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Dispelling the myths of hypnosis

In Coaching, Counselling and Personal Development, Mind and Movement by jo.buchanan0 Comments

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The use of hypnosis can be traced back to the time of the Ancient Egyptians. There is evidence in the hieroglyphic records on the walls of temples that the priest would instruct seekers for healing to lie down before leading them into a deep, relaxed state and then instruct them to ‘dream’ an answer to the problem. This is similar to what hypnotherapists do now, when asking the client to hand over to the subconscious mind to resolve a problem.

Being in the state of hypnosis, which is just a state of relaxation, allows the conscious critical faculty to be by-passed, allowing a ‘gateway’ to the subconscious mind. It is being in a state of compliance with oneself. The hypnotherapist facilitates the relaxation process, acting as a guide to help clients empower themselves and make desired, natural, healthy changes. The choice to make the change lies within the client. The therapist has no control over the client in any way, at any time. The state of hypnosis is an altered state of consciousness which results in increased receptiveness. It enables escape from an overload of messages in the conscious mind that cause confusion and stress.

All hypnosis is self-hypnosis. The therapist cannot make the client think, say or do anything they would not normally think, say or do.

What is hypnotherapy used for?

Hypnotherapy is recognised and accepted world wide by the medical and dental profession worldwide as an alternative therapy that is safe, non-intrusive, empowering and beneficial. As far back as World War 1, it was used for the direct removal of symptoms such as anxiety and panic. It is commonly used for panic attacks, anxiety, shyness, raising academic performance, insomnia, creative blocks, developing greater sales abilities, smoking, weight loss, improving memory and concentration, developing a more positive attitude, unwanted repetitive habits and negative thinking, better sports performance, improving career success, insomnia and nightmares, skin problems, preparation for childbirth, stress management, fears, mild or reactive depression, phobias, and restoration of lost self confidence, self esteem, self worth, self deservability and self image.

Stage hypnosis

Film and television depictions of hypnosis and Svengali-type hypnotists swinging watches around in the air are grossly inaccurate. The idea of a person having control over another makes for a compelling storyline but in fact is impossible. Anybody in the state of hypnosis (which is just a state of relaxation) is always in control and can choose to follow or ignore the suggestion of a hypnotist or hypnotherapist.
Stage hypnosis is a performance and its aim is to entertain. The people from an audience who volunteer to go up on stage are ‘closet extroverts’ who want to go on stage and be the centre of attention. They want applause. In order to receive attention, they are willing to go along with a show whether they are in any form of hypnosis or not.
I also know people who work as film and television extras who are regularly paid by stage hypnotists to sit in an audience and run up on stage when volunteers are requested. They happily act the part of a duck laying eggs or do a Liberace impersonation because they are paid well to do so. Some months ago, when a current affairs programme had a stage hypnotist on for a story, I knew two of the women who were paid to sit in the audience as ‘stooges’. They were quite happy to lie to the camera and say they ‘had no control’ over what they were doing. To them, it’s the same as acting a role in a play. It’s a job.

Does hypnotherapy always work?

No. No more than any other form of medicine, complementary or orthodox. A responsible therapist will know, or soon detect, if hypnotherapy will work for a client or not and will help them to seek help elsewhere if necessary. I try to determine this over the phone in our first conversation. I ask the prospective client what the problem is and if I know that hypnotherapy will work well for their particular problem, I will say so and we will make an appointment. If I know that it will not work and will be a waste of the client’s money and time, I say so and try to help them find an alternative therapist. For instance, hypnotherapy does not work for clinical depression, schizophrenia or other serious mental illnesses that are the result of a chemical imbalance in the brain. However, hypnotherapy works well for mild depression or reactive depression. Reactive depression is depression brought on by a sudden setback or tragedy such as a death, loss of a partner orloss of a job. It is sadness or grief in reaction to something. Anorexia does not usually respond to hypnotherapy. If someone wants to make an appointment to give up smoking because their partner wants them to stop smoking cigarettes, I warn them that it probably won’t work. The client himself/herself has to want to give up smoking. Not do it to please another. The area of alcohol and drug addiction is so complicated that usually hypnotherapy is not the sole answer but can be used effectively in conjunction with other treatments.

Do you really go into a trance?

If you are thinking of the glassy-eyed ‘trance’ you see in films, when someone is stumbling around not knowing what they’re doing, the answer is ‘no’. But in a way, you do go into a type of trance, the same way you do when you are so involved in a movie that you don’t hear someone speak to you. Or when you have been driving the car for a while and don’t notice how far you have gone. The depth of trance during therapy is considered unimportant from the therapist’s point of view. Some people, especially somnambulists who walk in their sleep, go into a type of ‘trance’ or ‘altered state’. Most people remain alert and aware and sometimes more focussed than they normally are. You cannot get ‘stuck’ in the state of hypnosis. It is the same as experiencing the state of relaxation you achieve in meditation or lying in the sun on the beach. If the hypnotherapist were to walk out of the room, you would simply bring yourself out of it. You are in full control at all times.

Hypnotherapy and the subconscious

Hypnosis is a way of accessing your subconscious, which contains your inner wisdom, intelligence, intuition, and instincts. It is your untapped resource for imagination and creativity. Your subconscious mind is the part of your brain responsible for all bodily functions and automatic behaviour (blinking, breathing, blood circulation, healing, habits and skills). It is also the source of your emotions. Very often a gifted, creative person feels blocked. They know they can paint or act or sing or write, but they keep sabotaging themselves. What stops them from giving expression to their own, innate, creative ability is a forgotten, unconscious belief that they do not possess such talent. The block is a suppressed negative belief stored deep in the subconscious mind, usually absorbed like osmosis during childhood. All you have to do to ‘give life to’ the creative being you truly are is rid yourself of the suppressed belief that is sabotaging you. Hypnotherapy is a simple, easy and safe way to do this and is now recognised worldwide as an alternative therapy that is safe, non-intrusive, empowering and beneficial.

Jo Buchanan has been practicing hypnotherapy for 22 years and lives in Victoria. 

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