Definitions of what constitutes hypnosis vary, but essentially hypnosis is “…. a heightened state of awareness, frequently associated with relaxation, where you are able, if you wish, to open yourself to suggestions, and where you can make use of your imagination to help you effect positive changes in your life1.” Hypnotherapists aim is to help people make positive changes in their lives through using hypnosis. Many varied conditions may be helped or eliminated. Phobias and fears are the conditions usually associated with hypnotherapy, but there are many others, such as:
- Smoking cessation
- Weight issues
- Depression and anxiety
- Pain management
- Sleep problems
- Changing negative habits
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Skin conditions
- Eating disorders
- Public speaking
- Confidence and self-esteem
A consultation with a hypnotherapist would start with a detailed discussion about the issue concerning you. The therapist would ask about your health, medication and what you would like to achieve from the therapy. They would be interested in your likes and dislikes, your values and what experience you have of hypnotherapy. They would explain what hypnosis feels like, and reassure you that all you talk about is confidential within the confines of the law. Hypnotherapy originates from the Greek word “hypnos,” which means sleep. During hypnosis you usually will sit or lie in a comfortable position, with your eyes closed. The therapist would use various techniques to help you to become deeply relaxed. You are always fully aware, and could stop the session at any time. As your comfort is important, you are free to move to a more comfortable position and are free to scratch any itches! Maintaining a rigid, motionless position will not help you to feel calm and peaceful!
Hypno inducing trance with patient
It will be explained to you that hypnosis is something that we all do on a regular basis, and which comes naturally to us. Have you ever driven from A to B and reached your destination with no conscious knowledge of the drive? Or perhaps you have become engrossed in a film, and are unaware of things happening around you. Natural hypnosis happens at the moment we fall asleep and as we wake up every day. When you daydream, fantasise or pray, you are experiencing a natural, normal form of hypnosis. As in these examples, you are unable to “get lost” in hypnosis. You are aware of everything happening around you, and can exit the state whenever you wish to.
Person absorbed in driving
Your awareness becomes heightened during hypnosis. You become acutely aware of the tiniest of sounds which you would not normally notice. Your awareness become narrowed to what the therapist is saying and suggesting. Most states of hypnosis are associated with relaxation. When we are relaxed, we allow our minds to wander at will, and can become immersed in our imagination. By following the instructions to relax given by the therapist, our breathing slows and becomes deeper, and we relax even more.
During trance (a state of relaxation), we become much more open to suggestion. The process encourages our critical, questioning, conscious mind to doze, whilst our subconscious absorbs the positive suggestions made and acts upon them. Our conscious mind is where we interact with the world, and contains our personality and ego. Our subconscious mind contains 90% of our brain power, and controls most of our brain functions. All our feelings, emotions and thoughts are stored here. It represents a map of all our life experiences. During our lives, all the experiences, positive and negative, leaves a memory pattern in our subconscious mind. We are unaware of most of these, but they are all stored away. Often we develop phobias or negative thinking, which appears to be irrational. We are unaware of events that have shaped these thought patterns, which may have occurred in our childhood. As a result, it is impossible to try to deal with a problem which is in our subconscious, by logically working through it using the conscious mind. Hypnosis can remove the resistance of the conscious mind, by talking directly to the subconscious. For example, you may think that you do not have the willpower to lose weight. This is because the conscious mind is in conflict with the subconscious mind. You may have tried to lose weight before and failed, the belief stored away is that we cannot do it.
Image of the brain
We all have habits which we find difficult to change. As we have new experiences, patterns are repeated and filed in the subconscious as a habit. Some are positive, such as learning a skill. Some are negative, such as overeating for comfort during a time of emotional stress. During hypnotherapy, you can learn to replace the limiting or negative habits and thoughts with new positive ones. The analogy of a cornfield is often given- you continually walk along the path which has been established, whether it is helpful or not. In hypnotherapy we make a new path. At first it seems strange to be going in a different direction, but with practice it becomes easier and you soon develop a good strong alternative path.
During therapy the hypnotherapist will use various tools with which to help with your particular issue. It is important that you are highly motivated to change. The suggestions can be made to your subconscious, but you as an individual, will be effecting the change. You may be given tasks to do between sessions. These are all designed to help interrupt the negative behaviour pattern and to make a new positive one. Self-hypnosis is a useful skill to learn. It means you will be able to “top up” your therapy between sessions and reinforce the work you are doing.
Hypnotherapy has shown good results for treating a number of varying issues. NICE (National Institute for health and Care Excellence) have said that it is a possible treatment for IBS. A long-term follow up study of refractory IBS patients conclude that hypnotherapy was an effective treatment which had long lasting effects2. Hypnotherapy can be used to lessen the anxiety felt by palliative care patients, and improve their sleep patterns as well as the severity of the psychological and physical symptoms3. Children undergoing dental anaesthesia were shown to experience less pain and anxiety4.
- 1. Uk College of Clinical Hypnosis.
- 2. Lindfors P et al ‘Long Term Effects of Hypnotherapy in Patients with Refractory Irritable Bowel Syndrome’. Scandin. J. of Gastro. 2012 Vol 47 (4) p414-421.
- 3. Plaskota M et al ‘A Hypnotherapy Intervention for the Treatment of Anxiety in Patients with Cancer Receiving Palliative Care’. Inter. J. of Palliative Nursing 2012 Vol 18 (2) p69-75.
- 4. Huet A et al ‘Hypnotherapy and Dental Anathesia in Children: A Perspective Controlled Study’. 2011 Vol 59 (4) p420-440.