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What is Hypnosis?

 It’s not like what you see in the movies.

 Hypnosis is a natural state of selective, focused attention, and, even though it is 100% natural and normal, it remains one of the most fascinating phenomena of the human mind. Our ability to enter this unique state of consciousness opens the door to countless possibilities for healing, self-exploration and change. Hypnosis, called by different names in different cultures and times, has been recognized for thousands of years and used for many purposes.

 When we enter into the absorbed state of hypnosis, we can use our  thoughts, talents and experiences in ways not usually available to  us. With the help of a trained professional, we can develop innate,  individual abilities that enable making desired changes in our  thoughts, feelings and behaviors possible. For reasons that are as  yet not clear, the focused state of hypnosis allows changes to  intentionally be made “automatically”, changes that we could not  ordinarily consciously make.

 Hypnosis has been used in the treatment of pain, depression,  anxiety, stress, habit disorders, and many other psychological and  medical problems. However, it may not be useful for all    psychological problems or for all patients or clients. The decision to  use hypnosis as a component of treatment can only be made in  consultation with a qualified healthcare provider who has been  trained in the use and limitations of clinical hypnosis.

 In addition to its use in clinical settings, hypnosis is used in  research with the goal of learning more about the nature of  hypnosis itself, as well as its impact on sensation, perception,  learning, memory, and physiology. Researchers also study the value  of hypnosis in the treatment of physical and psychological  problems.

How can a treatment aimed at your mind affect your body?

 The body responds physically to thoughts. For example, when we  think a frightening thought, we can experience increased heart rate,  shortness of breath, “butterflies” in the stomach, muscular rigidity,  sweating, shaking, and so on. Similarly, when we think a  pleasurable thought, we can experience reduced heart rate, deeper  breathing, relaxation of muscles, and so on. These are autonomic  nervous system responses that are involuntary, but they can be  utilized to promote health. When hypnotized, an individual is very  open to suggestions that can enhance positive and diminish  negative physical reactions.

Can anyone be hypnotized?

 Some people find it easier to relax than others. By the same token,  some people are able to go into trance more quickly and more  deeply than others. About 85% of people can go into at least a light  trance. For most therapeutic goals, light trance is enough to enable  almost everyone to benefit from hypnotherapy to some extent.

 In a relatively small number of situations, (say, when hypnosis is  being used instead of a general anesthetic, e.g., as in labor and  childbirth), a deeper level of trance may be needed. For these  purposes, it is helpful to determine the trance capability of a given  person, before making a decision about the advisability of using  hypnosis as an anesthetic.

Even for those people (maybe 10-15%) who do not enter into even a light trance state, hypnosis may still be helpful to assist their relaxation and improve their suggestibility to constructive comments and suggestions.

Can children be hypnotized?

 Because children are naturally imaginative, they naturally and  easily engage in hypnosis and respond well to hypnotic suggestion  for a wide variety of problems, e.g., self- esteem issues, anxiety,  behavior problems, habit change, and certain medical issues. It is  important that your child’s therapist be competent and experienced  in dealing with your child’s particular issue or problem.

Will I be asleep or unconscious?

 The word hypnosis comes from the ancient Greek word ‘hypnos’  meaning sleep, but it is mis-named. Hypnosis is NOT sleep. Sleep  and hypnosis may seem similar since we may be relaxed and have  our eyes closed (although not necessarily), but there are many  differences. One main difference is that we tend to be in a relaxed  state, but with heightened awareness! If a person were to fall asleep  during a session, they would return to normal consciousness when  asked to, or simply awaken after a short nap. They would feel  refreshed, relaxed and would have no ill effects at all.

“I don’t think I was hypnotized–I heard every word you said!”

 Some people, after a session of hypnosis, don’t believe that they  were hypnotized at all. This likely comes from misconceptions  about just what a ‘trance’ really is. There are differences between  the brain waves of people who are asleep and those who are in  trance. In practice, people who are hypnotized often talk with the  hypnotist, and can both answer and ask questions, hear everything  that is said very clearly, and are perfectly well aware.

 There is no mysterious feeling to being hypnotized and our minds  are not taken over nor controlled. This expectation and perhaps a  demand to have some mysterious experience beyond conscious  control or awareness seems to leave some people disappointed and  even denying they had any experience at all. These same people  may actually have received substantial results and unconscious  change.

Will I lose control of myself?

 No, there is no loss of control. Hypnosis allows clients to be more  focused and less distractible and more skillful in using their own  mental abilities constructively. In this way, they can achieve more  of their goals, and consequently, actually achieve more (not less)  control of their personal comfort, health, and well-being. The  ‘control’ misconception appears to originate from stage hypnosis  which actually involves people doing what they want to be doing in  a social agreement to be entertaining.

Can I get stuck or trapped in the hypnotic state?

 No. At any time a client can re-alert or choose to ignore  suggestions. No one stays hypnotized indefinitely – you will always  “come out” of trance within a short time.

Will hypnosis make me remember things accurately?

 No. Hypnosis can improve our recall of events that we believe  happened to us. But hypnosis is not a way to find out the truth  (whatever that may be) about events that are in dispute. That is,  under hypnosis you may re-experience events, but there is no  guarantee that you are remembering them correctly. Hypnosis only  assists the subject in recalling perceptions, not truths.

 Courts recognize this, and sometimes take the position that being  hypnotized influences your ability to later testify in court on those  matters. You should get legal advice before attempting to use  hypnosis to improve your recall of events when there are, or might  be, court matters involved.