A hypnotherapist named Sharon Waxkirsh (originally from the UK but now based in the U.S.) has become well known for her work in the field of dentistry. There is a small percentage of the population that is allergic to the chemicals utilized for anesthesia. This group of people (as well as others who choose not to use chemical anesthesia) have utilized Sharon’s expertise to successfully undergo dental surgery (wisdom teeth removal) by utilizing hypnosis based analgesia. The reason for our interest in this specific field of hypnosis is based on continuing the conversation of “super placebos”, the analgesic effects of low level psychedelic ingestion, and the materialization of intent pertaining to physiology. We believe that these generally separately discussed topics have potential overlap in terms of mechanisms of action.
Here are the notes from our conversation with Sharon:
Are the subjects trained beforehand in terms of hypnosis and self-hypnosis audio prior to the day of the surgery or can it be done with people essentially walking in from the street?: “It’s a good question, I really prefer to be able to train the client beforehand to be able to undergo the procedure on their own. What I’m focusing on right now in my clinic is mainly self-hypnosis courses for these medical procedures. A lot of my clients that I’ve trained are now able to undergo surgical procedures without me being by their side.”
How long does it take to get someone in the proper hypnotic state to get their wisdom teeth removed?: “If I’ve trained them and explained the process to them, which generally takes about an hour, then the process can begin within a minute or so. It helps if they’ve been able to listen to MP3’s ahead of time leading up to the procedure to help get their brain on board. There’s no reason why a person cannot access a new state of mind rather quickly. For instance, if there’s a bus approaching someone crossing the street, they’ll quickly run out of the way to avoid getting injured. The same goes for hypnosis. However, if a person has fears it could take a little bit longer. What I do when I’m with someone at a dental clinic is to utilize a rapid induction and then deepen the state from there.”
How do you know if someone is deep enough to undergo the procedure?: “Great question! It’s a question that comes up a lot especially when training dentists on the procedure. My honest answer is, “I don’t”. You can only know you were in a hypnotic state once you’re finished being in that hypnotic state. For example, I had a wisdom tooth taken out in which I brought a dentist friend of mind to observe the procedure. As the procedure begin my friend and the dentist doing the extraction were chatting a lot which was distracting so I used a MP3 to remain focused and concentrate. Everything is fine and then at some point my friend says excitedly, “It’s done! It’s done!”. I’m thinking great! It brought me into a fully aware state. Prior to this I was in a fixed-focused-attention hypnotic state. The next thing I know the dentist tells me I still have to get sown up so I wasn’t done. I will tell you there is a huge difference between being in a hypnotic state and having a needle going through you gums and not being in a hypnotic state and having a needle go through your gums. I quickly focused on getting back into the hypnotic state to finish the procedure. So from an outside perspective it’s difficult to tell the difference and whether someone is deep enough but from a first-hand experience the difference is very clear.”
On whether hypnosis is being used for surgical procedures other than dentistry: “Dr. Angel Escudero has been doing very interesting work for many many years. He’s an orthopedic surgeon who utilizes a technique that he’ll deny as hypnosis because I think he’s not a hypnotist and isn’t aware of the mechanisms of hypnosis. If you understand hypnosis as fix-focused-attention, he’s doing hypnosis. All he tells his patients to do, which I think is wonderful is… “keep saliva in your mouth and you won’t feel anything”. He does huge orthopedic operations with just that suggestion. However, there is preparation involved and his entire team is all on board and part of the program. When I go back to the UK and teach an entire dental practice we work with each other so we know exactly how to behave during a procedure with the patient. It makes a big impact. I view the placebo effect as being an unbelievably powerful thing. This brings me to wonder how much the placebo effect is part of simply walking into the dental office and getting the proper “Hello”. It’s hard to tell.”
(A BBC documentary on the work of Dr. Escudero)
Have you ever had a client come out of hypnosis during a procedure and begin to feel pain?: “Other than myself? (laughing) There was a woman from Ireland that had 4 wisdom teeth removed and just prior to the procedure, the dentist turns to her and says, “I’m going to remove them in order of pain”. She looks at me and says, “Now, I’m terrified.” I’m thinking that the dentist just ruined everything but I turn to her and tell her that it might not be possible to remove the teeth in order of pain because if there is no pain felt initially then there can be no order of pain. She agreed to this but by the time the 3rd tooth was getting removed she began to panic a bit and got herself out of the hypnotic state. Luckily she had been well prepared prior to the visit and I used a rapid induction to put her back under quickly and she finished the surgery with no problems. This is why preparation and training are important parts of the process.”
