What is hypnosis?
Essentially, hypnosis brings a person into a highly relaxed, creative and receptive mind state. Contrary to the name, which literally means “sleep”, hypnosis is not sleep at all.
The specific state of consciousness hypnosis elicits is called alpha. Beta is our ordinary state of awareness. In the alpha state, the conscious mind is relaxed allowing access to the subconscious part of the mind. The ability to access this deeper consciousness can open the door to many possibilities for healing, integration and transformation.
The history of hypnosis
Hypnosis has been around for centuries and has evolved over time. The first half of the 20th century, hypnosis, while certainly being practiced, was seen as a more mystical or esoteric procedure. Over time it has gained respect for its powerful healing capabilities. For example, many instances have been recorded of patients undergoing extensive surgeries (even amputations) using hypnosis as the only anesthesia. In 1958, the Council on Mental Health of the AMA recommended the teaching of hypnosis in medical school. Not long after it was accepted by the American Psychological Association. There are now professional organizations, like the one I am a part of, that have thorough training of hypnotic methods and ethical guidelines.
Hypnosis has been widely studied for its effectiveness on a variety of physical conditions including acute and chronic pain, stress management, increased healing from surgery and burns, insomnia, nausea in pregnancy and chemotherapy, childbirth, asthma, allergies and hypertension. In addition, it is recognized as useful in supporting life changes, healing phobias, and trauma, increased sport performance and changing habits like smoking or weight loss.
What does it feel like?
You have actually experienced a hypnotic or alpha state, as it is a natural and normal state of being. Have you ever been totally consumed in a good book or movie? Have you ever driven to work, and realized when you arrived, that you did not remember the drive? Yes? Then you have already experienced the exact state of mind hypnosis creates. Hypnosis is a feeling of deep relaxation and peace.
Will I be out of control during a session?
No. You are always in control during hypnosis. Think back to the car analogy mentioned above. Have you ever been driving peacefully (alpha state) and suddenly a car pulls out in front of you? Yes. What did you do? You were able to avoid the car right? Even though you were in a light trance state, a part of your mind was absolutely paying attention. So, you do not have to worry about revealing embarrassing secrets, me having mind control over you or doing embarrassing things. Your mind will literally not allow it. Remember, hypnosis is a tool for empowering you. You are an active participant in the process.
Will I be asleep?
Contrary to the name, which literally means “sleep”, hypnosis is not sleep at all. You, in fact, may be quite aware of what is going on at all times, and that is perfectly fine. Often, people under hypnosis can speak with the hypnotist,can answer and ask questions and can clearly hear what is being said. Be assured, however, you are still under hypnosis.
You also do not have to worry about falling during hypnosis. Even while your eyes are closed, your ears are open and able to receive information. If you fall asleep, hypnosis is still highly effective and you will awaken refreshed and relaxed when directed.
Can anyone be hypnotized?
Yes. The vast majority of people (about 85%) can be hypnotized. Some people relax more easily than others and can fall into trace more deeply and quickly than others. Interestingly, intelligence directly correlates with ease of hypnosis. This means that the higher the IQ, the easier it is to achieve deeper states of hypnosis.
For the small number of people who do not enter a hypnotic state hypnosis can still be helpful to assist in relaxation and positive suggestibility.
Can children be hypnotized?
Absolutely. Children are naturally imaginative, so they respond very well to hypnosis. It is important that the hypnosis professional be experienced in working with children in this capacity. Specific issues related to children could include self- worth issues, anxiety or phobias, behavior problems, habit change and certain medical issues.