Man cannot persist long in a conscious state; he must throw himself back into the unconscious, for his root lives there. — GOETHE (1807)
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Is Hypnosis Mind Control?
When I suggest hypnotherapy to my clients, some look at me as if they say, “Are you sane? how can you even suggest it?”. There are many misgivings about hypnosis. I don’t discount my client’s fears. They are authentic as they feel vulnerable to losing control of themselves. Let’s understand hypnosis in details.
I wonder what imagery came to you when you decided to read about hypnosis? Was it a pendulum or a watch swaying back and forth? Do you imagine blank and vacant eyes?
Hypnosis is the most misunderstood yet one of the most potent psychotherapies available for healing
– from our past wounds,
– phobias and fears,
– performance elevation, and so much more.
The word hypnosis may sometimes create a sense of terror, where you are not in control. You may imagine you are standing on stage and performing actions like “bark like a dog”, or the hypnotist is casting a spell against your wishes. The movie industry over the years has portrayed hypnosis as absolute and deceptive mind control. It continues to perpetuate public mistrust and suspiciousness of something that warrants fear.
Today I want to dispel this myth. I am a mother of two children. If I had the power to control, I could tell them to clean the house, study for 24 hours or be obedient. Sadly (joking), I don’t have that control. If I had the eyes that could control minds, I would ask my clients to pay double fees. Haha!!! I will talk about the myths of hypnotherapy in details later.
What Is Hypnotherapy?
As the name suggests, it’s a combination of hypnosis and therapy.
Hypnotherapy is a powerful healing tool for treating a variety of issues. Hypnosis is recognised from the early 1950s as a psychological wellness tool by the American Psychological Association.
The Society of Psychological Hypnosis (Division 30 of the American Psychological Association) offers the following widely cited and generalised definition (1993):
” Hypnosis is a procedure during which a health professional or researcher suggests that a client, patient, or subject experience[s] changes in sensations, perceptions, thoughts, or behavior.”
I usually tell my clients, if you are the author of your life, I can help you to change the parts that you have written that you are not happy about. I am like the editor that can assist you the author and the writer. You are in absolute control of the changes you desire. It’s like the images below, you have directed your life and now you are ready to re-write. And usually a clinical hypnotherapist will help you do just that.
Our subconscious mind is mighty. If we compare it to an iceberg, it is the submerged invisible 95% part. The 5% that is visible is our conscious. The unconscious or our 95% of the mind is responsible for almost every function of our body, and all this, while keeping a record of our every activity, that we call “memories”. Gradually, with time we forget these little things that have been stored in our mind. But, our subconscious mind doesn’t. This is what hypnotherapy makes use of. Hypnosis activates these forgotten episodes and finds deep-buried answers in our past to some of the present problems.
Have you sometimes heard two voices having a tug of war internally? For example, “I must go for an exercise”, and the other voice says, “Nah.. leave it”. Usually, our subconscious mind will win as the force behind this voice is 95%. However, hypnotherapy helps align our subconscious mind to our conscious mind to give us the powerful push needed to make our desired changes.
Though I certainly do not uphold hypnosis as the panacea for all psychological ills, it does offer powerful alternative and usually quicker solutions or interventions for our problems.
What Is The Alpha State Of Mind?
Hypnotherapy is about being in a light trance-like state, also called the ‘Alpha’ state. Alpha state of mind helps to receive and influence positive changes in self. Alpha state slows down the brain waves. This allows a person to be in a relaxed state of mind and perceptive to suggestions to changes desired by the person. Alpha state helps us to stay focused and calmer to make better decisions for ourselves.
We are usually in the alpha state of mind when we are day-dreaming or practicing mindfulness activities or hypnosis or self-hypnosis.
Does Hypnotherapy Control Our Mind?
A relaxed state of mind or when we trigger the alpha state of mind helps make the desired outcome changes in therapy possible. The question that may arise is then isn’t it controlling our mind? Compare the alpha state of mind to driving. When we drive to a similar destination, for example, from home to work, we are on automatic pilot. However, our attention returns immediately to the present, if there is a commotion or an accident etc. Similarly, a person easily comes back to a normal state of mind (beta brain waves) if the hypnotherapy suggestions are not to their liking. A person is always in control of the changes they desire.
A Case Example Of My Client:
Talking about episodes, I cannot resist writing about the healing experience of my client. The client name is strictly not mentioned to ensure confidentiality. The name mentioned here is not her real name. I have also taken permission to write about her therapy sessions with me.
Story Of Carol (not her real name)
So, this is about a young girl who came to me one day. She wanted to work on her fear of flying. She had just started her career in an IT firm. Her job entailed regular travelling.
