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Mightier than the Drug
 Hypnotherapy using Hypnotic Recall in two cultures

    Most of the Egyptian public believe that the one needs to be mad to visit a psychiatrist. What about visiting a hypnotherapist? This kind of therapy is not so much available, and most practice it like a hobby, not like a profession. In Egypt, the psychiatrists themselves are convinced that their job is to "fix" the disorders of the brain. They define psychotherapy as "A medical specialty that is mainly concerned with brain dysfunction."(Psychological Medicine, Cairo University).  They are completely dogmatized  that nearly all the psychiatric disorders have either functional or organic causes, and a few have psychosomatic causes. Their job, as they think, is to remove the disturbing symptoms by any method. The cause of the psychiatric disorder does not really concern them. They know that depression causes headaches,  and also vision problems, toothaches and brain tumors cause headaches. Therefore, all of them can be treated using, simply, aspirin. Their real problem, which they will never perceive, is that they do not know what induces the psychiatric diseases to appear.
     Usually the person experiences his life in a routine like form until  one day an abnormal experience happens. This abnormal experience affects him and forms a complex (psychic problem) inside his unconscious, and once it is installed it starts causing a lot of problems(Estabrooks:139-142). It may disturb the one’s life, causing headaches, sleeplessness, eating disorders and more. The one may perceive the problem at once and decides to go to a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist, however, is not the right person because he is not going to search for the causes of the one’s illness but for the drugs that palliate one’s psychiatric pains. The problem with psychiatry, in Egypt and probably elsewhere, is that psychotherapists feel shame if they do not use drugs in their therapy. Their definition for the tool of  an M.D. (Medical Doctor) includes the word drug. Thus, they strongly believe in the power of their tranquilizers and chemical drugs. Hypnosis, therefore, is different because it is, simply,  mightier than drugs.
     The reason for the increasing trust in hypnotherapy is because many people find the hypnotherapeutic concepts appealing to them. However, this situation is not the same everywhere. The Americans, for example, are more interested in hypnosis more than the Egyptians for instance. In addition, the Americans  knew how to use hypnosis in psychotherapy, and they support their use by strong theories and reliable experiments. Under hypnosis the memory is like an open book in front of the hypnotherapist. As Lynno Hackman reported in the article published in Post-Register(NewsBank), the hypnotherapist can discover the critical moment at which the traumatic experience, which formed the one’s complex or phobia, was formed. Since hypnosis is a high state of suggestibility, the hypnotherapist can introduce positive suggestions to the patient through which the patient can overcome his complex. Thus, the dangers of the side effects, that the traditional drug-centered psychotherapy offers kindly, can not be found in hypnosis. The only condition is that the process should be carried out by a professional hypnotist to avoid the risk of inducing false memories under the influence of wrong illusive misleading suggestions.
     The real difference between the psychiatrist and the hypnotherapist is that the latter knows from where to tackle the problem. The cause of the psychic disease exists in the memory. The memory is a huge recorder. Its mechanism divides into three main processes: first  Registration or learning, which is the process in which the brain records or registers the experience either a traumatic or a learning experience, second Retention, in which the brain is doing a physiological process of sorting the recorded experiences, and finally the Process of Recall, in which the brain searches for the registered experiences(Hull:132). The processes of the memory are not all crystal clear. For instance, the memory is in continuous reconstruction; all the recorded events are not recorded objectively.  Every person tends to reconstruct the recorded experience in order to feel peace of mind. His mistakes were not his, and his opinion was the best. These ideas aroused some kind of skepticism about the reliability of our memories. Despite all this, the memory is still the target of the hypnotherapist.
     Any psychic disease starts first with a trauma. Lynno Hackman defined trauma in his article in Post-Register(NewsBank) as: "Affection of a person by any offending object." It may be physical object like hunger or car accidents, or psychic affection like sexual or child abuses. Hackman believes that the trauma can proceed to the mind and to be established through the left side of the brain. In this case the person remembers the trauma and he identifies it as the cause of his problem in oral communication. It may be established also through the right side of the brain. Here the memory develops a somatic change but the experience itself is repressed in the unconscious by the mind and thus a conflict happens. Accordingly, a complex or a phobia is established.
