There are many myths and misconceptions about hypnosis. Science fiction has done a disservice to the hypnotherapy profession by portraying hypnosis as a theatrical and magical state in which individuals lose control to vampires and sinister villains. People either believe this is an accurate representation of hypnosis or they dismiss hypnosis as fictitious. Hypnosis is real and it is not as strange as it has been depicted to be.
Everyone can be hypnotized. It “is a natural state that each of us has the ability to enter” (Stevenson, 2004). Everyone can also resist it. Hypnosis allows us to open the subconscious mind to new suggestions while the conscious mind is distracted.
During hypnosis, brain waves shift to an alpha state where creativity and relaxation are enhanced. The alpha state is most conducive to new learning. We naturally slip in and out of the alpha state between 5-30 times a minute without ever knowing it. In the alpha state we can enjoy a movie or read an interesting book. Our conscious mind takes a break while we become absorbed in the action on the screen or the words on the pages of the book. Beta waves produce a state of conscious alertness, theta waves leave us on the brink of sleep and delta waves produce a state of profound sleep (Krasner, 2002).
When the brain has shifted into alpha waves we refer to this as the “trance”. You have achieved the trance if you have ever driven from one location to another and discovered you remember little about the journey. You stopped and turned at all the right places while your mind wandered and day dreamed. The hypnotherapist helps you shift your brain waves through relaxation techniques and guided imagery. At this time, suggestions are introduced to facilitate modifications in behavior or thought in order to achieve a desired outcome. No one gets stuck in the “trance”.
Hypnosis is not mind control, magic, or casting of spells. “Hypnosis has nothing to do with will power. Will power is a function of the conscious mind” (Krasner, 2008). Hypnosis is not sleep. Some patients may fall asleep as a result of hypnosis because they become so relaxed by the process. They always wake up.
During hypnosis you will be awake and in control. You are suggestible but not commandable (Stevenson, 2004). You are in charge of how deep into the trance you are willing to go. Hypnosis is a “cooperative activity” between therapist and client. The hypnotherapist facilitates the process based on the unique needs of the client, but basically “all hypnosis is self-hypnosis”. Deeper trance states are the most beneficial.
Hypnosis has been determined to be a beneficial tool for reducing anxiety, decreasing or eliminating unwanted behaviors, facilitating positive changes in behavior and attitude, causing relaxation, and reducing or eliminating pain. It is one of several effective and legitimate interventions a therapist might choose to help a client achieve the desired outcome.
Krasner, A. M. (2002). The Wizard Within. Santa Ana: American Board of Hypnotherapy Press
Stevenson, M (2004). Learn Hypnosis Now. Laguna Hills: Liquid Mirror Enterprises