Hypnosis is essentially a psychophysiological state of aroused, attentive, receptive, focal concentration with a corresponding diminution of peripheral awareness." (Spiegel and Spiegel definition). It may occur spontaneously, in response to a self-induced signal, or in response to a signal from another person. It involves elements of dissociation, association (absorption), and suggestion.
We could think of hypnosis as an "alternative" (rather than "altered") state of mind. Most people naturally go in and out of "hypnotic" states throughout every day. Have you ever found yourself driving on highway thinking about someone or something, hardly paying attention while you weave in and out of lanes, until you somehow find yourself at your destination? It could be said that only a part of you was driving the car, while another part of you was focused on something else. Similarly, hypnosis refers to a variety of techniques that work with influencing the connections between your conscious and unconscious mind. The hypnotic techniques of induction, deepening, suggestions, etc. are relatively simple to learn and use. Almost anyone who can learn to relax can also enter into an alternate state of mind, where your conscious mind can take a break while your unconscious mind continues to pay attention and look out for your best interests.
The success of hypnosis depends on "how" the techniques are utilized and working with a skilled and experienced practitioner of hypnosis will better ensure your success. Important also is how comfortable and trusting you are in the office with the practitioner you are working with. Feeling confident that the practitioner listens and understands your concerns will also help you feel at ease and will consequently affect the success of your sessions.
Hypnosis performed in a clinical setting is quite different from that of the stage hypnosis shows you may have seen on TV, in the movies, nightclubs, cruises, etc. In a nutshell, stage hypnosis is typically performed for entertainment purposes to make others laugh. A stage hypnotist is skilled at running volunteers through a series of tests to weed out poor responders on stage. The result: the remaining participants he selects are the best responders of an audience of perhaps a hundred or more.
Hypnosis in a clinical setting is practiced solely for the purpose of helping you with your goals. It is not necessary to create the dramatic effects of a stage hypnotist in order to help you get positive results. In a clinical setting, hypnosis is practiced to meet the goals of each individual, solely with their best interests in mind.
It is not necessary to be a deep trance subject in order to benefit from the results of clinical hypnosis. Most people are in the middle of the Bell Curve, and are average responders to hypnotic induction. Only a few subjects remain on the "tails" of the curve, namely those that do not respond and those that are natural deep trance subjects. Some research shows that you can benefit equally well as a light trance subject as compared with a deep trance subject.
The process involves induction techniques which typically include some form of a guided physical relaxation exercise, combined with a focused deepening technique which might incorporate suggestion and visual imagery. You will most likely be able to hear everything that goes on and can interrupt the process at any time should you feel uncomfortable.
Depending on what you are working on, we might then incorporate direct, indirect suggestion, metaphor, etc. to address the specific areas you may wish to change. Other techniques include using post-hypnotic suggestions, to affect your experience afterwards. You will also learn self-hypnosis and relaxation techniques that you can use on your own. What works for one person may not work for another, so a number of different techniques are possible.
Some people say that hypnosis is a profoundly interesting and effective experience, yet hard to describe. Others may say that it was a familiar experience like meditation or deep relaxation. It is common to sometimes feel a variety of different interesting and pleasant sensations during hypnosis. Like lying in bed somewhere between being awake and falling asleep, you may also find yourself being able to hear what is being said to you, but remaining in the background, as if listening in on an extension phone.
You may sometimes feel a bit disoriented immediately after the session and may want to allow a little extra transition time before going back to work, driving, etc. This may only last a few minutes. You may also feel a bit more tired than usual on the eve after the session and may feel like turning in for bed a little earlier. This is for the benefit of your unconscious mind needing some additional down time to integrate the suggestions that were made. Your unconscious mind has a wonderful protective function and will only allow you to be influenced by suggestions that are in your best interests.
Sometimes hypnosis can be done with more than one person present. This is referred to as Group Hypnosis and the practitioner needs to give generalized hypnotic suggestions to ensure that a participant will not be misled or be given a suggestion meant for someone else. Hypnosis performed one on one, allows the practitioner to personalize specific suggestions according to your particular motivations and preferences. For example, one person might prefer to relax as if lying on a sunny beach, recalling the good times from their early childhood, while another person with traumatic childhood memories of getting severely sunburned on a beach, might prefer to relax as if walking in the shaded woods being inspired by the beauty of nature that surrounds them.