On whether the depth of hypnosis for these surgical procedures could be considered somnabulism, Esdaille State, or something else altogether?: “It’s a great question but it’s tricky to answer. You can be in a state of hypnosis and have a perfectly fine conversation. It’s difficult to define the state when people are constantly shifting from state to state. This is where hypnosis becomes very challenging for the medical profession since it’s difficult to pin point and define specific states for different people in different situations.”
On whether any clients have reported experiencing a mystical or visionary experience during a medical procedure while under hypnosis?: “It’s not too common during surgery because there is a very strong focus. I have to tell you that when you’re undergoing surgery and utilizing hypnosis it takes a lot of brain power to do this. It can be exhausting. It’s not simply an experience of relaxing and dissociating. You’re intent is very strong and your focus is very targeted. Yes you’re relaxed but your mind is very focused. However, when I’ve worked with people on non-medical issues, I’ve witnessed people have many mystical states and experiences.”
On psychedelics acting as “super placebos” and hypnosis acting as a placebo amplifier: “One of my main areas of work right now is helping young adults with drug addiction. One of the ways in which I help them with this is getting them to understand that they are limiting their potential of getting even higher because they are reaching a ceiling with these drugs. The drug can only induce an experience that exists mentally at that point in time. I give them an example, such as the endogenous compound beta endorphin which is up to 30 times more potent than morphine. Why would you take morphine if you have the ability to tap into your own, more potent pharmacy located in your brain? I help these people learn to utilize their mind and own chemistry to surpass the ceiling point induced by these substances to get even higher. By understanding how to get high and create these states naturally they have no need to ingest the drugs anymore. If you’ve ever had an anesthetic injection in your mouth for dental surgery, in less than a minute you can produce the same effect simply due to the fact that your brain knows exactly what it’s like to experience that.”
On hypnosis being akin to consciously hallucinating to induce an effect?: “We have imagination in non-hypnotic states in which people end up doing profound things… but it has to start with imagination. At an even greater level when combining imagination with emotion… the effects are increased even further.”
Speaking of dramatic effects… have you had any experiences in which a patient experienced a dramatic remission of disease?: “I did a house call on a woman who was riddled with cancer a few years back. She was bed bound and looked really sick with a distinct yellowish color. I felt like I was literally sitting at somebody’s death bed at the time. The woman began to open up about her fears for the future of her family and death. I began to think about whether my role was to help her get comfortable with the death transition process or was I supposed to do something else altogether. I continued listening to her and she stated, “I”m doing all this positive thinking and it doesn’t seem to be working.” I cut her off and simply told her, “Well, positive thinking doesn’t work, positive feeling works. If you don’t feel it, it doesn’t make any difference.” We worked on accessing a state of feeling for her for the rest of the session and I went on my way. I left feeling sad about her condition. 2 years later I get a call from the same woman stating that she needed to see me as she was having some issues. I asked her if she needed me to come to her and she stated no, that she could come see me. When she arrives she says, “I’m dying, I’m dying! After you saw me last my cancer left and now it’s back again.” I told her, “I must tell you… I thought you were already dead so you’re doing really well.” She looked at me and burst out laughing saying, “Yeah you’re right!” The last thing I heard, she is still alive. So in short… yes it happens.”
On specializing in hypnosis in a dental setting: “I’m most well known for my dental hypnotherapy. I’ve done a few shows in the UK regarding this which spread the word. I also taught at Portsmouth Dental University which made me even more well known for this specific field.”
On utilizing video documentation regarding the procedures: “I’ve been very lucky for my clients who’ve allowed me to record their experiences. There are many, many more who are camera shy and opted not to be recorded. I understand them and know that it’s a very intimate experience. There was one woman who ended up having her procedure done at the same dental hospital that the Queen of England goes to. I told the dentist that I had a client who wanted to have 4 teeth extractions and a bone graft with no anesthetic. The dentist, who is very traditional looked at me and asked, “Is she mad?” Unfortunately he didn’t allow any video recording of the actual procedure. The whole experience was one of the best I’ve ever witnessed and at one point during it the dentist turns to me and asks, “Is this magic”? At some point following the extraction he needed to sew up the gums and I asked him if he needed the bleeding to stop. He looked at me like I was nuts and said, “Of course!” I turned to the patient and gave her a suggestion to stop her bleeding and it stopped immediately. He looked at me in astonishment. These types of experiences have been rather common over the years.”
