13 Ways Hypnosis Can Help Transgender Clients
The scope of issues that transgender individuals (and their loved ones) encounter is both broad and intense.
Because of the nature of transgender identity itself there are a myriad additional considerations and stressors at play within trans people. Layer on top of that the social and political questions, issues, stressors and difficulties, not to mention the usual variety of questions, soul-searching and exploration associated with growing up, and it is clear: being transgender requires an extraordinary wealth of strength of character, perseverance, and unusual insight. And the sad reality is that too many don’t make it.
I grew up non-conforming but cisgender. I always understood my “difference” as a rejection of a social norm, but never gender identification. I don’t assume to know the transgender experience. I say this up front only to be honest about where I come from: I am not transgender myself, though I have deep sympathies for anyone struggling with individuals and groups struggling to refashion “identity” as individual, varied, beautiful and inclusive. I was brought into the Community by one of my children – we wanted to support her and realized we needed help and new perspective to do that. It has been quite a journey, and we’ve only begun, but I am so glad to have had my eyes and heart opened to this community.
And I want to help. Hypnosis is what I do, so naturally, I suppose, I bring my strengths to the table.
First of all, transgender people are people, of course. Hypnosis is valuable for everyone in helping with stress, confidence, overcoming negative habits or beliefs or patterns, fears or phobias, weight loss, quitting smoking or other addictive behaviors, forgiveness, understanding younger experiences, sleeping better, and so on. These are issues that most people face to one degree or another, and hypnosis has proven successful in helping eliminate or manage these.
There are, however, many more issues that, while possible in the general population, are particularly prevalent among transgendered individuals, and for which hypnosis is powerfully effective. These include working with body image (not just dealing with dysmorphia, but also mentally and emotionally embracing the desired body image), pain management, forgiveness and healing, and letting go of past experiences and limiting beliefs that continue to restrict one’s growth.
“Self-sabotage” is another common issue – and one way hypnosis can help is to bring to light how it isn’t “sabotage” but actually one part of the self protecting the whole the only way it knows how. If we can honor that intent, then we can work toward absorbing those goals into behavior that is beneficial to the whole person.
Dealing with conflicting or negative feelings is a common concern for transgender individuals that can be helped extraordinarily through hypnosis. A good hypnotist or hypnotherapist can teach a client what feelings are for, recognizing that all feelings are good if they are based on accurate perceptions. What do our feelings – even the “bad” ones – tell us? A good hypnotist, especially when they have some training in life or wellness coaching, helps the client understand and respond to their feelings in healthy, satisfying ways.
Incorporating one’s identity into other areas of one’s life is often a concern among my transgender clients. This is easy for hypnosis, because the individual is already half-way there to making these changes – they have conscious buy-in, unconscious (physical) motivation and subconscious experiences already. With hypnosis, the individual is able to complete the “re-programming” to have the subconscious resources aligned with the conscious mindset and body’s needs.
Self-respect and self-love are complicated and messy topics for everyone. But because of the mixed messages and experiences a transgender individual receives, this can be even more so. Part of this concern is also the ability to allow oneself to feel genuine joy. When we are living with integrity and are at peace with who we are, we can allow moments and connections to blossom, opening ourselves and being vulnerable to joy. Hypnosis can help transgender people be more grounded and open to profound joy.
“Secondary gains” is a psychological term for “silver linings,” those small, hidden benefits that come with a bad situation or circumstance. Perhaps it is the attention, or the permission to focus on oneself, or the thrill, or the supportive community… whatever “it” is, sometimes the prospect of losing those “benefits” can slow our progress. Hypnosis is excellent at identifying and negotiating secondary gains, and helping individuals become consciously aware of the dynamics of their growth, and be able to choose wholeness and health.
Anger is a problem with most people. Anger comes about when we witness something we believe is unfair. Transgender people have a lot to be angry about. Anger is good – it motivates us to make things fair. Hypnosis is at its best when helping us gain perspective on our anger: what is it based on or responding to? How do we respond meaningfully and satisfactorily to the situation? How do we make it fair? And if we can’t make it fair, how do we move beyond this (useless) anger?
Anger has a twin, and that is guilt – which is really anger at oneself. Guilt results from believing that we have acted unfairly, unwisely, poorly, when we did or failed to do something. It is anger turned in on ourselves. Hypnosis can give valuable perspective on this: is this based on accurate perceptions or possibly mistaken ones? If it is accurate, how do we make fair? If we can’t make fair – the circumstance is in the past, the other party is dead, whatever – what can we do with this guilt so we can learn and move on in healthy ways?
Rejection is a perennial and troubling phenomenon. I don't like the term "rejection-proofing," because hypnosis can't (and shouldn't) make us oblivious to the hurtful words, attitudes and actions of others. But hypnosis can help properly contextualize the behavior of others and build up resilience against negativity that is rooted in ignorance and fear.
Hypnosis helps transgender people step into their brilliance as human beings. It helps them re-write their stories; helps loving/living through past difficulties or confusion.
None of these issues are exclusive to the transgender community. I wouldn’t have to rewrite much beyond the title for this article to be about weight-loss clients, or any client at all. But I have found these issues to be rich with possibilities for transgender individuals in hypnosis, and for the loved-ones supporting a transgender child, parent or close friend.
Find a hypnotist or hypnotherapist you trust and talk with them about the possibility of working on any of these issues. (I discuss some things you should look for in a professional hypnotist/hypnotherapist here.) If you are a hypnotist or hypnotherapist needing some introductory guidance on working with the transgender community, you can find a starting point here.
I have been so moved by the transgender community, their strength and beauty and courage. I wish you every success and healthy growing.
Update (2/3/2022): In the nearly five years since posting this article, I have had the extraordinary opportunity to speak to national and international audiences about hypnosis with the transgender community, as well as teach courses on this topic for the National Guild of Hypnotists. This continues to be a passion area for me. This blog post has consistently been - month-after-month since it went up - the most-visited item on my website. That demonstrates more than anything else the tremendous need and growing awareness of the nexus of mental health. transgender issues, and hypnosis as a credible component of self-work. I hope that the arc of our culture continues to grow toward inclusion, authenticity, integrity, and diversity. If you need help, don't hesitate to reach out - to me or another trusted person.