In qualified and experienced hands hypnosis can be an extremely powerful tool, resulting in fast and permanent change. It should not be used for entertainment purposes, nor used lightly, as overuse can cause problems.
It is not the hypnosis that is the magic, but rather the therapy that enables the rapid change. Just because a stage hypnotist does amusing and seemingly impossible things it does not follow that they have any therapeutic training at all.
Q. Can anybody be hypnotised?
A. Almost anybody – the exceptions are those with severe learning difficulties or those suffering from dementia, very young children (under about five), or anybody under the influence of large amounts of alcohol.
Q. How do you hypnotise somebody?
A. It varies with each person, but part of it is about getting you to focus your attention on something. There is no special way of speaking, no ‘incantations’ or magical words, and the accent is quite often on producing a very relaxed state of mind, although relaxation is not necessary. Mostly, the client will close their eyes fairly soon into the induction, but an individual can quite easily be hypnotised with their eyes open. After hypnosis is induced a deepener might be used to deepen the state. Getting wrapped up in how it works can detract from the usefulness of the experience itself. There are many ways of being hypnotised; we merely have to find out which one suits you.
Q. Is it good for performance enhancement?
A. Hypnosis, with the right sort of therapeutic work, is helpful for performance enhancement of all types! Here are just a few of the things with which it can make profound improvement:
• Sporting performance
• Career matters
• Memory and Concentration
• Stage performance
• Exams and tests
• Presentation/speaking skills
Q. Is there anybody who should not be hypnotised?
A. To a large extent, it depends on the sort of therapy being employed. Some say that anybody suffering from epilepsy should never be hypnotised, but I have never heard of an epileptic seizure being triggered by hypnosis. Where psychotic individuals are concerned, care needs to be exercised and regression/analytical therapy should most definitely not be employed. Hypnotising people too often in a short space of time may also not be helpful for some people, but an experienced and qualified hypnotist will be aware of this.
Q. How does it work?
A. Although there has been much speculation and theory over the years, all that is truly known about the phenomenon of hypnosis is that it allows the conscious critical faculty to be bypassed, allowing a ‘gateway’ to the unconscious mind. The conscious mind can then be allowed to wander where it wishes whilst the skilled therapist talks to the unconscious mind.
Q. What does it feel like to be hypnotised?
A. Actually, it doesn’t. For the vast majority of people there is actually no such thing as a ‘hypnotised feeling’ – the majority of people would insist afterwards that they had not ‘gone under’. After a few sessions, though, most people start to become aware of how the state feels to them. It may be that they feel excessively heavy or light. Their arms and legs may feel rigid, as if they have been moved into a different position, or even absent. They can sometimes feel other strange phenomena too – sensations of floating, whirling and/or spinning are not unusual, or of some part of the body being distorted in some way or as if they have become very small/big. Most people suffer some form of time distortion so that after the session there is a feeling that it was much shorter than it actually was.
Q. Can you make anybody do things they don’t want to?
A. Flying in the face of the perceived wisdom amongst many of my colleagues, my answer is “Yes, I’m sure we can”, but there is considerable conjecture about this. It is often said that hypnosis cannot breach the moral code, but of course, we cannot truly know what another person’s moral code really is. People will frequently do things they would not normally do, though this does not mean it is something they do not want to do. Hypnosis lowers inhibition, so it could be just something that the individual was too inhibited to do in the normal way, even though he/she was not averse to it.
Q. Can it be used to control people?
A. See above answer.
Q. Can you get ‘stuck’ in hypnosis?
A. No, you definitely cannot! If you were hypnotised and the hypnotist just walked away and left you, you would simply bring yourself out of the state whenever you wanted to.
Q. Is it dangerous in any way?
A. Not at all, in the hands of a properly trained and qualified hypnotherapist.
Q. How does hypnotherapy differ from stage hypnosis?
A. The hypnosis is similar, though many believe it is not. But it is the ‘therapy’ part that is different – the stage hypnotist’s mission is to entertain others. The hypnotherapist’s objective is to make life better for their patient. The stage hypnotist has an audience of willing participants, many of whom are probably very keen to go on stage and join in. It is my personal belief that it is ethically wrong to use hypnosis as a means of entertainment.
Q. What’s the difference between hypnotherapy and psychotherapy?
A. I look at it this way – Hypnotherapy is a ‘branch’ of psychotherapy, and all hypnotherapy is therefore a type of psychotherapy. Usually, psychotherapy makes changes to the unconscious by using the understanding and imagery of the conscious mind. Hypnotherapy attempts to bypass the conscious mind to a large extent, working directly with the unconscious. For this reason, hypnotherapy is often quicker. But it’s ‘horses for courses’ – there are some clients who will respond better to psychotherapy alone, and, for them, this would probably be a better form of treatment. I do both, but hypnosis is a tool I often use within the psychotherapeutic process.
