Hypnosis is a natural state – a state that, unbeknownst to us, we use every day, and rely on unawares. Have you seen a mother “kiss it better” for a child? Have you arrived at your destination unable to recall the details of your journey? Or found that some sound or smell suddenly triggers off a lost memory? All these are evidence of the subconscious mind at work, and hypnosis is simply our ability to access and direct this subconscious activity in a positive and helpful way.
Hypnosis is a very deep state of relaxation, coupled with active compliance. First and foremost, it is very pleasant – the sort of feeling you have when you’re almost asleep, and allowing the world to go by. But as with the pleasant dreaminess of almost-sleep, in hypnosis you are still the person in control. You are totally aware of all that is happening, and you allow it to happen in much the same way as you allow yourself to drift in a daydream. But none-the-less you are in control, and this is important. It is your choice whether you accept or reject suggestions made to you, and it is your choice whether you continue in hypnosis. I can only say that most people allow themselves to continue.
How does hypnosis work? It is an age-old question, and perhaps we shall never know the answer completely. However, unlike the days of voodoo and mystery, we do know now that hypnotic suggestion can produce physiological changes through the ability of the nervous system to control somatic functions. It can also allow the subject to reach back mentally and emotionally to deal at source with past trauma, and it can allow us to modify our behaviour, if we choose to, by ‘reprogramming’ the subconscious. So perhaps you can begin to see that the carefully structured suggestions of the therapist, together with the responses of the subject, can produce many and varied effects that are very powerful indeed. Our subconscious minds are our storehouse of memory and emotion, and the centre of spontaneous reaction and automatic response. When we give ourselves access to these resources, we access control of our own lives.
The use of self hypnosis can be invaluable, and its uses are limited only by your own imagination. It can be used simply for relaxation, for ego-boosting and confidence, for waking up in the morning or sleeping at night. We hear more and more now of its use in weight control, sporting performance, study, concentration, and the control of habits such as smoking or nail biting. And it can also be used for the things that are important to you personally, whatever they may be. Suggestions accepted by your subconscious become part of your automatic response system, and are acted upon automatically. Naturally, they become more effective each time they are re-inforced, and with self hypnosis, that re-inforcement is available to you whenever you wish to use it. Self hypnosis is self help. It is a positive re-inforcement of your goals at your fingertips, for your use in your specific interest.
To enter hypnosis is easy – once you have the knack! – and once again, methods of hypnotic induction are only limited by the limits of your own imagination. If you allow yourself to relax and to concentrate, the focus of that concentration can be anything from the flickering of strobe lights to the snoring of your spouse!
At the Academy, we also teach self hypnosis from a state of heterohypnosis – in other words, you allow yourself to be hypnotised by a therapist, who will suggest to you that when you wish to enter the hypnotic state, you simply use a specified trigger, either physical or verbal, and you will allow yourself to drop quickly and easily into hypnosis. Notice that the suggestion is that you must wish to enter hypnosis before the trigger will be effective, and this is unquestionably correct. You will only be able to hypnotise yourself when you are willing to allow it to happen. The benefit of learning to hypnotise yourself by means of a post-hypnotic trigger is that it is very much faster. With practice, you may hypnotise yourself effectively in seconds, and this can be invaluable in dealing with unexpected situations that you find stressful.
As society becomes more complex and more competitive, so we hear more often about the effects of stress. Stress has become fashionable. Unfortunately, it is also a reality, and excess stress can become a fatal reality. In many ways, stress is not only natural, but necessary. It is a motivator – the driving force that gets you moving and makes you productive. But excess stress has the reverse effect. It demotivates and immobilises, and it is excess stress that contributes to the range of threatening illnesses such as hypertension, stomach ulcers and heart disease that are currently taking such toll. And stress is insidious. Positive stress can become negative stress almost without our knowledge, as imperceptibly the day to day pressures change from challenges to chores, the minor burdens become major, until suddenly we recognise that we are overwhelmed.
As hypnosis becomes more generally accepted, its effectiveness in a range of somatic illnesses is becoming more widely recognised. Conditions such as asthma, migraine, skin disease, and even repetitive strain injury, have responded well to hypnosis, and doctors and psychologists are increasingly looking to use it as an adjunct to traditional therapy. There would seem to be two reasons for its success. First, many such conditions contain a stress factor. They may have begun as the result of trauma, sometimes even unrecognised. Most asthma or migraine sufferers know to their cost the types of situations that will aggravate or trigger their particular condition. Hypnosis can help the sufferer defuse these situations by modifying the subconscious response, that is, by introducing in response to the triggering situation a positive behavioural reaction rather than a debilitating headache or an asthma attack. With self hypnosis on tap, it is possible for subjects to give themselves the appropriate suggestions at the moment of greatest need. The reassurance of knowing that this is possible is in itself a relief and an alleviator. It is also possible in hypnotherapy to deal with and defuse any original trauma, and this is usually best done with the help of a qualified clinician.
The second reason for the success of hypnosis in these cases is the ability of the mind to control the functions of the body. We have all heard of incredible feats of physical control, from the extended trances of Indian fakirs to apparently impossible feats of endurance, or remission from illness. All these are examples of subconscious ability to direct bodily functions and responses. Thus it is possible with hypnosis to motivate the body’s own healing resources: to clear the lesions of skin disease; to relax the tortured blood vessels of migraine, and the constricted airways of asthma. All bodily functions or dysfunctions have some channel of communication to the brain, either chemically or neurologically – a thought that opens up the most amazing and fascinating spectrum of possibility!
Hypnosis is not magic, but it can produce a miracle – the personal miracle of achieving your full potential through access to your own resources. Self hypnosis is self help, in all the areas of your life. With it you can achieve the personal world of your imagining – and simply the magical relief of being at peace with yourself.
Leon W Cowen
Cert IV C H (AAH), Dip.Hyp.(Syd), Dip.Hyp.Mast.(USA), M.A.H.A., MATMS, is a clinical hypnotherapist and the Executive Director of the Academy of Applied Hypnosis.
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