‘Hypnosis’ - What is it and is it dangerous? Will I lose control of what I do, or what I say? Will I stay stuck in hypnosis? These questions and some others (see below) reflect common misconceptions around the practice of hypnosis. Most people gain their understanding of hypnosis from what they have seen on stage shows, and quite naturally are suspicious and fearful that they will be made to do something silly, or reveal something that they don’t want to. These ‘fears’ are groundless and are addressed in the first consultation with the hypnotherapist prior to any hypnosis being done.
If you don’t want to go into hypnosis then you won’t. For those who allow themselves to go into trance, the results are worth it. People frequently report feeling wonderfully released (despite the ‘work’ they are doing), so much so that sometimes, they wish they could have stayed ‘in trance’ and not emerge, such is their enjoyment of the experience.
Any process which relies on communicating with and influencing the subconscious mind is hypnotic in nature. Clinical hypnotherapy is a therapeutic learning process designed to produce a relaxed state of consciousness, which enables the mind to become more receptive, allowing the creative parts of the brain to utilise the suggested images and ideas to stimulate the desired change.
Hypnosis is a widely accepted method for helping people make changes. Deciding to make changes in behaviour or attitudes at a conscious level is not very successful: lasting change can only be made at the subconscious level.
In essence, the hypnotic state of trance is no different to that of guided imagery, visualisation, autogenic training or deep meditation. The hypnotic or trance state is simply a brainwave state akin to the ‘Alpha’ brainwave (7-13 hertz) state of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep which occurs when we dream. Dreaming is in fact the deepest type of hypnotic trance. Deeper levels of trance, such as when the brain produces ‘Delta’ waves (1.5-4 hertz), can be attained so that even surgery can be done with hypnosis as the only anaesthetic.
Hypnosis is frequently used in dentistry, medicine and psychotherapy. It is used as a part of the treatment of psychological problems, such as the effects of incest, rape, physical abuse, allergies, phobias, habits (nail biting and smoking), anxiety and stress management, asthma, bed wetting, depression, sports and athletic performance, excessive self-consciousness, obesity and weight control, sleep disorders, high blood pressure, sexual dysfunctions, concentration test anxiety, gastrointestinal disorders, surgery and anaesthesiology, pain, burns, nausea, vomiting and pain management, childbirth and much more.
Some of the frequently expressed myths associated with Hypnosis:
- ‘I will be in the hypnotist’s control’. When you’re hypnotised you don’t lose your self control. You decide whether or not you allow yourself to go into a trance. Hypnosis is an acutely heightened state of focused attention and concentration. The hypnotherapist serves only as a guide, who knows how to help you to relax into an ‘Alpha’ brainwave state. You are able to bring yourself out of trance any time you like.
- ‘I can’t be hypnotised’. Any person of normal intelligence, who can follow instructions and allow their eyes to close, can be hypnotised. All hypnosis is essentially self hypnosis, so if you are scared and can’t relax, or don’t want to go into trance, then you won’t.
- ‘Hypnosis is like sleep’. Hypnotised subjects are relaxed, but are fully aware and awake.
- ‘I won’t remember what was said to me’. Some people, who allow themselves to go into a very deep hypnotic state, experience spontaneous amnesia. That is called post-hypnotic amnesia. Most people remember everything that occurs under hypnosis and even if you did not consciously hear, your subconscious did and that’s the important thing, as that is where the changes will take place.
- ‘I might say things I don’t want to say’. People don’t say anything they don’t want to say, or do anything they don’t want to do while under hypnosis.
- ‘I might do something immoral’. You can’t be ‘made’ or induced to do anything that is against your usual moral or ethical value system while under hypnosis.