The forensic interview of an auto accident victim, held in my office this week, allowed us to recover once again the missing information needed to proceed with the claim. Until the session, the accident victim had been unable to remember the license plate and identifying details of the car following him, whose driver had witnessed the accident.
In a single session, bringing the auto-accident victim back to the day of the collision, we are able to go through the unfolding of the events, exactly as they took place.
Proceeding from the moment our subject left his office, we experience the sounds, scents, temperature he noticed around him as his day unfolded. His facial features soften as he leaves the cool air conditioned environment of his office to step into the warm summer breeze outside.
Moving to the moment of the collision, our subject relays the sequence of events: “The light turns green. A truck is cutting in front of me! There is so much noise! His muffler is so loud! He’s going to hit me!” Proceeding through the events enables us to review every sight, sound, detail and information needed for the claim as if we were looking at a videotape recording.
Glancing at his rear view mirror, our subject notices it has been shifted by the impact. Once he readjusts it, he notices the car behind him, whose driver witnessed the accident. This clear image in his mind gives us all the information we need on the driver, his car and an almost complete license plate.
Have you ever wondered why our memory often fails us when it need it most?
We have all experienced the moment when, in the middle of a conversation, we try to convey the name of a person that seems to remain at the tip of our tongue and maddeningly just out of our reach. The harder we try to remember, the more the data escapes us. Yet, the minute we walk away, the information often comes flooding back to our conscious awareness. We see this when we try to find an object we misplaced as well. The harder we try to remember where we last placed it, the more elusive the memory becomes. Only when we give up does the memory finally float back up to the surface of our mind.
There is a physiological explanation for this. As we stress, tense and intensify our efforts, our body restricts internally. Our muscles, tendons, tissues squeeze under the mental, physical or emotional pressure. Blood vessels constrict, thereby restricting blood flow to the brain. When we are under stress, cortisol levels increase. Cortisol is a steroid hormone produced by the brain and released in the body under stress, fear, tension, anxiety. Intially, in our Neanderthal times, this psycho-physiological response enabled us to bolt and run, giving us our best chance to escape predators or imminent danger. In our day and age, we produce high levels of cortisol in response to various non-life-threatening stressors and tend to function for long periods of times under sustained stress.
High levels of cortisol produce all of the things we don’t want: accelerated aging, aches and pains in the body, immune system deficiency and yes, mental deficiency as well. As a friend and colleague stated recently, while on stage during a presentation in his capacity as Adjunct Professor of Psychology: “Basically, the more stressed we are, the stupider we become.”
The process of hypnosis allows us to reverse the effects of stress on the body and mind. In the state of hypnosis, as the entire body soften, our flesh, tissues, tendons and muscles finally relax. Blood vessels loosen up. Our blood is able to resume flowing easily, fluidly and effortlessly through our entire system, flooding the brain with vital oxygen, essential for proper functioning, and nourishing our internal organs with nutrients. Our immune system is boosted. Most importantly in the matter of data recovery, our clarity of mind is vastly enhanced.
According to Senior Special Agent John Kilnapp of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, hypnosis may be the only way to recover the details of a traumatic event crime victims blocked out of their mind. Electroencephalogram and functional MRI studies of the brain before, during and after hypnosis demonstrate the chemical and hormonal changes taking place in the brain during hypnosis. As cortisol levels drop significantly, they are replaced by a boost in endorphins, dopamine and norepinephrins. This produces enhanced focus and attention, higher levels of mental clarity, better brain functioning and superior memory capabilities.
This is why we are consistently able to recover key missing information when we place victims or witnesses of traumatic events in this profoundly restorative state. Hypnosis is an ideal state for synthetic thought and creativity, functions of the right brain hemisphere. The state places us in an optimal condition to remember facts and data, memorize languages, analyze complex situations, all of which in a state of profoundly restorative calm.
In addition to enabling the recovery of determining information, hypnosis allows us to address the secondary effects left behind by trauma, enabling us to restore the emotional balance, stability and peace of mind of those we work with.