Hypnosis for Change

Change is what we want. Change is what we fear. Hypnosis offers a resolution for this dilemma. How does it do that? Hypnosis does it by recognising that your mind is so much more powerful than you think it is and by demonstrating that to you. But of course, since you don't believe your mind is so powerful, that doubting aspect of your mind has to be distracted. This distraction of conscious interference is given a special name - trance. But trance sounds a bit mystical and strangely otherworldly and so myths and irrational fears about trance and hypnosis have emerged. I'm going to explore these myths and fears and in doing so reveal that hypnosis is the utilisation of a perfectly natural state for your benefit.

What is it?
Hypnosis is probably not what you think it is. Hypnosis is a perfectly natural state that we have all experienced at some time. That space between being fully awake and being asleep is probably the best way to describe it. Just imagine, in the days when Sunday was special, lying in bed all warm and cosy, quilt tucked up round your chin, not having to get up, no pressure and huge chunks of time just ceasing to exist as you drift in and out of wakefulness and dreams - yet you have an awareness of where you are and who you are and if someone were to walk in with a steaming cup of tea for you, you would be fully aware the moment the door opened and you smelled the delicious aroma of hot buttered toast.

Most of us who drive and make regular journeys will have experienced that slightly disturbing realisation that we have just covered a section of our journey and have absolutely no recollection of it. Were we asleep? What happened? Abduction by aliens? Nothing more than drifting into a peacefully aware hypnotic state induced by boredom. The brain thrives on stimulation and pays attention to fresh input. Anything that remains constantly the same is no threat and so is not paid attention to. But if anything had happened, another motorist cutting in front, braking suddenly, we would have been fully in the present, fully aware, dealing with the situation and with no awareness that we were simply not recording what was happening up to that moment.

In therapeutic hypnosis you are guided into this trance state by the use of words and suggestions that encourage you and direct you into this peaceful, tranquil state. The hypnotherapist then maintains that state while the therapeutic intervention takes place.

Will it help me?
If you truly want to be free of the problem (and I'll write about hidden reasons to retain problems another time) and you are sufficiently motivated, then there is an excellent chance that hypnosis will help you. But it isn't like surgery where someone renders you unconscious, cuts you open, takes out the bad part, sews you up, wakes you up and sends you off to finish the healing on your own. It's two people working together.

Imagine, your dream is to visit and spend some time in the jungle. The jungle is a potentially dangerous place, but if there is a guide available who knows the territory, knows what's safe to eat, and the best places to go to have a really good time - then it would make sense to hire this guide. The guide's presence doesn't lessen the enjoyment of the fulfilment of your dream - in fact he may even enhance it by taking you to wonderful places that you didn't even know about.

I see myself as a guide in the territory of the mind... and the effects of the past... and maladaptive belief systems... and the best direction to take in order to enjoy your life to the full. The hypnotic trance is merely a tool to facilitate rapid, safe, and secure entry into this territory. What is this territory? This territory is the unconscious mind and the unconscious mind holds the key to changing behaviour, for this is where those behaviours live - behaviours like overeating, smoking, habits, anxiety, phobias, emotional disturbance, fear of intimacy, inability to maintain a satisfying relationship, poverty consciousness, and so on.

Does it Hurt?
Many people could benefit from hypnosis, or perhaps have their problems resolved or considerably eased, but they don't take advantage of it. And why don't they take advantage of it? They don't phone a hypnotherapist for an appointment because they:
* don't want to be a chicken (i.e. made to look foolish)
* mistakenly believe that orthodox medicine is the only solution and that doctors have all the answers
* believe they can't be hypnotised and so don't see hypnotherapy as a solution
* have been encouraged to believe that doctors are responsible for their health - not themselves
* are afraid of:...

personal information coming up from the past that they don't want to reveal

feeling helpless and in someone else's power

'magic' i.e. an easy effortless solution to a problem, when they have been taught that everything worthwhile takes loads and loads of effort.

Can I be hypnotised?
There are some people who have visited a hypnotherapist and think they haven't been hypnotised because: they always knew where they were; they could hear sounds other than the hypnotherapist's voice; and they remember everything that was said. Those individuals probably have been hypnotised because all those things are experienced in trance. Myself I blame the use of the word 'trance', it conveys the idea that a hypnotised person is somehow 'not there', having been sent somewhere else by the hypnotherapist who then works his magic unseen by the hypnotisee. What occurs is a shift in attention directed by the hypnotherapist. 'Altered State' is perhaps a better term. Conscious distraction to facilitate unconscious change might also fit the bill.

Hypnosis is not an anaesthetic. The patient is not somehow 'magically' switched off. All that are used are words, but the words are used in a way that directs attention. The way to decide whether or not you were hypnotised is by whether or not change takes place. More than one patient, after visiting a hypnotherapist to stop smoking, has told friends "I wasn't hypnotised. I heard every word he said. I just decided to stop smoking anyway?" If change takes place, then so did hypnosis.

If I were to say to you 'don't think of chocolate' you may at the very moment of having read those words have chocolate on your mind - even though I told you not to think of it. If I further went on to ask you, to beg you even, not to bring to mind that sumptuous velvety smooth chocolaty texture of the finest Swiss chocolate as it slowly melts in your mouth and coats your palate, and under no circumstances to think about any supplies of chocolate you have in the house, and most importantly not to eat any chocolate today?

You may find that you now have the odd thought of chocolate in your mind. If you are a chocoholic then these suggestions may well have a more powerful effect than if chocolate is something you can take or leave. You were directed to thoughts of chocolate by being told not to think of chocolate. And I wonder how long it will be before you absentmindedly find yourself eating some chocolate, remembering these words, and then deciding it was you who freely chose to eat the chocolate? or maybe you will fight the urge just to prove you can't be influenced that easily? but that's not important.

