Hypnosis is a state known to humankind since the first shamans were present among the primitive tribes of nomads wondering about the ancient steppes. Despite the fact that the phenomenon has been known for ages there are still many misconceptions about it. Most of people believe it is supernatural and extraordinary.
National Council for Hypnotherapy on their web page defines it as a natural state of mind that happens to most of us in our everyday life (NCH 2017). Hypnotherapists say that the states like daydreaming, when we do something automatically like driving unthinkingly a car on our usual route is the same state of our mind–our subconscious becomes more active than our conscious (Haddley and Staudacher 1996 pg 12).
I find it really difficult to explain what is “the state of hypnosis”. Some of the sources use “trance” and “hypnosis” as synonyms (Karle and Boys 1987 pg 9), some say that they are not identical (NCH 2017). What is more, General Hypnotherapy Standards Council states that “…At our current level of knowledge, the phenomenon of hypnosis cannot be conclusively defined…” (GHSC 2017).
That might be close enough for me to assume that hypnosis is a natural mind state self inducted or inducted by somebody purposefully to achieve subconscious in order to help the hypnotized person to change behaviour, reduce the fears, or to recover suppressed memories.
Hypnosis is achieved by deep relaxation and selective attention. The state is characterised by reduced peripheral awareness however the hypnotised does not have to be in deep trans to experience the beneficial effects of it. The client becomes highly responsive to the therapeutic suggestions however it is up to him to decide how deeply he goes into the hypnotic state and when he wants to come out of it. I have to admit it is difficult for me to understand how the latter is possible for somebody in really deep state of trance especially that some readings suggest that it might be difficult without help of the hypnotist. (Karle and Boys, 1987 pg 6) Unfortunately even despite the discussion during our practice group we could not agree where the relaxation exercise ends and when the state of hypnosis begins.
The authors of “Hypnosis for Change” claim that it is not possible to hypnotise somebody who does not want to be hypnotised and that “… a hypnotist cannot make the hypnotised to violate your own values or accepted patterns of behaviour” (Haddley and Staudacher 1996 pg 17). The above, and the fact that the consent of the subject is crucial for successful hypnosis make me think that any kind of hypnosis might be autohypnosis and the hypnotist is just a guide that is helpful but not necessary for the process. If that assumption is correct it is tempting to say that anybody can hypnotise and anybody could be hypnotised? Just the levels of the state achieved might be different. Such statement bears more questions e.g.: Why some people are hypnotised easily and others cannot reach the deep state? Is there any connection with that and the fact that some of us are highly suggestible when the others contrary?
1.2. Describe the psychological aspects of hypnosis.
The main idea behind the hypnosis in modern hypnotherapy is to achieve a bridge from conscious to the subconscious mind and place therapeutic inductions into the subconscious in order to help the subject to resolve a particular problem. Haddley and Staudacher mention three levels of consciousness (Haddley and Staudacher 1996 pgs 12-13) in which the hypnosis could bring the modification of the behaviour: light, moderate and deep trance. Most researchers agree that all the above levels can bring the equal effects of the process (GHSC 2017). It looks the success is more dependant on the frequency of the brain waves our minds emit when working.
There are four different kinds of brain waves. The fastest are Beta waves (15 to 40 cycles per second). They are the waves of alertness characteristic for engaged and focus mind. The more active and engaged mind is, the higher range of the waves it emits. Then Alpha waves (9-14 cycles) characteristic for the state when our attention wanders freely, e.g: when one sits down to relax after the completed task and experience the feeling of tranquillity. Alpha are common in pre-hypnotic relaxation and light hypnosis states. Thirdly Theta waves (4-8 cycles) that appear during deep meditation, sleep and medium to deep hypnosis. This stage seems to be neither fully awake nor fully asleep and may be inspirational because of its creative properties. Lastly Delta waves (2-4 cycles) present in the deepest state of sleep, meditation and trance. All the brain waves are generated concurrently however during each cycle one kind of wave is dominant.
When someone emits the right brainwaves, the subconscious mind opens for programming. Then, therapeutic suggestions and visualizations can be used to send effective messages to a subject’s subconscious to facilitate a desired change. As the subconscious is responsible for storing our knowledge and experience it affects our conscious decisions and behaviours. Reprogramming it the correct way may affect our behaviour for couple of days. As a result to achieve the permanent change the process needs to be repeated until the new behaviour becomes a habit.
Hypnosis may help to resolve many problems of psychological nature. It is possible to reduce stress, eliminate irrational phobias and panic attacks, reduce the fears resulted by experiences from the past, improve the capacity to learn, remember or concentrate or even improve one’s self-esteem and motivation (Haddley and Staudacher 1996 pgs 17-19).
1.3. Describe the physical aspects of hypnosis.
In 1929 Edmund Jacobson discovered that many people live in a constant state of muscle contraction. Some of us do not even realise that many muscles in our body have contracted and have not relaxed as it would be in healthy and normal conditions. As a result of that people live in almost constant tension as their muscles do not receive the message from their nervous system to relax. Jacobson discovered that regular relaxation improved his patients’ physical, mental and emotional state. In order to help his patients he introduced a technique called Progressive Muscle Relaxation which was conscious tensing and relaxing the muscles down the body in order to return them the ability to relax. Nowadays we achieve similar effects by using the hypnotic suggestions to relax the muscles.
Haddley and Staudacher mention (Haddley and Staudacher 1996 pgs 12-13) that except the relaxation during hypnosis the subject experiences slow and deepened breathing and pulse rate. The hypnotised person also becomes more aware of his internal body functions like breathing and heartbeat. In deeper states body may become limp or stiffen and the subject might be able to control some organic functions as bleeding and pain.
NCH mentions numerous physical conditions hypnosis may help with (NCH 2017). Many people used it successfully to improve their work and sport performance and general physical condition. It is also known for the beneficial treatment to various skin problems and migraines, and many more.
1.4. Explain the role of relaxation in hypnotherapy
Karle and Boys claim (Karle and Boys, 1987 pg 13) that one of the conditions of the successful hypnosis is that the subject needs to commit himself to the role described for him by the hypnotist. I believe it may be very difficult to open yourself this way if you are not in the state of relaxation. Relaxation exercises may put the subject of the hypnotherapy in state where he becomes relaxed physically and mentally. That should lead him to the right brain waves emission and consequently to the state which is optimal for the therapeutic treatment.
Human behaviour is often a result of our beliefs and quite often this relation is unconscious (Karle and Boys, 1987 pg 12). When those internal, unconscious beliefs are changed the result could be the change of the behaviour. It is possible to achieve it on subconscious level, hence before the hypnotist begins to induce any therapeutic suggestions he must ensure that the subject of the process is as relaxed as it is possible.
Relaxation is also very important because the beliefs the subject holds in his mind may make the whole process of the hypnosis difficult or even impossible. For the purpose of successful hypnotisation it is necessary the subject open himself to the whole process as much as he can, and empty his mind of any stress related thoughts. I do not think it would be possible to achieve meaningful effects without prior profound relaxation process. It may remove some impediments or at least lower some of the barriers the subject consciously or subconsciously puts on the way to the process of hypnosis and eventual healing.
There is also another aspect of the role of the relaxation in hypnotherapy. Karle and Boys (Karle and Boys, 1987 pg 12) write that most of physical and psychological disorders are accompanied by anxiety and usually are worsened by it. There are disorders where anxiety is responsible for establishment and maintenance of the unhealthy condition. Considering that the relaxation might heal some problems even before the hypnotised reaches the trans state.