“What is Hypnosis?” Describe the psychological and physical aspects of hypnosis and discuss the role of relaxation in Hypnotherapy.
Hypnosis is a powerful practice, yet at the same time it is a natural process and its techniques are neither inconceivable nor difficult. It can help you to change negative beliefs and to achieve your goals. It can treat emotional problems and improve a range of medical conditions. However no one person will experience hypnosis in the same way. This essay will explore the question of what hypnosis is and will look at the history of hypnosis and how it came to be what it is today. I will describe the psychological and physical aspects of hypnosis, looking at brain waves and how these work in aiding hypnosis. I will also consider the role that relaxation has in hypnotherapy.
What is hypnosis?
Hypnotherapy is a completely natural therapy. Although the Greek word hypnos means sleep, a state of hypnosis is not the same as a state of sleep. Instead hypnotherapy is an altered state of awareness. A hypnotised person is fully awake and can interact with you, whereas someone who is asleep cannot react and there is an absence of conscious thought. Once both the mind and the body are deeply relaxed, then a state of hypnosis is induced. It can be likened to the state you experience before you go to sleep, or the many times when you drive somewhere familiar and arrive there without remembering parts of your journey. As everything that you have ever learnt is stored in your subconscious, when you are doing something familiar, such as driving, reading a book, watching television or even washing up, your conscious mind can drift away and allow your subconscious to take over. You can become completely engrossed in your thoughts and may do things automatically that you did not intend to do. For example, wash a dish you have not used or involuntarily drive towards your place of work, when you were actually, in fact, heading for the supermarket! As you are not asleep whilst in this trance like state, you can never do anything against your will and you can easily bring yourself back to your normal, alert way of functioning. Therefore when your attention is needed whilst driving – if say another car stops suddenly in front of you – or whilst watching TV, you can easily and swiftly come back to complete awareness. Despite all of this, the state of hypnosis is still being investigated by scientists. Its use dates back to early Egyptians and Greeks. Images of hypnotic trances can be found in Arti and there is also evidence to suggest it was used by Wang Tai, the founder of Chinese medicine.ii In the 1700s, hypnosis was revived through the work of Franz Anton Mesmer, who believed that the planets in our solar system radiate invisible rays that affect our bodies. Mesmer called these rays “cosmic fluids”. He believed that they could be stored in objects such as magnets, which when placed upon diseased areas of patient’s bodies, could be used to block a patient’s flow of fluid and thus cause them to heal from their illness. Eventually Mesmer moved from the use of magnets to seeing himself as the magnet “through which a fluid life force could be conducted and then transmitted to others as a healing force.”iii After this a disciple of Mesmer’s, the Marquis de Puysegur discovered that a patient of his, a man named Victor Race, displayed a kind of “sleeping trance.”iv In this trance, the patient could still communicate, be coherent and respond to him. As time progressed more people began to investigate these trance-like states. James Braid, an English physician, introduced the word hypnosis and developed the eye-fixation, or swinging watch technique, which many people today still think of when the word hypnosis is mentioned. However it was Milton Erickson who really pioneered hypnosis, through working on himself after he became paralysed by contracting polio. Whilst recovering in bed, he...
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