Monday 23rd May 2016
Sigmund Freud, the controversial father of modern hypnosis.
Hypnosis is often referred to as the “H word,” because it has such negative connotations among some people. I do not fully understand why this is so, but perhaps there needs to be a clearer distinction between stage hypnosis and the therapeutic hypnosis that I practice. I have never used hypnosis other than as a psychotherapeutic intervention.
We are surrounded by examples of hypnosis, and everybody can be a hypnotist. One of the best examples is the natural way that a mother soothes her troubled child. Many commercials that we see on TV are also hypnotic, irrespective of whether their creators know this. Politicians are experts, and many do know it.
I can guarantee one thing. You will be confused by hypnosis. If you are a hypnotist, if you are hypnotized, or if you are a student of hypnosis, the more you study hypnosis, the more confused you will become. I can only hope that it is confusion at a deeper level of understanding.
Hypnosis forms the foundation of my work with clients. I learnt much from legendary self-help gurus Paul McKenna and Richard Bandler. Indeed I worked with both of them this weekend as a member of their training team. As usual it was a mind blowing experience for us and the 300 plus delegates.
I have probably been a hypnotist all my life. I experimented on my mother when I was a teenager, and she had such a strong reaction that I was too terrified to hypnotize another person for many years. I now know that this reaction is called an “abreaction” and is a relatively common occurrence. With the wisdom of twenty-twenty retrospective hindsight, I can categorically state that no one should hypnotize another person unless he or she is confident and competent in his or her ability to handle an abreaction.
In 2007, my career was at a crossroads due to increasing pain and disability from an earlier neck injury. I clearly could not continue the grueling travel schedule and emergency response that was an essential part of my job, so what were the options?
The alternative was that I was young enough to start a new career in the subject that has always fascinated me—psychology. I was, however, not young enough to go back to university and earn another master’s degree, let alone have enough time to build a client base and grow my experience.
I needed accelerated learning, and the best way to learn fast is to study with the best, as I mentioned previously. You cannot do much better than to train with Richard Bandler and Paul McKenna, as both are regarded as world experts in their field.
I have tried to read books about hypnosis but have never finished one. I find them incomprehensible. Hypnosis is something you learn from doing, although under close supervision. You do not learn these skills from books.
Even now, I do not know how I produce the results that I do. All I know is that I become aware when I enter the altered mental state known as “hypnosis.” I also know when my clients do, too, which is usually shortly after me. It is also a lot earlier than the client expects. A common expression among fellow therapists is that “one has to go there first.”
According to the books, hypnosis is induced by a series of preliminary instructions and suggestions. These can be lengthy and complicated, and I have seen some hypnotists even reading their induction script from a detailed checklist.
I can only give my opinion, and I apologize if it contradicts other views that may be equally valid or even more so. I do not, however, use formal hypnotic inductions. The nearest I come to a formal induction is to sit quietly in meditation without speaking for a few minutes before starting to talk to my client.
Light hypnosis can be achieved within seconds, and deep hypnosis within another minute or two. It is not necessary to reach a state of deep hypnosis to perform deep hypnotherapy. Sometimes even a light trance produces more spectacular results. Hypnosis should be seen as an as art and used sparingly.
I do not know how hypnosis works its magic. But I do know that it is a deeply relaxing or meditative state of mind, whereby the busy conscious mind is quieted so that the deeper thoughts from the unconscious mind can surface.
I do not know in what area of the brain hypnosis produces its effects either. There is increasing evidence that suggests that the nerve cells of the brain are “plastic.” In other words, these cells are malleable; for example, cells normally devoted to vision can change their function. In a blind person, the cells may become sound receptor cells so that they can provide a different sensory input to aid the person.
Complex new neural pathways are being created and destroyed all the time. Sooner or later the network reaches its optimum route, and a process called “myelination” kicks in. An example would be a child learning to ride a bike. Most of the early neural pathways result in the child falling off the bike until something magical connects. After this, the child will remember to ride a bike for the rest of his or her life and do so without even consciously thinking about it.
I do not believe that hypnosis is dangerous when performed by a competent therapist or that there are some people who cannot be hypnotized. If there are, then I have not met them.
I believe that some people who are determined to resist hypnosis will do so very effectively; however, sooner or later, their resistance will wear down. But by then, the hypnotist will also be so exhausted that it will not make any difference.
It is likely that hypnosis works its magic by establishing communication with the deeper layers of the brain. This makes it possible to learn skills much faster than when using willpower and traditional methods of coaching.
Even when I considered myself a competent hypnotist, I struggled with self-hypnosis. I felt that this would be an important skill to learn because legend has it that it is incredibly beneficial to live life in a light trance. And so it has been proven. I spend hours in light trance, but then so do many other people. The difference is that I know when I’m in a trance and can use it productively, whereas others might not and will have missed out on the opportunity to use it well.
Another very interesting aspect of hypnosis is that it has frequently been considered a possible military interrogation tool.
A US study, Hypnosis in Intelligence, was published in October 1966 and declassified in September 2000. It left the researchers predictably confused.
“It would be difficult to find an area of scientific interest more beset by divided professional opinion and contradictory experimental evidence…No one can say whether hypnosis is a qualitatively unique state with some physiological and conditioned response components or only a form of suggestion induced by high motivation and a positive relationship between hypnotist and subject.”
So for the foreseeable future, hypnosis will raise more questions than answers; however, it is certain that its effects can be very powerful and very beneficial.
One thing is for sure: Hypnosis can definitely attract more luck into your life, as many of my clients have discovered.