A: Hypnosis is a state of focused attention where a person’s concentration is directed inwards (this process is known as absorption). Because the mind is focused inwards in such a sharpened way, people in a hypnotic trance report diminished perception of external cues, such as noise, etc. People in trance are dissociating from, or zoning out these external distractions. This hypnotic process happens naturally for most people at times during the day. An example of hypnosis would be daydreaming.
Have you ever become really focused on a thought or image so much so that you briefly lost awareness of your surroundings? For example, you might be driving a car and sitting at a long red light lost in your thoughts. Upon the light turning green, it might take a honk of the horn from the car behind you to re-alert you to the fact that it was time to drive.
Or perhaps there have been times when you’ve been listening to a really dull speaker or in a meeting that has been dragging on and on, and you find yourself drifting away into your thoughts and away from what is happening in the meeting. You might find yourself jolting to awareness as you realize that you have no idea how much time has passed or what was just said in the meeting.
A: How often have you tried to make a positive change happen in your life, only to see your best laid plans going nowhere? That’s because your subconscious usually has a different plan in mind.
Whether it’s related to an unhealthy habit, a set of negative beliefs, or an irrational fear that leads to lack of confidence, these kinds of problems are resistant to change if you only rely on willpower, motivation, and conscious effort.
That’s why an unusual approach like hypnosis can be amazingly effective. It’s about communicating with your subconscious mind, in a language that it can understand and relate to, instead of trying to give you good advice or lecturing you with a pep-talk.
Many people in a hypnotic trance report afterwards that they felt very mentally focused while at the same time feeling physically relaxed. When re-alerted following a trance, many people report having a sharp awareness of what was being said to them, yet feel physically as if they just awoke from a nap. They may feel groggy or a little tired, although this feeling quickly goes away. However, there are many different sensations that people can report from trance, depending on one’s level of hypnotizability (next question).
The bottom line is despite the fact that hypnotic phenomena (mental and physical sensations associated with hypnosis) vary by person, most people report it is a pleasant experience.
There is not consensus on the issue of hypnotizability. Some hypnotherapists believe that everyone is hypnotizable, whereas many other hypnotherapists believe that one’s level of hypnotizability is a trait. As with other traits, this means that there will be a range of levels in the population, resembling the shape of a bell curve. With a bell curve, most people fall in the middle or average range for this trait, whereas smaller percentages report high and low hypnotizability.
There are varying methods for assessing hypnotizability, the most prominent being the Hypnotic Induction Profile (HIP). In addition, there are physical signs that a trained clinician can observe in clients to assess whether a person is in a light, medium, deep (or no) trance. Although the research findings can vary to some degree, most estimate that higher than 90% of the population can experience at least a light hypnotic trance. People in the much smaller group of the population who are highly hypnotizable can be put under trance for more intensive procedures such as surgery and childbirth!
My personal view on the matter is that since even light hypnosis can be of some benefit in addressing many clinical concerns, hypnosis can be useful to most people that I work with.
The answer is a simple No. No one can use hypnosis to make someone else do something that they do not want to do. People in trance still have awareness of what is being asked of them, and they will only do it if they want to.
I’m sure that some of you reading this may wonder about stage hypnotists, who appear to have complete control over their hypnotic subjects. This is not actually the case. First, stage hypnotists scan the crowd prior to performing in order to identify possible participants who appear both extroverted and hypnotizable. They are looking for extroverted types because those people are going to be more willing to go along with their suggestions in order to perform for the crowd. So, when you see these participants barking like a dog or clucking like a chicken on stage, keep in mind the following:
Perhaps you’ve noticed at the end of shows when the hypnotist brings the participants out of trance that some appear confused and disoriented. This is because these stage hypnotists are not trained to apply clinical hypnosis and do not adequately lead the person out of trance in a gentle, directed manner. The result is a sudden re-alerting, which can be disorienting. It is not harmful, in the sense that are no long-term effects to my knowledge, but nonetheless not a particularly enjoyable feeling. The best analogy is when you are suddenly awoken from a sleep, such as by a loud alarm clock, it can be a jarring, unpleasant feeling.
No. While it might be smoother to be re-alerted in a directed, gradual manner, we possess the ability to re-alert ourselves as needed. Because the hypnotized client has control over her or his trance at all times, he or she can re-alert as necessary.
Hypnosis is a well-documented science, and has been examined extensively by our nation’s foremost scientists. Over 11,000 research studies related to hypnosis are available online at the government’s National Institutes of Health website.
Hypnosis is not like being asleep. In fact, hypnosis is not even about relaxation!
Numerous Olympic and professional athletes use hypnosis as part of their training.
You cannot get stuck in hypnosis. But some people enjoy the trance feeling so much that they want to stay in that state!
Working with a hypnotist can be compared to working with a personal trainer at a gym. The personal trainer does not take over your body. Similarly, a hypnotist does not take over your mind. However, a skilled hypnotist can exercise a great deal of influence and control over your perceptions of reality.
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