Debunking the myths about Hypnotherapy
Hypnotherapy is an area of therapeutic practice that is simultaneously revered as almost mystical and held in great suspicion by many. I have been practising hypnotherapy and studying the neurobiology behind it and I am baffled by both of these common reactions to it.
Hypnotherapy is mystical
When my mother-in-law was in the advanced stages of dementia her husband wanted to take her to see a hypnotherapist. As a rule, they both avoided needing to see doctors as much as possible and my mother-in-law has been very slow to get any treatment for her dementia. It was thought that the hypnotherapist would have special powers to heal my mother-in-laws brain. Friends warned them off the visit however and they never went.
Not knowing anything about how hypnotherapy works it seemed to her to be magical and a short-cut to recovery. Understanding the founding principles of how hypnotherapy works on the brain is the first step in debunking this myth.
This is a great resource for easy to understand neuroscience and hypnotherapy. Hypnotherapy is not mystical. There is nothing magic about it. The brain is a hugely powerful instrument of understanding and there are layers of knowing within the brain. Hypnosis peels back the layers in the brain and reveals understanding that is usually hidden in the subconscious.
We all experience natural hypnosis on a daily basis. Driving is a great example of this. We are regularly unaware of our driving actions because our subconscious is instructing our body on how to drive. Our conscious mind is thinking about many other things while we are ‘automatically’ turning the wheel and pressing the pedals.
Hypnotherapy is suspicious.
Thanks to the popularisation of hypnotists for entertainment it can seem that hypnosis is about someone else gaining control of your brain. Naturally, this is a frightening idea and one that causes many people to be suspicious of hypnotherapy.
This idea is a myth. The reality is that while under hypnosis people are in full control of themselves and cannot be forced to do anything. In order for hypnosis to be successful, a client needs a desire to enter a hypnotic state. No one can be hypnotised against their will.
The increased concentration and the trance-like state that hypnosis achieves can be beneficial to everyone. People find that they are open to suggestions they would reject in their conscious mind. Many deeply rooted behavioural or psychological problems can be cured through hypnosis. The most frequent clinical uses of hypnosis include: breaking bad habits, overcoming insomnia, recalling forgotten experiences, and as an anaesthetic for managing pain.
I am very much in favour of hypnotherapy by experienced therapists. Fantastic hypnotherapy can achieve wonderful results but it must always be done in the context of a safe loving client, coach relationship.
I once had someone describe a hypnotherapy session when the therapist taught visualising a hidden box where difficult situations could be stored and forgotten about. This is a powerful technique but very dangerous. The difficult event will, of course, be forgotten by the mind but remembered by the body and will appear again at some stage perhaps as disease or fatigue.
You can easily test the benefits of self-hypnosis. Simply sit or lie down and get comfortable in a quiet setting. Then, close your eyes and take in a few deep breaths, slowly, in and out. This places many people into a mild trance and a state of comfortable relaxation. In this state, say some optimistic things to yourself (e.g., “I can easily skip dessert”) and picture some pleasant events (e.g., visualize succeeding). Even a five-minute session can prove helpful.