     The concept of the complex was formulated by Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis. The complex is an active force that is hidden or repressed in the unconscious. The traumatic experience that causes complexes usually happens in childhood because the child in this early age is not ready to cope with the complicated world. They are unpleasant, that is why the mind represses them to avoid the pain of their recalling. These repressed experiences are "down", but not "out". Once they are installed, they start causing a lot of troubles(Estabrooks:139-142). One of the very famous complexes is the phobia. The phobia is an unexplained fear of something that is usually not frightening at all. For example, one may develop a phobia in one’s childhood of water because of one’s first experience with water. In spite of the fact that that one is, probably, not going to remember and identify that experience as the cause of one’s phobia, that experience will remain in a hidden file (computer expression) of one’s memory as a source of negative suggestions.
     To find a definition for hypnosis that suits our context, we should say again that hypnosis is a high state of suggestibility. In the same way that the traumatic experiences recorded in the memory are negative suggestions, hypnosis is a process in which the person is more likely to accept suggestions(Psychology Today). This may be attributed to the fact that hypnosis is a state of very deep relaxation, but it should not be understood as sleep. It is a high state of consciousness, during it the unconscious, which keeps the traumas, is more liable to accept suggestions. In a personal interview with Dr. Richard Burchette, a psychology professor at the American University in Cairo (AUC), he said that the nature of suggestions is still a puzzling phenomenon. He gave an example that in an experiment they asked an adult to visualize being a child at the age of four or five, so he did. When the hypnotist asked his subject to write the word (rhinoceros) the subject wrote it in really  four years old child’s handwriting. Dr. Burchette said: "The real point is not that we succeeded to induce a childlike behavior by suggestions, but the point is that how many four years old children know how to spell rhinoceros?". He meant that the problem is not that suggestion can make people remember past events. It is suggestion that is a very risky tool because there is a great difficulty in the choice of suggestions that may help a hypnotized subject.
   Dr. Burchette wanted to highlight the importance and the difficulty of finding appropriate suggestions at the same time. Illusive suggestions may induce false memories, or may strengthen complexes in stead of solving it. In that later example the misleading suggestion was to assume that the hypnotized subject knew that word in his childhood. That is why in hypnotherapy the hypnotist does not introduce  to the  patient suggestions like: "You suffer from a phobia.". They usually ask the patient: "Return to the cause of your trouble." The trouble may be a physical symptom, resulting from a conflict situation. Probably a phobia, which is an unjustified fear that resulted from a traumatic experience, or may be a reflex action to a severe disciplinary reaction, which manifests in the psychic level(Marcuse:125-6). Even these effects are just negative suggestions. Dr. K. Harrary quoted, in his article in psychology Today, Dr. J. Barber who said: "What is a phobia if not a kind of environmentally suggested anxiety?"
      Since most traumatic experiences usually happen in childhood because the child is not yet ready in that age to cope with the factual materialistic world, hypnotherapists have developed a therapeutic method called: Hypnotic Regression. Dr. S. Das believes that the psychological definition of hypnotic regression is: "Going back in behavioral terms to an earlier state of existence, usually childhood." Das thinks that hypnosis should not be thought about as just putting people in a trance and returning them to an earlier stage of life. The point of using hypnosis is therapy. He believes that hypnotic regression should mean: "Concentration of the person’s memory to a certain stage of his life, thereby enabling him to remember events of that period." Das insists that hypnotic recall of past events is not a true regression because the subject does not return to infantile modes. He just can remember more about the cause of his current life style(Das:42-3)
     Another hypnotherapeutic tool is post hypnotic suggestion. A subject under hypnosis can be told by the hypnotists to perform certain actions after waking(Das:26). The real importance of post hypnotic suggestion is that the methods can be used in the treatment of some difficult complexes, revealing conflicts and unconscious fantasies. The process is like brain re-formatting; you introduce some suggestions to the person, which he would not remember after waking. Despite that, he would develop some response to certain signals.
     These previous methods found a lot of applications in psychotherapy using hypnotic recall. For example, in the United States the society has become more aware of sexual and child abuses. Ann Helms reported in her article in  Charlotte Observer(NewsBank)  that the belief that sexual and child abuses cause a lot of problems in adulthood, because of being repressed in the memory as traumatic experience, has found for itself a field among the Americans. Helms said that psychologists believe that these repressed "Memories of Abuse", according to her description, lead to depression, eating disorders, phobias or even multiple personalities. Lynno Hackman quoted in his article from Mark Stephenson, a hypnotherapist, that abuses may lead to vaginal pain, stomach aches, or even bowel obstruction. Stephenson, trying to introduce a materialistic metaphor for the process that may appeal to the psychiatrists, added that through hypnosis the therapist can know the right switch and he can overcome the problem by flipping it.
