Hypnotherapy has almost as many definitions as practitioners. The majority of the people I have asked have had their own opinion as to what hypnosis means for them. The Collins English Dictionary defines hypnosis as ‘an artificially induced state of relaxation and concentration in which deeper parts of the mind become more accessible’.
The more academic definition of hypnosis is that it is the inducement of a trance-like state. While in this relaxed state it may be possible to treat certain psychological disorders. It is also a gateway into supporting individuals to feel better about themselves, for instance, help with self-esteem or self-confidence.
There are also different hypnotic states. How often do you perform a familiar task such as brushing your teeth, driving to work or doing household chores like ironing or washing up, and notice you have completed the task/drive without noticing the effort required? This is known a waking hypnosis. In addition to this, there is ‘day-dreaming’ and reverie, where we look into the future or at past events and perhaps imagine what might be or might have been.
Hypnotherapy can help with supporting clients to change the way they think about themselves and has the potential to help them change behaviour. It is a tool to help a client’s mind to fulfil what is important to them, or to overcome a phobia or anxiety or to stop a habit such as smoking or nail-biting. It is there to help the unconscious mind help the client to reach their goal.
Throughout hypnosis, a client is guided to a deeply relaxed state of heightened focus or concentration. It is in this state that a hypnotherapist can support and guide the client to face his/her anxieties, phobias or habits. Using the safe environment and having the knowledge that they are in no danger, a hypnotherapist can help by using, for example, aversion techniques to illustrate the perceived danger and guide them beyond their issue.
Hypnosis as a tool can help many therapists to support their client’s needs. Used as a safe and valuable route to their unconscious to elicit rapport between both unconscious and conscious minds.
Hypnosis is a state of mind connected to deep relaxation, narrowed focus and increased suggestibility. It is an intermediate state between sleep and consciousness. In the right hands, hypnosis can be used for therapeutic purposes to encourage the unconscious mind to find solutions to problems or address a behaviour or attitude. It helps the brain to act intuitively (left brain) instead of intellectually (right brain).
What Hypnotherapy is not
There are many apprehensions and misconceptions about hypnosis fed by everyday media and the movie industry, or by having seen or experienced dubious conduct initiated by a ‘stage’ hypnotist. The more common misapprehension of hypnosis is based on losing control over one’s own psyche, uncovering private data or being made to perform inappropriate activities.
Hypnosis is not a modern concept, it has been around a long time. There are depictions of hypnosis in Egyptian Hieroglyphics. The Ancient Greeks went to temples to invoke Hypnos the god of sleep to help with healing and prophetic dreams.
Hypnosis is not the ability to dominate another’s will. You will not be able to be able to get an individual to do something they do not want to do. Being in a trance-like state does not separate us from our morals and integrity.
Hypnosis is not sleeping. It is a deeply relaxed state in which the individual will be conscious and responsive to the hypnotist’s voice. They will be fully aware of their surroundings, which is why it is important to ‘ground’ a client on the induction phase of the session. When asleep the client will be unaware of their surroundings.
Hypnosis is not dangerous. There is no evidence that hypnosis is harmful and there is no conclusive evidence that you can be forced against your will to do something against your moral code.
It is not brainwashing. Brainwashing involves long periods of prolonged physical stress and discomfort. Hypnosis is the complete opposite to this. You cannot become addicted to Hypnosis. It has no negative physical effects on the body.
Hypnosis does not deal with the occult and is not the ‘Devil’s Work’. We have to thank the Hollywood B movies for this misconception.
It is not ‘magic’ or a passive tool where you just lay back, close your eyes and let the Hypnotherapist ‘magically’ make your problems disappear. There has to be some participation and compliance to change the condition which has brought them to the therapist in the first place. It does not make you ‘spill the beans’ or talk out of turn if you don’t want to. The decision on what you want to tell someone is entirely yours. If you want to keep a secret a hypnotist cannot make you tell them.
Hypnosis is not bad for your health. When a client is hypnotised they are in a deeply relaxed state, potentially experiencing total calm and peace. It cannot change anyone’s underlying personality nor can it repair congenital or genetic issues. It does not help achieve something which is physically impossible and cannot change anything that the client resists.
Hypnosis is not a state you can get stuck in. Sometimes clients have trouble coming out of hypnosis but this is not because they are ‘stuck’. It’s mainly because they are so relaxed and comfortable they don’t want to come out.