WHAT IS HYPNOSIS AND HOW DOES HYPNOTHERAPY WORK?
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Having overcome his own personal demons of depression and subsequent compulsive drug and alcohol use, John is also now a qualified hypnotherapist (having attained Diploma level in Clinical and Advanced Hypnotherapy) as well as being trained in Counselling and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.
BELIEFS
Ultimately, people believe what they want to believe.
Often we are baffled by the beliefs of others, but it has to be considered and understood that our individual beliefs serve a need on some level, whether conscious {in other words within the grasp of our understanding} or unconscious {in which case we often have no idea why we believe what we believe and subsequently do what we do}. So a certain belief has become irresistible to a person {for whatever reason} and I’ve often heard it said that the objective of hypnotherapy is to “make the desired outcome irresistible”.
Once a person actually believes they are now a non-smoker, it’s not uncommon for them to bypass nicotine withdrawals altogether by deciding: “What’s the point? Why put myself through it? I’m not going to smoke anyway”! By this stage they are not a smoker trying to give up, they are a non-smoker. The only real point to having withdrawals is if there may be a smoke on the horizon, but once their belief is in place, there isn’t!
CONTROL
We don’t like being confused and struggle to make sense of our confusing world from a very early age, thus gaining some semblance of a sense of control. Control is actually a very significant word because all issues presented to a therapist represent a loss of control in some sense. This could take the form of loss of control of emotions at the thought of seeing a mouse, loss of control over how much alcohol is imbibed or loss of control over how many times is required to check that the gas is turned off.
THE CONSCIOUS MIND
Because our active thinking happens in the conscious state it is easy to fall into the trap of hoping we can “logic” our way out of all psychological pitfalls, as it would appear that {although many of us are aware of the the sway that the unconscious mind can have over us} the conscious mind is still “the boss”. If that were the case of course, we could simply challenge all irrational beliefs on a conscious level and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy would be infallible. Sadly, it’s not that simple.
How is it possible for someone to harbor a disabling fear of snakes in the Scottish Highlands? There’s hardly an adder left to speak of {at least I’ve never seen one!}.
Given the evidence that it’s more dangerous statistically to cross a main road, how does a person maintain an extreme fear of flying? Consumed by visions of going down in flames? Think of 2 boxes in our minds marked PROBABILITY and POSSIBILITY. All the evidence suggests that a plane crash belongs way down at the bottom of the POSSIBILITY box. Yet for that person, it is right there at the top of the PROBABILITY box. Defies all logic of course, but our anxious flyer has lost control of rational beliefs and feelings about flying and we’re back to square one, that ultimately people believe what they want to believe, and those beliefs serve a need. Notice I didn’t say at the outset that they believe what they “consciously” want to believe. These beliefs often exist at a far deeper level of consciousness than we regularly access, and that’s where hypnotherapy can be effective.
THE UNCONSCIOUS {OR SUBCONSCIOUS} MIND
Simply put, the unconscious part of the mind is quite simply all material that is not conscious. Some of this material is readily available to the conscious mind and some is not. Mickey Mouse was not in your conscious awareness was he? He was quite easy to access though and he is now!
BRIEF DEFINITIONS OF HYPNOSIS/TRANCE/HYPNOTHERAPY
The word “hypnosis” still carries sinister undertones for many people. Actually, our day to day lives are immersed in it. Sport, entertainment, fashion and especially advertising are all examples of the use of hypnosis in relation to it’s simplest definition of “influential communication”. So hypnosis is not a state of mind, it is a process. Hypnotic trance is a state of mind, and hypnotherapy is the utilization of that state of mind to influence and achieve a desired outcome
HOW DOES IT WORK?
We’ve established that the conscious mind is not necessarily the “the boss” in terms of our beliefs. Because it likes to think it is however, it functions rather like the “guard at the gate” in terms of establishing a direct line of communication with the unconscious. Because therapeutic suggestions can so easily be blocked by this “guard at the gate” he needs to be kept occupied and out of the process. Virtually anything can be used to focus and occupy the conscious mind, from the classic gold watch in the face to Matt Lucas’ Little Britain character that barks the order “Look into the eyes, look into the eyes, not around the eyes” {Note that not all hypnotic induction strategies are visual}.
BYPASSING THE CRITICAL FACULTY
This process of clearing the way for direct communication with the unconscious is known as “bypassing the critical faculty” and is more easily achieved with some people than others, this potential often referred to as a person’s hypnotizability. A relatively small percentage of the population are hyper-suggestible {they go into trance very easily} and it is this percentage that are the focus of stage hypnotists who obviously need to get the maximum number of people acting like chickens in the shortest space of time!
THE “POWER” OF THE HYPNOTIST
To imply that this percentage is “easiest to hypnotize” raises a confusing point however, because the general feeling these days is that all hypnosis is self-hypnosis. thus relying on the full co-operation of the subject/client.
I should also be noted, that far from being weak or gullible {as has often been a misconception} they actually have a talent, or innate ability, to enter the trance state easily. Obviously there is a level of skill involved in delivering effective suggestions to help facilitate this from the point of view of the hypnotist, but he does not have “power” over them or anyone else. This is perhaps one of the most common misconceptions about hypnosis. Thinking about it, if this were not the case, unscrupulous people would be actively and inappropriately putting each other into trance all the time, walking out of banks with bags of money, using so-called “speed-seduction” techniques etc. and the world would be a very different and more dangerous place than the one we know. Doesn’t happen of course.
THE TRANCE STATE
Trance is a naturally occurring state, experienced when we daydream or immerse ourselves in a movie or a story to the exclusion of all else. This narrowing of our focus is known as establishing “selective thinking”, and we do it ourselves. Why do we get emotionally involved in that movie or story? We know they are fictional characters, actors in a movie, so what difference does it make what happens? It’s not real! At that point we voluntarily “bypass our critical factor” that knows it’s not real and immerse ourselves in it “as if” it were. Otherwise it would not resonate with us emotionally and we would simply not be entertained.
HYPNOTHERAPY
Hypnotherapy utilizes the power of suggestion. Which is just that, powerful. From the first time that “mummy kisses it better” {and it works} right up to the very necessary and costly blind trials which are mandatory in establishing the efficacy of a new drug, and which are designed to exclude the action of “the placebo effect”. The range of areas where hypnotherapy has been proved effective is too vast to even start listing here but is readily available. For anyone seeking help it is important to carefully check the credentials of a potential hypnotherapist as it is only fairly recently that a formal accreditation system has been put in place. It should also be noted that the skill of the hypnotherapist is not the ability to “put?” someone in trance {you can witness that in a pub on a sunday afternoon} but how to utilise that state most effectively based on the issues presented by the client. Then choosing from the myriad of possible strategies, how the hypnotherapist makes “the desired outcome irresistible”. Because ultimately, people believe what they want to believe!
{John Sinclair Dip. CAH PNLP Cert. Hyp. {NGH} M. NCH {Lic.} {April 2011}