If I asked you to imagine holding a ripe juicy lemon in your hands and to lift it under your nose and smell, and to scrape the skin and inhale the zest, feel the waxy texture of the skin and the deep yellow colour of the fruit, and then to slice it open and squeeze a few drops of lemon juice on to your tongue? I would be very surprised if some salivary activity wasn't taking place in your mouth right now. A change took place in you that you had no power to prevent because it had already happened when you became aware of it - by which time it is too late.

Did I hypnotise you?

I certainly put thoughts into your mind that generated a physiological response. But what I was actually doing was demonstrating what hypnosis is all about - the use of the power of your imagination to impact how your body, or mind, is behaving and responding. So if I can do that with salivary glands, maybe I can do it with Lymphocytes to help you fight disease processes. Or maybe I can do it to change your reaction to something you fear.

Words are powerful, and they have a power of which you may be unaware. A skilled hypnotherapist will use words to bring about the changes in your life that you desire. And it doesn't really matter if you are in a deep trance or a light trance imagining that nothing really is happening, because the words will be working their magic, seeds will be sown that may germinate later, changes may take place immediately; you may even be given 'permission' in trance to choose for yourself when the change will take place and so you remain in control.

Out of Control?
Loss of control is one of those fear areas that prevents people from benefiting from hypnotic intervention. There is a belief that the hypnotist will have some power over you that you will be helpless to prevent, and, therefore, the hypnotist is apparently in a position to take advantage of your helplessness. This is a myth. I'm just an ordinary mortal. I can't make you do anything you don't want to do; at least not any more than anyone else can by making suggestions to you. It's just that I make suggestions with the aim of benefiting you and enhancing your quality of life. Others who seek to influence you by the power of suggestion usually have their own best interests at heart.

Another aspect of this loss of control that causes people to avoid getting the help they need from a hypnotherapist is the belief they have that a hypnotherapist will make them reveal all of their darkest secrets, or make them relive some of the buried traumas of the past. Or even that they will need to look at and reveal to another some of these, potentially, very embarrassing things that have happened to them.

If you go to a hypnotherapist to stop smoking, or lose weight, or have a phobia cured, or reduce stress levels, or activate your immune system to heal a disease process, then it is most unlikely that the therapist will see much relevance in those things you want to keep private. If you go to get a specific problem 'fixed' then that is what is concentrated upon. Only where the past is relevant to the problem will it be looked at and it is more likely to be asked about in waking conversation than in trance. Trance is used to access those hidden and forgotten causes of problems when it would be valuable to know; but in most cases healing is about changing the present.

?three times a day, after meals.
Orthodox medicine, in my experience, comes from the position that a body is the sum of its parts. There are bits of plumbing (cardio-vascular and digestive systems), bits of wiring (nervous system), scaffolding (skeleton), along with all the tissue like muscle, organs, and skin that's in there as well. Oh! and its got a computer system (brain) controlling it all - consciously (holding a mouse, reading from a screen) and unconsciously (heart beating). In my own experience of this View, me, the one who lives, feels, thinks, and hurts in the body, has either nothing, or very little, to do with the problems that the body experiences. According to this View these problems are curable by surgery or drugs, or rendered tolerable by surgery or drugs, or rendered less intolerable by surgery or drugs.

Now this is all well and good and if you've got a broken bone then what you need is plaster, not hypnosis, (though hypnosis might help relieve the pain after the plaster is in place) and if you've got a burst appendix then what you need is a hospital with skilled surgeons and sharp knives and people dedicated to helping you recover quickly - again not hypnosis (though it might just help to accelerate healing by enhancing immune system response to infection and by reducing pain and enabling relaxation of the area around the wound thus enhancing blood flow and oxygenation which might just accelerate healing - though these are things that are the expertise of doctors, not hypnotherapists).

There is no suggestion here that we should all stop visiting doctors and start seeking out hypnotherapists. But there is a problem and this is that the established view is that the mind has no place in medicine and that medicine is just about the body. This view fortunately is changing. Many doctors use hypnosis to assist their patients, or advise seeking the assistance of a hypnotherapist. Unfortunately many more doctors are ignorant of the benefits of hypnosis and how hypnotherapy can be used alongside or in place of more conventional treatments to facilitate accelerated healing.

Your Health?
So who then is responsible for your health? Many of us, are brought up with the idea that when we become ill we need to see a doctor who will give us something to make us better, or send us to someone who will make us better.

If you decide that the Medicine Men are responsible for your health then you simply follow orders and hope that a cure will be the consequence. If you decide that you are responsible for your health then you simply use the Medicine Men as one of several sources of expertise in order to seek the most efficacious cure for your malady. Or the cure that leaves you feeling whole and inviolate, maybe. Being responsible doesn't mean doing your own surgery. It means deciding for yourself that out of all the options available that surgery is the one that will leave you feeling best about yourself and your health. Being responsible means doing some research, finding out what psychotherapy can do, finding out what hypnotherapy can do, finding out what healers can do, finding out how your mind can influence your body, finding out what surgery can do, finding out what beneficial effects drugs have and what adverse affects they have - before making a decision.

?and finally
Hypnosis is a technique that facilitates desirable change. Sometimes the effect is magical; sometimes it takes longer to bring about that change. However, magic isn't science and so there can be resistance from the world of science. I've seen the magic, so I don't need science to prove it can happen. In my own experience hypnosis is capable of erasing the impact of a trauma that is severely reducing life quality. And it is capable of doing it in less than 60 minutes - where drugs and more scientific techniques have had little impact over periods of months or years. I have seen no adequate scientific explanation for why this is the case, but it still works.

The ideas presented here reflect my own views and approach to healing & hypnotherapy.

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