What is Hypnosis and Hypnotherapy?
Hypnosis has been around as long as the human race and has often featured in the written records of many ancient tribes and cultures. Part of the fascination we continue to have with hypnosis today stems from this early association with religion, magic and the supernatural. When we see the ease with which a hypnotist performing on stage or T.V. can cause a member of the audience to fall into a spell-like trance it’s not difficult to see how the connection between hypnosis and mystical tradition endures. We might reasonably be forgiven for thinking the Hypnotist has magical powers as they command their "subjects" to perform bizarre, out-of-character behaviours. The word "mesmerize" means to capture the attention in such a way as to to hypnotise, spellbind, dazzle or transfix, it comes from the pioneering 18th Century Austrian hypnotist Anton Mesmer and continues to be associated with the belief that hypnotists possess special powers. Of course, the idea that a hypnotist can exert his or her will over a subject is an enthralling one and may be highly entertaining but in reality hypnosis always requires the cooperation of the subject and the skill of the hypnotist lies in their ability to act as an effective guide. Whilst there is no doubt that many stage-hypnotists are indeed highly skilled in their craft the belief in so-called "hypnotic powers" is not only be misleading but can also be unhelpful creating a degree of fear and misunderstanding about what actually happens when we agree to be hypnotised. For example, a frequently held belief is that we are somehow made to go under during hypnosis and this suggests a loss of self-control that would understandably be enough to make anyone make anyone think twice about the idea of experiencing a trance. In reality, hypnosis actually creates a heightened state of awareness not a lessened one - there is no sense of "going under" and you cannot be "taken over" by the hypnotist. Think about it - if that were true we would surely have heard reports in the media of employers being hypnotized into giving their employees large salary increases. The possibilities for using hypnotism to influence others to do our bidding may be appealing to some but in truth it remains the stuff of fiction and fantasy and would-be hypnotists hoping to use it in this way are likely to remain disappointed...
What actually happens when hypnosis is used in its therapeutic form - as hypnotherapy - is that we simply experience a pleasurable feeling of being becoming gradually more and more relaxed. Using techniques to deepen the relaxed state further the hypnotherapist then enourages us to connect with our unconscious using a series of hypnotic suggestions. The intention is to embed these helpful suggestions in our unconscious so that they stay with us when we the session is over and continue to work by bringing about beneficial and lasting change for a whole range of issues from feeling less anxious to breaking free from a damaging life-long habit. The point is that the aim of Hypnotherapy is to safely produce positive benefits that will help enhance your life and well-being long-term with no negative side-effects.
Explaining Stage Hypnotism
If you are reading this and considering Hypnotherapy to help with difficulties you may have been experiencing then understanding some of the common differences and assumptions about hypnotism and hypnotherapy might help put your mind at rest and make the decision to have hypnotherapy a little easier. To begin with, the terms hypnotism and hypnotherapy are often used interchangeably and whilst there are similarities in the techniques used there may be differences in the intended outcome. We've all seen examples of stage hypnotism on T.V. and in this form it is usually conducted within the context of entertainment. The audience members who volunteer to be hypnotised are responding to this contextual aspect - they actually want to take part and may be excited at the idea of going in front of the cameras and achieving a few moments of T.V. “fame” in the presence of a celebrity hypnotist. Because the volunteer is already signalling from the outset that they are in a highly suggestible state they are much more likely to respond to the hypnotist’s commands to “bark like a dog”, “imitate an ostrich” or “rob a bank” - and can undoubtedly be highly amusing and make good T.V. viewing. The volunteer is a willing participant who enters freely (and fully) into the spirit of things. Any subsequent feelings of embarrassment felt when they later emerge from the trance can be managed by claiming that he/she had no idea what they were doing at the time or felt powerless to resist and was somehow compelled to strut around like an ostrich and, after all, it was all done for a bit of fun anyway.
So, a lot of the myths and concerns we might have about hypnosis stem from its use on stage and in entertainment. Hypnotherapy, on the other hand is purely used to help bring about positive change to our lives. Having hypnotherapy is often a deeply relaxing, de-stressing and restorative experience in its own right that is very pleasurable. So, even if you are not looking to make big changes in your life you can have hypnotherapy just to lower stress levels and feel generally calmer and more at ease with the world.
Whilst hypnotism used for entertainment may well have has its place the context for hypnotherapy is completely different from stage-hypnotism. To start with the professional hypnotherapist is focused solely on helping individuals who may be struggling to overcome real-life difficulties such as ridding a smoking habit or tackling problems with anxiety or stress and the therapy is nearly always conducted in private on a one-to-one basis. The relationship between the hypnotherapist and client is a strictly professional one and the goals for the therapy are usually discussed fully at the beginning during an assessment session. As well as gathering information about the client’s history and aims for therapy the hypnotherapist will usually use the assessment session to offer reassurance and dispel some of the myths of associated with hypnotism such as the belief in “going under”, losing control or of being instructed to do something which goes against the client’s moral or social values e.g. “You will leave here and plan to rob the nearest bank”. In reality, if you were asked to do anything that went against your beliefs or moral code you would simply come out of the trance state. Similarly, we are able to respond to any loud noise or emergency situation that might arise during the session in exactly the same way that we would ordinarily and when the session is over we are able to drive home perfectly normally – the only lasting effects are beneficial ones
Hypnotherapy is a completely safe and natural way to achieve positive and lasting results in a relatively short period of time. There are no negative side-effects and you remain in complete control of your actions during and after the session. Clients seek help through hypnotherapy for a range of issues such as eating disorders, phobias, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), gaining confidence and feeling less anxious, reducing stress or overcoming depression. Hypnotherapy can be particularly effective for individuals seeking to become a non-smoker or relieving pain. Hypnotherapy is very pleasurable and relaxing - as one client recently said: "That was the most relaxed I have ever felt in my life!" I am able to offer hypnotherapy both as a separate service to counselling and also as part of a combined approach to problems that may have proved resistant to previous interventions.
Hypnotherapy has been in existence for thousands of years and its uses are thought to be limitless. Whether you need help to overcome a phobia, improve self-confidence, reduce anxious feelings or just feel calmer and more in control of your life hypnotherapy can help you to achieve lasting results often in a relatively short space of time. Hypnotherapy can be particularly effective in helping you to become a non-smoker. Whatever concerns you I would be pleased to discuss how I might help you with hypnotherapy.