What is Hypnosis?
There is a very inaccurate preconceived notion regarding hypnosis. The common misconception is that hypnotists have a mysterious power to make people do things they do not want to do or spill deep dark secrets that they otherwise wouldn’t discuss. If I ask you what ideas come to mind when you think of hypnosis, you might envision the cliche pocket watch swaying in front of someone's face, and the hypnotist says “you are getting very sleepy…”. Or you might envision some people quacking like a duck on a stage, or doing some other silly act.
But the truth is, stage hypnosis is far different from therapeutic hypnosis and its a very natural state that everyone moves in and out of throughout each day. Most people have experienced hypnosis several times a day throughout their lives. If you have ever been absorbed in a good book, actually involved in watching a movie, or working at your computer and one hour seemed like 15 minutes, you have experienced hypnosis. Our minds function in four stages of consciousness. The first stage is called Beta; this is the stage where you are awake and able to make conscious decisions. The second stage is called Alpha. This is when the brain slows down and narrows its focus. It turns out that during Alpha, your brain is two hundred times more susceptible to suggestion than when in Beta. This is why marketing companies spend millions of dollars on advertising, and they get to deliver their message while you’re very focused on your favorite show. Alpha is the stage necessary for us to bring about positive change. The third stage is Theta. Theta is when you are in a light sleep. In Theta, you can be awakened fairly quickly by a sound or a light touch. For example, this is when you are just falling asleep and when you are just waking up. The final stage is Delta. Delta is a deep sound sleep. As you can see, you are in all of these stages in any given day. Alpha is the only stage necessary for hypnotherapy, and you will experience that shortly. In Alpha, your mind is slowed down just a little, your focus is narrower, your breathing is slower, and you are relaxed. Most people have driven a car, played a video game, worked on a computer or read a really good article. Therefore, to say that you cannot be hypnotized is to misunderstand the true nature of a hypnotic state. Since you are up to 200 times more suggestible even while you are in the light state of Alpha, anything beyond this is unnecessary for most purposes (programming someone to lose weight, stop smoking, overcome a fear of flying, and so on). You can have an incredibly effective hypnosis session while being aware of, and able to recall every word spoken by the hypnotherapist. You also don’t have to worry if you fall asleep during hypnosis. It has been discovered by several research groups that your hearing acts like a surveillance camera. Your eyes close, but your ears cannot close. They always remain open, taking in information constantly. When a mother is “asleep” and hears her baby cry, she will “awaken” immediately. The truth is that we never really sleep; a part of our brain is always alert — our hearing. It stays alert to protect us or our offspring. If someone breaks into your home while you are “asleep,” you will be alerted as soon as you hear a noise. Your hearing is “on” 24/7, taking in information and recording it. In hypnosis, we use this to your advantage, so even if you fall “asleep” during the session, your brain is still recording all the information in your subconscious. In case you are worried about being too intelligent to be hypnotized, intelligence is directly correlated to suggestibility. The more intelligent you are, the more easily you can be hypnotized. People of a below-average IQ find it difficult to go into a hypnotic state. Geniuses are naturally close to a hypnotic Alpha state most of the time and therefore enter hypnosis easily. This accounts for their ability to transfer information from their subconscious mind to their waking life and bring their creations to the world. And there is no need to worry about not waking up. This cannot happen. Less than 10% of the population achieves such a deep trance state that they dissociate, or “blackout” like they do when they receive anesthetic. Such people are called “somnambulists,” and they do not consciously remember what happened during hypnosis unless the hypnotherapist suggests that they will. However, even these people will wake up at the end of a session. Most people achieve only a light trance state (Alpha) of which they are aware of what is happening, although they are completely relaxed and focused.
How Does Hypnosis Work?
Now that you have a basic understanding of what hypnosis is, I’m going to explain how it works by using a simple metaphor. But first, allow me to describe the three parts of the human mind. The mind is primarily made of up of the following three components: the conscious, subconscious, unconscious.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way let's move on with the metaphor.
