What is hypnosis ?
Hypnosis was first termed by the scottish surgeon James Braid after the Greek word "hypnos” (Yπνος) which means - sleep.
However, hypnosis is not a state of actual sleep. On the contrary, the client is fully aware of what is being done during a hypnotic intervention. There are many theories of hypnosis, most of them relate to a specific aspect of a broad and complex phenomena.
In my opinion, hypnosis is a dynamic and natural state of deep relaxation where the critical factor of the conscious mind is bypassed and suggestions are allowed to enter the subconscious mind for healing purposes. Although there are different degrees of “hypnotizability” , hypnosis can be experienced by most people.
The utilization of this natural state for healing purposes, is termed hypnotherapy.
Why use Hypnotherapy ?
We often find ourselves engaging in behaviors which are maladaptive or unresourceful, and we either don’t know why we do them, or we simply can’t “force” ourselves to stop. Sometimes, the origin or “root” causes are embedded in our subconscious minds in the forms of old “programs” or beliefs which were created at an earlier age. However, even though most of these old beliefs may be outdated they are still embedded in our subconscious mind and we are most likely not aware that we are operating according to them. Through the use of hypnosis these can be accessed, modified, and resolved thereby promoting better health.
Misconceptions regarding hypnosis
Unfortunately there is a lot of mystery surrounding the hypnotic phenomena and most people in the general public are misinformed regarding the nature and use of hypnosis. The stage hypnotism shows are likely to contribute to some of these myths and misconceptions. Below are some of them commonly attributed to hypnosis:
“I am afraid I will lose control or will be forced to do things I don’t want to..”
The media has done its share to contribute to the idea that under hypnosis a person loses control under the influence of the “all-mighty” hypnotist who “makes” him do as he pleases. In reality, nothing can be farther from the truth. All hypnosis is “self-hypnosis”. The hypnotized person is always in control during a hypnosis session and can not be “forced” to do anything against his own will.
“Hypnosis is a state of sleep or loss of consciousness”
While it is true that the term hypnosis came from the Greek word “hypnos”which means sleep, hypnosis is NOT a state of real sleep. The hypnotized person is able to respond to the given suggestions by the hypnotist, and is in a state of full awareness.
“Only gullible or weak minded people can be hypnotized”
There is a strong popular belief that if one can get hypnotized this indicates a weak or gullible nature. However research indicates that there is actually a strong correlation between the ability to be hypnotized and high intelligence. Low IQ levels, severe detachment, or people with psychosis are often the most difficult to hypnotize.
“I am afraid of revealing my deep secrets under hypnosis”
This misconception is tied to the idea of “loss of control”. In effect a person under hypnosis is capable of lying or holding out information similar to when being in a waking state. The idea that hypnosis can be used to “extract” truth from a person is unsubstantiated. In effect, information gathered under hypnosis is not considered a valid evidence in a court of law (see below the section on false memories).
“If I go too deep into a hypnotic trance I might never come out of it..”
There is a common belief that hypnosis is an altered state of mind which someone can get “stuck” in. However, since all hypnosis is “self-hypnosis”, the hypnotized person is in control of the hypnosis state, and there is no danger of him not being able to “come out” of it. There are two possibilities which exist when a hypnotized person does not respond to the hypnotist’s suggestions to come out of hypnosis:
1. The person had fallen asleep. In this case hypnosis had already been terminated and there is no further communication between the hypnotized person and the hypnotist. The hypnotized person will wake up similarly to after a regular sleep.
2. The calming sensation under deep hypnosis is so pleasurable that the hypnotized person does not wish to come out of it. In this case the skilled hypnotist has ways to come about in getting the person out of that state.
“I am afraid the hypnotist will force hypnosis on me”
Hypnosis is a voluntary experience, where both sides agree to the process. No one can “force” hypnosis on someone else. As explained all hypnosis is “self-hypnosis”. The hypnotist is simply a guide for the hypnotized person to utilize his own natural skill for healing purposes.
“The hypnotist can makes me do illegal things”
Some research had been done on hypnosis and antisocial behavior (Weitzenhoffer, The practice of hypnotism, 1989) and reveled that if the hypnotized person believes that an act is against their ethical principles they are not likely to perform it. However, if a hypnotized person perceives otherwise, they might engage in an act which they normally might not do. It is commonly considered that a hypnotized person will not do any act against their own moral codes or standards.
The topic of false memories is important to address especially when regression work is being conducted.
What are false memories ?
According to John F. Kihlstrom, Ph.D. : “...the False Memory Syndrome is a condition that results when the memory is distorted or confabulated so that a person's identity and interpersonal relationships are centered around a memory of a traumatic experience which are false but in which the person strongly believes.” (Taken from the website of Paul Durbin).
The danger in false memories is due to its destructive nature, and once installed can deeply effect the lifestyle and normal adaptive behaviors of the individual. The problem is further exacerbated when the individual refuses to accept any evidence which might counteract the false memory. Many experts warn against the risk of false memories if caution is not exercised.
What causes false memories ?
In a state of hypnosis the critical factor is bypassed, which allows suggestions to be accepted by the subconscious mind. It is possible to install ideas or memories which are imagined or distorted, especially when the motivation to do so is high from either the hypnotist, the client or both. The danger exists if the hypnotist performing a regression work relies on his own preconceived opinions on the origin of a problem, thereby inappropriately leading the client to accept ideas which are not grounded in reality. It is due to the risk of false memories under hypnosis that many states do not accept evidence revealed under hypnosis in a court of law.
What can be done to prevent false memories?
Before doing regression work, make sure that the hypnotist is well trained in the art of regression therapy and is aware of the dangers of false memories. A competent hypnotist knows the difference between guiding vs. leading the client under hypnosis.