Henry was diagnosed with “essential hypertension” in his late teens. Now a dad in his forties and a hospital consultant, Henry still had high blood pressure for which he was taking medication. He called me when he had to have a medical for an insurance policy and couldn’t delay the examination any longer. He knew he was going to pass everything except the blood pressure, which he knew he would fail.
Henry also performs with an amateur dramatics society but suffered performance anxiety.
He arrived 20 minutes early for his first session. During the case history he was very analytical. Was it necessary to know his wife’s name? What difference did it make if there was any history of diabetes in his family? It became apparent that he was putting up with what he felt were tiresome irrelevancies, only because he so desperately needed to pass his physical. Of course, this was telling me a lot about what made Henry zing.
When we moved to the couch he produced his portable blood pressure monitor and asked if he could wear it through the session. We took a baseline reading of 132/94. He needed his diastolic value (the lower one) to be below 90 to pass the exam. At the end of the session he was 135/95.
I did a lot of thinking about Henry before the second session. This man did not just have ‘essential’ hypertension, he was completely obsessed with it. I had spent an hour talking about something he was already fixated on, and it had just made it worse.
At the beginning of the next session I told him I thought ‘essential’ was a silly thing to call anything so pointless and that, in future, if I mentioned it at all I would be talking about pointless hypertension. We started at 134/94.
I did the whole session without going near his heart, veins or arteries. I worked on his performance anxiety. I didn’t mention blood or pressure once. 132/92 was the reading at the end.
I saw him next, three weeks later. Again I did nothing about his heart and just worked on his performance anxiety. At the end, he tested. 122/78. That’s right. 122/78. Henry was sure of a monitor malfunction. He tried three times and got 122/78 three times.
At his medical, he had three tests, and three normal results. Passed. His GP suggested coming of his medication.
The next week I saw Henry’s daughter for exam nerves.
Barbara had a problem with exams. She was fine in the run-up to an exam and ok when she started, but as soon as her knowledge stopped flowing and she had to go looking for information, her brain would flood. She would get so much data teeming through her head, which she couldn’t make sense of, that she would not be able to read the questions any more. She had been through a variety of educational institutions and had some exams in isolation with just an invigilator. Nothing helped.
She did no GCSEs, whatsoever. None.
Henry sent Barbara to me a few weeks before her first A-level exam. In the first session I was top of Top Twenty Daft Things Dad Has Made Me Do To Stop My Brain Flooding. She really didn’t want to see me.
I saw her twice before her first two papers, and then once again before the rest of them.
Barbara wanted to join the Navy, and needed two Bs and a C. Coincidentally, she got two Bs and a C. No GCSEs. Three sessions of clinical hypnotism. Two Bs and a C at A-level. Result!