"My girlfriend dumped me because she says I 'wasn't there' when we made love. She's not the first to say this. I know something's wrong. Can hypnotherapy help me?"
Your sexual dysfunction means you engage in sex more as an observer than as a participant. You hold yourself back from entering a trance state; you have difficulty "letting go."
There are several ways in which a qualified hypnotherapist can help you to conquer this problem. Hypnotherapy will have a particular focus depending on whether the problem is organic or psychological.
Organic sexual problems require medical intervention. Hypnotherapy may be used as an adjunct, for instance, in helping you to heal faster after an operation.
More frequently, sexual difficulties treated by a hypnotherapist concern psychological issues. Since the process deals with your mind all sexual activity during hypnotherapy takes place only in your imagination. What you learn through hypnotherapy is practiced privately elsewhere.
Hypnotherapy may be used to heighten your sensual involvement and to help you to be fully present while engaging in sex.
A common, effective use of hypnotherapy is to lower your anxiety.
The anticipation of failure (particularly for men anxious about their ability to have or to maintain an erection) brings on anxious feelings.
These in turn bring about the failure. Hypnotherapy ends this vicious circle and replaces the anticipation of failure with the certainty of success and confidence.
Traditional sex therapy methods are more readily accepted by you when in hypnosis because the conscious, judgmental, analytical part of your mind is temporarily set aside.
Your subconscious then absorbs the new, positive messages you've asked the hypnotherapist to create.
Precisely because hypnosis taps into the autonomic nervous system, a person can use it to improve or alter functions that normally happen without conscious control, e.g., a man's erection.
Charles, a 27-years-old former sailor and currently an electrician, consulted a hypnotherapist because he was too fearful to have sex with his wife.
They'd been married three years and had had sexual difficulties since the birth of their daughter eight months previously. Charles was afraid he'd been embarrassed once again if he tried to make love.
"Kim laughed at me the first time and now she just gives me a look of disgust." Why? Because he couldn't maintain an erection.
Charles felt humiliated and frustrated; he worried that he'd never again have satisfactory sex with his wife. His dream of fathering a son seemed unattainable.
He told the hypnotherapist that he had no problem masturbating when alone. This was a likely indicator that Charles' problem was psychological, not organic.
As was Charles' report that he always had a firm erection when having sex with the occasional housewife in whose home he was doing electrical work.
To be on the safe side, the hypnotherapist advised Charles to be examined by a medical specialist to be absolutely sure there was no organic cause for his ED.
The doctor confirmed that Charles' trouble was "100 per cent psychogenic," meaning that for some emotional or psychological reason, he could not maintain an erection.
Of course, the more Charles tried, and the more he worried, the more flaccid was his penis.
The hypnotherapist explained to Charles that hypnosis could be used to uncover the cause of his trouble, or to tackle the symptom, or both.
Charles, being the impatient type, and of course eager to end his humiliating experiences, opted for the "quick fix."
Over the course of three sessions of hypnotherapy, Charles relived successful love-making episodes from his younger years as a Navy "stud."
Then the therapist used a melding technique to encourage Charles to see himself (in his imagination, while hypnotized) from now on once again enjoying a full, firm erection well beyond the time needed to satisfy his partner.
Positive suggestions were also made by the hypnotherapist to Charles about his prowess, his confidence and his desirability to his wife.
For three months Charles and Kim had a wonderful sex life. Then he lost an erection just as foreplay had become hot and heavy.
Kim, hurt and disappointed, reacted with sarcasm. All Charles' fears and anxieties rushed back. He returned to the hypnotherapist.
This time Charles agreed to investigate the cause of his impotence.
The hypnotherapist used various approaches -- age regression, age progression (in which the "future" Charles was to explain how he'd conquered the problem) analogue symbolic imagery -- but nothing worked.
In a subsequent session, with Charles relaxed in hypnosis, the therapist told Charles he'd have a dream. His subconscious would provide this dream as a way, either directly or symbolically, to explain the origin of his impotence.
Three nights later Charles dreamed he was outside a factory. It was night time and the factory loomed dark and mysterious.
Charles felt a strong urge to scale the steel fence that surrounded the factory. Then he tried to find away in. All the doors were shut and padlocked. A security guard ("very scary, because he had my face," said Charles) told him to go away.
