I admit that I have never been hypnotized. Not because I don’t believe in it, but more because it doesn’t tend to come up in my day to day life. (“Are plastic bags okay, and please stare into this spinning design?”) While I have friends who excel in niche pursuits like karaoke singing, intricate lace crochet, and organic gardening, I do not know any hypnotherapists. I do know someone who was hypnotized, however. He is not prone to exaggeration, he is a hard core skeptic in almost every way, yet he swears up and down that it worked on him. I think he feels that way because it does work. He relays his experience with an air of wonder and reverence. What happened to him was not a parlor trick, rather it was a true experience of reaching an altered state of consciousness. The image most of us conjure up when thinking of a hypnotist or hypnotherapist is the one of the guy on stage, dangling a pocket watch in front of a giggling audience volunteer. What follows is either the “Cluck like a chicken” joke, or the “Give me your wallet” joke. In reality, hypnotherapy is a means of help for people dealing with a number of problems. Let’s take a look at what hypnotherapists can help with, and what they can do.
What is Hypnotherapy?
Hypnotherapy is used as a means of reaching someone’s subconscious mind. In order to do this, heavy use of the power of suggestion is employed. The desired end result of this process is a positive change in the life of the patient. A hypnotherapist uses the hypnotic process to help the patient reach these positive changes. Often, people who seek out the help of a hypnotherapist have had considerable trouble sticking with good habits, and dropping bad ones. Hypnosis can be described as an altered state of consciousness wherein the patient is technically awake, although extremely relaxed. This frees the mind up for what some describe as intense daydreaming. Patients will be able to more fully use their imagination, while also being extremely open to suggestion. It is for this reason that a high degree of trust has to be in place between therapist and patient before hypnosis can begin. Forming a strong, professional relationship will be a large part of this equation.
Which Disorders Can Hypnotherapists Help With?
Hypnotherapy is used to help treat a wide range of psychosomatic disorders – In other words, any mental or emotional disturbances which are actually manifesting as physical symptoms. Often, patients have tried many of the typical means of coping such as trying to break bad habits, or trying to live healthier. When these conventional means fail to produce results, patients might begin to feel as though they are their own worst enemy. Something within their own minds must be subverting all their efforts and good intentions, so no matter what they do, they will continually fall back into these undesirable behaviors. Many people have credited hypnosis for helping them quit smoking. Since smoking is an addictive activity, it can sometimes take more than simply the “cold turkey” approach before the patient will be able to stop. Hypnotherapists are able to reach their patients in a deeper state of consciousness, and influence their habits. It is almost as though they are reaching in to the part of the patients brain that wants them to succeed, and simply bringing those intentions to the forefront. Other addictive tendencies have been helped through hypnosis such as alcoholism, drug abuse, sex addiction, or compulsive overeating. Certain mental disorders have also been greatly helped through hypnosis, especially obsessive compulsive disorder, anxiety, certain eating disorders, panic attacks and clinical depression. In each case, it is clear that the patient wants to succeed, but can not do so on their own. The role of the hypnotherapist is to help them get there.
What About Physical Ailments?
This may be a harder question to answer, but there is some evidence out there suggesting that hypnosis can actually be beneficial to those suffering from certain physical ailments. If you look at certain ailments, they can sometimes be attributed to mental distress. A condition such as irritable bowel syndrome (something we used to refer to as simply “a nervous stomach”) can be made much worse if the patient is struggling with anxiety. Likewise, some sufferers of depression sometimes report a vague but persistent allover pain. This can be debilitating for the person dealing with these symptoms. If hypnosis can help with depression, it may also help with the pain associated with it. So while there may not be as much hard evidence to suggest that achieving a deeply relaxed state will help with physical complaints, it is true that it may help some symptoms that are related to the mental disorders being treated.
Who Can be Hypnotized?
Many hypnotherapists will tell you that anyone can be hypnotized, if they want to be. For one thing, you can even hypnotize yourself! While it is true that there are certain individuals who should not be hypnotized for safety reasons (someone with dis-associative identity disorder, schizophrenia, or people who are delusional), nearly everyone falls somewhere on a scale of susceptibility. For the most part, the people who are “difficult” to hypnotize are those who do not want to relinquish control over their minds and bodies, and will resist the process. Typically, people like that do not seek out hypnosis in the first place, so you are not likely to encounter them very frequently. Since hypnosis is typically seen as a form of therapy, or self help, patients who seek out your help are already open to the possibility of being hypnotized, and that it will have a positive end result for them. You can find out more about altered states of consciousness and the benefits of deep relaxation by checking out the Udemy course “Regression Therapy with NLP and Hypnosis“, presented by Keith Livingston.