I just returned from three weeks of relaxation and rejuvenation in Banff and am looking forward to completing the second part of this blog on hypnosis.
Let us begin with another of my favorite definitions of hypnosis:
“A mysterious intelligence often comes into play during hypnotic suggestion…this perhaps, is the most fundamental insight we gain from hypnosis, this glimpse of a superior intelligence within us that can drastically alter our perceptions and thinking, restore healthy functioning, and enhance our most basic concepts.”
The Future of the Body by Michael Murphy
The mind-boggling events associated with hypnosis can evoke extreme responses from healthcare professionals. Many become inspired supporters while other observers are skeptical and repulsed by them and become hostile critics. Historically, these extreme positions have hardened into battle lines from which hypnosis is either sanctioned as evidence of a powerful healing potential in everyone, or condemned as a demonic, occult threat to free will and conscious choice. No other therapy in the past two centuries has been so thoroughly misunderstood and disparaged.
Psychiatrist Dan Benor is the author of the multivolume work, Healing Research, the largest database of nonlocal and distant healing ever published. Benor summarizes the research and contends that our belief about what is possible actually influences what we see in healing. As he puts it, just as Freudians manage to dream Freudian dreams, while Jungians dream Jungian dreams, both skeptics and believers manifest into the world that which they expect to find. Hypnosis has gone through periods of belief and disbelief. During the early 19th century, hypnosis was utilized to remove pain, accelerate healing response and was able to access a “super-intelligence” that in many instances was able to cure congenital disease – where the skin turned into hard, leather-like fish scales.
However, hypnosis began to lose its power in 1847 when a Scottish surgeon, James Simpson introduced chloroform in obstetrics and labor. With chloroform available, who needed hypnosis? Overnight, physicians began to think about hypnosis differently and because of the change of beliefs, hypnosis was not as effective as it once was. This changed over time however and hypnosis once more gained respect and various research projects throughout the United States and Europe demonstrated its effectiveness in a wide range of clinical applications. Hypnosis is still a mystery to many of us who utilize it daily with our clients, but at least, it is now a comfortable mystery.
Let us look at the different kinds of hypnosis has each as a different expectation and outcome associated with it.
Experimental hypnosis is usually conducted in research settings following experimental protocol and methodology. The hypnotic induction is standardized which does not take into account individual differences. This is my bias but, by not adapting the induction to one’s learning style or favorite sensory modality I suspect that research subjects don’t necessarily reach the depth of a “one size fits all” type of induction.
Demonstration hypnosis is what we utilize in teaching other professionals how to utilize trance for a range of health and other issues. The volunteers are health care professionals and the demonstrations are done in front of a large audience. The motivation is to both teach and learn by practicing with each other.
Forensic Trances are utilized to refresh the memories of either witnesses or victims of serious crime or accidents. Trying to enhance the recall of traumatic events can be inconsistent. Over the years, I conducted over 80 hypnotic interviews for the R.C.M.P. and Vancouver Police. Many of the sessions were helpful but some were not. The reason for the latter is that sometimes witnesses will tend to confabulate or embellish what they think they saw which can lead to false memories. For that reason, I have stopped doing forensic hypnosis.
Peak Performance Hypnosis is employed usually with athletes who wish to overcome subconscious blocks to optimal performance. A question I frequently ask of athletes is, “How much of your success is mental? How much time do you spend in the mental?” I believe those two questions could apply to everyone – not just athletes. Regardless, many techniques are utilized including indentifying limiting beliefs, reducing performance anxiety and mental rehearsal.
Entertainment Trance is utilized by stage hypnotists. Since hypnosis is a skill, stage hypnotists will utilize suggestibility tests to select the best skill hypnotic subjects while the rest are sent back to their seats. The hypnotic virtuosos are then “trance trained” and go on to perform outlandish stunts for the audience.
Spontaneous Trances respond to emergencies such as a 100-pound mother suddenly mobilizing unimaginable strength to life, for example, a small automobile that rolled over her child.
Clinical Hypnosis, of course, is utilized for helping and healing such issues as pain, sleep dysfunction, habit control for stopping smoking and losing weight, strengthening self-esteem, preparation for surgery, improving memory, achieving goals, hypno-birthing and a host of other clinical issues including identifying the root cause of problems and subconscious self-sabotage.
I have covered ‘walking trances’ and belief trances in previous blogs.
As promised, following is an easy-to-learn self-hypnosis that I utilize daily for myself and also teach to many of my clients. Make certain that you will not be disturbed, turn off your cell phone and find a comfortable chair to sit in.
One, take a deep satisfying breath as you raise your eyes up as high as possible, without straining. Two, then, as you exhale…really let go and allow your eyelids to gently flutter down, closing your eyes. Three, imagine yourself floating pleasantly in a cloud, hot air balloon, in a bathtub, or just floating in space.
Imagine each breath is deepening your awareness, each breath is deepening your absorption, each breath is allowing you to move into the deepest, most empowering octave of consciousness that will strengthen your sense of inner focus. Keep using each breath to deepen your awareness into the most trusted, most powerful part of your psyche until you feel totally comfortable and relaxed.
Then, picture and ‘breathe life’ into a goal you wish to achieve. Perhaps, seeing a collage of three or four end images that you will see upon achieving your goal that you are not seeing now.
Prior to alerting myself, I always repeat the following belief statements several times to myself:
- I always succeed.
- I respond and react only to constructive suggestions from myself and others.
- I am worthy of love. I give and receive love as often as I can.
- I am healthy, I am healed.
To alert, simply begin stirring and stretching and orient back by gently opening your eyes.
Incidentally, since hypnosis is a skill, the more you practice, the easier it becomes.