But Charles persisted in his eagerness to enter the factory. He ran from the guard, to the back of the building. Here was the loading dock. Charles saw a bulldozer there. He jumped into its cab and began to operate the controls.
The guard reappeared, feebly told Charles to get off the property, to go to his own place. In the distance, Charles could see a stately castle which he somehow knew belonged to him.
But his only interest was in the dark factory. The guard shrugged. Charles started up the bulldozer and charged the heavy machine toward the small back door of the factory.
As the bulldozer began to rumble forward, Charles awoke -- with a massive erection.
The dream puzzled Charles. But it enlightened the therapist. To him it revealed that Charles was in the grip of the Madonna/Whore complex.
This is the attitude that divides women into "good" and "bad." Thus, a man's wife and especially mother, are "good." Prostitutes, other men's wives and and women of ethnic groups other than the man's own, are "bad."
"Bad" women are exciting; "good" women are boring. Sex is forbidden with "good" women but possible with the "bad."
A man with this complex may have sex with his wife occasionally, or until she becomes a mother, or while a post-hypnotic suggestion lasts. But his heart is not in it. Neither is his penis.
However, with a "bad" woman he has no commitment, no respect. She is there to be used.
His conscience (the security guard) barely bothers him about penetrating the stranger (the dark factory) but, perversely, does prevent him enjoying "his" woman (the castle).
When Charles heard this explanation, he nodded in agreement. This was indeed his view. And that of his father, uncle and most of his friends. He had no serious interest in changing this outlook, especially since Kim had announced she was pregnant. The hypnotherapist's suggestion that Charles and Kim seek marriage counselling fell on deaf ears.
A lawyer we shall call Mathilde did seek help from a psychotherapist. She had told the referring doctor that she rarely had an orgasm. The truth was that Mathilde never had an orgasm -- with her husband.
She'd been faking it for years. But she had climaxed with previous boyfriends. Also during a two-night stand a few months ago.
Mathilde had been a speaker at a lawyers' convention a thousand miles from home. There she met Roger, a brooding electrical engineer who had been trouble-shooting the hotel's elevators.
"He was not particularly good-looking but he had these soft grey eyes,"
Mathilde confided to the therapist. She smiled. "He was brutal in bed."
Mathilde was mildly surprised to find herself telling the male therapist details she had not felt comfortable confiding to her female doctor.
There was no question of her wanting to leave the marriage. She loved her husband, had a marvellous life. All that was missing ws the joy of orgasm. It was something she yearned for.
Until she met Roger the lack of orgasms with her husband had not bothered her much. Mathilde had become used to pretending -- and to satisfying herself in secret.
The therapist faced two dilemmas: i) perhaps, despite Mathilde's conscious denials, there was some problem between her and her husband ii) the therapist usually worked with couples, not individuals, on such sexual challenges.
He decided that, given the husband was not present and would be unlikely to come to future sessions, he would work with Mathilde, and he would use hypnotherapy. If the outcome was successful, there would be no need to explore possible conflicts between husband and wife.
First the therapist explained a little about hypnosis and how it could help Mathilde. Her first session was devoted to her simply relaxing into hypnosis, and becoming familiar with how safe and peaceful it felt.
In Mathilde's second and third sessions of hypnosis the therapist suggested Mathilde silently relive an earlier experience of orgasm.
In her mind she was to take particular note of the physical and emotional feelings which allowed her to climax. When the orgasm in her imagination was over she would open her eyes, though remain in hypnosis.
Then the therapist pointed out, and Mathilde confirmed, that she had been internally very relaxed just prior to making love. And that during foreplay and intercourse, she became "lost" in the pleasure.
The therapist asked Mathilde to again close her eyes and this time to imagine herself in bed with her husband. Again she could relive the details silently, no need to tell the therapist anything, except when the imagined lovemaking was over.
When Mathilde compared the earlier experience with how she felt when making love with her husband she immediately noticed her tension.
"I am not relaxed and I don't get lost in the act." Sometimes she thought about cases she was working on and at other times she focused on making sure her husband was satisfied.
In the next part of the session the therapist first gave Mathilde suggestions that she could allow herself to relax with her husband, that she could allow herself to climax with him.
The therapist again waited silently while Mathilde played the scene through in her mind.
When she signalled (with a broad smile) that the scene had reached a successful end, the therapist closed the session with positive suggestions about Mathilde allowing herself to be relaxed, focused on pleasure and allowed to climax when making love with her husband.
