What Exactly is Hypnosis?
Hypnosis has been practiced in many cultures for thousands of years. The Egyptians, Chinese, Persian and Indians all practiced it in some form. The evolution of hypnosis into what we know today began in the 18th century when Franz Anton Mesmer began to use magnets passed over a patient’s body to cure diseases. He soon found that he did not need the magnet but that he could achieve the same results with just his hands. Other practitioners discovered that using the voice had quicker results than using the hands, thus making way for the type of clinical hypnosis treatment in use today. Hypnotherapy is successfully used to treat a number of conditions including, pain, anxiety, habit breaking, depression and IBS.
What is hypnotherapy?
There is plenty of evidence to suggest that hypnosis really does work but science has yet to discover how exactly hypnosis works and what exactly happens.
If you look up the dictionary definition of hypnosis you will find something similar to this:
“An artificially induced trance state resembling sleep, characterized by heightened susceptibility to suggestion.”
Fair enough if you want it summing up in just a sentence. But it is easier to get an idea of what hypnosis is by looking at it in a bit more depth and by looking at what hypnosis defiantly is not.
We naturally go into a trance during normal everyday activities such as driving, watching TV, daydreaming and any other activity we do without consciously thinking about it. This is because when someone is in a trance they have access the unconscious mind. In the trance state you tune out background stimuli and can concentrate on a particular thing.
There is a difference between the natural state of trance and a hypnotic trance. When a person is hypnotised they are induced into a trance, which is guided by the therapist, and used to achieve a particular goal and make positive changes in their life. Whereas, natural trances are not led but just happen automatically.
Hypnosis creates a deep state of relaxation. During hypnosis people are highly suggestible and have heightened focus and concentration making it easier for them to react to suggestions made by the therapist. This works because there is cooperation between the patient and the hypnotist where the patient responds to the hypnotist’s suggestions, rather than just doing as they are told.
What Hypnosis is not
There are a number of myths about hypnosis. The most prevalent is that it is like being asleep. It isn’t, the person is awake and aware of what is going on although there brain goes into REM as they do during particular periods of sleep. Another false belief is that when a person is hypnotised they immediately forget what happened during hypnosis when they wake up. Some patients go into a heavier trance than others or ‘drift off’ but they are not fully asleep. Whereas other patients do not even know they have been in a trance at all.
As a therapy hypnosis, unfortunately, is not a magical ‘quick fix’ that can be used to rid a patient of all their problems. It would be great if it was, but nothing can be achieved without a bit of will power and effort.
Despite numerous references in popular culture, hypnosis is not achieved by waving a watch in front of someone’s face while telling them they are ‘feeling very sleepy’. Nor is it an occult power to gain control over an individual – nor should it be used as a seduction technique! Hypnosis is not ‘evil’ and does not open a person up to demonic forces as some religious factions would have it. Trance states have been used in many religious practices to heighten the spiritual experience, such as when chanting, during meditation, drumming and dancing. People deep in prayer could be said to be in a trance.
Hypnosis has had a bad press in some places where it is seen as a method used to make someone bend to your will. There are videos on the internet showing cashiers handing over money to a thief who just asked them and having no memory of doing it. This is unlikely to be hypnosis rather another type of confidence trick. Some stage and street hypnotists have used their skills to make it look as though they are conning members of the public which does not help the reputation of hypnosis. Stage hypnotism should not be mistaken for hypnotherapy. When in a deep trance state people can lose their inhibitions and do things they might not normally do, which is what stage hypnotists rely on during their shows.
Here is a brief overview of what is and isn’t hypnosis. Hypnosis should be a positive experience but, as with everything else, it depends on the person practicing.