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Self-hypnosis and the placebo effect

By Joseph Pond

It's spring once more and cherry blossoms are blossoming, sun is shining and people are sneezing. Blackbirds sing merrily, butterflies flutter and eyes are swollen, red and puffy. Yes, it's an unfortunate fact that amidst all this natural beauty, some of us suffer intolerably from hayfever.

I used to treat hayfever with acupuncture by needling the very sensitive skin near the nostrils. This often worked, but as the 'cure' was very painful, I sometimes wondered whether the improvement came because at some level - conscious or otherwise - it was just better to improve than to have to endure that again.

It's well documented that many conditions respond to placebo treatment. I remember my highly allergic grandmother once beginning to wheeze when she entered a room that had cut roses on the table, only to recover immediately when learning they were plastic.

It's extraordinary to me that my grandmother's cells 'knew' how to initiate and then suppress a histaminic response based on nothing more than mental expectancy. And the science bears this out. For example, one Swiss study looked at the effects of hypnosis on hayfever. The conclusion was that participants who employed self-hypnosis needed less medication than the control group did over a two-year period.

The group that was taught self-hypnosis only received two hours of training at the start of the 24-month period. And the technique they learned was a very basic mental visualisation. And yet, hypnosis even at that elementary level was effective enough to give the participants more physiological control over their bodies for the duration of the trial. Imagine if the participants had received proper training in real self-hypnosis.

So these days I skip the painful treatment altogether and go straight for the placebo effect. People come to realise that this effect only exists because your body has the capacity to naturally heal itself. Hypnosis falls within this category because it is fundamentally about utilising and amplifying your own mental expectancy. If you're a person who wants to have more control, you too can develop your natural abilities to experience real hayfever relief.

  • Joseph Pond is a clinical hypnotherapist, an acupuncturist and a mindfulness instructor. He is co-founder of Hypnosis Explorers NI and conducts workshops in hypnosis with PowerTrance. Reach him at or at Hypnosis/ ?ref=hl/?ref=hl

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