Hypnosis, a natural state of heightened and focused attention, is one of the most fascinating phenomena of the human psyche. Our ability to enter this unique state of consciousness opens the door to endless possibilities for healing, self-exploration and change. Hypnosis, called by different names in different cultures and times, has been recognized for thousands of years and used for many purposes.
When we enter into a state of hypnosis, we can utilize thoughts, talents and experiences in ways not usually accessible to us. With the guidance of a trained professional, we can develop our latent abilities that enable making desired changes in our thoughts, feelings and perceptions.
Although hypnotic trance is a very natural, peaceful state of mind that most of us experience almost daily (e.g., while daydreaming), it has often been portrayed in films and television in ways that have been inaccurate and even alarming. But hypnotherapy, when practiced by a well-trained, licensed health-care professional, is safe. And it is often speedier than many other forms of treatment–both psychological and medical.
Hypnosis has been used successfully to treat numerous psychological and physical problems and conditions. It also is a very effective technique to help individuals improve their performance in areas such sports, academics and vocations. “Peak performance” training, as it is called, can be used to help people uncover and overcome “blocks” that underlie their failure to achieve their desired goals.
What does it feel like to be in a hypnotic state?
This will differ from person to person. Some people say there is very little difference between the hypnotic state and their normal waking state – not at all like the stereotype of being zombie-like. Others say the sensation is that of being extremely calm and relaxed, just as you feel prior to falling asleep. In most cases clients notice that their senses are more alert and aware, quite the opposite of what they had expected. Some can remember everything that happens when they are in trance, and others have less conscious recall of events.
How can a treatment aimed at your mind affect your body?
The body responds physically to thoughts. For example, when we think a frightening thought, we can experience increased heart rate, shortness of breath, “butterflies” in the stomach, muscular rigidity, sweating, shaking, and so on. Similarly, when we think a pleasurable thought, we can experience reduced heart rate, deeper breathing, relaxation of muscles, and so on. These are autonomic nervous system responses that are involuntary, but they can be utilized to promote health. When hypnotized, an individual is very open to suggestions that can enhance positive and diminish negative physical reactions.
Medical and psychological professionals have recognized the use of hypnosis in the treatment of both physical and psychological problems for many years. Our members are trained to assess whether hypnosis can and should be used for your particular problem. They will consider hypnosis among many possible modes of treatment, and may even recommend another treatment if they do not believe hypnosis is best for you. This is the most important reason why we believe you should see a licensed health professional, who is also trained in hypnosis.
Can children be hypnotized?
Many children make excellent hypnotic subjects, and respond well to hypnotic suggestion for a wide variety of problems, e.g., self-esteem issues, anxiety, behaviour problems. It is important that your child’s therapist be competent and experienced in dealing with your child’s particular issue or problem.
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 80 to 85% of people can go into at least a light trance. For most hypnotherapeutic goals, light trance is enough to enable almost everyone to benefit from hypnotherapy to some extent.
In a relatively small number of situations, (say, when hypnosis is being used instead of a general anesthetic, e.g., as in labour and childbirth), a deeper level of trance may be needed. For these purposes, it is helpful to determine the trance capability of a given person, before making a decision about the advisability of using hypnosis as an anaesthetic.
Even for those people (maybe 15 to 20%) who do not enter into even a light trance state, hypnosis may still be helpful to assist their relaxation and improve their suggestibility to constructive comments and suggestions.
Will I lose control of myself?
No, there is no loss of control. Hypnotherapy allows clients to be more focused and less distractible. In this way, they can achieve more of their therapeutic goals. If the hypnotherapist’s suggestions are acceptable and beneficial to the client, those suggestions are likely to be acted upon by the client. Trained professionals do an assessment to make sure the suggestions they provide are consistent with the value systems of their clients. The ‘control’ misconception appears to originate from stage hypnosis which, funnily enough, also involves people doing exactly what they want to be doing.
Is hypnotherapy safe?
Yes. The hypnotic state occurs naturally for most people. When you read a book or watch a movie, you suspend your tendency to disbelieve while increasing your ability to believe. That is a form of self-hypnosis. You are making what isn’t real, real. So, it makes sense that you need to trust the individual guiding the process. Hypnosis is safe, but it matters that the hypnotist is ethical and competent. That is why we counsel you to see a health care professional for health or psychological problems that might benefit from the use of hypnosis.
Can I get trapped in the hypnotic state?
No. At any time a client can re-alert or choose to ignore suggestions. No one stays hypnotized indefinitely – you will always “come out” of trance within a short time.
Will I be asleep when hypnotized?
You will not be asleep when hypnotized. The word hypnosis comes from the ancient Greek word ‘hypnos’ meaning sleep, but it is a misnomer. Hypnosis is generally a very relaxed state, but it is not sleep. Many people, after a session of hypnosis, don’t believe that they were hypnotized at all. That likely comes from misconceptions about just what a ‘trance’ in fact 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.
Will hypnosis make you remember things accurately?
No. Hypnosis can improve your recall of events that you believe happened to you. 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.