Hypnosis, Hypnotherapy and Hypnotism
What is hypnosis?
Standard definition: Hypnosis is a state of relaxation and concentration at one with a state of heightened awareness induced by suggestion.
Let’s take that a bit further.
Hypnosis is trance, it’s a daydream state, a reverie, it’s that little absence when you were trying to concentrate on something and your mind wandered off somewhere else. As you might recognise if that seems familiar, you’re actually going in and out of trance states all day long; it’s an everyday experience.
So what’s the big deal? The critical factor is that it’s as if a doorway opens into your subconscious when you go into trance. Things leak out through that open doorway – your mind wanders. So it’s the job of the hypnotherapist, when they’re doing hypnotherapy, to use that open doorway to implant helpful, positive suggestions into your subconscious.
But think about the opposite. A lot of the people we help are actually spending a good part of their day in trance, having a bit of a daydream, but not about South Sea islands and sunshine. No, they’re thinking about how bad life is, how awful they feel again and about how difficult it’s going to be to get through the day. And all those negatives are going in through that open doorway and are then sitting there in their subconscious, programming their mind with negatives. So it turns out that many of these people are expert hypnotherapists and they didn’t even know it. They’re just programming their mind with negatives instead of positives.
Now the ways out of that bind are not just using hypnotherapy – sometimes a different sort of psychotherapy is more effective (learn to manage your thinking better with the Thrive programme for instance) but here we’re talking about hypnosis and hypnotherapy.
Hypnosis has been in use for thousands of years. There is a great deal of evidence to support the belief that Hypnosis was being used by the Ancient Greeks and Romans – for therapeutic benefit – as far back as about the fourth Century BC.
Egyptians had very popular ‘sleep temples’ in which people were asked to lie down and listen to somebody chanting to help cure illness and problems as far back as 1550BC.
Hypnosis, as a word, derives from the Greek word Hypnos meaning ‘sleep’ and certainly hypnosis is often paired with deep relaxation. But the trance part, however fleeting it may be, is an altered state of consciousness. By the time the early users of hypnosis realised that people weren’t actually asleep and tried to change the name, it had already stuck.
While a person is in this trance state, and that little doorway is open, they find it easier to accept beneficial suggestions (e.g. “you are now a happy, relaxed, natural, non-smoker”).
Stage hypnosis, hypnotism and misconceptions
It is unfortunate that most people’s first encounter of hypnosis is through watching television and stage hypnotists at work. This can lead people to believe that they may be controlled or manipulated or made to do something silly.
NOTHING could be further from the truth.
At all times you remain in control and perfectly awake. Hypnosis for therapeutic purposes is just about finding a way to get that trance state going, usually by focusing on relaxation. You may feel very heavy, relaxed, lethargic or quite light and tingly. It’s just a wonderful, deeply pleasant and relaxing experience.
Hypnosis – true or false?
‘In hypnosis you are asleep’
FALSE – you are wide awake at all times.
‘You can be made to do something against your will’
FALSE – Nobody can make you do anything that you do not want to do.
‘Hypnosis is a natural state of mind’
TRUE – It is completely natural state of concentration and relaxation. It has been used for hundreds of years.
‘There are some people that can’t be hypnotised’
FALSE – Everybody can be, if they want to and when they follow simple instructions on how to relax; excepting persons with learning difficulties, although of course the degree varies from person to person. The only other exception would be people ‘high’ on the effects of alcohol or drugs.
‘You can’t remember what happened’
FALSE – There isn’t any amnesia after hypnosis, you will remember everything that took place.
‘There is no official hypnotherapy regulatory body on the UK’
TRUE – At the moment, no one hypnotherapy organisation has any precedence over any other. The IAEBP has its roots going back to 1974 and as an evolving and developing hypnotherapy / psychotherapy organisation has stood the test of time.