Although he was less than half my age there wasn’t much Tom* didn’t seem to have done – bungee jumping, white water rafting, tandem skydiving. So it was as much a surprise to him as to me that he was sat in front of me because his travelling had come to an abrupt halt. Tom had come to see me for hypnotherapy for travel sickness.
“I just can’t bear to travel”, he told me. “It doesn’t matter whether it’s a plane, a boat, or a car – after a few minutes I’m feeling nauseous, and not long after that I’m being violently sick.”
“I used to love travelling. I’ve got a tiny two-seater plane to the middle of nowhere and then sat in the back of a pick-up truck to go into the mountains. I’ve gone over rapids in a dinghy and swung across a ravine on a plastic seat. But now I can’t even get a bus into town without throwing up.”
“I’ve tried facing forward looking at the horizon, and that helped a bit but not enough, and it’s not as if I can do that on a train or a plane. About the only thing that works is if I drive, but that’s not really an answer either. Do you think you can help me?”
Travel sickness is caused by conflicting signals reaching our brain. When we are moving the tiny hairs in our ears (called cilia) move, and sometimes in a way that says we should be on our sides, or moving differently to the way we are. Our eyes though are sending us conflicting signals, that we’re moving differently or not even moving at all if we’re on a plane or train.
That’s why facing forward looking at the horizon can help, because it’s a visual confirmation that we are moving. But as Tom pointed out you can’t do that easily on a plane or a train. And driving works because you’re in control and more able to predict the motion. But again, as Tom pointed out as well, that isn’t a long-term answer either.
What he needed to do was something very different – to reset how his subconscious interpreted those conflicting signals. That’s why hypnotherapy for travel sickness can be so effective, because it allows us to access and talk directly to the subconscious.
I started by teaching Tom a simple technique to manage the anxiety he felt about travelling. Imagining a slider on his arm that showed his subconscious rate of comfort I taught him to control his feeling. Tom was soon learning to feel comfortable in situations that had been making him anxious.
I sent him away to practice this after his first session, and when he returned he was much more in charge of how he felt. Importantly he was also much better at communicating with and controlling his subconscious. This made the second part of the treatment much easier.
Getting Tom deeply relaxed we explained to his subconscious what was happening, and that it was trying to keep track of too much. From now on it could ignore the signals from the ears and concentrate on what they eyes were telling it. I reassured it that it was completely safe and reminded it that it had been safe before when Tom didn’t have travel sickness.
I sent him home with the recording of his session and caught up with him a couple of weeks later. “Sorry for not getting back to you before”, he texted me, “but I’m island hopping round Greece on boats and buses, and the only time I’ve felt sick it was from the ouzo”. I might be able to help with hypnotherapy for travel sickness, but even I can’t help with ouzo.
*Tom is happy to share their story, and their identity has been protected
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