Estimated reading time: 9 minutes
The diagnosis of infertility is stressful and often devastating, but new techniques to calm the mind and body are improving fertility for many women
“The mind is everything. What you think you become.”—Buddha
Longing for a baby but being unable to have one is devastating. It seems that everyone around you is getting pregnant, but you can’t, no matter what you do. Perhaps you have been trying to conceive for what seems like forever, but still don’t have your baby. You may feel like you’ve tried everything and are losing hope. The diagnosis of infertility is stressful and often devastating—emotionally, mentally, physically, spiritually, and sometimes financially. The infertility journey can be long and challenging; its impact on a person’s life comparable to that of catastrophic illness, such as a serious cancer diagnosis, though infertility is not typically recognized in this capacity.
Studies show the detrimental impact that ongoing stress can have on the brain, and several recent studies have found that higher levels of day-to-day stress can significantly lower chances of becoming pregnant. Stress levels increase the longer infertility troubles endure, and this is due to something we in this hypnosis field call compounding. In other words, there is a compounding cycle—stress, and the inevitable responses to it, begets more stress. This occurs on every level—mind, body, and spirit.
The Power of the Mind
The mind can have substantial impact on biological fertility and interfere in many ways we may not be consciously aware of. Infertility is a condition, but it can also be a symptom of something else. This is indicated when a treatment that should work, doesn’t. Repeatedly. The term “unexplained infertility” caught my attention early on in my work with fertility clients. It means that doctors can find no medical cause for an individual or couple’s infertility issues. Infertility can be quite complex and there are lots of unknowns, but from the hypnosis standpoint, it signals that there may be subconscious blocks which need to be addressed to clear the way to pregnancy. To natural or medically assisted conception. Even when there is a medical diagnosis, when physical impediments are indeed present, there may also be psychological influences that can prevent medical resolution.
The power of the mind is enormous, and though we may underestimate it, dismiss it, or not even believe in it, this statement is unequivocally true. The good news is that not only can we tap into and benefit from it, but that tapping into the power of the mind is a learned skill. Some people may do it naturally, or perhaps more frequently, or it may seem that it is easier for some than for others. Ultimately however, it is a skill that can be learned, practiced, and effectively employed. Hypnosis is an excellent tool for accelerating this process, facilitating relief from and release of detrimental thought patterns which can inhibit conception and/or healthy pregnancy.
The power of the mind is often associated with the power of positive thinking, but this is not completely accurate. Thinking is the operative word, whether it’s positive or not. The power is in the thinking; either form will impress the mind and affect our experiences. Positive thinking is beneficial, but it can also be problematic when it is oversimplified or expressed in strictly black and white terms. By this I mean the concept that to create what you want, you must only think positively; that if you engage in any negative thinking whatsoever, then not only will you be unable to achieve your desires, but you will also be entirely responsible for anything unpleasant or unwanted that happens in your life. This is not true. In fact, it is impossible due to something called the negativity bias.
Our brains are genetically wired to be more aware of negative input as at one time this was essential to the survival of our species.
For example, if you look at a stick but perceive it as a snake, you are going to approach it cautiously. When you find out that the snake is only a stick, you can simply carry on, no harm done. On the other hand, if you see a snake but assume it is a stick and carelessly grab it, you could be injured or even killed. This is the negativity bias of the brain, and as the above example indicates, the negativity bias can be useful. However, because of it, we do have to put more effort into positive thinking, it’s not likely to be our default mode. Regardless, no one can think positively all the time and the insistence that we can, and especially that we should, is harmful.
There are many ways to think more positively, and there are countless self-help books and programs meant to teach you to do so. Many of these are helpful, but some really are not. The ones to beware of are the ones that push positive thinking to such an extent that people feel like a complete failure if they have any negative thoughts or cannot maintain a continuous positive outlook. This is toxic positivity—it virtually invalidates a person’s feelings, denies and dismisses emotional pain, and downright shames/blames the individual for causing their circumstances or suffering. Toxic positivity is prevalent in the infertility world, and it comes up a lot in my private practice. I have seen clients absolutely devastated because they slipped into some negative thinking and have now “ruined” their entire IVF cycle. So invested are they in the idea that positive thinking will bring about the positive outcome they desire, that any perceived deviation can cause a significant downward spiral and even panic.
Excessive Positivity Is Not Sustainable
Positive thinking is helpful and certainly something to strive toward doing more of, and there’s no denying that incessant negative thinking can be problematic, but the key here is balance. Extremes are the problem, not individual thoughts. A predominantly negative mind state is energetically toxic, and negative beliefs can cause negative responses in the body. Excessive negativity is harmful; excessive positivity is not sustainable. A positive mind state may be positive overall, but it’s not immune to negative experiences. And that’s okay. A shift in negative thinking is important, but it must be toward a more positive outlook rather than to the opposite extreme.
