Altered States of Consciousness and Hypnosis
Far from its one time connection with carnivals, mediums, and the occult, hypnosis and the altered states of consciousness it helps create have proven to be a beneficial framework of reality in a number of circumstances. For example, countless numbers of people with chronic pain problems have learned the benefits of self-hypnosis to calm themselves and their reactions to physical pain. While the term “hypnosis” often carries a certain number of negative connotations that do not truly convey the beneficial and physiological relation response that is the legitimate hypnotic response, many people are still hesitant about the concept in general. The simple fact is that hypnosis is not a form of mind control and is not the will of one person being exerted over another. Hypnosis certainly cannot force someone to do something they would not normally do. It is neither a strange, mystical force or a state of being unconscious or out-of-control. What is hypnosis it is what the Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter (10/00) calls “really about a person taking control of his or her own mind and body” (pp. 4).
Health professionals, mental health counselors, even sports performance consultants advocate hypnosis as a form of stress reduction, pain management and personal performance enhancement. The ability to harness and control one’s personal feelings and attitudes has proven to be immensely beneficial and offers potentials far beyond that of a some sort of self-proclaimed fakir performing tricks to make “members of the audience” dance on table tops or bark like dogs. Hypnosis actually has little to do with performing tricks or mind control and everything to do with reaching the inner stillness that exists at the core of all human consciousness and can serve as a guide and comfort in countless situations.
The Benefits and Processes of Hypnosis
Hypnosis is a process that leads an individual into a deep state of rest and relaxation that allows him or her to “release” physical or psychic pain or emotional negativity. It is possible to say that the process takes place through the conscious access of the unconscious mind. While such a statement may sound like double-speak, it is a verifiable and medically-proven means of relaxation, visualization, pain management, and self-awareness.
Generally, the medical and psychological literature indicates that there are two primary characteristics of hypnosis. First, is the experience of steadily focusing on a specific “object.” This is not the Hollywood-created watch swinging back and forth on a chain in front of a person’s eyes. Instead, it may be something as innocuous as the individual’s own hand or painting on the wall of a hypno-therapist’s office. Focusing on a single object allows for a greater inward focus and the ability to ignore distractions. That ability and freedom then allows a person to better understand him/herself and their life.
The second characteristic is that hypnosis actually leads to the experience of being relaxed and at ease. Under the best of circumstances, a subject’s body, mind, and emotions reach a natural, balanced state that can best be describes as relaxing, restful, calm, peaceful, and comforting. Like meditation, hypnosis allows a person to experience a clear and focused mind and permits a separation from the necessity of attending to the multitude of extraneous thoughts and concerns that so occupy the consciousness of most people. In this sense, the experience is accurately considered to be a return to a natural and balanced state of being. Such a state of being is generally a rarity in the modern world of information overload and the constant need to “multi-task” in terms of work, relationships, and even self-care. Hypnosis allows a person to disconnect from the chaos of the world and focus on the inner realities of his or her own consciousness.
According to Jackson (1999),...
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