As a hypnotherapist I commonly come across mis-conceptions as to what ‘hypnosis’ actually is. This blog post will address some of these issues.
Hypnosis is a naturally occurring state that we are in and out of every day. I would explain it simply as when we hand our conscious part over to our unconscious. The first time you were in this state today was that point this morning, where you weren’t quite sure if you were awake or still sleeping. Those of you that drive must have got to the end of a stretch of road once or more and thought ‘damn, I don’t remember driving that part!’ Films are great for hypnotic trance states – notice how you don’t recognise your hunger being satisfied as you continue to shovel the popcorn in – you are caught in the ‘escapism’. Tube trains are a brilliant source of hypnosis as people focus at a spot to avoid eye contact and the rhythmic noise of the train on the rails helps induce a lovely state of hypnosis. Any time where you give yourself over to your unconscious part of the mind is a hypnosis state. And this state is now possible to be seen scientifically thanks to the EEG machines and other brain scanning devices, seeing the changes in electrical activity in the brain.
Of course, the most common way of experiencing hypnosis is to imagine something, to create pictures in your head, have a daydream or a fantasy. This is all hypnosis.
All a hypnotist will do is guide you down into that hypnosis state. He doesn’t hypnotise you, you hypnotise yourself by following the commands. In hypnosis as a generalisation your ‘critical faculty’ is suspended and a hypnotist is communicating directly with your unconscious part of the mind – and that is where all true change in a person happens. So a hypnotherapist would use hypnosis as a tool to creating true change for their client.
Hypnosis can be induced in a person in several ways, whether covertly, conversationally, through pattern interrupts, or the classic ‘relaxation’ methods. Everyone can be hypnotised, as I’ve said it’s a state we are in every day. In fact, I often use conversational hypnosis in assisting my clients in making their changes, its much more ‘permissive’, covert, and allows a great state for interaction.
Hypnosis is also a very safe state – you can’t be made to do something you don’t want to do, or that is against your very core principles. You can’t get ‘stuck’ in hypnosis, and your senses are usually heightened, so you can still look after yourself should you be concerned! Stage hypnosis uses the same methods of hypnosis as in hypnotherapy, however whereas a stage hypnotist is looking for the most suggestible extrovert people to create a show, a hypnotherapist is using it for the personal change the client wants.
Another mis-conception is that a person goes to ‘sleep’ during hypnosis. The brain activity is actually far different and as I’ve said hypnosis can be induced conversationally or covertly with a client fully in the waking state – and, this is often preferable as it is often important to interact with a client.
People can also be hypnotised anywhere. I tested myself the other night in a busy pub, the music was too loud, could hardly hear myself think! After gaining permission I used a rapid induction on my friend and took him into hypnosis nearly instantly. Within a minute I had him in a nice deep state, carried out a quick couple of depth tests to confirm, gave him a couple of ‘feel good’ suggestions and brought him back bright and refreshed.
Now, hypnosis is a tool that I use, it is the vehicle but not the content. I don’t just hypnotise people and then all is well. Hypnosis just gets my client to a state where I can assist them with their unconscious change, and to do this I use numerous ‘interventions’ and methodologies within the state of hypnosis. The key skill of a hypnotherapist is not how good a hypnotist he is but instead the understanding of the processes going on within his client’s neurology, how they’ve created and perpetuated their problem, and how to change that strategy to get a different result.
And that’s the bit I love about my job – seeing my clients make the changes they desire. I often have clients come to me in the depths of despair. Some clients come to me with issues that have hindered them for years, such as twenty years of bulimia, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Seeing them leave without these problems, helping them make the changes, it’s incredibly satisfying and rewarding for me. And of course at the same time it’s incredibly rewarding for my client to look forward to a brighter future.