“Optimism goes all the way with pessimism but arrives at a point far beyond it.”
My longtime friend and colleague Dr. Scot Giles coined this phrase many years ago in his work with hypnosis and oncology. It has always stuck with me, and it relates just as well to infertility. Distressing messages such as: it will be hard to get pregnant at your age, you have old eggs, your numbers are too low (or too high), etc. can create troubling belief patterns and foster negative expectancy in the mind. However, it is a law of the mind that two conflicting thoughts cannot coexist simultaneously, and because we are the keeper of our thoughts, we can choose which type of thoughts we want and modify them appropriately. Breaking out of a debilitating struggle is completely possible, it just takes some time and effort.
The Nature of the Subconscious Mind
The subconscious mind is goal-achieving. Its very nature is to help us find that which it deems we want, therefore what we dwell on impacts us substantially. The subconscious mind is perceptive rather than rational or logical, and as such it presumes that what we are constantly thinking about is what we truly wish to have. Incessant fretting about never getting pregnant reinforces that very fear, and subconscious blocks may form in response to any perceived reasons, whether they are valid or not. Every thought or emotion has a related physical response. Strong negative emotion such as fear, anger, or frustration triggers the fight-or-flight response which causes a flood of stressor hormones to be released throughout the body. Fear-based thinking patterns result in continual stress which triggers and retriggers the fight-or-flight response. Each time this occurs, energy is syphoned from systems not necessary for survival—the reproductive system being one of them.
We do need our fight-or-flight response, just not nearly as much as we tend to experience it. Its counter, sometimes called its antidote, the ‘rest and digest’ or ‘feed and breed’ response, is essential for healthy fertility. Whereas fight or flight agitates, feed and breed calms. Calms us down, calms the mind, calms the nervous system. When faced with relentless stress, we must learn how to manage our own internal environment. Fortunately, the feed and breed response can be triggered on demand, and breathing techniques, hypnosis, meditation, and yoga are all excellent tools for doing so.
The Brain and the Mind
The terms brain and mind are often used interchangeably, though they are not the same. It is mostly accepted that the brain and the mind are interconnected, but it seems that the intricacies of their relationship are not yet well understood. Simply speaking, the mind might be described as energy or awareness, also the thought process. It is virtually invisible, whereas the brain is tangible, an organ which can be seen and touched. The brain is malleable. It is shaped, molded, and changed by our experiences every day. This is neural plasticity. Thoughts, beliefs, intentions, and emotions literally impact our brain, for good or for naught. The brain, in turn, affects our thoughts.
Every brain is different, and each person has unique experiences that have shaped their brain and impacted their subconscious. Repetitive thoughts of any kind strengthen and solidify their associated neural pathways in the brain. As these pathways are strengthened, they are more easily activated, which perpetuates our thinking.
Emphasis on hopeful or positive pregnancy thoughts and feelings strengthens the pathways connected with achieving what you would like to have; stressing over not getting pregnant reinforces “not-pregnant” neural pathways and compounds any stress, frustration, or upset that is present.
There are many ways to reinforce neural pathways and to create new ones. Hypnosis, which is considered a rapid-change modality, can sometimes do this instantly.
I have been helping women to become pregnant with hypnosis for the past three decades. During this time, I have developed a hypnosis-based specialty program, originally called HypnoFertility and now known as 3Keys® HypnoFertility, to help restore the body’s natural balance, which can be easily upset by emotional blocks, stress, and a host of modern life’s difficulties. The value of releasing troublesome emotions, thoughts, or behaviors cannot be understated, and enduring change must occur at the subconscious level.
The 3Keys® process clears unhelpful beliefs, replacing them with healthy, empowering truths of vitality, of the body’s innate ability to rejuvenate itself, and of optimized fertility. It helps to circumvent various mind-body disconnects which can occur with catastrophic diagnoses such as infertility, emphasizing not only the fostering of communication between the conscious and subconscious minds, but also the rewiring of neural pathways in the brain.
3Keys® HypnoFertiltiy is holistic, non-invasive, and promotes all aspects of mind, body, and spirit balance. More than just hypnosis, it is multi-faceted, and solution focused. It helps tap into and reignite the inherent fertility that is a biological element of every woman. A unique blend of science and spirit, the 3Keys® method incorporates reframing of destructive thought patterns in the brain, clearing of the subconscious mind, and tending of the fundamental light of one’s heart and spirit. The ongoing struggle with infertility is an opportunity for healing on many levels, for learning and growing, for cultivating the nurturing homelife necessary for raising healthy children. 3Keys® HypnoFertility helps you not only to get and to stay pregnant, but to get your life back, to obtain a balance of mind, body, and spirit that is the ideal environment for becoming a parent.
You may also enjoy reading The Best Foods for Fertility and 3 Popular Diets that Could Be Detrimental, by Alexandria DiVito.