What Is Hypnosis?
Hypnosis and its uses in the practice of hypnotherapy are rapidly emerging as a highly effective science in solving the problems of people. It can be very beneficial in many cases as a therapy in itself. It is a valuable adjunct in psychotherapy and psychiatry. And it is probably the lowest risk procedure available from the standpoint of contraindications.
Yet few therapeutic procedures are less understood, or more plagued by misconceptions and misunderstandings. Before considering what hypnosis is, perhaps it would be appropriate to establish what it is not!
Most hypnotherapists, on interviewing a new client, will ask the client what he or she thinks hypnosis is. Replies range from sleep, to unconsciousness, to surrender of mental powers and control, to magic, to voodoo. All are in error.
Hypnosis cannot be sleep. In most cases the subject is fully aware of communication and is able to respond on request either verbally or by signal. Nor is unconsciousness involved. A subject asked to make a specific movement will comply with the request unless it is objectionable, in which case there will be a refusal.
There is no surrender of mind or control. A person who does not want to be hypnotized cannot be hypnotized or be induced to do or say anything which violates personal standards of behavior or integrity. There is neither magic or voodoo involved. Any hypnotherapist can explain the actions or behavior seen on stage, film or television shows, where the subject seems to follow directions mindlessly.
Actually, hypnosis is better described than defined. It is often considered an altered state of consciousness featuring “selective perception”, a process in which the subject (who is in control) chooses to see only what is relevant to his or her task, blocking out everything else. Hypnosis involves guided concentration. The guidance, however, may be provided by a qualified practitioner or, in the case of self-hypnosis, by the individual subject. Self-hypnosis, which can be taught by a properly certified hypnotherapist and learned by virtually any client, can provide the recipient with a lifetime benefit.
Where Did Hypnosis Originate?
The basics of hypnosis go back to ancient times. Those who have read Jean Auel’s Clan of the Cave Bear
will remember accounts of magic, healings, inherited memories and revelations performed or created by the “Mogurs” and “medicine women” of prehistoric clans. Hypnosis. In the early centuries of our own land, the medicine men of Indian tribes performed seeming miracles. Hypnosis. Wider, non-secret usage began in the 1700’s in several forms under several names.
There were periods of progress and periods of stagnation in the development of modern hypnosis. Medical interest and acceptance expanded following World War II when the use of hypnotherapy proved especially helpful to surviving battlefield casualties suffering from shock, injury, battle fatigue, and various psychological disorders. As understanding increased hypnosis began to be recognized as an important adjunct to counseling psychology, psychotherapy, psychiatry, and medical fields including neurology, obstetrics, emergency medicine, burn therapy, and others. Hypnosis is finding increasing usage in dentistry and other areas where pain control is important.
All humans (and possibly several animals) have two distinct minds – the conscious mind and the unconscious mind. The unconscious mind is vastly larger and more powerful than the conscious mind, yet it is the least understood by mankind. Actually, the great “unconscious” mind has two functional elements, the subconscious and the super conscious, the former the storehouse of memory, the latter dealing with the spiritual.
How Does Hypnosis Work?
The subconscious mind receives and retains, neither accepting nor rejecting, all the messages we receive from our backgrounds, whether genetic, social, religious, or experiential, plus all the conflicts (little or big) that enter our lives daily. When for whatever reason the conscious mind (which deals with everyday living, logic, reason, etc.) becomes overloaded, the subconscious prepares us for what is considered appropriate action (usually fight or flight). However, the subconscious mind does not analyze as does the conscious mind, but accepts al messages in the literal sense.
In essence, hypnosis is a means of communication between the conscious mind and the subconscious. Many human problems, habits, stresses, anxieties, attitudes, or apparent deficiencies can be traced to interpretations by the subconscious mind which, when these erroneous interpretations are understood by the conscious mind, specific problems can be reduced or resolved.
The subconscious is also the seat if all memory. Traumatic events can be buried or suppressed in the subconscious. A major benefit of hypnotherapy is the ability to uncover and bring into the light of understanding the buried information or experience which may be the cause of a troublesome disorder.