     Unfortunately for hypnotherapy, that previous application is fashionable in the United States to the extent that it has become like a habit for the interested people to visit a hypnotherapist to search for abuses. That growing concern is a threat for the credibility of hypnosis because the common American does not consider that the misleading suggestions can lead to misleading memories. Ann Helms reported that about 11,000 family suffered from problems because of claimed memories discovered under hypnosis. In 1992, a foundation called The False Memory Syndrome was founded to defend those who were accused of abuses. Helms had a story about a retired soldier who was accused of sexually abusing his daughter when she was 2. The problem is that at that time the man was away in the army. The real bothering problem that I faced was while finding articles for the paper about that topic. Nearly all the articles, excluding those of Psychology today, tackled the problem from a narrow scope. The articles usually contain lengthy spicy stories about sexual abuses, on the other hand the scientific background was avoided as much as possible. The message that should have received the reader by now is that recalling the cause of the complex is the goal of the hypnotist to solve the problem and not just creating scandals for, sometimes, innocent people.
     Another method for hypnotherapy is called past life regression hypnotherapy. J. C. Gubbins quoted, Lucy Luckie, a hypnotherapist in his article in Patriot News(NewsBank). She explained that people who undergo hypnotherapy when they are asked to return to the cause of their complex. Some return to childhood, others attribute it to a traumatic experience, which happened in a past life. Lucy defines past life hypnotic regression therapy as: "The use of hypnosis to prompt reliving of a past life experience for therapeutic reasons."  Lucy opposes the mainstream by insisting that the realness of the experience is not a the crucial element but the important is the information discovered under the experience. She added that the her goal is not to prove whether reincarnation or karma exists or not, but her aim is to reach the cause of the complex. Thus by introducing positive suggestions, the person could overcome his psychic pains. She mentioned in the same article the story of a dancer who had a phobia of performance on the stage in front of an audience. Under hypnosis Lucy discovered that that phobia originated from a traumatic experience. The hypnotized patient said that her costume caught fire on the stage, when she was performing, as a ballerina in the time of the English Renaissance. She recalled that she was burnt to death. Lucy said:" Once the   memory was retrieved and processed, she was able to perform successfully in her dance company."
     Gubbins quoted Dr. I. Stevenson, a psychiatrist, who related the previous cases, in which the patients claimed that the causes of their complexes were established in past lives, to "cryptomnesia" or  source amnesia. Those individuals obtained these experiences, in a forgotten way, simply from books, movies or thoughts. Under hypnosis, these experiences were just retrieved. That type of traumatic experiences could happen to any body on watching a tale of terror in a movie. Sometimes adults themselves can not sleep after watching a terrifying movie, about vampires for example. That is why Lucy said, with a smile: "They usually pick a famous historical figure." She added: "Past life regression therapy is also an opportunity to reclaim what I would call a hidden heritage of subconscious wisdom and talents." She explained that some patients discovered in their past lives talents that helped them overcome their complexes.
     The press, again, treated the application of past life regression therapy from an erroneous view point. Hypnotherapists use that technique to solve the complexes of the patients to search for the cause whatever it was. The press believes that it is an evidence of  reincarnation or karma. In addition, the press highlights the cases of failure of hypnotherapy. In Gubbins’ article, he searched for the cases for which regression therapy has failed. Some said that they had difficulty in living the problems of one life, what about two? Some said that their problems were heightened more. But where are the hopeless cases which hypnotherapy succeeded in their treatment? It is missing, on purpose, to make the story more spicy by creating a cloud of mystery about hypnosis.
    To shift the scope from the American paradigm to the Egyptian paradigm some points should be considered. Egypt is a typical Eastern third world country. The USA, in contrast, is a typical Western, intellectually free country. The society in Egypt is characterized by an extreme simplicity. Perhaps there are new generations that are starting to reformat the Egyptian society to a complex one, but in general the society is still simple. The concept of the family, in Egypt, does not stop on the first degree relations. It includes the friends, the neighbors, and more. In addition, the society is really religious. In the States, the job of the psychotherapist was founded, in my judgment, to find somebody who is ready to listen to the others complaints and pains. While in the Egyptian society you can confess to your friends, your relatives or your companions. In my opinion, the people in Egypt have better psychological health because you do not find in Egypt suicides in numbers near to the West. The Egyptian society may find talking about reincarnation as the cause of one’s pains very problematic because this, simply contradicts the religious beliefs. Perhaps because the American prescription of hypnosis lacks the founder of causes, God Almighty, that is why the Egyptian common sense does not accept it.
