The story “Of Pain and Lice” illustrates how hypnotic anaesthesia can be prevented. We activate and reinforce anything we address and request, whether pleasant or unpleasant, and the only logical purpose of asking for something we do not want is therefore to pick up on an experience we have already had and turn it into something different and positive. What patients refer to as “distracting themselves” and “thinking about something else” can be a very effective form of anaesthesia, and their efforts can be promoted by the medical and care staff who engage in small talk with them.
I waited in the doctor’s office and wondered how I could distract myself from the treatment I was about to undergo by focusing my attention on something else. The doctor came in, greeted me and started the procedure. “Does that hurt?” he asked. He could have achieved a similar but more pleasant result if he had said, “The patient before you had lice. I hope you’re not feeling itchy?”