The first thing that comes to our mind when we hear the word “Hypnosis” … is a therapist hypnotizing his patient using a pendulum. A second dreadful thought immediately follows wherein we imagine the therapist controlling the hypnotized patient’s mind completely and forcing him to do horrible things like killing someone or robbing a bank etc. Well considering this, it is not hard to imagine why people might have reservations about this form of treatment. To be frank with you guys, once upon a time even I had similar ideas… about hypnosis thanks to the portrayal of this form of therapy in movies, stage shows, etc.
However, as I gained more knowledge about hypnotherapy some of my misconceptions were cleared and it made me realize the true potential of this form of therapy. There are so many myths and mysteries surrounding this subject that as a clinical hypnotherapist I thought it is my duty to clarify some of the most commonly known misconceptions about it:
Myth 1: You lose control and are totally controlled by the therapist. You might reveal all your secrets.
Fact: No one can control your mind. Hypnosis is just a focused state of mind in which the therapist only helps you to focus on your issues. So you can very well decide what you want to reveal and what you don’t want to reveal.
Myth 2: You might be made to do undesirable things. Like bark like a dog, or kill someone, rob a bank, etc.
Fact: During hypnosis, your conscious mind is always awake. If you hear a suggestion that you don’t agree with or don’t understand, your subconscious mind will automatically reject it.
Myth: You can get stuck in hypnosis
Fact: Nobody gets stuck in a hypnotic state. The moment you open your eyes and start walking you are out of hypnosis. In some cases, because it’s very nice and relaxing some people tend to go to sleep. And they get up feeling refreshed in a while.
Myth: You can be hypnotized even without your will
Fact: No one can hypnotize you. It’s something that you do to yourself with the help of a therapist. The therapist can only guide you to your aware state of mind with the help of imagination and suggestions.
Myth: Hypnosis is a special state of mind
Fact: Hypnosis is basically only a trance state of mind. Everybody experiences it twice a day daily. Sleepy state just before you sleep at night and on waking up from sleep just before you step out of your bed. It happens even when you are deeply engrossed in a television show or doing some work.
Myth: Only weak-minded people can be hypnotized
Fact: Willingness of the person is all that matters. It’s nothing to do with weak or strong-mindedness.
Myth: You get the results immediately
Fact: Your subconscious mind needs time to bring about the changes. In reality, there are subtle changes in the beginning. Eventually, you start feeling calmer and peaceful. And as your perception changes, everything around you also changes.
Myth: The subconscious mind records everything like a video
Fact: Your mind stores a particular event based on how you perceived it. That may or may not be a completely unbiased picture. We store information based on how we interpret it rather than recording the actual events
What is Clinical Hypnotherapy?
So now let’s understand, what is clinical hypnotherapy?
The term “hypnosis” comes from the Greek word Hypnos, meaning “sleep”.
Hypnosis is a state of altered awareness in which access is available to the subconscious mind. It’s a state in which your mind becomes highly aware and highly suggestible. It’s a state of deep relaxation, in which the conscious mind is able to concentrate acutely on a specific thought, emotion, memory, or sensation while blocking out all other distractions.
Unlike the “sleep state” in which you are oblivious of what is happening around you, the hypnotic state is one in which the conscious mind is awake and aware of what is going on, simultaneously providing access to the subconscious mind.
Types of Clinical Hypnotherapy
1) Suggestion Hypnotherapy – It involves the hypnotherapist giving an individual’s unconscious mind a series of ‘suggestions’. These suggestions can help an individual to find it easier to do something they want to do (e.g. public speaking) or easier to stop doing something they don’t want to do.
Suggestion Hypnotherapy is often used when there is no root cause that needs to be dealt with, or when there are time constraints (such as an individual wanting to deal with a fear of flying). Suggestion hypnotherapy is often considered a short-term therapy compared with other types of therapy, and if changes occur, they can so within the first few sessions.
2) Analytical Hypnotherapy – It is also called Hypnoanalysis and can be effective in dealing with deeper issues and involves psychotherapy using hypnosis. Analytical hypnotherapy seeks to find the root cause of a problem, and deal with the issue. For example, a phobia may be ‘masked’ using suggestion therapy, however, the root cause will still exist. Analytical hypnotherapy seeks to identify the root cause and deal with it; the root cause then becomes powerless.
Analytical hypnotherapy is a very involving process and usually requires much more commitment than suggestion therapy. However, once the root cause has been identified and dealt with, the results can be life-changing. Whereas suggestion therapy manages a problem, analytical hypnotherapy aims to resolve it.
3) Cognitive Hypnotherapy – This is a modern, scientific approach to therapy that is significantly different from the traditional schools of Hypnotherapy. Cognitive Hypnotherapy draws its influence from a number of other validated theories, such as Positive Psychology, Neuroscience, Evolutionary Psychology, and NLP, and combines these in a way that fits the client’s personal goals, values, and personality. Drawing from a range of techniques from different disciplines means that a tailored approach for each client can be created – there’s no “one size fits all” model here.
Cognitive Hypnotherapists attempt to get into the mindset of the client to work through any presenting issues, using techniques and language based on the client’s unique model of the world. Cognitive Hypnotherapy also uses an analytical approach to clearing away unwanted thoughts and behaviors from the past, but then uses techniques that retrain the brain in the present to ensure that the changes that clients would like to make are fully realized.
