The Transformational Nature of Hypnotherapy
An Introduction to Hypnotherapy
Early childhood is a time when we are particularly open and vulnerable to suggestion. Early experiences may teach us that we're not good enough, that the world is a hostile place, that we can't trust people, or that we're likely to get hurt in some way. Very often when we want to make fundamental changes as adults and feel stuck, the problem is that we have been hypnotized by limiting experiences early in life. Such early subconscious conditioning can sometimes last a lifetime.
To get powerful, lasting and fairly rapid results in therapy, it is essential that the methods employed reach and affect the subconscious mind. The subconscious houses the emotions, imagination, memory, habits, intuition, and is the pathway to the superconscious. It also regulates our autonomic body functions. It is the very core or essence of how we experience ourselves and the world. Meaningful personal transformation, whether in or out of therapy, results from a shift in the subconscious mind.
Through hypnosis, we have access to the subconscious. In fact, during waking states, the only way to reach and change major set beliefs and emotional responses of the subconscious mind is during experiences that are hypnotic. Hypnosis is an altered state beyond ordinary consciousness, but a natural state that can occur spontaneously. In addition, there are many ways hypnosis can be induced and deepened. Once in hypnosis during therapy, there is a vast range of therapeutic possibilities to harness and transform the subconscious. Hypnotherapists are taught to use a variety of methods to bring a person into a state of hypnosis, deepen and lighten the state, direct various processes and return the subject back to normal awareness.
Hypnosis, while often unrecognized as such, weaves a common thread through the healing arts and sciences. Effective therapists often use hypnotic methods whether they use or understand that semantic or not. As understanding of the field spreads, the deliberate use of hypnotic processes is currently making a major impact in the health professions and truly revolutionizing the field of counseling. While it won't work for everything or for everybody all the time, it is often a powerful therapy that is as much an art as a science.
Within the field of hypnotherapy, there are a great variety of ways to harness the power of the subconscious mind to affect change. Hypnosis is used in areas such as chronic and acute pain control, to change the pain threshold or affect the psychological associations of pain. It can be effective to improve confidence, concentration, recall, motivation, achievement, focus, health and stress management. Hypnosis can help overcome addictions, habits, eating disorders, insomnia, fears, phobias, and negative thought, emotional and behavior patterns. It can also tap people into the utilization of their full potential in endeavors like work, sports, art or creative expression.
Within a therapeutic setting, hypnosis is often induced through various methods of relaxation. As a result of this process the critical factor of the conscious mind is bypassed, giving the subject direct access to the deeper mind, the subconscious, which has been called "the other 90% of the mind."
Facts and Fallacies
Misconceptions about hypnosis are still fairly prevalent but gradually diminishing with time. The fear of loss of control is a result, in part, of stage hypnosis demonstrations. Volunteers may seem to be "under the spell" of the stage hypnotist. Some develop the notion that the participants will do whatever the hypnotist suggests. Most people will not respond well to stage hypnosis and those that do, will do so only under the right circumstances.
Stage hypnosis is a chance for a person with some extrovert tendencies to perform, have fun, and be a star. It is no coincidence that the longest running series of stage hypnosis shows in history, with Pat Collins, was in Hollywood. A large percentage of volunteers for her shows were striving to become actors and actresses. Volunteers of any stage show know they will be expected to do silly things in front of an audience, and find that appealing. The ones who show timid or self-conscious responses are asked early on to go back to the audience. The participants who are receptive to hypnosis will have, to some extent, a loss of inhibition. However, the volunteer would not do anything against his or her moral beliefs. For example, if handed an imaginary glass of champagne, a non-drinker will refuse to pretend to drink. Also, some otherwise responsive persons will back off to a specific suggestion (e.g., to sing) because of a lack of self-confidence in that area. Even during stage hypnosis, individuals retain control in areas of principle or in which there is major subconscious resistance.
During a hypnotherapy session you know you may be open to suggestion. Rather than losing control, a comprehensive series of sessions can help a person to gain control. Some will doubt in early sessions whether they went into hypnosis at all. Others who achieve significant depth may believe only light hypnosis was achieved. With continuing experience, people tend to go deeper and also begin to recognize the signs that for them are associated with hypnosis.
Rather than losing consciousness during hypnosis, there is typically heightened consciousness. Awareness is much greater than normal. Hypnosis actually leads to increased awareness, and one result of this is that distant or previously unconscious memories may be recalled in vivid detail.
Hypnosis is a natural state of mind that is entered spontaneously every day. Examples include states of narrow focus, such as you might experience when watching television or absorbed in a good book. Highway hypnosis can occur when driving on the freeway and suddenly realizing you have no conscious memory of the past several miles traveled. A form of hypnosis, the hypnogogic state, is entered just prior to falling asleep, and the heightened suggestibility of the hypnopompic state occurs when first waking up. The conscious mind begins to recede and the subconscious mind comes to the foreground, giving you greater access to the imagination, memories and feelings.
The most common danger with hypnosis lies primarily outside of the therapeutic context, in situations in which people are not aware that they are in suggestible states. For example, we can be influenced by an authority figure, such as a doctor or other professional, or a political or parental figure. When a person is unduly influenced by an authority, a spontaneous hypnosis can develop and the person may become extremely suggestible.
To give another example, double-blind suggestibility studies have documented that most persons will respond well to placebos, even when used in place of morphine for severe pain. That gives us a glimpse at the enormous power of the subconscious mind. A person who deliberately uses hypnotic states to control his or her subconscious mind can create extreme physiological changes and other exceptional achievements.
Additionally, our consumer culture bombards us with various forms of advertising that can have a hypnotic affect. Advertisers may even pay a premium for broadcasting late at night or early in the morning when people are more likely to be highly suggestible. Learning about hypnosis and suggestibility helps us recognize times when we may be more open or vulnerable so that we can retain awareness and have more control.
The therapeutic value of hypnosis is gradually becoming much more widely recognized.