On utilizing hypnosis in other clinical setting outside of dentistry: “On my YouTube channel there’s a 15 year old boy named Jessie who had his 4 wisdom teeth extracted. I met him when he was 13 as I was called in for an emergency situation at Great Allman Street Children’s Hospital in London. Somebody had heard of my work and I ended up getting the call that a teenage boy was refusing treatment. When I get there I see the poor kid on the bed very swollen as his kidneys are malfunctioning. He had been through various procedures for cancer and had decided he didn’t want to do any more. It was a situation were they needed to draw his blood in order to administer medication and if they weren’t able to do so then he would likely pass away. It was a challenging situation I had to maneuver carefully yet forcefully at the same time. We were able to get through it and at the end Jessie sat up and said, “I’m in control”. Ever since that moment he’s been able to apply himself and ended up being able to have his 4 wisdom teeth removed with no anesthetic other than hypnosis.”
On hypnosis being utilized more widely for medical and emergency situations: “It’s under used and misunderstood. Unfortunately through no fault of their own, a lot of hypnotherapists haven’t been exposed to very thorough training. I’ve been fortunate to have been trained at the ACHE and the training tends to be very good. However, there is no regulation when it comes to hypnosis which brings with it two sides. The first one is that it allows anyone to enroll in any program and claim that they are certified in hypnosis. However, the second one is that it also allows a hypnotherapist to maneuver in ways that would be off limits for formally licensed medical practitioners. In some cases this is very valuable. My ambition is to bring this to more hospitals in emergency situations. A man by the name of Dr. Dabney Ewin based out of New Orleans was an inspiration for this. He would regularly ride alongside the paramedics and help severe burn victims. He would utilize hypnosis to help the healing of severe burn victims with a much more rapid effect on healing with no scarring.”
-End of Dialogue
The field of medical hypnosis is an intriguing one to say the least. Based on digging through the literature, it seems clear that the utilization of hypnosis and hypnotic states in the realm of analgesia has been around for hundreds if not thousands of years. The advent of drug based analgesics such as chloroform changed the trajectory of mainstream medical application of hypnosis. While the chemical forms of anesthesia seem to be more quantifiable in certain regards, the history of altered state induced analgesia should not be discarded in terms of the gateway of human potential.
It seems as if though most of the medical establishment and general public are not aware of this generally easily accessed “supernormal” ability. This is not based on the obscurity of this endogenous analgesic ability but moreso the lack of utilization. One of the drawbacks of this lack of utilization is that it under exposes researchers and clinicians to this ability which could provide important implications for the field’s general understanding of physiology, neurology, and possibly consciousness. In the case of Sharon citing the ability of a person to control one’s bleeding under hypnosis, this is simply another “supernormal” ability alongside analgesia. A 1971 study published in the Polish Medical Journal observed that hypnosis combined with the suggestion of warming the skin raised the temperature 2.7 degrees Celsius and accelerated capillary blood flow by an average of 63 percent in 38 subjects. The researchers concluded, “Results suggest that hypnosis combined with autogenous training may be used as an ancillary therapeutic method in functional disturbances of blood flow to the limbs and in organic diseases requiring improvement of collateral circulation.”
A 2014 study published in the Journal of Visualized Experiments utilized EEG & fMRI to verify the neurological activity coinciding with hypnosis with the suggestion to reduce the temperature of their left hand (video of the procedure). The subjects were asked to visualize their left hand as being immersed in a cold water bath and to imagine that their left hand was growing progressively colder from fingertips to wrist. The researchers found “significant changes in the EEG power spectrum can be measured during hypnotic induction, and that hand temperature changes during the cold glove paradigm can be detected rapidly”.
The fact that humans in altered states of consciousness can successfully “hallucinate” increased or decreased blood flow as well as increased or decreased temperature of their extremities provides the gateway towards “other” abilities. One would think that if it’s relatively simple to experience success by simply dropping into a trance state and visualizing these occurrences that there is the high potentiality that there are other less known yet completely accessible abilities in the human repertoire. The foundational theory of how this might occur has to do with autonomic nervous system influence while in hypnotic states which is something that has been documented throughout the decades.
