Hypnotherapy–It’s not like what you see in the movies.
Hypnosis, or hypnotherapy, is a natural state of selective, focused attention, and, even though it is 100% natural and normal, it remains one of the most fascinating phenomena of the human mind. Our ability to enter this unique state of consciousness opens the door to countless possibilities for healing, self-exploration and change.
When we enter into the absorbed state of hypnosis, we can use our thoughts, talents and experiences in ways not usually available to us. With the help of a trained professional, we can develop innate, individual abilities that enable making desired changes in our thoughts, feelings and behaviors possible.
For example, let’s discuss the issue of quitting smoking. Maybe someone started smoking in their teens and enjoyed it, but now, years later, wants to quit smoking. Well, the adult, higher functioning “Wizard Brain” may want to quit smoking, but the more primitive “Lizard Brain” is not yet on board.
Hypnosis allows your “Wizard Brain” to be distracted so that the hypnotherapist can speak directly to your “Lizard Brain.” Through direct suggestion and indirect methods such as storytelling (this fascinates your “Lizard Brain,”) posthypnotic suggestions can be made in order to help coax both the front and back of your mind to agree to the changes you want to make.
Can anyone be hypnotized?
Some people find it easier to relax than others. By the same token, some people are able to go into trance more quickly and more deeply than others. About 85% of people can go into at least a light trance. For most therapeutic goals, light trance is enough to enable almost everyone to benefit from hypnotherapy to some extent.
Will I be asleep or unconscious?
The word hypnosis comes from the ancient Greek word ‘hypnos’ meaning sleep, but it is misnamed. Hypnosis is NOT sleep. Sleep and hypnosis may seem similar since we may be relaxed and have our eyes closed (although not necessarily), but there are many differences. One main difference is that we tend to be in a relaxed state, but with heightened awareness! If a person were to fall asleep during a session, they would return to normal consciousness when asked to, or simply awaken after a short nap. They would feel refreshed, relaxed and would have no ill effects at all.
Hypnosis can be so relaxing and comfortable that sometimes I conduct what I call a “profound relaxation” session for clients who are extremely stressed to the point of being debilitated. Clients come out of trance extremely refreshed and calm.
“I don’t think I was hypnotized–I heard every word you said!”
Some people, after a session of hypnosis, don’t believe that they were hypnotized at all. This likely comes from misconceptions about just what a ‘trance’ really is. There are differences between the brain waves of people who are asleep and those who are in trance. In practice, people who are hypnotized often talk with the hypnotist, and can both answer and ask questions, hear everything that is said very clearly, and are perfectly well aware.
Everyone has already been in a trance of some sort. Have you ever driven home and then not remembered half of your drive? There is actually a name for this: Highway Hypnosis.
People often emerge from trance not believing they were actually hypnotized. This is because they are expecting an experience unlike anything they have felt before. The fact is that we are all in trance at least twice every day–on our way into and out of sleep. So being in trance feels comfortable, relaxing, and familiar.
Will hypnosis make me remember things accurately?
No. Hypnosis can improve our recall of events that we believe happened to us. But hypnosis is not a way to find out the truth (whatever that may be) about events that are in dispute. That is, under hypnosis you may re-experience events, but there is no guarantee that you are remembering them correctly. Hypnosis only assists the subject in recalling perceptions, not truths.
Courts recognize this, and sometimes take the position that being hypnotized influences your ability to later testify in court on those matters. You should get legal advice before attempting to use hypnosis to improve your recall of events when there are, or might be, court matters involved.
Will you make me bark like a dog or walk like a chicken?
Ha Ha. I wish I had a dollar for every time someone asked me this. Of course the answer is no, that would be unethical and I would never have anyone do anything under hypnosis that would go against their ethics or morals. In fact, I encourage my clients to record our hypnotic sessions on their smart phones. This is for two reasons. First, it will help reassure you that nothing will happen in the session that you wouldn’t approve of. More important, you will then have a copy of the hypnotic session to listen to again at your leisure, to enhance the work we’ve done.
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