Firstly hypnosis is a totally natural state achieved by us all many times in our lives and in fact many times every day, it is simply that most people are unaware of this. We all know that when we are awake we are alert, able to make decisions and choices, fantasize, give directions, learn, store and share information, answer questions and so on. This is one state of mind which we know to be consciousness. Likewise, we all sleep and during this time our bodies repair and rejuvenate themselves. We dream which helps us to express emotions and desires that we would maybe feel unable to do in our everyday waking lives. We are unaware if someone walks into the room, we no longer hear the clock ticking or smell the aroma of hot coffee if left by our beside. This state we call the unconscious.
The state of hypnosis is the state of mind that lies between the conscious and the unconscious, it is an in between state of not being awake and not being asleep, and can be likened to day dreaming. How many of us, children and adults alike, have been engaged in some boring repetitive endeavor that allows our minds to wander into day dreaming. It takes no effort whatsoever, just allowing the mind the freedom to imagine while the body carries on with the mundane tasks. Such a task could be driving a car for instance from points A to B and when arriving safely at our destination, we have thought to ourselves, I do not recall passing through this town or that village that were along the way. Yet you know at the back of your mind that you must have done because you have arrived safe and sound. This is one very common example of mild hypnosis.
Sleepwalking is another good example of the natural phenomenon of hypnosis. In this state, which I am sure many of us have either experienced personally (especially as children) or at least been witness to – for example a child who gets out of bed in the middle of the night to go to the kitchen, turns on the tap, drinks a glass of water and on his way back is asked by his mother if everything is alright. Clearly the child does not respond but carries on going back to bed. The next morning when his mother questions him about his little excursion he simply cannot remember. This is because he was at that point between the unconscious and conscious states, where the body and the mind are totally relaxed – he was in the state of deep hypnosis.
“Can someone hypnotize me without me knowing and make me do silly or embarrassing things?” Is a question that is always foremost in peoples’ minds and one I am glad to say an emphatic NO to. All of us are responsible for when we go to sleep and when we awaken. As we become tired, so we decide it is time to go to bed lie down and wait for the onset of sleep as we drift off. It does not happen by someone commanding that we go to sleep NOW, or by a click of someone else’s fingers! Likewise when rousing from sleep, we ourselves decide that we will set the alarm for 7.00 am or chance to waken naturally. So it is that no one just by the click of a hypnotists’ fingers be put into an hypnotic trance or made to do embarrassing or humiliating things without their prior knowledge. It just does not work like that. You see in order for anybody to go into the state of hypnosis artificially (by that I mean guided on purpose into that state) they first have to have complete trust in the hypnotist, and ultimately and without exception they have to want to achieve that state themselves. No one can be made to do anything against their will.
They have to be a willing participant. But, you may argue “What about that hypnotist on the television who just has to say sleep and the guy is out cold, and then the next thing the hypnotist tells him to stand on a chair with his thumb in his mouth and to cry like a baby, and the chap does it straight away!” This is true, what you see is as a result of the directions given by the hypnotist. But what the hypnotist fails to explain to the unsuspecting audience is that his volunteers have been carefully selected after various tests to find the most extroverted, highly suggestible and easily hypnotized subjects. These types of people would normally behave in an outrageously funny manner, and most of all want this to happen. They do not do anything that they would not normally do. If an improper or immoral suggestion were made whilst in the hypnotic trance state and the person would normally choose to ignore this, then they would maintain that reluctance. By example – if someone thought it was morally wrong to rob a bank, they COULD NOT be made to do so in the state of hypnosis either. Likewise if they were holding something that they regarded as a secret, hypnosis would fail to make them reveal it if they did not wish to do so. We are the ones who control our state of hypnosis as we can come out of trance at any time we wish, and so all hypnosis is really SELF HYPNOSIS. It is simply that we want to achieve that state and so we choose to make it so.
When we are in the hypnotic state the mind becomes much more malleable making suggestions magnified. This is because the conscious mind becomes quiet, as the ego (this is the part of our mind that logically chooses or rejects suggestions) is temporarily made redundant. It is because of this switching off of the ego; so to speak that makes application of therapy in the form of positive healing suggestions so effective. This is the proper and ethical use of hypnosis which is beneficial to each and every one of us. It is a very healthy form of therapy that allows for treatment of the mind.
It is the mind that is responsible for such conditions as phobias, which are nothing more than irrational fears that have become blown out of proportion. Compulsions are irresistible urges that cause a person to maybe gamble or over eat even when they know this to be bad for them as well as their pockets financially. Anxieties too, such as stress, worry and tension are also mild disorders of the mind that all come under the heading of ‘psychosomatic illnesses.’ Sometimes drugs are prescribed to deal with the above conditions, but unlike drugs which treat the symptoms only and can be addictive in themselves, hypnosis is not habit forming or addictive but encourages the person to take an active part in getting better by discovering why they may be feeling, for example; the need to smoke or drink too much. Also exploring how stopping such bad habits will affect their life in a positive manner both physically and mentally. Hypnosis has no side effects either and teaches the recipient deep relaxation techniques which can be used whenever and wherever they chose for the rest of their life, once learned, which is ultimately good for them.
Hypnosis can also be used as an investigative therapy because it can give access to the original cause of a problem. There are many people who suffer with such phobias as being scared of spiders, or suffer from claustrophobia (a fear of confined spaces.) How do these phobias arise? We ask ourselves. Well we already know about the conscious state of mind, where we are alert, aware, making decisions etc., but which can be quietened and temporarily turned off either by sleep or by the state of hypnosis. The sub-conscious mind however never ever sleeps or switches off, neither can it be controlled. Also it does not recognize reason and logic only emotions. It is rather like an extremely vast library, a collector of all information, from all of our five senses and our emotions, which become stored as our memories, but in their entirety. These memories become recorded as emotions which allow us to experience physical sensations such as happiness, pain, anger, sorrow, love, hate, jealousy, elation, etc., etc.
Everything that has ever happened to us and that we have ever experienced is locked away in the depths of our sub-conscious mind. We may not be able to recall every single memory, but the information is still there all the same, having been soaked up like a sponge absorbs water. So a phobia is as a result of an unpleasant memory that causes our bodies and our minds to become flooded with the sensations of fear when a similar situation arises to trigger the original memory. This too is an unpleasant memory as the senses experience the new fear, and this too is then added to the memory bank. It then becomes a vicious circle and starts to build up in intensity rather like ‘the moss that gathers on a stone.’ As we go through our lives new memories are being created and then store, if you like on top of each other, so that past memories are buried beneath the newer more recent ones. Hypnosis on many occasions can help to retrieve such forgotten buried memories so that they can be dealt with.
Hypnosis is not only used to deal with correcting negative states of mind and behavior but can also be used to boost and enhance ones confidence and self esteem. It can help to sharpen focus and concentration and in fact many sports persons use hypnotic techniques for exactly that purpose, where ultimate concentration dictates their performance. It can aid memory retention and creative ability, and has for many many years been used as a means of pain relief and control, becoming vastly popular as an alternative to drugs within dental practices. There are extensive positive and negative issues that hypnosis can help with – but as with every form of treatment it has its limitations!