A Jarful of Allergies

Imagine that the histamines triggered by your allergy are all stored in a glass jar. How big is the jar? What shape is it? What do the histamines look like? Are they in powder or liquid form? Do they look like small creatures, or maybe like a fog? How full is the jar? And how empty would you like it to be? Remember that your body can produce more of these substances whenever you need them. If you’d like the jar to be completely empty, take it to a place where you can tip out the histamines. Notice the movements of your hands while you are emptying the jar. Whenever you make a similar movement, you’ll remember – either consciously or unconsciously – how you tipped out the histamines. And every time you remember, you’ll feel safer and safer, and you’ll know for sure; I used to need my allergy, but I don’t any more.

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“A Jarful of Allergies” outlines a method of metaphorically instructing the body to cure an allergy.

The story is inspired by the story of an eleven-year-old girl who had learned self-hypnosis reported by Karen Olnes and Dan Kohen. The girl once asked, “Can hypnosis also help with hay fever?” The immune response which causes hay fever was then explained to her in medical terms. “She gave the very logical response, ‘So I need to hypnotise myself to keep the histamines in the mast cells and not allow them into the bloodstream?” Somewhat surprised by this matterof-fact analysis, I [the doctor treating her] agreed. She thanked me and left. Several months later, Sarah’s mother told me that her daughter’s symptoms of hay fever were mild despite the high pollen count, and that the swelling of her eyes and mucous membranes was so minor that she no longer needed any medication.” (Olness & Kohen 2001,266f.)

The end oft he story uses a quote of the hypnotherapist Maria Freund. Freund writes, “A few years ago I suffered from a severe allergy to early blossoming trees. The solution I found was to start taking a naturopathic remedy before the trees came into blossom, and at the same time to repeat the following sentence to myself like a mantra whenever I was outside, and in particular when I passed trees in blossom; ‘I used to need hay fever, but I don’t any more.’ It really worked, and after a while I only needed the sentence and could stop taking the naturopathic remedy. I didn’t experience any further symptoms in following years, and if I ever do feel a trace of anxiety again when I look at trees in blossom, I repeat the sentence to myself a few times in my head.” (E-mail message, 2008).Further stories and narrative interventions on allergies can be found in Hammel 2011, 70ff., Hammel, 2014, 80ff., 169ff., Hammel, 2016, 39, 43, 47ff., Hammel, 2017, 120f.

(From: Stefan Hammel: Handbook of Therapeutic Storytelling. Sories and Metaphors in Psychotherapy, Child and Family Therapy, Medical Treatment, Coaching and Supervision, Routledge 2019)

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