HYPNOSIS – Myth or Masterful?

What Is Hypnosis?

There has been a lot written about hypnosis and pretty much everyone has an opinion of what it is and how it works. Some people believe it can help, but other people are afraid it may harm them in some way. There is a feeling of not being in control, of not really knowing what is going on. Will someone “change me?” Well that is a potentially scary thought, and not an uncommon one.

As someone who uses hypnosis regularly in my practice, I’ve decided to tackle some of the myths around this process and look at what happens when hypnosis is used.

But let’s start with the definition. If you Google hypnosis you find lots of information, including -.

Hypnosis - noun
the induction of a state of consciousness in which a person apparently loses the power of voluntary action and is highly responsive to suggestion or direction. Its use in therapy, typically to recover suppressed memories or to allow modification of behaviour, has been revived but is still controversial.

The Cambridge English Dictionary gives the definition as: a mental state like sleep, in which a person's thoughts can be easily influenced by someone else: 

Ok, so you are asleep or in a sleep like state and someone else can then influence your thoughts and behaviours. No problem there then.

The interesting thing is that this is the opinion that many people have of this process, and they have created a fear around their ignorance of what actually happens. Understandable but not necessary.

There is the popular ‘belief’ of hypnosis and how it works, and there are some widely held myths that lead to this popular definition that I want to expose and shoot down.

One very common belief is that the patient does not have control during the hypnosis process. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the person who is experiencing hypnosis is possibly more in control then than they are at any other time. Why? Because they are being open and honest in their thought processes without the usual barriers and filters we put in place around our thinking and decision making.

We can be masterful at hiding what is really going on for us, and convincing ourselves that everything is Ok. “I can get through this challenge with a clear goal and some determination.” Sound familiar?

There is no shortage of self-help books out there. There are hundreds, possibly thousands of them. Some are quite good. People buy them, often don’t read them and if they do don’t understand them, and rarely put the advice into practice.

Welcome to the life problem merry-go-round. What is the old saying about doing things the same way and getting the same result?

Trust can be a huge barrier for some people when considering hypnosis and it is critical that you trust the person you are working with. Rapport is essential and must be established early for the process to be successful. There must be that empathetic connection to allow the person undergoing hypnosis to achieve the results they wish to. They must be engaged and completely co-operative. They actually have to participate in the process – it’s not something that is “ done to you”.

Can I Be Programmed?

This brings us to yet another common hypnosis myth.

You can be ‘programmed ‘to have new beliefs, and behave in such a way that is not acceptable to you. This is simply not true. People are often afraid of losing control under hypnosis and being controlled by someone else. That is also a false belief.

Hypnosis is about influencing the subconscious, not about control. The subconscious will only accept influences that are positive for it, and will reject any suggestion that is harmful. I’ve discovered over the years that many people do not understand the way their mind works, and the difference between the conscious and sub-conscious. Teaching my clients about this is something I enjoy because of the results they get from their new understanding.

Stage performances of people being hypnotised to say and do ridiculous things are simply that – stage performances. You cannot be hypnotised unless you choose to participate, and I have personal experience with this when I was attending a conference and the “entertainer” was looking for people to participate in his act. He quickly moved passed me when it was clear I was choosing not to be involved.

Ericksonian hypnosis is all about permission, both before the trance and during. There are no direct commands, rather suggestions and confirming permission to make the changes you have indicated you want to make. Although it is indirect rather than direct, it is extremely powerful and effective.

An example I read recently was direct hypnosis would sound something like “you will lose weight now”, whereas indirect would be more like “: when you are ready to do so, you might like to explore the options of eating differently ….”

Of course, there is much more to it than just drifting off to a lovely relaxing state and then solving all your problems, however it can be a great start and can in fact bring about amazing changes to thinking and behaviour.

You must really decide you want to change and not use ‘fear of hypnosis’ as an excuse not to explore this opportunity.

So how does the process really work – what happens?

We work with both our conscious and sub-conscious mind and it’s the subconscious that holds all our secrets and knowledge and is in control of our behaviour. Any serious change we need to make needs to happen right there in the subconscious. So, how do we get in there and make those changes?