She mentioned that her travel had increased over the past months. Her extreme anxiety was debilitating her. She was considering quitting a job though she was very passionate and enjoyed it thoroughly. As soon as she would realise she has to travel, her inner anxiety would start. She had sleepless nights, and on the night before her flight, she was worse. Her journey to the airport steadily increased her fear, and sitting on the plane was becoming impossibly challenging for her.
She said, “everything is so perfect in my job except for the travel. Can you do something, please?” Our goal for therapy was to ensure she can start travelling without anxiety.
Hypnotherapy works very well with phobias. We decided to have weekly sessions. After our history, I worked with Carol to desensitize her every stage of anxiety. After around six sessions, she came back happy and relaxed. She was able to manage her travelling with ease, and her fear had considerably gone down.
How Does Hypnotherapy Work?
Hypnotherapy works by combining hypnosis with precise, outcome-oriented therapy and targeting the subconscious mind.
Hypnotherapy works with a relaxed state of mind. When Carol was in the alpha state of mind, she visualised different scenes (virtually facing the scenarios) without anxiety. Two opposite emotions cannot be present at the same moment together. When a person is relaxed, they cannot be anxious. This principle is the basis of hypnotherapy.
Carol was able to visualise her anxiety points under a trance. Her mind saw it as if it was happening in reality though it was in her imagination. She then tested her fear and anxiety through her next few experiences of flying. Carol was able to manage her fears very well. There were times when she did not have any anxiety.
A therapist initially understands the changes desired. Usually, taking a client’s history can easily take from one to two sessions. A therapist will then decide if hypnotherapy is a tool that can help their client. I usually recommend going to a psychotherapist who can help a person with more than one tool. I like to work with EMDR therapy, hypnotherapy, cognitive behavior therapy and others to ensure my client can benefit the most.
The beauty of hypnotherapy is that the brain can imagine, and the body believes it to be happening in reality. It is not able to differentiate between imagination and reality. Hypnotherapy works on the principle of visualisation as if it’s happening in the here and now. A therapist will guide you towards guided imagery in a relaxed state of mind. Hypnotherapy empowers the client with confidence and the ability to move forward.
Let Me Do A Small Experiment With You.
Allow your eyes to gently close. Imagine a ripe, fresh lemon in front of you. Add in the colours, the touch, and the smell to this. The citrusy aroma is in the air. Now notice the chopping board and knife that is sitting beside this lemon. Put the lemon on the chopping board. Pick up the knife. Slowly start cutting the lemon. As you cut the lemon into two halves, you notice some of the lemon juice squeezed out in the air. You can now smell the lemony aroma. Take half the lemon to your mouth. Open your mouth and squeeze the lemon juice in your mouth. Swallow it. Now you can open your eyes. What did you notice? Did you feel a sour taste in your mouth? Did you make a face as you gulped the juice? Many would react in the same way. Was the lemon real? Was the juice real? However, our body reaction was real, as it was happening in reality and not in imagination. This is the beauty of hypnotherapy.
Who Needs Hypnothearpy?
With modern technologies and psychological studies, hypnotherapy has increased its compass and is now used to treat many mental health conditions, issues, and unwanted & unhealthy behaviours.
So, with Carol’s example above, imagine living in a state of fear continuously. This fear and anxiety can be a root cause for many physical ailments too. Hypnotherapy helps us overcome our fears.
A few issues that work with hypnotherapy include:
– Substance abuse
– Sleep Disorders
– Pain management
– Managing long term illness
Hypnotherapy is also proving critically beneficial in changing habits like
– Quit smoking
– Weight loss
– Thumb sucking
– Eating habits
Hypnotherapy helps work through different fears and phobias like:
– Fear of flying
– Fear of closed spaces or claustrophobia
– Fear of insects like spiders
– Fear of reptiles or animals
– Performance anxiety
– Fear of exams
– Fear of presenting in a group
Hypnotherapy works to empower self-confidence and self-esteem
What Are The Steps To Hypnotherapy?
There are various Hypnotherapy methods practised by therapists that we will take a quick look at later, but first, let’s skim through the general procedure of hypnotherapy.
It starts with an introductory consultation session and setting therapy goals. The next set of sessions follow selecting a therapy best suited for the person’s diagnosis.
– Step one of the hypnotherapy session will usually start with eye closure.
– Step two includes bypassing the brain’s critical thinking passage and shifting to the alpha state of mind
– Step three will consist of desired suggestions and visualisation for achieving therapy goals.
– Step four will include short ego-strengthening suggestions
– Step five will be returning to the here and now by opening the eyes
What Are The Different Types Of Hypnotherapy?
