Hypnosis - A Modern Story
By Naomi Walker
Stresses of Modern Life
The modern world brings all sorts of stress and anxiety into your busy life. From not getting a good night's sleep, to the commute to work, the crucial decision making that is an expected part of daily existence and dealing with the human emotions in family and personal relationships. It's difficult to minimise the stress and trauma that is caused, and it can begin at a young age. Childhood can be a hot bed of distress caused by troubled relationships with parents and peers, pressure or unpleasant experiences at school and anxiety about the future.
Negative Experiences Cause Trauma
Every emotion and thought you have impacts on how you perceive and experience the world around you. So it's not surprising that negative experiences, particularly repeated negative experiences, can cause you difficulties in the future. Your psychological health has a direct effect on your physical well-being, with many physical conditions manifesting as a result of a psychological stress, which may be current or in the past. Your mind is an incredible machine than can bury memories deep inside and it's possible that these memories can subconsciously affect how you act or how you feel.
As adults everyone carries around a varying amount of accumulated emotional baggage caused by stress and psychological trauma. It's a scary thought that unnecessary or unwanted behaviours, habits and thinking may be caused by the weight of this negativity.
So what's the solution?
For many years, there has been a rise in the popularity of 'talking' therapies, which are designed to enable people to talk through circumstances in their lives and formulate solutions and ways of dealing with issues. Hypnotherapy, which uses the state of hypnosis as a therapeutic tool, enables people to focus clearly on the cause of their unwanted behaviours or thinking, whether or not that cause is readily remembered. The skilled therapist can then use various methods to help eliminate the trauma caused by the memory.
In the past, hypnotherapy was seen as lacking some credibility when compared to conventional therapy. However, since the turn of the last century, it has not only continued to grow in popularity, its benefits and positive effects have been clinically demonstrated time and time again. Today, hypnotherapists use hypnosis to treat a huge variety of different conditions with success.
In this article, we take a look into the world of hypnosis and hypnotherapy, from the history and beginnings of research into the phenomenon, to how it can benefit you today and what to expect when you visit a hypnotherapist.
The History of Hypnosis
No one knows for sure where hypnosis was used for the very first time. Evidence suggests that ancient cultures in Egypt and Greece used a form of it in their healing ceremonies and even built special 'sleep temples' to practice the art inside. Since the rise of mankind, many cultures have habitually used drumming, dancing and chanting to induce a state of altered consciousness, a trance state, that will bring some benefit to the participants or enable them to access 'other worlds' and wisdom from higher beings.
People throughout history have used hypnosis without realising they are doing so. For example, in 1794, before the invention of anaesthetics, a boy had a tumour removed. During the operation, his mother read a story to him. The boy was so involved and 'entranced' with the story that he felt no pain during the procedure.
Early Hypnosis Pioneers
Hypnosis, as we understand it today, was first developed and researched by a Viennese physician, Friederich Anton Mesmer, in the late 1700s. He lived in Paris and became very famous for his practice of what he called 'mesmerism'. Some days, up to three thousand people came to him for treatment.
Mesmer was eventually discredited but research into the phenomenon continued in the medical and scientific community.
The first man in modern times to put 'mesmerism' to good, extensive use was a British Army surgeon named James Esdaile. In 1845, he went to India where he had great success copying Mesmer's techniques. Using his methods, he was reportedly able to reduce the mortality rate during surgery from around 50% to 8%. His patients also showed a remarkable rate of recovery from surgery compared to conventionally treated patients. His results sparked a renewed interest in the subject.
In the mid nineteenth century, a Scottish doctor called James Braid published a book entitled 'Neurypnology or The Study of Nervous Sleep'. He had invented the word 'neuryphology' with later became 'hypnosis' (hypnos is the Greek word for sleep) He used his techniques with success as a form of pain reduction during surgery.
Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung both experimented with hypnosis as part of their investigations into psychoanalytic techniques.
In more recent times, Dr Milton Erickson (1901 – 1980) became the recognised leading authority on the therapeutic use of hypnosis. Dr Erickson was considered a 'master of hypnosis', who could put people into a trance with the merest of suggestion. Many of his theories and methods are practised today by modern hypnotherapists.