Stages of Hypnosis
- Re-framing the problem
- Becoming relaxed, then absorbed (deeply engaged in the words or images presented by a hypnotherapist)
- Dissociating (letting go of critical thoughts)
- Responding (complying with a hypnotherapist’s suggestions)
- Returning to usual awareness
- Reflecting on the experience
What can Hypnotherapy achieve?
Hypnosis is used in a variety of settings — from emergency rooms to dental offices to outpatient clinics. Clinical studies suggest that hypnosis may improve immune function, increase relaxation, decrease stress, and ease pain and feelings of anxiety. A few more examples are listed below –
- It facilitates patients in understanding themselves or their problems from a neutral or relaxed state of mind
- Helps reduce stress and anxiety and create a sense of well being
- Helps in changing undesirable behaviours such as smoking, alcohol dependency, bed wetting, nail biting, teeth grinding etc.
- For pain management in cases of chronic diseases, cancers, childbirth, amputations, burns etc.
- Weight loss
- Helps to uncover repressed memories
- Various types of fears and phobias
- Sleep disorders
- Grief and loss
- General healing
- In surgeries where anaesthesia cannot be used effectively
How does Hypnotherapy work?
Our mind basically has 2 components, known as the ‘conscious mind’ and the ‘sub-conscious mind’. The conscious mind is the one, which analyses, thinks, uses logic i.e. basically processes every information that we take in. This is where we have our own unique Rules of life.
Contrastingly, our subconscious mind stores all our life experiences which have been processed by our conscious mind. It has no judgment of its own. It also controls all of the autonomic processes that you don’t have to think about – the heart rate, blood pressure, tissue growth, cell regeneration, the immune system, and so on.
It has been proved that the conscious mind constitutes only 5-10 % of our mind. Whereas, the balance 90 – 95% is the sub-conscious mind. This makes our subconscious mind almost 9 times greater than our conscious mind. Indicating that our habits and responses come from the experiences stored in the subconscious mind.
Our life operates as a combination of both of these minds viz., our “rules” and our “experiences”. When our rules and experiences are in sync with each other, we are happy. But the problem arises when there is a conflict between them. For example, if your rule says, that you are smart, intelligent, and have the best of the qualifications, you will get a well-paid job and your life becomes easy. Now if your experience also supports this, life is great. But if it doesn’t happen, an internal conflict ensues and you get disturbed.
Depending on how intensely we perceive this conflict, we attach our emotional charges around that memory and store it as a negative or a positive experience in our subconscious mind. When it happens for the first time, we physically and psychologically respond to it, based on what is appropriate at that point in time. We make a lot of associations with that particular event. So the next time, a similar situation arises, that particular memory gets triggered, and we sub-consciously / automatically start responding to it in the same way. When this occurs repeatedly, it becomes our pattern. So in the future, even though the situations may have changed, and you no longer need to react in that way, but still you end up doing the same things. This particular behavior is beyond your conscious control. This explains, why we tend to over-react in certain situations.
Let me give you a few examples for this –
- As a child if someone is deprived of food, due to any reason. This might lead her to constantly crave for food. In future, even if the situation changes, she will still tend to overeat eventually leading to obesity. Consciously she may try to control her appetite, but it just keeps getting worse. This is because her craving come from this feeling of deprivation experienced in her childhood, which has been stored in her sub-conscious mind. And we already know, subconscious mind is more powerful than the conscious mind. And sub-conscious mind has no logic of its own, so it just continues to behave in the same way.
- If as a child, while playing you happen to kick a street dog, and that dog bites you, following which you had to take all those painful anti-rabies injections at that time. So after that, whenever you see a dog, the memory of the bite and the painful injections gets triggered. You start palpating, sweating and you just want to run away from that place. You will react the same way even with pet dogs, though you know they are safe and won’t bite you. This is because you have made an association of the dog with the bite and the pain at the sun-conscious level.
- This is because these people believe that with success comes arrogance and selfishness. Successful people have no time for their near and dear ones and therefore eventually lead a lonely life. Interestingly, even they are not aware of this belief that they have, at the conscious level and therefore try their best to achieve success.. But sub-consciously they themselves will sabotage it either by falling sick just before their final performance or by picking up a fight with their boss just before the expected promotion etc. These conflicting beliefs lead to frustrations and unhappiness. It is only through meditation, hypnosis and similar methods that these people are able to dig into their sub-conscious mind and get solutions to their problems.
We all have many such beliefs because they were required at some point in time. It’s a part of our defense mechanism which then becomes a part of our learning and growing up process.
During the Clinical Hypnotherapy sessions, the therapist guides you into your own subconscious mind and helps you see your own thoughts more clearly, but only if you disconnect from the beliefs and associations, which you no longer require. The therapist also takes you to the first event which triggered this particular type of response, understands it, and neutralizes the emotional charges around it.
The experience of hypnosis differs from person to person. Some may experience dramatic changes, while some may feel they were not even hypnotized. It all depends on your level of willingness, to receive and to let go. It assists you, in your own journey of self-awareness.