How Can Hypnosis Help Health?
As Phillip Schofield returns to Saturday-night TV with the hypnotic circus that is ‘Back in the Room’, we ask the most common questions people have on the topic How Can Hypnosis Help Health?
If what I see on telly is hypnosis, how can it possibly help anyone? Well, that type of hypnosis can’t! Aside from giving you a chuckle if you like that sort of thing… The distinction that needs to be made here is between stage hypnosis and therapeutic hypnosis. No matter how it appears in theatre and TV shows when you watch a staged demonstration of hypnosis, you must remember that it is staged.
So it’s fake? No, not fake – but orchestrated; staged. That’s to say that the performer filters applicants and audiences to find the most suggestible, extrovert people, then puts them in light trance state that gives the volunteers license to act foolishly. The subjects happily choose go along with the suggestion that they should behave that way.
In any case, Therapeutic Hypnosis is different? Yes; hypnosis is a tool that lets you relax deeply and address issues ranging from anxiety and phobias to addictions and performance improvement.So you might think of Therapeutic and Stage hypnosis this way: a scalpel in the hands of a surgeon is a lifesaving medical tool… A scalpel in the hands of a drunk would make do as a dart down the pub!
So what is hypnosis? Hard to believe though it may seem, a therapeutic hypnotic trance is a completely natural state of mind, usually induced by a relaxing process that narrows the focus of your attention! It often feels a bit like ‘being nearly asleep’; a deeply relaxed state in which your mind and body are naturally better able to consider healthier ways to behave.
So how does it work? Well, whether you want to stop smoking, or beat an addiction, or you want to stop fearing something, or have another issue that depends on the way you instinctively behave, your unconscious mind is storing a pattern for that behaviour. The part of you that holds the pattern is much more accessible when you relax deeply.
Is it mind control, like in the movies? Absolutely not! You remain in complete control before, during and after a session. Think about it: If hypnotists had the ability to control minds, would they really spend their time doing therapy?! To get a good idea of what it’s really like, just imagine feeling relaxed and dreamy, like waking up after a wonderful night’s sleep…
Am I conscious throughout? Yes. You stay conscious; the ‘unconscious mind’ that you may hear reference to might best be described as “all of the things that are happening in your mind but aren’t focusing on!” For example, if we draw your attention to it, you’ll realize that your eyes are focusing on reading this right now… You’re aware of the letters in front of you forming words, and the words making sentences, and the sentences making sense – hopefully!
Similarly, if we ask you to now notice how you’re breathing as you read, you might become aware of the rising and falling of your chest, the feel of the air entering your lungs through your nose or mouth… Obviously, all those things were happening all of the time – you just weren’t thinking about them; they were a part of your mind and body’s unconscious activity. Directing your attention to it made it part of your conscious thinking.
But there’s a difference between noticing how I breathe and a hypnotic state, surely?
Of course – it’s a question of what you’re focusing on and to what degree. But the feeling you experience in hypnosis is a natural state of mind that actually happens to everybody, many times a day… For example, if you’ve ever noticed yourself arriving somewhere without really remembering the journey, or found your mind has wandered while relaxing, driving, cooking, walking, reading a book; or the feeling you have as you nod off to sleep or wake up in the morning, then you’ve got memorable examples of hypnosis. In fact, whenever you do any activity in which part of your mind switches off as you do it, you’re in a type of trance!
I’m intelligent and strong willed – can I be hypnotised? Almost certainly. Varying depths of relaxation can be achieved; it has nothing to do with strength of will – in fact, no one can be hypnotised against their will! Also, contrary to popular belief, intelligent people are easier to hypnotise, on account they better understand instructions. 95% of people are responsive to some degree.
Do people get stuck in a trance? No! This urban myth has its origins in the fact that some people don’t immediately open up their eyes and leap about full of beans when they come out of trance. That’s because most trances are just sooo comfy! You know how it is when an alarm goes off and you simply don’t want to get out of bed, right? Same thing!
Do people reveal secrets they’d rather keep private? No. Remember, you’re in complete control before, during and after the trance… You remain aware of the things that are said to you, and in full control of your responses. If you hear something you dislike, don’t want to do or with which you disagree, then it ‘jars’ with you and you can rouse yourself quite easily.
What stops me falling into a trance when I don’t want to? Your mind! Again, the emphasis here is on ensuring you feel relaxed. Can you imagine trying to get someone to relax against their will?! It’s possible to suggest to a client that they might go into a relaxed state more easily next time; it’s quite impossible to ‘relapse’ into the session trance after it finishes.
Will I remember everything that was said to me during the session? The state of hypnosis is very much like dreaming – when you wake up, you sometimes remember bits and pieces; sometimes it’s gone altogether and sometimes you remember it all clearly. If you want to be absolutely sure you know what’s happening, many therapists let you record your session!