agreed to complete a homework task to reinforce the work in the session, as well as a breathing exercise which studies have shown to be very effective in lowering anxiety related blood pressure.
Blood Pressure : 135/86
Pulse Rate: 71
Alice reported that she had completed the homework task, but felt a bit deflated because she felt nothing had changed since the last session. However, when questioned, she did report that she felt less pressure to do things perfectly and that she was happy for task to be “good enough” depending on what the task was.
During our discussion, I discovered that there was still some significant fear of criticism and I felt some work on the bullying she had suffered could be beneficial to her self-image.
I also asked her about the “breathing task”. She confessed that she had not been doing it because of the time. I instilled the importance on doing this task regularly which she took on board.
During the session exercise we rehearsed the breathing task, as well as helping Alice to let go of the feelings of fear, worthlessness and hopelessness that she had experienced from being bullied as a child.
Blood Pressure : 124/82
Pulse Rate: 73
It was a month since the previous session and Alice reported “feeling wonderful” and was questioning if any further sessions were needed, especially when she saw her blood pressure reading.
She told me that during the period between our last session and now that she had seen her GP and also her blood pressure specialist. He had agreed that her blood pressure was doing well, which he put down to the drugs “taking effect”. She had pointed out that she had been on them for the last 3 years.
She had talked about the Hypnotension programme and said that whilst he was cautiously optimistic about the effects, her improvement was sufficient to allow him to stop one of her drugs and see what happens.
She was particularly pleased about this as, not only had her blood pressure dropped further, the drug he took her off was the one she believed was responsible for the feelings of anxiety and depression. She was seeing her blood pressure specialist again in two weeks to assess her again.
We agreed that there were only a few small issues left which it would be useful to deal with, and we agreed to concentrate on building her self-image and self-belief this session and review once she had seen her blood pressure specialist again.
Blood Pressure : 125/80
Pulse Rate: 76
Alice seemed very happy in this session and proceeded to tell me about her new boyfriend and that she had started a new, if part-time, IT job which was local to her. She then dropped in to the conversation that her blood pressure specialist had taken her of the further two drugs leaving her on just the diuretic (water tablet) with a promise that if in three months her blood pressure was the same that she could come of that as well. She had been off the two other drugs for 10 days now and was very pleased that her blood pressure was still close to normal.
We agreed that this would be her last session and that if she felt the need she could come back for a top up session if she wanted.
In this session we simply reinforced some of the self-image work and did an exercise to strengthen her belief that from this point forward she would be leading a healthy happy life without the need for a daily drug regime.
Conclusions and Recommendations
This sort of ‘complex’ client seems to be fairly typical of clients with essential hypertension and by following the Hypnotension programme it is fairly easy for me as a therapist to identify and release/remove the feelings and beliefs that are stressing the client both physically and mentally.
Alice’s story was a success, but I have to say that in my experience in can be difficult for some clients to make the changes necessary to create the opportunity to succeed. In Alice’s favour was her willingness to make the effort needed to create her own success, especially between sessions.
About the Hypnotension Practitioner: Paul Rungay
Paul trained with the Surrey Institute of Clinical Hypnotherapy and has taken both the Hypnotherapy Practitioner Diploma and Clinical NLP Practitioner certification and passed with Honours.
Paul is proud to be the first qualified Hypnotension™ practitioner from Essex. He adheres to the NCH code of ethics for hypnotherapy.
NB: Client name and certain identifying details have been changed to protect the confidentiality of the client.