What is Hypnosis and What is Hypnotherapy?
Hypnosis is a state of human consciousness in which you become less aware of your surroundings and more able to focus your concentration on a specific thought or memory. It is know as a hypnotic trance state. During a hypnotic trance, you become more responsive to suggestion and your behaviour may be modified by 're-programming' your subconscious mind to perceive events or issues in a new way.
People Experience Trance Every Day
Many people enter a state similar to a hypnotic trance on a frequent basis without any knowledge of it or effort. Have you ever been driving or walking and you suddenly become aware that you have reached your destination without having a memory of the journey? You've functioned automatically without being aware of your actions, going into 'auto-pilot' for a time. This is a common state of trance. Some people go into a trance state when they are watching the television or listening to the radio. They may become unresponsive to their surroundings and unaware of the passage of time.
Different Levels of Hypnotic Trance
The hypnotic trance may be very light, during which you will simply feel more relaxed and able to focus without much difficulty. At the other end of the scale, a deep state of hypnosis may result in you becoming seemingly unaware of your surroundings and unable to recall the time spent in trance. All levels and depths of trance are thought to be beneficial to therapy with some of the most powerful work completed in the lightest trance states. Different individuals are able to achieve varying depths of trance, and this may vary on different occasions.
In general, some people are more susceptible than others to hypnotism. According to research, 80% of the population have a medium level of susceptibility, 10% have a low susceptibility and the remaining 10% have a high susceptibility. The hypnotic trance in a naturally occurring phenomenon which is used as a therapeutic tool by hypnotherapists. Hypnotherapy can be defined as the application of talking therapy techniques undertaken when you are in a state of hypnotic trance. This particularly applies to therapy that involves some sort of suggestion designed to act upon the subconscious, causing a change or improvement in current behaviour or patterns of thinking.
Communicating with the Subconscious Mind
Some therapists believe that during the hypnotic trance, the conscious mind is distracted allowing the hypnotherapist to communicate directly with the deep subconscious mind, accessing thoughts and memories that the conscious mind may not be aware exist. Hypnotherapists are skilled at inducing a state of hypnotic trance using relaxation and a guided induction.
How Can Hypnotherapy Help You?
Hypnotherapy can help you to deal with unwanted behaviours and habits and destructive or negative ways of thinking. This is because these unpleasant things are very often caused by trauma and stress associated with memory. Sometimes you can be fully aware of the reason behind an unwanted behaviour. For example, a person terrified of water because they witnessed the drowning of a loved-one, or a person scared of public speaking who has been humiliated by a colleague when attempting to verbalise their thoughts to an audience. But sometimes you may be unaware of the cause of your trauma. It is thought by many therapists that the mind has the ability to repress memories that are painful or destructive in some way. Hypnotherapy provides a tool to unlock and deal with these memories, thus releasing you from the negative cycle of behaviour.
Hypnotherapy for Stress
Stress can also manifest in many physical forms. Nail biting, hair pulling, digestive problems, headaches, chest pains and panic symptoms, amongst many other conditions, can all be caused by stress. Hypnotherapy enables you to address the cause of this stress and helps to alleviate the physical symptoms.
Hypnotherapy is used to treat all conditions that have a psychosomatic cause (a mental or emotional state which produces a physical symptom) Although this is not exhaustive, to give you an idea of its range, here's a list of some of the issues hypnotherapy has been used successfully to deal with:
Alcoholism OCD Anger Pain Control Anxiety Phobias Asthma Panic Attacks Breast Feeding Issues Psoriasis Child Birth Sexual Problems Confidence Issues Sports Performance Depression Stammering Diarrhoea Stress Drug Addiction Smoking Cessation Eating Disorders Weight Loss Eczema Irritable Bowel Syndrome Headaches Insomnia Migraine
Hypnosis - A Non-Invasive Therapy
Hypnotherapy is a non-invasive therapy which has no known unwanted side effects when provided by a trained hypnotherapist. When you are undergoing therapy, you will be able to carry on with life as normal whilst the therapy works on the reason that you act or think in the way that you do. You may even find during therapy that other issues are uncovered that can be dealt with, successfully remedying other negative behaviours which may have been troubling you.
