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A Good Example of Suggestibility

May 23, 2009

Chicogo Doula and HypnoBirthing practitioner, Cindy Unger recently posted this really interesting blog about suggestibility and its influence in labour, and it got me thinking about this fascinating topic.

Suggestible is a term used to describe one’s openness to others’ suggestions about your experience. There are always times in life when you are more suggestible… meaning you are more open or vulnerable. When we are emotional for example. If you have ever been upset and then completely overreacted to someone’s comment, that’s a good example of it. Hypnosis because it is an altered state of consciousness also increases one’s suggestibility. But formal hypnosis isn’t the only time. Did you know that we slip in and out of hypnosis regularly during our day? That’s right. Anytime you daydream or focus your attention… when you do that the process that happens in your brain, is just like hypnosis. Us hypnotherapists refer to that as waking hypnosis. You might be most familiar with this waking hypnosis when a commercial makes you feel hungry for a certain food or when the first song you heard in the morning sticks with you for the rest of the day.

Now here’s where in gets really interesting. How it all relates to labour!

Here’s what Cindy wrote about suggestibility and labour….

During labor, suggestibility goes hand-in-hand with the natural trance state of the laboring women. It doesn’t matter if you took HypnoBirthing. You will naturally go within and become more focused on your body…and more suggestible to what others predict about your labor. In class, we talk about how laboring women often feel exactly what they are told to feel or have the labor length they are told they will have. THAT is suggestibility. And it is important to be aware of what is being said around you, during your labor, because it can have serious consequences.

As I was sitting on the couch watching TV the other night I came across this episode of Family Guy. Watch from 8:14-8:55 in particular. Summary of the clip: Brian, the dog, arrives at a woman’s house and she throws a white powder on his face. He is shocked, but not bothered by this. She promptly predicts that “it’s gonna burn like hell in 30 seconds,” and continues to banter with him. He notices nothing else until she soon reminds him, “By the way, it’s been 30 seconds…” and he suddenly responds by screaming, grabbing at his eyes in pain, and running around the room in a panic.

Interesting! Sounds like a lot of labors where mom was doing just fine, until she was told that she would feel one thing or another, or that labor would progress in a certain way–usually a negative, rather than positive, suggestion. Lo and behold, it happens. And we wonder why!

Well, some of us wonder why. Some of us are not surprised at all.

Check out Cindy’s blog at http://hypnobirthingsandiego.blogspot.com/

After reading this post, HypnoBirther, C.L. asked me this question. I thought it was so pertinent that I included the question as well as my response.

I’ve really enjoyed reading a number of the articles and especially the one about suggestibility. When I consider how that concept affected my last labour (I had nurses suggesting a c-section early on, the doctor commenting on the fact that I was likely carrying an 11lb baby(!), my mom’s comments about how many of her grandbabies had come via c-section, etc)…sigh…if only I’d been more aware of how deeply all the comments and opinions around me (before and during labour) were affecting (especially since I’m already a more naturally emotional and highly suggestible-type person anyways!)…so as I look forward to my next birth experience, my question to you regards this whole concept. How do you effectively refute those kinds of comments and NOT allow them to affect you? Are there strategies for this or is it simply a matter of being aware of this that makes it not have a hold on you the same way it would if you weren’t aware of the concept? -C.L.

My answer:

Good question. 🙂 And I’m glad you like my newsletter.

First off, I don’t think that it’s worth your energy to refute those opinions on the outside (as in talking with the nurses or doctors). There is just no point. It’s what’s going on inside your head that counts. Simply being aware does help, but you can go a step further. You can use the power of visualization. The two strategies that I like the most are these…

1. When someone says something that is unhelpful, for example “You are going to have a huge baby.” or “All the women in your family seem to get breast cancer.” Just imagine making a big red X through that remark and then imagine flushing down the toilet. And replace that remark with the opposite belief that is helpful. “I am going the perfect sized baby for me.” or “My body is healthy and will stay healthy.”

2. The second strategy is to visualize a safe and strong bubble of white energy around you. This bubble is only allow messages that serve you, that help you, to come in. Any unhelpful remarks bounce off the bubble and blow away.

Marie

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