Professor Alexander Erskine - A Hypnotist’s Case Book – Curing addictions to drugs and drink
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
A Hypnotist’s Case Book – Professor Alexander Erskine
IN October 1930 a great deal of public attention was given to an utterance of Dr. W. Brown, psychotherapist to King's College Hospital, London. He was speaking at the Church Congress, and in the course of his address (I quote from the News-Chronicle of that year), said:
We must not be too ready to believe that modern medical science has the truth in general in regard to health and disease. Many patients ask to be hypnotized. It is only in special cases that hypnotism is used, and never without the consent of the patient. The sort of cases where hypnotism is justified are cases of drug addiction, alcoholism, and certain perversion of the instincts.
The announcement was received with a certain amount of incredulity in some quarters, and with wonder in others.
But those who have followed me in this book so far will realize that the cure of the drug or drink habit is nothing more than another manifestation of the working of the sub-conscious mind. Such cures are in no way different from those of paralysis or blindness which I have already given.
The subconscious, restored to its proper sphere in a man's life, will achieve changes in his outlook on life, in his habits and his modes of living, in his character and personality, just as surely as it will achieve the more spectacular victories over disability.
A little thought will make the matter still more clear. The breaking of the habit of drug-taking or of smoking or of drinking is, after all, merely a matter of will. I mean that anyone can refrain from taking a drug or a drink, or lighting a cigarette. To refrain is a negative act. It may be difficult; it may bring in its wake all sort of physical reactions which, in their accumulation, make the sub-sequent craving so unbearable that a complete physical collapse may result. But nevertheless the act of refraining is negative.
The act of willing a cure of, say, paralysis, on the other hand, is definitely positive. One has not to cease from doing a certain thing; one has to overcome an inhibition in order to achieve something else. And as I have pointed out, we cannot fool the subconscious. Will power, sheer and dominant, alone suffices. There must be no faltering, no doubt, no half-heartedness.
It follows, therefore, that hypnosis is an invaluable aid in overcoming drink, drug, smoking or other habits, for such victories are not instantaneous. They are only achieved over periods of time, and they are achieved to an even greater extent than physical cures by the patient himself.
- If the patient has the will to be cured, his cure follows automatically, and is attended by none of the gradual breaking-down processes inseparable from the ordinary medical- treatments of drink and drug addicts.
Medically, it is generally found that a man must be weaned gradually from drink and drugs. Reaction too often sets in. The nerves, pampered and weakened from prolonged surrender, exact their toll when their desires are no longer granted. Nervous breakdown in any one of a hundred guises supervenes. Mentally and physically the wreck is complete.
It is in such cases that hypnosis scores. There are few addicts, even the worst, who at one time or another do not make up their poor minds to reform. Their good intentions may not last more than an hour or so ; but let them be taken in hand in that hour, and a cure can almost be guaranteed.
A man cannot be hypnotized against his will. But when in the reformation mood a man can be put to sleep, and the will to reform can be strengthened and perpetuated.
A bright outlook is substituted for the morbid. The rest is easy.
Physically, hypnosis can help. The greatest enemy, as I have stated, from which a drug or drink addict suffers is the revolt of the nerves and the incessant, insatiable craving which ensues upon the cutting off or diminishing of the supply.
But this craving is mental, or at least functional, and in a state of hypnotic sleep can be removed by the mere power of suggestion. Drink and drug cures by hypnosis, therefore, suffer none of the distressing symptoms associated with other cures. The will to drink, or take drugs, is abolished by suggestion. It never recurs.
As suggestion in hypnotic sleep can be used to banish existing physical disability, so can it be used to obviate a possible future disability or physical reaction following a given line of conduct.
Indeed, I have found that not only can the will to drink be abolished by suggestion, but that, even in extreme cases, suggestion can also banish physical reaction.
Another important point-and I do not know that it applies to any other drink or drug cure known to man- is that drink or drug need not be cut off forthwith, but that they may be taken in moderation without fear of a return of the old vice.
The reason is quite simple - it is the will which is at work, a will which says, "You shall not drink to excess," or, "You shall not drink at all." And the will, properly adjusted, is paramount.
It is difficult to speak of the permanence of such cures by hypnosis ; one loses touch with patients. Some whom I cured and with whom I kept in touch for two or three years after their last treatment I have not heard of for some time ; others have been cured at too recent a date for me to bring them forward as permanent cures, though I am satisfied in my own mind that they are. It is, moreover, necessary to be doubly careful in the case of drug and drink addicts.
Medical experience is to the effect that cures-wear off. My own experience-and I have had many hundred cases through my hands - is to the effect that hypnotic treatment is permanent. In all those cases with which I have been able to keep in touch, the cure has remained, even after many years. But I have lost touch with many patients.
Some may have slipped back. I do not know. All I can say is that I have never met one.