Alchemical Hypnotherapy

By Roger N. Paradis, MA
published in "Spirit of Change Magazine" July/August 1996

Alchemical Hypnotherapy is a system of therapy which blends psychosynthesis, gestalt techniques, and hypnosis under the theoretical umbrella of Jungian psychology. Developed in the 1970s by David Quigley, alchemical hypnotherapy combines the use of insight, emotional release, and emotional clearing to help find and transform any imagery which may be causing pain or difficulty. The term "alchemical" refers to "alchemy" and metaphorically represents transformation. Just as the medieval alchemists worked at changing base metals to gold, alchemical hypnotherapy helps to change the lead-like patterns of an individual to the gold of individuation.

Many people think of hypnosis as a deep trance state in which the subject becomes unconscious and is so open to suggestion that he or she comes under the control of the hypnotist. The hypnotist is often seen as someone who magically gains control of the subject's will with his or her own will. This image of hypnosis is a false stereotypical image born from fairy tales, Hollywood, and what appears to occur in stage acts. In reality, people experience hypnotic states regularly without realizing it. When someone becomes involved in reading a good story, doing art work, or something which fully engages their attention, they are not as aware of what is happening around them, and time can seem to pass very quickly. This is a hypnotic state. When someone is watching a movie and begins to cry at a touching scene, or "jumps" when a character is unexpectedly attacked, they are experiencing a hypnotic state. When someone is engaged in a thought while driving on a highway and drives by their intended exit, this is a state of hypnosis. Hypnosis is a naturally occurring state of consciousness that people experience on a regular basis.

The hypnotic state is generally a state of focused attention in which the "analyzer" and "critical factors" of an individual are temporarily relaxed. With the filters down, individuals open to the imagery of their inner worlds as well as to suggestions from the outer world. This is the level of trance used in alchemical hypnotherapy. The client remains conscious, aware, in control, and yet is able to experience vivid imagery. This method of hypnosis allows the client and practitioner to maintain an interactive dialogue throughout the session. It is through this dialogue that the client is guided and encouraged to work with any attending or emerging imagery.

The approach used in alchemical hypnotherapy is one which respects the process operating in each one of us that somehow knows what we need to change, learn, and develop. Rather than have the therapist decide what is best for the client, the alchemical hypnotherapist works to access the client's own process, and then follows it. Following this process can lead anywhere from events in early childhood to past lives, to the higher transpersonal regions of the psyche.

Our perceptions of the past are carried in memory as imagery. We cannot go back and change our historical past but we can change the content of the images that carry it. The imagery of emotionally charged events of the past can be the source of emotional charge in the present, and it is a basic premise of alchemical hypnotherapy that unless the imagery itself is transformed, the simple release of emotional build-up may be only a temporary solution.

The goals of a typical alchemical hypnotherapy session are to: 1) locate the memory and imagery behind an issue and release the emotion associated with that imagery, 2) restructure the imagery, and 3) access or create an internal resource which is then anchored to the outer world through post hypnotic suggestion.

Alchemical hypnotherapy sessions use one or more of six techniques which are referred to as: "Etheric Plane Communication", "Running and Changing Incidents", "Rescuing the Inner Child", "Inner Guide Work", "Past Life Regression", and "Conference Room".

The first four techniques are fundamental to creating an internal resource state known as the "inner family" which is considered to be the foundation work in the alchemical process. The purpose of the inner family is to provide the emotional security needed by every person whose external family did an inadequate job of childhood nurturing. Building the inner family results in the ability to love oneself and is the core of therapy when working with adult children of alcoholics or anyone who grew up in a dysfunctional family.

In "Etheric Plane Communication" the therapist, after inducing trance, asks the client if there is anyone with whom he or she wishes to speak to at this time. The client is told that it is not necessary to see the particular person, only to feel their presence. The client is then asked to speak out loud to the individual and say whatever they feel needs to be said. Time is subsequently allowed for an imaginal response. The therapist helps keep the dialogue moving until the communication is complete while at the same time encouraging the full and free expression of all the client's feelings and the release of any emotional charge that may surface.

"Running and Changing Incidents" is a method that helps clear the emotional charges of past events. The client goes back to a traumatic or difficult event from their past, expresses whatever feelings are associated with that event, and then mentally rescripts the event itself. This is followed by the subsequent experiencing of the changed event and the anchoring of the new feelings into the client's life.

"Rescuing the Inner Child" requires the client's discovery of the inner child and ability to "become" that inner child in order to express the child's feelings. In alchemical hypnotherapy, the child that needs to be rescued is the metaphorical representation of the part of us that carries the trauma, pain, and disappointment of childhood. As such, the child becomes the guide to early trauma and pain. Once the traumatic or difficult event is found, there is a running and changing of the event in which the child is rescued. Ideally the rescue is performed by the "adult" part of the client who then becomes the protector or "parent" to the inner child. The purpose of the rescue is to clear the emotional charge of the past event, to empower the client with a new experience, and to help the client become aware of her or his special emotional needs and to establish a method to meet those needs from within rather than depending on outside support. Learning to meet one's needs from within rather than relying on outside support is what is meant by internal resource.

"Inner Guide Work" involves finding and working with guides in the inner world. Inner guides lead the client to positive resource states which may have been forgotten or never experienced in external reality. The inner child, for example, is a guide that can lead us not only to our early psychic wounds, but also to our instincts, emotions, intuitions, spontaneity, playfulness, creativity, and sense of magic. Other inner guides include inner parents, inner brothers or sisters, the inner mate, the adult self, the higher self, the future self, inner animals, inner healers, teachers, past life personalities, nature spirits, and so on.

"Past Life Regression" in alchemical hypnotherapy is used for four reasons: clearing trauma, contacting resource states, atoning for overt acts, and locating and changing hidden agreements (contract work). When a client regresses to a past life scenario, clearing is accomplished using the usual alchemical techniques of etheric plane communication, running and changing incidents, rescuing the past life personality, and inner guide work.

"Conference Room" therapy is both the most powerful and the most complex tool in alchemical hypnotherapy. As an advanced form of "subpersonality work," it utilizes all of the alchemical techniques. We are all capable of experiencing a wide range of emotions, thoughts, and desires, which can and often do conflict with each other producing internal chaos over certain issues. The purpose of conference room is to create order from that chaos and acquire some clear direction. This is achieved by evoking, listening to, negotiating alliances among, and re-educating many of the various "subpersonalities" within an individual. It is not uncommon to have ten or twelve subpersonalities show up at a "conference room" to hold debate on a client's issue.

There are many benefits to be gained from alchemical hypnotherapy. These include self empowerment and the ability to manage one's inner world. Because alchemical hypnotherapy uses conscious participation and recollection of the trance experience, the sessions become learning experiences which can be applied in daily life. It does not take long to build powerful and effective inner resource states that can be tapped into and strengthened through their day to day application.