Now think of the hypnotist as landscapers of the mind. Think of the subconscious mind as the land and the client as the landowner. The client will hire a hypnotherapist to plant seeds into the soil and what they would like to grow is a positive change. So imagine the subconscious mind as a dark rich soil. To get to that soil, we need to break through the surface of hard dirt and grass (which would be the conscious mind). What we would need is a tool, like a shovel, which hypnotherapists call "deep relaxations techniques." These techniques will help to guide you into the alpha state, which will then allow access to the subconscious. And as I’ve mentioned before, you have probably experienced that state already. During this phase you will be very relaxed and sort of daydreamy, but you may also still aware of your surroundings. If something arises, that requires your attention you are going to become consciously alert and react. Contrary to the common misconception, there is no mind control. You are still likely to be aware of what is going on. However, your subconscious mind will be present, readily available, and open to suggestion. Once a hypnotherapist has access to the subconscious mind, the next thing he/she will do is plant the seeds of hypnotic suggestion. After the seeds have been planted into the soil, the last step is to close the hole (or shut the door) to the subconscious mind. This is done by carefully bringing you back to full consciousness. At that point, you should awaken feeling alert, rejuvenated, and with an overall sense of well-being.
Now let's cover some Q&A!
Q & A
How effective is hypnotherapy? Here are the results of a study done by the American Health Magazine:
Psychoanalysis: 38% recovery after 600 sessions
Behavior Therapy: 72% recovery after 22 sessions
Hypnotherapy: 93% recovery after 6 sessions
Why is hypnotherapy effective? Hypnosis works on the level subconscious behavioral patterns. It works by addressing negative behaviors that have become almost natural to us (like a drive home from work) and replacing them with positive behaviors. In a way, hypnosis works by giving you a new route… one that will lead you on the path towards success.
Will I lose consciousness? As mentioned above, hypnosis is not sleep. Ordinarily, you will be conscious of everything that goes on when you are in the hypnotic state. Sometimes, though, you may relax so much under hypnosis that you may drift off and lose track of what is happening or even fall asleep! Will I reveal deep secrets about myself? In some psychotherapeutic applications of hypnosis, it is important to uncover mental material that is related to the problem being treated, material that you have been ignoring or keeping secret from others and even from yourself. However, no such uncovering is needed in many applications of clinical hypnosis, and if you were very uneasy about the possibility of introspective exploration of this kind, we would discuss that when beginning our work together. Uncovering techniques may not be needed at all to deal with your problem.
Will I do something embarrassing or silly? A clinical hypnotist will not make you cluck like a chicken or do other things for amusement at your expense. You do, however, sometimes act differently under hypnosis then you do in the normal waking state. You may become more emotional or feel more childlike. And generally, the benefits of these hypnotic states are quite simply amazing.
Can I be made to do things I do not want to do? Contrary to popular belief, people under hypnosis are not captive and spellbound. They can resist direct instructions that are at odds with their wishes or moral standards. For this reason, it is not as easy as one might think to make people do things against their will with hypnosis.
What if I cannot be hypnotized? The odds are against it. While the degree to which people are receptive to hypnosis varies from individual to individual, the great majority of people, perhaps three out of every four, can be hypnotized to a sufficient degree to enjoy some of the benefits that hypnosis can offer.
Aren't gullible or simple-minded people most easily hypnotizable? Not at all. In fact, researchers have found that more intelligent people are slightly more hypnotizable. It seems that openness to new experiences rather than gullibility is related to hypnotic ability.
Are women more hypnotizable than men? Research has conclusively shown that, on average, there is no difference between men and women in their hypnotic suggestibility.
Can hypnosis be dangerous to my mental health? The state of hypnosis is very safe and free from complications, probably no more disturbing to your mind than ordinary sleep. For most people, however, the experience of hypnosis is pleasantly relaxing and refreshing. The only after effects that you are likely to experience are possible drowsiness and disorientation for the first few minutes afterward, and possibly a stiff neck or (rarely) a minor headache. All these side effects are transient and harmless.
That concludes this brief guide and overview of hypnotherapy. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or you may also call 661-241-3651.