Hypnosis-No Hocus Pocus
by Mitch Meyerson and Laurie Ashner
\When you hear the word hypnosis, does it conjure up night club performers making audience volunteers cluck like chickens? Visions of zombies from the Night of the Living Dead? Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, in the current climate of American health care with its new focus on the connection between the mind and the body, medical professionals across the board are turning to hypnotic technique to treat everything from stress to asthma.
Today qualified medical professionals are prescribing hypnotic techniques to alleviate such conditions as anxiety, eating disorders and phobias. Recently there have been documented cases where hypnotherapy was shown to enhance athletic performance, increase creativity and self-esteem and improve motivation. Mind-body medicine has been a growing area in the quest for more effective medical care which has brought techniques such as hypnotherapy into broader use.
What is hypnosis?
Hypnosis is not as mysterious as it may sound. It is a normal everyday state of mind that all of us have experienced thousands of times. Remember the last time you were driving on the highway and you almost passed your exit? Odds are you were driving in a mild trance state. Or perhaps in the midst of daydreaming you noticed that time had flown by. A trance state is actually an intermediate state between total alertness and deep sleep characterized by an enjoyable relaxation of the body, slowed breathing, decreased awareness of surroundings and an increased experience of imagery and creative process. In this state of deep relaxation we are less defensive and more open to emotions and positive suggestions.
How can hypnosis be therapeutic?
Ever wonder why it is so difficult to change a habit like obsessive worry, overeating, smoking or over reacting to people?
The reason these patterns are so ingrained is because they are based on emotional wounds stemming from early life experiences. Unfortunately these inner emotional conflicts are often stored in our unconscious mind and out of reach of our "logical" self.
Hypnotherapy is a safe and effective technique that allows people to more freely access the unconscious portion of their minds. By relaxing deeply, quieting the conscious chatter, and allowing one to feel more open to let go of old emotional baggage, people in a hypnotic or trance state are receptive to new positive suggestions.
What about those old movies where the hypnotist took over his subject's mind? Impossible. You cannot be hypnotized to do something that is not consistent with your moral or ethical code of behavior. Rather, what you gain is the tools to control your own mind and change your behavior.
The Experience of Trance
Steve, a 42-year-old lawyer working in Chicago's loop, complained of restlessness, inability to sleep, and an anxious sense of discontent. "At that point I was skeptical about being hypnotized, but I was ready to try anything."
The session began with soft music. "He asked me to take a number of deep breaths and progressively relax each part of my body. I was thinking, This is ridiculous; nothing's happening. I had an impulse to look at my watch. Then, within a matter of minutes I remember my body starting to relax and actually feel lighter."
"The picture gets a little fuzzy at this point. It wasn't like I thought it would be at all. I always knew I was in his office. I could hear cars honking outside; I could hear the air conditioning click on. But I was in this wonderful state where I let go of everything I'd worried about all morning. He suggested I imagine a very scenic and peaceful spot in a nature setting. I imagined a beach in Jamaica I had visited years ago, and it seemed quite real. Then I remember him guiding with positive suggestions. I woke with a lot more energy."
But did it work? "I followed up in the next few months with a few more sessions. I didn't notice much at first, but my girlfriend knew something was up immediately. She told me I seemed calmer, happier."
Does it really work?
Often we talk and intellectualize our problems, and find that even the best insights are ineffective in changing behavior. Hypnosis is an effective tool for change because it is a way to re-connect with dissociated emotions and the disowned parts of oneself. When you consider that the subconscious is 90% of our mind and contains long-term memory, habit patterns, creativity, intuition and spiritual connection, a tool which helps us access it can be a life changer.
Whether your goal is to quit smoking, or to achieve a confidence boost before an important presentation, the key ingredients for achieving maximum results through hypnotherapy are 1) a strong desire to change 2) trust in the hypnotherapist 3) a skilled clinician.
Mitch Meyerson and Laurie Ashner
Laurie Ashner has authored numerous books. Among the newest, she has co-authored with Alan Altman, M.D., Making Love The Way We Used To: The Secrets of Midlife Sexuality