And so it was.
* * *
Hypnotherapy has also been used successfully to overcome other sexual problems such as overlubrication, exhibitionism, and to uncover the reason a client became a transvestite.
Before seeking help with a sexual difficulty it is important to be sure it really is a problem. For example, a man may go to a therapist because he believes he suffers from premature ejaculation. But if the man is married to a woman who dislikes sex, indeed "wants it over with as soon as possible," that's exactly what is happening, so where's the problem?
Twenty-five years old Eugene's problem was real enough: he could not become erect. A handsome, single, bus driver, Eugene had had several medical examinations; all the doctors had concluded there was no medical cause for his impotence.
At first, hypnotherapy did not help Eugene. He became more and more despondent about his failure, scared to date and unable to sleep at night.
The hypnotherapist had used approaches one or more of which usually resolve psychogenic impotence:
> positive suggestions
> aversive therapy
> satisfying imagery
> arm rigidity.
But nothing worked.
The hypnotherapist finally decided to enlist the guidance of Eugene's subsconscious through finger signalling and direct relay of images in response to questions.
(With finger signalling -- also known as an ideodynamic technique -- a hypnotized person allows the subconscious to answer questions with predesignated fingers that represent "Yes," "No," "Don't Know," and "Not yet ready to answer").
This approach proved fruitful, although at first puzzling. Hypnotherapist: "I'm going to ask your subconscious some questions.
There's no need for you to think about the questions or the answers. Simply allow your subconscious to respond through the fingers it has selected.
You will probably feel a tingling begin in the finger that the subsconscious selects. Then it will lift as though of its own accord.
Now, I'd like to ask your subconscious if there is a purpose served by Eugene's impotence?"
[This question is often answered "yes" and subsequently leads to an explanation such as a desire to punish self or partner for some reason].
[Fimger responses are indicated with ( )].
H: "Does the cause of the problem lie in Eugene's past?"
[This response steered the hypnotherapist along the wrong path. He took no account of the literalness with which the subconscious absorbs information.
Consequently, the hypnotherapist understood the "Yes" response to mean that there was a specific event, a trauma or a message, that began Eugene's impotence. As was later revealed, the "cause in the past" referred, not to a particular event, but to an ongoing process.]
H: "Did the cause happen before Eugene was 20?"
H: "Did the cause happen before Eugene was 15?"
H: "Before 10?"
[Now the hypnotherapist, who erroneously assumes some single event happened, switches from finger responses to image responses].
H: "Okay. I'm going to ask the subconscious to present to your mind an image that is somehow connected to the problem we're dealing with."
E: "I'm in a shop. I don't know how old I am but a man picks me up. I'm very scared. He holds me to him. Someone else comes in and tells the man to put me down."
[The hypnotherapist thinks that it is possible something happened in the shop to subsequently cause Eugene to become impotent. However, further questioning reveals that Eugene sees little more than he has already reported. There appears to be no abuse, no negative messages (such as "You'll never be a man.")
The session is drawing to a close so the therapist reverts to ideomatic questioning. He decided to check the medical verdicts].
H: "Does the problem have any medical basis to it?"
E: [Long pause]. (No).
H: "Is there something physical that would help?"
H: "Is there something missing in Eugene's diet, or something he should not be eating or drinking?"
E: (Don't know/don't want to answer yet).
[Eugene snaps out of hypnosis, much to his own surprise. In previous sessions for other problems Eugene had enjoyed hypnosis so much he had been reluctant to emerge. He puts himself back into hypnosis].
H: "Okay. Our time is nearly up. I want to thank your subconscious for its help. I'm now asking it to provide you with a dream that will give you a strong indication on how to solve the problem that brought you here."
[Eugene once again snaps out of hypnosis].
H: "Wow. We're clearly close to something significant, otherwise you wouldn't come out so suddenly."
E: "I don't understand why. But while you were talking about me having a dream something floated into my mind: smoking."
H: [Incredulous]. "You smoke!"
E: "Yes, a lot."
H: "There you are. That's what your subconscious was telling us: the cause of your impotence is smoking! Have you stopped before?"
E: "Yes. For a while."
H: "And did you have erections okay then?"
E: [Thinks back]. "Yes, I did. I did."
[And the shop? Why did the subconscious throw that memory into Eugene's mind? Perhaps because the shop sold cigarettes.]