Hypnosis is a particular state of mind which we can all enter from time to time. It can happen when we become deeply involved in something such as watching a good movie or when daydreaming. Instead of letting this happen randomly people can be shown how to enter a state of hypnosis at will. This can then be used to assist with treatment of various conditions or as self-hypnosis for relaxation. Hypnosis can be learned by people from all walks of life from the young to the elderly.
The Mind-Body Connection
The mind and body function as one. Both are so intimately connected that it is not possible to have a disturbance of mind or body alone. For example a bodily pain may cause us to feel depressed. In turn mental anguish may cause nausea; feeling sick with worry. This is often referred to as the mind-body connection. In fact there are several connections between the mind and the body. There is the connection of nerve fibres we call the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. And there is the chemical connection through hormones and other substances carried in the blood. We can learn to influence these connections and in doing so to improve our health and well-being. One good way of doing this is by using hypnosis.
What Is Hypnosis?
Hypnosis is a particular state of mind during which time we become very focused on our innermost self and can ignore things going on outside of us. The conscious reasoning part of our mind becomes less active allowing us to experience new thoughts and feelings We usually feel very relaxed and often have a sense of floating. Many people describe the experience as like being absorbed in a good book and becoming really involved in the story-line. During a hypnotic session you will be fully aware of what is being said by the hypnotist and will be able to respond by gesture or speaking. As each one of us is unique, each person's experience of hypnosis is slightly different.
What is Hypnosis Not?
More myths surround hypnosis than any other treatment modality. The use of hypnosis in stage shows further adds to public confusion and concern about being hypnotised.
Hypnosis is not the same as sleep or like receiving an anaesthetic. You do not become unconscious. You don't loose control over your mind or your feelings and you don't weaken or surrender your will. Hypnosis is a natural and safe process which teaches people greater mastery of their own minds and strengthens will power and determination.
Simply being in a state of hypnosis can leave you feeling very relaxed but has no other lasting benefits. The lasting benefits come from the "therapy" delivered by the practitioner while you are in hypnosis or by yourself when practising self-hypnosis. What form this therapy takes will depend upon the nature of your problem and the training of the practitioner.
Conditions That Can Be Helped With Treatment Using Hypnosis
Hypnosis is of most value as an adjunct to the treatment of:
- Psychological problems such as depression, anxiety, phobias and PTSD.
- The control of pain.
- Medical disorders such as chronic fatigue syndrome, asthma and irritable bowel syndrome.
- To enable medical and dental procedures to be performed more comfortably. E.g. tooth extractions and bone marrow aspirations.
- To assist in stopping smoking
- To reduce discomfort in childbirth
- To help cope with chronic illness and cancer.
- Hypnosis is not a cure for all illness
What hypnosis Involves
Your first session will be a detailed discussion about your particular problem. It will also be an opportunity to discuss any concerns you may have about engaging in hypnosis. You will not usually receive any treatment with hypnosis on your first visit although some practitioners like to finish a session with some relaxation techniques akin to those used in hypnosis.
Each subsequent session will begin with a catch-up discussion followed by the hypnotic session. When this begins you may be offered a more comfortable seat or to lie on a couch if you prefer. Sometimes a little quiet music is played but there is no need for special lighting or swinging pendulums! You will be given some simple instructions to help you relax and be asked to close your eyes to allow you to concentrate more clearly on your inner self. You will usually feel quite relaxed and may be able to see or hear thoughts in your mind more vividly than usual. You may experience quite intense emotions. You will be able to hear the therapist at all times although your mind may occasionally wander onto thoughts of your own. When required you will be able to communicate with him by speaking or by making gestures. Sometimes the therapist will be required to touch your hand or arm but this will never be done without your prior permission. Upon completion of the session you may feel slightly sleepy for a brief period. You will be able to remember most of what was said during the session. You will have the opportunity to discuss any issues raised for you. You may well be asked to practice self-hypnosis at home to reinforce the treatment you have received. Sessions will last about an hour and most problems will require several sessions.
What To Expect From A Treating Practitioner
You should expect the same from a practitioner using hypnosis as you would from any reputable health provider. Namely you should expect to be treated with dignity and respect. You should be listened to and you views taken into account. You should expect to have your treatment plan explained to you. In other words you practitioner should be able to explain what he expects to be the outcome of your treatment and how that will be achieved. He should be able to explain why he thinks hypnosis is likely to be a useful means of delivering your treatment. He should be able to explain the process of hypnosis to you and reassure you about any concerns you may have. You should be able to have a support person with you during discussions and treatment if you wish.
Choosing A Practitioner
In NZ there are no regulations governing who may practice hypnosis and it is common place for those using hypnosis on the stage also to set themselves up as clinical practitioners! Many more still are trained in how to use hypnosis but have little or no training in its clinical use and no knowledge of even the basic health sciences. It is, therefore, vitally important that you choose your practitioner with great care. The NZ Society of Hypnosis is made up entirely of members who are doctors, dentists, clinical psychologists, nurses, midwifes, occupational therapists, speech and language therapists, social workers or physiotherapists. It offers its members training and ongoing education and support. You can contact the Society Secretary if you wish advice on finding a suitably qualified practitioner.