     Hypnosis in Egypt really deserves pity. The Egyptian psychiatrists do not know any thing about it. The only hypnotherapist in Cairo is not Egyptian. This is attributed to the Egyptian movies, which played a great role to form erroneous ideas inside the minds of the Egyptian common people and psychiatrists as well. In a personal interview with Dr. Yehia El-Rakhawy, a professional psychiatrist and university professor, he said that hypnosis is a science and it has its own bases. However, he does not practice it because "The patients who come to my clinic are already asleep." That was sufficient to convince me that he has no idea about hypnosis to describe it by sleeping. He does not know that it is a high state of consciousness. That is attributed this time to psychological medicine in the Egyptian medical schools. The book of psychological medicine for Cairo University ignores hypnosis completely. It prescribes other "useful" methods of psychotherapy, such as: drugs including tranquilizers and pain killers, physical therapy (electric shocks) and the "classical" psycho analysis. The later one is not considered at all because it is time consuming. After all of this, does not it deserve our pity?
     Most Egyptians have strong illusory  prejudices about psychotherapy. They think that that type of therapy is designated only for mad people. Those mad people who are pictured in the Egyptian movies dancing and laughing in joy. Even the typical psychiatrist in the Egyptian movies is a madman !  Again, the Egyptian movies played a greater role to establish a lot of prejudices inside the minds of the Egyptians about psychotherapy as a whole.
    That was not the only experience I knew about the Egyptian psychiatrists. The book of psychological medicine explains a drug oriented technique that fits all the psychic diseases. They have for every symptom an anti-symptom. Depression, for example, has anti-depressants, as a treatment. Dr. Burchette explained this drug-centered techniques, in a personal interview, by saying: "They are M.D.s any way." He, even, said that the American psychiatrists follow the same techniques. Undoubtedly, these medications have very dangerous side effects on the long run because they are chemical anyway.
     In addition, the clinic of the psychiatrist was full of patients, about 15 patients, whom he was going to see them all in 2 hours. This means that there is an average of  only 8 minutes for every patient. This short time period does not even give a chance for the patient-psychiatrist relationship to be founded. It is well known that sometimes the patient-therapist relationship can cure hopeless disease that the common methods failed to heal deeply.
     Most Egyptians have a false idea about the people who visit the clinic of the psychotherapists from the Egyptian movies. From a personal experience, the faces that were in the clinic were really faces of very cultured people, as it seemed, like the faces of Businesspersons, lawyers and even university professors. What was really astonishing was to discover that the Egyptians are willing to visit the psychiatric clinics. Nearly all the people in the lower and middle classes are afraid of the famous Egyptian stigma Abaseia, the place where Cairo’s most famous psychiatric hospital is found.
     The real trouble with psychotherapy in Egypt is that no body knows where it should be taught. Psychology is a subject for study in the faculty of Arts, Philosophy department only. Hypnosis’ place is with psychology. On the contrast, psychotherapy is educated in Egypt as science only in medical schools. Psychology is a science, but it is an art in the way it heals people’s pains, the way it explains the causes and the way it reaches people. The distinction between Science and Arts for psychology, in my judgment, is not applicable. By now, the most clear axiom is that psychology, psychotherapy, and hypnotism are three coherent methods for decreasing the human pains.
     A few hundreds of years ago, an Egyptian priest discovered a method to put the patients in a sleep-like condition, after which the patient discovered that their diseases were cured completely. He recorded his results in what is known now as Ebers papyrus(Das:1). Three thousand years later, the  Viennese M.D. Franz Anton Mesmer rediscovered the same method, but the mainstream in France 1784 refused to accept his ideas. The French mainstream thought that there was no use to put people in a trance conditions to heal their pains, while at the same time they had the drug and the scalpel. The same problem happens now with the Egyptians M.D.s.  They forgot that the ancient Egyptians themselves knew how to use hypnotherapy.
     The doctors know that every day they face a new disease, they know that their knowledge is incomparably small to the unknown in their domain. However, they find it difficult to confess that every day a new method for therapy is introduced. Sometimes some of these methods are mightier than the drugs, and among those methods is Hypnotherapy.


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Grading by the Freshman writing Program FWP: Pass with Distinction