I am just getting over a cold, which caught me unprepared, and which left me with lingering nasal congestion and an irritating cough.
By the contents of my bathroom medicine cabinet you might conclude that I am normally healthy, yet perhaps accident prone. Adhesive bandage strips, mercurochrome, ibuprofen and anti-bacterial ointment are the only medical supplies stocked—none of which are much help for the ailments of the common cold. I did find there an opened bag of menthol lozenges. That is the good news. The bad news is they expired two years ago. But that wasn’t enough to stop me from opening one lozenge and popping it in my mouth to get some relief. The menthol was weaker than I would have liked, but after a few minutes my nasal passages began to clear and soon I was feeling that menthol coldness in my nostrils. Success! Even though the results were temporary and soon I was reaching for another stale menthol lozenge. Those things tasted nasty and I didn’t want to be eating them all night. It occurred to me that I could use self-hypnosis to get the breathing relief I needed without the bad taste.
I decided to use a little Pavlovian conditioning during self-hypnosis to clear my sinuses. Like Pavlov’s dogs, I wanted to get a biological response—cleared nasal passageways—in response to a mental process trigger—in this case some carefully chosen cue words. This would be accomplished by forming an association between my menthol-opened airways and some cue words during self-hypnosis. Here’s how I did it:
First, I made sure that my nasal passages were as clear as possible by sucking on a few more lozenges. I wanted the menthol effect to be strong and long lasting for the session. Once that was accomplished I removed the remainder of the lozenge from my mouth before going into self-hypnosis. I made myself comfortable and put myself into self-hypnosis and gave myself the following types of suggestions and imagery repeatedly:
- Whenever I think to myself or say the words hypnotic-menthol-lozenge my body remembers clear nasal passages that I am experiencing right now.
- Whenever I think to myself or say the words hypnotic-menthol-lozenge makes my nasal passages open immediately and cool air rushes through them, just like now.
- Hypnotic-menthol-lozenge. My nasal passages open like big tunnels through a mountain, air passing in and out so easily and effortlessly.
- Hypnotic-menthol-lozenge. Open airways allowing air to flow easily and naturally through my nose.
- Hypnotic-menthol-lozenge cools, soothes my nasal passageways.
- Hypnotic-menthol-lozenge nasal passages dry as the desert, cool like the desert night.
- I do not know for how long my nasal passages will remain clear, but when I want them to open all I have to say or think to myself is hypnotic-menthol-lozenge and my body remembers to open up my nasal passages.
- I use my hypnotic-menthol-lozenge as often as I wish, and each time I say hypnotic-menthol-lozenge I get better and better at opening my nasal passages.
After the session I waited for my nose to clog again and tried the post hypnotic trigger. “Hypnotic-menthol-lozenge.” Almost immediately I could feel movement within my sinuses, but the effect was weak and incomplete. That meant that the trigger was working but that the biologic response needed to be reinforced. Remember, persistence pays off when it comes to self-hypnosis. I repeated the whole process again and got a better response, but it was still unsatisfactory. During the third attempt I reminded myself that the first session brought some relief, the second session brought even more and that I wanted complete relief. I told myself to do what was necessary to bring complete relief, and that I was relying on myself to do that. Then I went through the whole series of suggestions and imagery again while frequently reaffirming the success of the earlier sessions and how this third session would be successful. I intentionally built upon and reinforced my earlier successes. After the third session I said “hypnotic-menthol-lozenge” and my nose opened up immediately and my nasal passages became cool and tingly just like when I used the real lozenge. Relief lasts for 15-20 minutes, but I can repeat my cue as often as I like.
Unfortunately the same approach did not work for controlling my cough. A meaningful association could not be made because I did not have a way of medicinally quieting the cough. But I did find that just by becoming very quiet—almost in a meditative way—that would calm my coughing. Perhaps it is just a matter of using recall.