This is where hypnosis comes in. It simply quietens the conscious mind – the place of busy thoughts – just keeps it quiet for a time, while the practitioner using hypnosis can help the subconscious work it’s magic. By accessing the information and programs in the subconscious positive change can happen. The most important point to note is, you cannot change in a way that goes against your values and is not in line with what you believe.

How can it help?

So, before we go further, just take a step back.

My experience has shown that Hypnosis can be beneficial for numerous things including weight loss and eating disorders, pain management, smoking, sleep issues, anxiety, phobias, lack of confidence and other challenges people face daily. More recently it has been used to assist with relaxing during pregnancy.

Phobias and fears are another example. Fear of heights, fear of flying – there are many challenges people face, and they can be debilitating.

I’ve worked with people who were unable to fly or get in a lift, but could not work out why. “I’ve tried everything to solve this problem” said one client, but he had not realised that his fear about flying was coming from an old memory and a belief he had come to associate with getting into a plane.

Those old negative and very limiting beliefs you may be holding onto can have a destructive effect on your life if they are not corrected, but often they are so well hidden we are not even aware they exist. Time to dig them out.

What about personal beliefs such as lack of confidence or self-esteem, fear of taking that step toward you goal, fear of failure, or even fear of success. Breaking through that cloud that surrounds clear thinking and enabling us to work with a new base line of processing and understanding our thoughts.

Managing and understanding emotions such as anger can also be helped with hypnosis or light trance. Anger is a normal human emotion but not a healthy one if it is controlling daily thinking and behaviour. Stress and anger can be aligned and often one can contribute to the other.

Most people know the left brain / right brain logic, but may not be aware that the subconscious is aligned with the right side of the brain. The creative side. The emotional side. It is therefore the place to go when looking at trance to help change emotional blockages.

What is Trance?

“Allow yourself to see what you don’t allow yourself to see.” 
-- Milton H. Erickson (Milton Hyland Erickson was an American Psychiatrist and Psychologist specialising in medical hypnosis and family therapy).

Milton H. Erickson was a master at inducing trance with his patients and generally regarded as the father of hypnotherapy. He worked with a lighter trance state which allowed the patient to really participate in the process whilst exploring areas of the subconscious not always accessible without that trance state. I prefer to use this form of hypnotherapy as it is more relaxing, non-intrusive and extremely effective.

Trance is a state we are often in without realising it. Have you ever sat in front on the TV and just started to go to sleep? You are aware of the program – or aware that something is going on, but you are not engaged on a conscious level. Your fatigue has taken over and your mind wanders, or has just slowed down and you may not even remember what you were watching. Have you ever found yourself day dreaming during a meeting or on the train to work? You suddenly find you have not been consciously aware of what is happening around you. Your thoughts are elsewhere. Trance is a mild sleep state – very relaxed and in the right circumstances, allows us to be more open to different thought processes.

If you take away the conscious thought around this and find out the real, core reason behind the fear, then it can be changed. This is where hypnosis works so well because it is a gentle and safe way of getting to the real reason behind the belief and then changing it. Excellent.

People I have worked with have been very surprised at how simple the process is but how powerful the results are.

Often people have to get over a phobia or fear they have developed (or created) around hypnosis before they can experience it to remove a phobia or fear of something else. Catch 22.

How long has hypnosis been around?

Interestingly I read recently that it’s been a pretty hot topic for 200 years, so it has been out there for a while. It has developed over time and there has been plenty of research done, however the basic principle is the same. It has been tested, written about, workshopped, analysed, discussed, and debated.

Are we any further ahead in our thinking about hypnosis?

I have had clients embrace the idea, and some quite fearful. The results, however tell their own story, and what a story it can be.

Is Hypnosis For You?

The brain is an amazing place and hypnosis simply provides access to parts of the mind that we have chosen to either ignore or not understand. Sometimes it’s simply a case of not being aware of what we are capable of.

Hypnosis is very effective but only if the person working with you knows what they are doing, so if you are considering this for yourself just check out the qualifications of the person you plan to work with.

Is hypnosis for you? If you have an issue or challenge that has been weighing down on you long enough, maybe it is something to consider. If your pain point is just too painful then what do you have to lose? Only the baggage you have been carrying around until now. What do you have to gain? The options are limitless.

Suzanne Glendenning
Master NLP Practitioner,
Certif. Erickson Hypnosis.
Quantum Results Coaching International
www.quantumresults.com.au
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