What Is Hypnosis? Describe the Psychological and Physical Aspects of Hypnosis and Discuss the Role of Relaxation in Hypnotherapy.

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The content of this essay will explore how hypnosis has been defined in both the past and the present. I will explain my understanding of hypnosis as well as exploring the history of hypnosis, its origins and how it was first practiced. I shall also detail some of the techniques used and the psychological and physical changes which occur during hypnosis. Finally I will discuss the role of relaxation in hypnotherapy and look at some of the reasons that individuals wish to undergo hypnosis and the benefits they may experience. My understanding of hypnosis is that it is a natural state and that all humans regularly enter a light trancelike state which they describe as “daydreaming”. It is not gaining control of a person so they act out of character and do outrageous things. This however is a common opinion of what hypnosis is. Hypnosis enables the individual to change their level of consciousness where they move into a moderate or deep trance and subsequently open up the subconscious mind. In these states the individual can selectively focus on one thing without distraction thus facilitating susceptibility to hypnotic suggestion. Everything a person has learned or experienced is stored in the subconscious mind. This is the part of the brain responsible for everything we do automatically (Hadley & Staudacher 1996). The ability of the subconscious mind is demonstrated when we complete familiar tasks without consciously thinking about them. For example, driving is a learnt skill that is stored in the subconscious mind. When making a familiar and regular car journey, it is not uncommon to arrive at your destination without remembering anything about the drive. This is because the subconscious mind is taking care of the familiar while your conscious mind can think about other things without distraction. This indicates that the mind has the ability to operate at different levels of consciousness without recourse to formal hypnosis. In practice, hypnosis is an interaction between two people, the hypnotist and the subject, whereby a heightened natural state of mind is brought about by the use of a set of techniques (Heap & Dryden 1991). Success in hypnosis can be said to be achieved when the subject is so relaxed that the subconscious mind is opened and hypnotic suggestion can be used, enabling the subject to examine the situation they wish to explore or to bring about behavioural change. Hypnosis can therefore be described as a tool which enables a person to open their subconscious mind by drawing on a natural human state at will in controlled circumstances rather than waiting for it to occur randomly. Throughout history in many cultures hypnosis has been recorded as being a major part of ritual and has been associated with shamanistic practises across many civilisations as well as in the ancient histories of Egypt, Greece and Rome. Waterfield (2004) dismisses many of these records as unrelated or unproven. In the Western world the first documented practice of hypnosis was by the Austrian physician Franz Anton Mesmer (1734-1815). He described a phenomenon which he called “animal magnetism”, Mesmer believed that the health of the body was dependant on the even distribution of “universal fluids” and that disease occurred when their flow was blocked. Initially he believed that using magnets would redirect the flow of these fluids to restore energy and health. Eventually Mesmer said that other non-magnetic objects seemed to have a similar effect, eventually he came to believe that he could transmit the magnetic healing force needed to invoke a cure (Waterfield 2004). After Mesmer’s death in 1815 Armand de Puyseger took his work one step further and discovered that the spoken word and direct commands could easily induce a trance. When James Braid (1795-1860) re-examined mesmerism in the 19th Century he discovered that simple suggestion was just as effective as mesmerism or any other method to induce trance-like states. It was...
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