What to Expect During Hypnotherapy?
It's natural that you may feel nervous about visiting a hypnotherapist for the first time. It's a new experience and you don't know what to expect. You may have reservations about being in the hypnotic trance state. A professional hypnotherapist will understand how you are feeling and do his/her best to put your mind at rest and answer any questions you have. You are likely to have an initial consultation with your hypnotherapist during which you can confidentially discuss the reason you feel you need some help. Together you will be able to decide if hypnotherapy is a suitable therapy for you and what sort of results you can expect. You will also be able to discuss what form your therapy will take and its expected duration.
What Happens During a Hypnosis Session?
When your hypnotherapy is about to begin, you will be seated in a comfortable chair or, perhaps, lying down. Your surroundings should be free from extra noise so the only sound you should be aware of is the sound of your therapist's voice. You may feel more relaxed if you close your eyes, and your therapist may ask you to do so. This is because it is easier to block out distractions when your eyes are closed. If you feel more comfortable with your eyes open, and you are able to relax like that, tell your therapist, who will adjust their way of inducing the trance state. You may be asked to slow your breathing and your attention may be drawn to various parts of your body. This is to promote relaxation and release muscular tension. You should start to feel calm, perhaps a little sleepy, but aware of your therapist's voice.
Hypnotic Induction and Deepener
The therapist will use what is known as an induction to guide you into a relaxed and focussed state. Common inductions involve visualisation. For example, you may be asked to imagine that you are are laying on a tropical beach with the waves gently rolling onto the sand or walking through a beautiful, cool forest. You may be asked to imagine how things around you look, sound, smell and feel. This is all designed to promote your relaxation and get your imagination working. You will never feel out of your own control. A deepening technique may also be used to increase your level of relaxation. Common deepeners include asking you to count backwards in your head or imagine walking down some stairs.
How You'll Feel During Hypnotherapy
You should feel comfortable and content. Sometimes you can feel a little 'floaty' or have unusual sensations, such as tingling, in different parts of your body. This is all perfectly normal. If you feel the need to cough, yawn or move in some way, it's perfectly fine to do so. It's not essential that you sit like a statue!
When your therapist decides that you are in a trance, he/she will begin your therapy, which may include asking you to remember or imagine previous events and circumstances. Your therapist might ask you questions and it's perfectly ok to answer out loud or in your head, whatever you feel most comfortable with.
Your therapy is likely to include suggestions, which help you to change your unwanted behaviour or negative ways of thinking. You will probably be unaware of the suggestions as they will be embedded in the scenario that the hypnotherapist is describing to you. Your mind may wander and you may lose track of time. You may even think that you have fallen asleep. This is normal. Even if you do go to sleep, it's likely that your therapy will still take effect as the therapist is addressing your subconscious mind which does not sleep.
Awakening From a Hypnotic Trance
After a time, your therapy will be complete and your therapist will guide you back to full, conscious awareness. During this 'awakening' you may be asked to count up. When you feel comfortable, open your eyes. You will probably still feel very relaxed and possibly a little tired. It's important that you ensure you are fully awake and aware before you drive or operation machinery of any kind.
Changes After Hypnotherapy
You may feel a change right away or it could take some time for beneficial results to manifest. Your therapist will discuss with you whether you need further sessions and also what you can expect over the next few days. So, To Finish... Modern living can cause you to suffer from stress and trauma due to unpleasant or upsetting experiences. Hypnotherapy is a non-invasive, effective tool that uses trance to help you treat the unwanted physical and mental manifestations caused by this stress and trauma.
Having been extensively researched and practised for many years by some of the top science and medical minds of our time, hypnotherapy has been shown to be a successful treatment for many psychosomatic conditions. Being treated by a hypnotherapist should be a comfortable, beneficial experience during which you will be asked to use the power of your imagination to help you unlock memories and change the way you act or think. The therapy is carried out whilst you are in a hypnotic trance, which will make you feel relaxed and focussed. At no time will you feel out of your own control.
So many of us are plagued by habits, thoughts or feelings that we don't want. This can hold us back from reaching our true potential. Hypnotherapy is a tool we can use to get rid of these negative influences once and for all, and move into a positive and more fulfilling future.