Home PageBlogExhaling Toxic Feelings

By Beatriz Pol, Msc. Psicoterapia Positiva

Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes, 14 seconds

I recently had a short but effective experience with Dr. Greenleaf that impacted me both personally and professionally.

At the end of a workshop on hypnotherapy, I asked Dr. Greenleaf if he could help relieve my symptoms of allergic rhinitis with hypnotherapy. This condition caused me a lot of discomfort because I could not breathe freely during the workshop exercises. He kindly told me that he did not have enough time for a full session, but he did offer some suggestions.

He began by calmly saying that because of global warming and climate change, respiratory illnesses are now more prevalent. Air pollution has increased, and air conditioners worsen allergic rhinitis because the recycled air is full of allergens. He also said there are more people on the planet, often concentrated in one place, which, of course, means more bacteria. And finally, he reminded me that the university where the workshop was held had been recently fumigated.

Dr. Greenleaf continued looking into my eyes and talking in a gentle manner. He said: “I can imagine how you must feel. It must be hard to breathe with your thin nose blocked. I’ve felt bad even when my big nose was blocked. My wife has respiratory problems, and if she were in this environment she would be sent to emergency services.”

His empathy and compassion were important and made me feel understood. And, of course, his logical explanation as to why I was experiencing rhinitis also helped because I am a logical, pragmatic person.

Then, Dr. Greenleaf gave me an auto-hypnotic exercise. He instructed me to relax and visualize a place where the air is the purest in the world. I was to inhale pure oxygen and exhale all the toxins from my body, but the latter was most important.

And that was it. I thanked Dr. Greenleaf and told him that I believed my rhinitis was related to my granddaughter’s frequent colds and allergies. One colleague had told me that rhinitis was a “silent cry” when you cannot directly express your feelings. Perhaps I expressed my suffering about my granddaughter’s situation by experiencing rhinitis. But Dr. Greenleaf disagreed. He said, “No, it is not psychological, it is physical, and when this weather passes, the rhinitis will pass too. Do your exercises inhaling pure air and exhaling toxins and you will feel better.”

Later, I had the opportunity to practice the exercises in an interesting way. I have a patient who also has rhinitis. When she came to my office, we both were in the same situation. I told her about my experience with Dr. Greenleaf and asked her to do the visualization. I invited her to go into trance, instructing her to relax her body and visualize a beautiful place where the air is the purest in the world. I said: “Inhale the pure air full of oxygen. And now, exhale all the toxins from your body and your life…slowly.” I suggested this several times until we were both inhaling and exhaling together. Finally, I said: “Now, slowly, you will open your eyes knowing that you can handle your rhinitis with this exercise when you need it, and it is going to pass soon when the weather changes.” When we finished the exercise, we were both relaxed and breathing freely.

It is important to note that my patient came to therapy believing that her rhinitis was related to traumatic events, and symptoms were triggered when something made her remember those events. My hope is that I offered her a new perspective so that she can separate her allergy from the trauma, as I did with my granddaughter.

Due to my experience with Dr. Greenleaf, I hope that I will be more assertive when I discuss this topic with my own family.


This excerpt has been extracted from Volume 38, Issue No. 2 of The Milton H. Erickson Foundation Newsletter.

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