The number of sessions varies from person to person. Generally speaking, during the first session, time is spent collecting information about what you may want to work on, answering questions, and determining whether or not you have a good match for working together. By the end of the first session or during session two, you might then have had an experience of entering into a hypnotic trance and getting comfortable with the procedure. By session three you might begin to observe how the effects of suggestions begin to modify your particular experience. Additional sessions may include reinforcement of procedures, working on other unanticipated issues that emerge, changing to a different methodology, etc. Weekly sessions are recommended in the beginning and then one could increase or decrease the frequency of meeting depending on the individual's needs or desires. Some clients may elect to focus only on short term objectives while others may choose to extend the number of sessions to address additional goals.
Hypnosis and meditation are similar in that they both require a focused concentration in order to go more deeply. The objective of meditation regardless of the varying styles, usually points towards a kind of awareness or mindfulness with no preconceived goal to achieve. You may train yourself to focus on a meditative object, like your breath for example, to develop a passive attentiveness, becoming aware of thoughts, feelings, distractions, etc. as they arise in order to dismiss them and let them go. Hypnosis on the other hand, intentionally focuses on specific outcomes or goals to reach. Specific changes in feelings or behaviours are pursued actively in the expectation of making improved cognitive or behavioural changes. While you may be attempting to clear your mind during meditation, in hypnosis we purposely use mental and affective suggestions to redirect your attention towards predetermined preferred outcomes.
This is self-hypnosis induced by a person by themselves, ideally having learnt the techniques with the help of a qualified hypnosis practitioner. Some experts say that all Hypnosis is Self-Hypnosis since the hypnotist is in actuality not doing anything to the subject, but rather guiding the subject into the hypnotic state of consciousness with the subject’s permission. Because the subject permits it to happen, he is really hypnotizing himself with the assistance of the hypnotist.
How can one learn Self Hypnosis?
You can learn Self Hypnosis from a good CD or even a book authored by a competent Hypnosis professional. However, your best bet is to have the experience first of being hypnotized by a qualified Hypnosis professional, and then learn from that hypnotist how to enter the hypnotic state on your own. At that point, tapes (CDs) and books can be very useful aids, guides, and sources of information and inspiration.
What are the benefits of Self Hypnosis?
The premier benefit of learning and practicing Self Hypnosis is to initiate and continue the process of positive self-change. The regular use of Self Hypnosis facilitates the continuation of healthy changes in behaviours, feelings, beliefs and attitudes. When you practice Self Hypnosis you enter a state of self-relaxation. When you are relaxed, you cannot be uncomfortable or anxious or stressed or in pain. Relaxation is the physical and emotional opposite of these negative feelings. Practicing Self Hypnosis conditions your ability to relax at will. It builds your ability to control your mind and your body. More control is the goal, and with more control, you gain greater ability to control your symptoms. Additionally, when you are in a state of Self Hypnosis you are able to give yourself positive suggestions and use positive imagery for positive self-change.
Can anyone learn Self Hypnosis?
Any normally intelligent person who can concentrate and follow instructions, and who is motivated and willing can learn Self Hypnosis.
What is Hetero-Hypnosis?
This is Hypnosis wherein one person, the Hypnotist or Hypnotherapist, hypnotizes (induces the Hypnotic State) another person who is the subject or patient (or client). To do this, the Hypnotist uses an appropriate hypnotic induction, which is a method for inducing the state of hypnosis. For many types of problems where Self Hypnosis is taught, the Hypnotist teaches Self Hypnosis to the patient while he or she is in the hypnotic state.
Benefits of Hypnosis
There are many benefits and uses for Hypnosis. To mention but a few of the more common uses:
- induce relaxation
- relieve tensions
- relieve pain
- in childbirth
- diminish and control anxiety
- eliminate phobias and fears
- relieve depression and anxiety
- improve self-confidence
- control mood swings
- modify or change hurtful baits
- stop smoking
- lose weight through changing eating and other habits
- improve concentration and memory
- improve study habits
- develop natural abilities
- relieve insomnia
- stop fingernail biting
- stop bedwetting
- in dentistry
- in optometry
- stop bruxism
- preparation for surgery or other medical procedures
- ….and more