One of these lesser known abilities that seemed to have garnered substantial interest prior to the 2000’s was the ability to manipulate one’s own body morphology. A 1975 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis observed significant and sustained changes in the weight loss of 10 subjects over the course of 2 years by utilizing hypnosis. A similar study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology in 1985 with 109 subjects found similar results when comparing the weight loss of hypnotized subjects vs. non-hypnotized subjects. While weight loss is largely seen as dietary and exercise driven by the current medical establishment, the concept of a dysfunctional hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis in obese individuals which alters stress hormone release is largely overlooked. It’s no surprise that there is data to suggest that hypnosis alters HPA axis function and stress hormone secretion possibly correlating with long-term sustained weight loss.
(Table 1 from the 1975 hypnosis weight loss study)
Even less well known than the weight loss potential of hypnosis are the breast augmentation studies. In 1960, famed hypnotherapist Milton Erickson would publish a case study in the American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis of 2 adult female individuals (17 and 20 years old) who experienced breast growth following hypnosis with the suggestions for breast growth sensations. In 1969, a study was published in the Journal of the American Society of Psychosomatic Dentistry & Medicine which included 8 adult women. The results were that 7 out of 8 experienced 1 to 2.5 inches increases in breast size over the course of 2 to 4 months of hypnotherapy. At a later date the author would conduct a similar protocol but in group hypnosis sessions. The group sessions would span over 4 months consisting of a total of 12 female subjects ranging from 20 to 30 years old. The results were that 10 out of the 12 women experienced increases in breast size ranging from modest to 2 inches. It was noted that in addition to the verbal suggestions coinciding with hypnosis, visual imagery was also integrated in the protocol. The author concluded, “This research definitely proves that hypnotic suggestion can be successful in causing at least moderate breast development, considerable growth with some.”
In 1974, a study was published in the Journal of Sex Research titled, “Stimulation of Breast Growth by Hypnosis”. The experiment was designed to compare the effects of hypnosis with and without suggestions for breast growth in adult women. The total number of subjects involved was 19 women ranging from 18 to 40 years old. The study consisted of 2 phases… the first phase comprised of 3 subjects being hypnotized with suggestions for breast growth and 3 subjects being hypnotized but receiving no suggestions for breast growth. Each subject would be hypnotized for one hour once a week for 12 weeks. The second phase comprised of 13 subjects (who would act as their own controls) that had their breasts measured for the first 3 weeks to establish a baseline size with no hypnosis or breast growth suggestions. The following 12 weeks consisted of weekly hypnosis sessions (one hour in length) with suggestions for breast growth. The results found that in the first phase of the study, only the group that was hypnotized with suggestions for breast growth experienced an increase in breast size (avg. 1.6 inches). The control group of 3 experienced no increase in their breasts. The results in the second phase of the study found that the median breast size increased from an average baseline of 33.64 inches to 35.75 inches following treatment. Expired chest measurements (out breath) were taken weekly in order to verify whether increases in breast measurements were due to an enlargement of the rib cage or upper torso. It was found that there was an overall decrease in chest measurement (0.67 inch mean) in association with an increase in breast size. It was also noted that the depth of hypnosis did not appear to be a significant factor in terms of the degree with which a subject could influence breast growth. Some subjects were not able to achieve deep hypnosis but achieved greater increases in breast size than subjects who were deeply hypnotized. The researcher concluded, “Whatever the psychobiologic changes which are involved in the mechanisms associated with breast growth, it appears a reality that hypnotic suggestions can influence them to a significant degree.”
In 1977, a study was published in the American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis titled, “Hypnotic Stimulation of Breast Growth”. This experiment was undertaken in order to replicate the findings of the 1974 study cited above. In addition, the researchers wanted to verify whether the increases in breast size would remain 3 months following the cessation of treatment. Only 3 female subjects ages 23 to 27 were included in the study. Much like the studies cited above, each subject would undergo about an hour of weekly hypnosis sessions with instructions for breast growth for 12 weeks (one subject did 10 weeks for personal reasons). The results were that all 3 subjects experienced an average of 1.59 inches in breast growth. In addition, all 3 subjects experienced a decrease in their waist measurement (2 subjects decreased by 1.59 & 2.20 inches without any weight reduction). The researchers cited that the there was the possibility that the increases in breast size were temporary in nature based on the excitement phase of the female sexual response. However, the researchers conducted a follow-up examination 3 months after the treatment had finished and found that 81% of the gains in breast size were retained in addition to 52% of the reductions in waist size. The researchers concluded, “The level of success we attained using this method obviously falls short of what can be done currently with surgical methods. We do feel, however, that our results confirm the findings of Williams (1974) and that with further refinement this procedure could approach the surgical methods’ results and possibly surpass them in some respect.”