Now coming to the methods, here I have tried to compile a list of different methods of hypnotherapy that are used by qualified therapists:
– Cognitive Hypnotherapy
– Ericksonian Hypnotherapy
– Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP)
– Past life regression
– Solution-focused Hypnotherapy
– Suggestion hypnotherapy
– Timeline therapy
Benefits Of Hypnotherapy?
The benefits of hypnotherapy are far-reaching. I may not be able to list all of them here. However, let me pen down a few broad benefits of hypnotherapy.
– It creates a sense of self-awareness within
– It improves mental focus.
– It helps with mind and body relaxation.
– Induces Better Sleep after therapy sessions
– Beneficial in Weight Loss
– Helps Quit serious Addictions
– It helps you cope with anxiety & depression.
– helps combat childhood trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
– It helps with getting rid of eating disorders and phobias
How To Choose The Right Therapists?
Choosing the therapists isn’t a big deal with the ready online information available at your fingertips. However, you must know what you are looking for to ensure you are in the right hands for treatment to be successful.
– For many issues, including mental disorders or eating disorders, I request consulting a general physician who knows your medical history. You can share whatever troubles you are going through, and only then, with the doctor’s approval, you can consider giving hypnotherapy a shot.
– Once your doctor approves, you should ensure to look into the therapist’s qualifications, registration details, and licenses. In Singapore, we do not have licenses. However, you can ask your therapist for their qualifications in psychotherapy and hypnotherapy. You may also look at Singapore Counselling Association for their registration details or the Singapore Psychological Society to see if they are registered.
– Look at online feedback by past clients or if you have any friend or relative taking therapy, ask for their referrals.
– Look at your therapist experience related to your issues.
– Check for the insurance availabilities.
– Check therapy methods do the therapist utilises.
– Request for a free 15 to 30 minutes session if possible.
Bursting Some Common Myths
Let me talk more about myths here. Hypnotherapy is the treatment method that has been practised since ancient times, as seen in the earlier sections, which is why you may find so many controversial myths or misconceptions associated with the treatment.
Here I have tried to burst some of the commonly misunderstood myths.
– Hypnotherapy is usually confused with stage hypnosis, as the names suggest, but stage hypnotists are mere performers with the expertise of reading people. Whether or not their subjects are truly hypnotised is still controversial. Hypnotherapy is a scientifically proven medical treatment. The hypnotherapists are well trained and qualified to practice the method to treat severe mental illnesses.
– Hypnotherapy is not responsible for memory loss, and you will remember everything that occurs during the treatment. You may drift from deep slumber to Alpha stage. It’s a myth that you fall asleep or are unaware of what is happening. You are also able to break the hypnotic trance at your own will.
– You won’t lose your subconscious control, and no one can keep you in the state without your will.
– It does not at all mean you are less intelligent or that only dumb people are hypnotisable. Or only weak-minded people are susceptible to hypnosis. This is the biggest misconception about hypnotism. It is a method in which your state of mind is relaxed and guided by the hypnotherapist to facilitate therapy goals.
– Though every individual can be hypnotised to some extent, studies say that about 10% of people are impossible to be hypnotised. All of us have the capability of being in a trance-like state.
Possible Risks Related To Hypnotherapy
Even though hypnotherapy is a safe and secure treatment method and has been widely accepted throughout the world, there are a few probable risks that you may want to keep a lookout for.
Let’s check them out.
– After therapy, some clients do feel side-effects like anxiety, headaches or even dizziness. It’s because the sub-conscious is working towards healing. If it continues for long, contact your therapist immediately.
– It may not be appropriate for some people who show psychosis symptoms such as hallucinations and delusions (Which is why it is always suggested to first consult your GP before taking any step to start hypnotherapy as a treatment.
– Lastly, hypnotherapy is not something you play with. It is a genuine treatment method that needs to be performed under the strict supervision and guidance of a qualified professional therapist.
Hypnotherapy has come a long way and has made a place for itself as one of the most practised medical treatment therapies when it comes to mental health.
Key points that you should keep in mind are:
Hypnosis is a deep state of relaxation in which your subconscious mind is guided to hyper focus and concentrate on those part of your memories that you had hidden or dumped in a closet, which, conceivably, would be the root cause of all your troubles.
Hypnotherapy works with images to empower your self-confidence. It is relatively a quick therapy compared to traditional treatments. However, it is not magical that entails only one session. I also advise my clients to give themselves time to heal.
Do you think hypnotherapy can help you? It has helped me overcome my fear of my body image. I hope it can help you work with your issues. I would love to hear your comments on my article. I would also like to hear about your experiences with hypnotherapy, both positive as well as harmful.