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Hypnosis is a word that is hugely misunderstood ; when most people hear the word, they immediately think of someone putting them to sleep or making them do something silly for example like ‘barking like a dog’. In reality, this perception of hypnosis couldn’t be further from the truth as a Hypnotherapist cannot make a client perform an activity he or she would not normally do.
In this essay, in an attempt to challenge various misconceptions, I will be defining Hypnosis; discussing the psychological and physical aspects of hypnosis. I will also be exploring the important role of relaxation in hypnotherapy.
Hypnosis is a term that was coined by the English Doctor, James Braid, from the Greek God of Sleep ‘Hypnos’. This name itself gives the false impression that clients will be put to sleep during hypnosis – an error Dr. Braid himself realised but couldn’t rectify as the name ‘Hypnosis’ stuck and was preferred over the alternative name he offered ‘Monoeidism’. Dr. Braid showed that people under hypnosis were unusually susceptible to impressions on the senses and that much of the person’s behaviour under it was due to suggestions that were made verbally. (Hypnosis for Change; Third Edition, Page 16). Hypnosis has been described as being in a trance-like or very relaxed state, it has also been described as ‘a state characterised by focused attention and heightened suggestibility’ (Psychology.about.com) ‘Hypnosis is a different state of consciousness; one can naturally enter so that for therapeutic purposes beneficial corrections/suggestions may be given directly to one’s unconscious mind’ (BSCH.org.uk).
A hypnotherapist can use hypnosis to explore a client’s subconscious mind and identify past habits or experiences that are part of the issues he or she is experiencing at present – the hypnotherapist can now make suggestions to the subconscious mind in order to make the beneficial changes the client desires.
As humans, it is believed that our minds drift from an alert state to different levels of consciousness. We can slip into hypnotic – like trances doing everyday things without even noticing, for example, things like driving to a familiar place that we go often or daydreaming whilst having a bath or shower. In the book ‘Hypnosis for Change’ the authors explain the levels of consciousness from alert to sleep state – stating that the alert state as when the mind is focussed and engaged; the daydreaming or light trance state is when the mind is relaxed, for example when a person withdraws into himself and relaxes; the next stage is the moderate trance state which is characterised by a loss of awareness of one’s surroundings, closed eyes etc…; then there is the deep trance state which is when there is further reduction of activity, loss of auditory receptivity and environmental awareness; and then finally the sleep state is where the mind experiences severe reduction or absence of conscious thought. The 3 middle states of consciousness are the ones that a hypnotherapist will attempt to access during hypnosis, as it is in these states that a client is most susceptible to suggestions that can effect the positive changes desired.
Sigmund Freud was the first to begin to understand the existence of the subconscious mind when he visited Auguste Ambroise Leibeault and Hippolyte Bernheim’s clinic. These two were the first to regard hypnosis as a normal experience – ‘they asserted that expectation is a most important factor in the induction of hypnosis, that increased suggestibility is its essential symptom and that the hypnotist works on the patient by mental influences’ (Hypnosis for change, Third edition, page 16). Freud observed patients who...