Q. How long does a ‘cure’ produced by hypnosis actually last?
A. It depends on how much unconscious change was brought about in the first place. If a change has been made to a flawed fundamental belief system, then the cure will be permanent and last for a life-time. If only superficial changes have been made, then it might be only a few days or weeks. This is why direct suggestion therapy sometimes fails miserably. The best therapy is where an underlying cause has been resolved before any suggestion work is carried out at all.
Q. Is it successful with real phobias?
A. Usually immensely so, if the right sort of therapy is employed. I use a very effective method known as the ‘rewind technique’ and I’ve helped people who have had extreme phobias and trauma for many years to quickly and easily overcome that phobia.
Q. Does it always work?
A. No, no more than any other form of medicine, complimentary OR orthodox. A responsible therapist will soon detect when it is not going to work, and will help the patient to find the help they need elsewhere. Another hypnotherapist might produce the desired result where the first one could not, because of the different rapport.
Q. How long does it take to produce a result?
A. It depends on far too many factors to make a ‘one size fits all’ statement. It can be as few as one session for a simple problem, to as many as… well, that depends on the ethics and skills of the therapist involved. A responsible, properly trained, therapist will not keep a client in therapy longer than necessary.
Q. Do you really go into a trance? If so, how deep? Are you in any way unconscious?
A. No, you’re not unconscious or asleep, and ‘yes, you do go into a trance, although everybody may have a different perception of exactly what a trance means to them. The depth of trance varies from one individual to another and it is often considered to be relatively unimportant from a therapy point of view.
Q. Can somebody’s mind be too strong?
A. No. The stronger the mind the better the ability to focus and concentrate, which makes the hypnotised state easier to achieve. The statement ‘My mind is too strong to be hypnotised’ is usually based on fear, and the individuals who say this are often the best subjects of all. It is not difficult to resist being hypnotised and needs no specific strength of mind at all.
Q. Where can I find out more?
A. There is much information available on this site and throughout the Internet. A search on any search engine with the key words hypnosis, hypnotherapy, hypnotism, etc. will give you enough reading material to keep you busy for weeks. Much of it, however, is of poor quality; the links on this site point to some useful pages.
Q. I’ve heard about biofeedback meters. What are they are and what do they do?
A. A biofeedback meter is a way of keeping an eye on the internal states of an individual – anxiety, for instance – that we may not otherwise be aware of. The modern biofeedback meters have an electronic display and operate via lightweight electrodes connected to two adjacent finger tips. There is little or no awareness of these after a few minutes. You can use it on yourself, to measure your own ability to relax, or on a patient to monitor their levels of relaxation during the hypnotic induction, as well as their stress levels during regression work. These meters work on the same principle as a lie detector, by measuring the activity of the central nervous system. I rarely use one.
Q. Can you hypnotise someone without them knowing it?
A. You can, if you have the skills to do so. The use of ‘hypnotic language patterns’ and pacing and leading body language will do it. Hypnosis merely overcomes inhibition and the ‘conscious critical faculty’ – the part of our thought processes which tends to limit our behaviour or belief system.
Q. What ethical, legal and moral issues are involved in the use of hypnosis?
A. From a professional point of view, hypnosis should be used ONLY for the benefit of patients and clients – and not for any other reason at all. That pretty much sums up the basis of most codes of ethics.
Q. What exactly is ‘Past Life Regression’?
A. Theoretically, a look back to a lifetime experienced earlier in history – this can be thousands of years earlier, or maybe only a short while ago. It is claimed that there is a therapeutic value in such experiences, in that they may account for certain psychological difficulties in current life. Numerous attempts have been made to prove the validity of PLRs, but this has never been achieved – there has always been the possibility of the experience being nothing more than the recall of a long-forgotten memory from childhood in THIS life or a past dream. Many experimenters are at pains to point out that they DO NOT CLAIM that a PLR is evidence of a previous existence for the individual concerned, only an awareness of a set of circumstances that occurred before that individual was born. It is not something in which I become involved at all.
Q. Can hypnosis be used to create/trigger dreams?
A. Sometimes, though this tends to be somewhat unreliable. There has been much experimentation with the use of hypnosis to create ‘lucid dream states’ in which the dreamer knows s/he is dreaming and has control or influence over the direction of the dream, but there has been no conclusive evidence that it works. It can often be used to good effect in overcoming the ‘night terrors’.