What is Hypnosis

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

“Hypnosis is a state of intensified attention and receptiveness to an idea or to a set of ideas.” – Milton Erickson, leading practitioner of medical hypnosis

That statement neatly sums up the main principle of modern hypnosis. However, it is a neutral concept and despite the wealth of documentation stating it’s usefulness as a therapeutic tool, the keyword “receptiveness” leads many unknowing people to fear the power of hypnosis. As a result there are several common myths concerning hypnosis or hypnotherapy (therapeutic application of hypnosis). Let’s explore some of these and separate fact from fiction.

Myth #1 – If you can be hypnotized, you have a “weak” mind.

Hypnosis is actually a state of deep relaxation. It is the level of relaxation wherein your brainwaves are operating at the “alpha” level. Alpha states are conducive to hypnosis and meditation, heightened creativity and physical relaxation. This is one of four primary brainwave patterns and all are measurable on the electroencephalograph (E.E.G.). Having a “weak” mind has nothing to do with the ability to relax or reach an alpha state. In hypnosis, the person being hypnotized maintains full control over how deeply they choose to relax.

Myth #2 – People who are in a hypnotic trance will reveal secrets or say things they will regret.

When one is in a hypnotic trance (deep relaxation) they can hear every word the practitioner is saying and they can choose how they want to respond. The person in trance always remains in full control. When you see “show hypnosis” on television and audience members are jumping about the stage clucking like chickens – remember that they volunteered to do that in full knowledge that they would be expected to do something “crazy”. Sometimes hypnotherapy is used for purposes of revealing repressed memories or information. Persons undergoing hypnosis for those reasons choose to reach deeper trance states than normally used in hypnosis. They are actively seeking to reveal the repressed information. Under ordinary conditions, a hypnotherapist cannot make someone reveal any information against their will.

Myth #3 – You can be hypnotized against your will.

All hypnosis is self-hypnosis. A French pharmacist named Emile Coue made that statement in the early 1900’s. Today every student and practitioner of hypnotherapy knows this as a core truth. You have to want to be hypnotized before a trance state can be achieved. There are methods for inducing a trance (deep relaxation) in resistant subjects; however, even those methods are not effective unless you intend to be hypnotized.

Myth #4 – “I didn’t get hypnotized, I heard every word!”

A state of deep relaxation means that you are relatively free of the usual busy thought-traffic that bombards your mind in everyday consciousness. Without all the usual distracting clutter, your mind is able to direct itself and focus much more clearly. As you achieve relaxation, the hypnotherapist might suggest that you imagine yourself in your favorite place, at your favorite time of year. In a relaxed state, you are able to do this ease and believability. In other words, you can hear the birds around you or feel the warmth of the midday sun. The hypnotherapist merely guides your journey. When hypnosis is used for therapeutic purposes such as to stop smoking, the therapist uses phrases (suggestions) based on what you have stated as a desired outcome (“you enjoy breathing deeply”, “you feel calm throughout the day”, etc.). You will hear these phrases with a depth of focus not normally accessible in the ordinary waking state.

Hopefully you now have a better understanding of hypnosis. Remember – “all hypnosis is self hypnosis”. You are always in control.

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