Over recent years, hypnosis has gained acceptance as a credible method of treatment within the traditional medical community. It is now recognized as credible by both the Mayo Clinic and the National Institutes of Health, as seen by the information provided on their websites.
Hypnosis has been proven to be effective in treating many physical, emotional, and mental concerns. These include pain control, weight loss, phobias, quitting smoking, sleeplessness, and many others. Historically, the alternative medicine community has accepted hypnosis as a valuable option in treating distress.
Hypnosis is a process in which an individual goes into a trance, or a state of deep inner focus. The person stays in control and aware of their surroundings while in the trance, although their focus is channeled inward. A trance can be facilitated by another person, a taped recording, or by the person her or himself (self hypnosis). A common myth is that a susceptible person can be hypnotized without their consent, and this is just not true.
Techniques to induce hypnosis often begin with a process to relax the body. The subject is guided in a systematic way to tense the various muscles in their body and then to let go of the tension. Ultimately, the body reaches a very relaxed state. Counting backwards slowly, interspersed with affirmations of deepening relaxation, then serves to deepen the trance state. A guided image of walking down a stairway or descending in an elevator while counting slowly backwards can also serve to deepen the trance.
The purpose of inducing a trance is to bring the person to a very calm relaxed place, where the conscious mind has let go of control and the subconscious mind is more directly available. It is widely held that the subconscious mind is more receptive to suggestions than the conscious mind is, which allows changes to occur more rapidly.
Suggestions and affirmations are used when the person is in the deep trance to allow the new behavior or condition to take hold. These suggestions are most effective if they are stated in positive terms and in present tense. If the hypnosis is being used to support the psychotherapy process this is the stage in which the therapist may ask the person questions to draw out answers that the conscious mind wants to block.
Self-hypnosis is similar to meditation, with the self-directed inner focus, however the purpose is different. With meditation the desire is often to quiet the mind, while with hypnosis the aim is to create a positive behavioral or mental change in the hypnotized person.
The person who chooses to practice self-hypnosis can learn to talk him or herself into the trance state and then integrate suggestions that the desired change occurs. It is best if the person has prepared and rehearsed making the suggestions before going into the trance, so the process is smooth and the conscious mind does not become involved in thinking of what to say.
Hypnosis is clearly becoming a popular technique to enhance many areas of our lives, from pain control, to stress management, to athletic performance. So, although much about hypnosis remains a mystery, it has become a very credible and gentle option for creating positive change.