Hypnosis - My Beginning

Aug 24, 2020 by R. Chapman Wesley

I had finished a one year internship. A city-wide political and financial crisis had closed Philadelphia General Hospital, and thus my internal medicine residency program.  I had just joined the Philadelphia Public Health System, working as a primary care physician at Health District No. 6 in North Philly, as I plotted out a course that would eventually lead me to a career in cardiology.  It was about one year later that the promise of hypnosis slithered its way into my awareness.

In between patients, a wonderful Indian pediatrician sought my advice to treat her debilitating migraine headaches. I took the challenge and exhausted all the recommended treatments at that time.  Nothing worked. In a jest, I suggested that she try hypnosis. I did not know that she would. She did!

In a burst of ebullience, she came to thank me. Hypnosis had cured her. Dumbfounded, I asked how.  Threw an inquiry, she had sought the help of Dr. Lillian Fredericks, a Professor of Anesthesiology at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (HUP). Well, I decided that, if I was going to be making recommendations to doctors, much less patients, I had better know more about it.

Several weeks later, I found Dr. Fredericks to be a majestic, regal woman with an imposing, authoritative yet soothing voice, whose eyes commanded my attention. She explained that she offered an elective course in hypnosis to anesthesiology residents that was virtually, universally selected.  And that she had striven to adopt the routine use of hypnosis during pre-operative anesthesia inductions at HUP. Then she graciously asked me if I would like to take the same course. I immediately accepted. (Please see my handwritten notes on Dr. Frederick’s course outline and the enclosed reference.)

To say that that was one of the most important moments of my medical career would be a gross understatement. In a coming blog, I intend to elaborate beyond this beginning.

But I would like to close by saying that hypnosis is the most powerful, most cost effective treatment in medicine that is not being widely applied. The reasons may be multiple. But a fundamental issue may be our current lack of understanding of consciousness itself.

Think of all the things today that 500 years ago would be considered anomalous, if not impossible to comprehend, many of which became possible by unexpected advancements in widely disparate fields. Such is likely to be true when we finally realize consciousness, far beyond our current level of understanding.