psychotherapy where hypnosis treatment is utilized is called hypnotherapy. This
term is rather confusing because it somewhat implies that the trained
therapist abandons every psychotherapy approach ever learned when
the hypnosis is used. Rather, the hypnotic state amplifies the mind's
ability to help people reach their goals and resolve problems.
Can I be hypnotized?
It is estimated that 90% of the population can be hypnotized. The
professional begins work with someone by first explaining to the
patient what it is like to be hypnotized. It is explained how we
often experience spontaneous states of hypnosis with the eyes opened.
For instance, you may have had the experience of driving down the
highway where you go many miles through towns, past exists and all
of a sudden you say to yourself “I can’t believe that
I’m here already.” During the process of driving, we
often become absorbed in a variety of activities like the sound
of the tires going over the road, the sound of the car motor, the
sound of the music on the radio or a tape to which we may be listening,
and images of the scenery which are passing us by on the sides of
the highway. There are many things which take us into a state of
absorption during the process of driving. That state of absorption
is a hypnotic trance. It is an example of an eyes opened hypnotic
trance typically called “highway hypnosis.” You may
also have had the experience of reading a book or watching a television
program and someone will come into the room and say something to
you. You hear the person but you are absorbed in what you are reading
or watching. This again, is an example of an eyes opened hypnotic
trance. Being able to be hypnotized is very much about being able
to become absorbed in something. When hypnosis is used clinically,
which means we are going to use it to solve a problem or achieve
a goal. We have people close their eyes to go in to the trance state.
The reason people close their eyes is that people can go into even
deeper states of the absorption process when they close their eyes.
Will I be asleep and will I remember what happens?
You will not go to sleep and you will remember. There are many misconceptions
about what it’s like to be hypnotized. The most common misconception
is that people think you will lose awareness in hypnosis. Really
quite the opposite occurs. The eyes are closed so you don’t
see anything around you, but your awareness about all your senses
is dramatically heightened. In the office of a building, you will
become more aware of the sounds of traffic outside, sounds in the
building, and very aware of any sounds in that office. It is a heightened
state of awareness, not a lessened one as many people think.
A second misconception about what it is like to be hypnotized is
that people believe you will spontaneously begin to reveal secrets,
or anything you have ever kept secret in you life will come babbling
out for some reason. Again, hypnosis is a heightened state of awareness.
You are more aware of anything you would be thinking about saying,
and most certainly aware of anything you would say. No one speaks
spontaneously in hypnosis, perhaps even less so in hypnosis. Again,
you are in a heightened state of awareness.
A third misconception about what it is like to be in hypnosis is
that of amnesia. Most people think you are going to come out of
the hypnosis and not remember a thing that happened while you were
in the hypnosis. Where that myth comes from is based on a tidbit
of fact which has been highly sensationalized by things like books,
movies and the stage hypnotist. There are about 5% of the population
which are capable of such intense states of the absorption process
and have an ability to follow through with a suggestion not to remember
something that is suggested, they do not remember once they come
out of the trance. Ninety-five percent of the population are not
capable of the phenomena even if they thought it would be a nice
thing to happen. Even those capable of the amnesia phenomena will
reject the suggestion if they find it undesirable. Even when the
person is capable of the amnesia phenomena, it won’t hold
up for more than a few minutes after the person comes out of the
trance. The typical scenario is the stage hypnotist act where the
amnesia phenomena is demonstrated with a person in the 5% who is
carefully selected from a group of volunteers coming up to a stage
to participate. Within minutes after the trance is terminated, the
person will spontaneously remember everything that was suggested
they not remember. A post hypnotic suggestion for amnesia simply
will not hold up for very long at all. Most people remember everything
that happens in hypnosis, whether it is suggested they remember
or not remember.
How does hypnosis treatment help with things like smoking cessation, weight
control, anxiety and pain?
If you revert back to some of the spontaneous states of hypnosis (i.e.,
driving, reading or watching a movie), a very soothing physiological
effect occurs in the body. We experience a relaxation response in
our physiology. Muscle tension lessens, blood pressure goes down,
respirations slow down and it feels good. That is the reason people
like to get absorbed in a really good book or movie. It is said that
“all hypnosis is self hypnosis”. What that means is that
hypnosis is something that most everyone can do but rarely learns
how to do systematically. The professional can guide a person into
hypnosis and then embed and condition a cue which will allow the person
to easily induce the relaxed state again when needed or desired. Most
people report experiencing a relaxation in hypnosis more intense than
ever previously experienced.
Being able to do the self hypnosis is very empowering and comforting
for lessening cravings for cigarettes or food if that is your purpose.
It can also help to dramatically change one’s response to
stressors in life and conditions like pain. When hypnosis has been
used by women as the only anesthesia for child birth by Caesarean
section, it makes its other uses seem quite plausible.
A second way in which hypnosis treatment works is that when a person goes
into the hypnotic state, the mind encodes and imprints on things
differently. So if we program the mind, so to speak, in the right
way, then our mind will encode those things and as a result tend
to follow through with those things. The patient can be introduced
to the desired suggestions in the work with the therapist and then
can amplify and reinforce the effects of the suggestions when they
hypnotize themselves periodically.
If you are interested in seeking out someone who specializes in
hypnosis treatment you should be cautious and ask about credentials. Hypnosis
is not an independent science, but only one modality of medical,
psychological and dental treatment. Training in hypnosis alone does
not make one a clinician or therapist. The American Society of Clinical
Hypnosis is a national society of physicians, dentists, nurses and
psychotherapists which certifies only licensed health care professionals
in clinical hypnosis. Certification by this organization represents
a minimum of standards and training having been met.
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