In 1977, a study was published in the American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis titled, “Breast Enlargement Through Visual Imagery and Hypnosis”. This was undertaken as a replication experiment in addition to documenting more data points throughout the process. There were 22 female volunteers ranging from 19 to 54 years of age. The subjects would have weekly in-clinic hypnosis/visualizations sessions via cassette for the first 6 weeks and every other week for the following 6 weeks. They were also instructed to practice the visual imagery and relaxation at home once a day as well as record the number of times practiced, the number of times they could obtain a feeling warmth in their breasts, and the number of times they obtained a feeling of pulsation in their breasts. There was an average of 1.37 inch growth in breast circumference, 0.67 inch in vertical measurement, and 1.01 inch in horizontal measurement. 85% of the subjects could tell that a significant enlargement in their breasts had occurred and 46% found it necessary to buy a larger bra. 28% of the women reached the goal they set at the beginning of the program and desired no further enlargement. 63% of the women had had children and complained of pendulous breasts with 100% of them being satisfied with the changes in firmness/fullness at the end of the program. 42% of the women experienced spontaneous weight loss greater than 4 pounds and still had an enlargement of their breasts. An interesting add-on was that 78% of the subjects reported other positive changes in their lives such as improved golf games, better bowling scores, etc. Based on statistical analysis, there was no direct or indirect correlation between the number of times practiced and the number of pulsation/warmth sensations and the amount of increase in breast size. Instead the researcher found that subjects who were able to obtain visual imagery quickly, easily, and consistently had the greatest increase in the mass or size of their breasts. It was noted that only 2 subjects felt that there had been no significant increase in their breasts although there was a measurable increase in their breasts size. These 2 subjects also reported difficulty in obtaining visualizations. The researcher concluded, “This preliminary report shows that through hypnosis and visual imagery, the size of an organ can be affected and, specifically in this experiment, can be enlarged.”
In 1979, the author of the 1974 study (Dr. James Williams) would conduct a follow up study published in the Journal of American Society of Psychosomatic Dentistry and Medicine titled, “Physiology of Induced Breast Growth”. The purpose of this study was to verify whether changes in hormonal circulatory levels coincided with changes in physiology (breast growth) from hypnotic suggestions compared to subjects who received no hypnotic suggestions. The researcher would attempt to measure estrogen fluctuations by analyzing urine samples. The study would include 18 women ranging in ages from 19 to 35. The treatment period would take place over 24 weeks in which the subjects would switch from control group to the experimental group. The post-treatment results revealed that all subjects in the experimental group experienced increases in breast size ranging from 0.92 to 3.50 inches with a mean increase of 2 inches. There was no significant increase in urinary estrogen levels when comparing the experimental group to the controls. Dr. Williams concluded, “The evidence indicates that the individual is able to influence specific functions of his own body through induced emotional states. However, unless further investigation can validate an increase in the circulatory levels of the estrogen hormones associated with induced breast growth, one must suspect a heightened tissue susceptibility to hormonal action to be the determining factor in induced breast growth.”
It seems clear that a combination of hypnosis (altered states) and visualization (conscious hallucinations) can effect human physiology in manners that are not quite well understood. While the topics of weight loss, temperature alterations, and breast growth are generally interesting, the implications for these mechanisms in terms of optimizing one’s health, eradicating disease, and potentially increasing longevity are inherently important areas of exploration in 2019 and beyond. While exogenous psychedelics might act as “super placebos” in certain regards, it is the ability of humans to act as their own “placebo amplifiers” by accessing these states that intrigues me. While it’s clear that the human body produces psychedelics such as DMT, 5-MEO-DMT, and Bufotenin, the role that these compounds play internally in terms of making visualizations aka conscious hallucinations “come to life” is the next frontier of biological research. There are many theories that abound in terms of how these transpirations occur from default mode network (DMN) restructuring to autonomic nervous system pathway development to region specific release of a specific cluster of biochemicals to morphogenetic field influence. Some researchers include a dynamic complex combination of all of these theories acting synchronously to induce the end effect. The main point in this discussion is that if it’s been consistently documented in the past and present that humans can effect their physiology rather drastically by altering one’s perception of consciousness, the future of healthcare (both mental/physical) and humanity need to be entrenched in this field of exploration.
DMT Quest is a non-profit 501(c)3 dedicated to raising awareness and funds for endogenous DMT Research. This specific field of psychedelic research has been underfunded for many decades now. It’s time to take our understanding of human physiology, abilities, and perception to the next level. E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any comments or questions. You can also follow us at Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.