Hypnosis in Hypnotherapy Explained
What actually is hypnosis, what does hypnosis do to the brain and what can hypnosis help with?
Before we dive into what hypnosis is, it's worth explaining what it is not.
We’ve all seen those shows on TV where someone is being hypnotised and they are made to cluck like a chicken, dance around the stage or respond in a comical way when a certain word is used. Quite often when I tell anyone that I am a Hypnotherapist, they take a step back and avoid looking into my eyes... If only I had that kind of magical power!
One of the biggest misconceptions around Hypnotherapy and often one of the main reasons why people are put off from trying it is that they think it involves some kind of magical mind control where they will be made to do something that they don't want.
Well, I’m sorry to disappoint you but when hypnosis is used in a therapeutic sense there’s no mind control, swinging pendulums or magic miracle wands being waved.
In fact, I actually avoid using the phrase ‘you will be hypnotised.’ This implies that it’s something that is done TO you that you have no control over. And that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Only 10% of the population is able to be ‘hypnotised’ at such a deep level like you see on those stage shows. This is why you will see them invite a number of different people to go up on stage so they can get them to undergo some form of susceptibility tests to see if they can be hypnotised deep enough to do things for entertainment purposes.
This couldn't be further from what Hypnotherapy is and what takes place in the therapy room.
So what is hypnosis then?
Hypnosis or trance is just a form of relaxation that follows after the talk part of the session. Many people will say that it is a form of deep relaxation, but this doesn’t mean that they need to be passed out on the couch and in such a deep state that they are not able to be woken up.
You can experience trance with your eyes open – a bit like when you start daydreaming in a staff meeting or when you’re looking out of the window during a car journey.
When I’ve worked with children they often colour in, draw or play with fidget toys during trance.
TV shows make hypnosis (or trance as it's often called) to be some sort of scary altered state but in fact it’s a very normal experience.
In fact, you will have experienced trance several times this week already.
If you’ve ever driven somewhere and when you’ve arrived not remembered the route that got you there…
You’ve been in the shower and going about a monotonous task…
Or you’re watching TV and you don’t hear your partner call you…
You’ve been in a form of trance.
When we do hypnosis in sessions, you get yourself nice and comfortable whilst I guide you into a relaxed state using visualisations and imagery.
How does it feel to be in trance?
The usual words that are used are: relaxing, calming, lighter
I’ve had it described as waking up from a lovely nap or that nice feeling you get after you’ve had a spa treatment. One client actually described it as having a ‘mind massage.’
A common misconception is that you have no control during this process and this couldn’t be further from the truth! You have full control over your body, thoughts and actions during the process.
If, at any point, you wanted to get up and walk out of the room, you could – I’ve never had anyone do that but then why would they when they are feeling so relaxed? On the odd occasion when a client has turned off their phone, they’ve been able to pick up their phone, turn it off and just as quickly return back to their relaxed state.
At no point did anyone start clucking like a chicken… (although I did have one family member who did it as joke when I was training but that was his doing and had nothing to do with me!)
What are the benefits of hypnosis?
It’s a powerful tool that sets Hypnotherapy apart from other forms of therapy as it helps you to achieve positive change in a relatively shorter period of time.
It's a natural anxiety reliever as it helps you feel calmer and more relaxed because parts of your brain go on standby – your thoughts slow down, you no longer think about that huge to-do list that you have to tackle and it allows you time to switch off.
What happens to your brain during hypnosis?
Research has shown that brain function and neural activity changes during hypnosis when compared to a normal waking state.
One of the main changes is an increase in alpha brain waves. This is associated with a relaxed, meditative state and is often seen in people who are daydreaming or engaging in mindfulness and relaxation activities.
Whilst alpha brainwaves increase, beta brain waves decrease. These are associated with alertness and focused concentration (and are in abundance when we're stressed or anxious).
Research has also found that the region of the brain called the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, which helps people stay vigilant about their external environment, becomes less active.
As a result of this, you are left feeling calmer and more relaxed, which allows you to be more receptive to suggestions.
Connections are made between other regions of the brain which helps strengthen the bond between the mind and body and this can help with forming new habits and behaviours, as well as regulating how much pain is felt.
Other regions which are normally important for self-consciousness became disconnected and so hypnosis can help build confidence to allow people to do things they might not usually have the courage to do.
Hypnosis and the subconcious mind
When you're in hypnosis and in a trance-like state, you have access to your subconscious mind. This is where all of your emotional information and memories - including any traumas, fears and phobias, anxieties, as well as your past life memories - are stored.
The subconcious mind also stores your beliefs (including those self-limiting ones) and is the driving force behind 95% of your thoughts and behaviours.
It’s why it’s not as simple as saying you don’t want to no longer be afraid of spiders… or feel anxious about going out. If you're subconscious is holding onto a belief that spiders are scary, dangerous beasts and that going out will impact your survival - no amount of talking around the subject will change your feelings.
I am willing to bet that you’ve had moments where you’ve told yourself over and over again not to get stressed out over something that you know was so insignificant (e.g. a rude comment from someone, your partner not tidying up after himself AGAIN or that presentation at work that you know you’re fully prepare for). But no matter how many times you try to convince yourself to let it go, you just can't help but feel that anger, anxiety or panic build up inside you. You then find yourself becoming frustrated because it bothers you so much. Sound familiar?
This is because rationally and in your conscious mind you know it’s no big deal and a waste of time and energy to stress about but your subconscious mind doesn’t hold those same beliefs.
In order to make positive changes to our behaviours and beliefs, they need to be accepted at a subconscious level. And hypnosis can help align your subconscious mind with how you want it to be. In order to feel calmer, happier and more relaxed, we need to get your subconscious on board.
Hypnosis helps to rewire the brain
Hypnosis is also an aid for neuroplasticity, which is the brain’s ability to create new neural pathways as we change and grow. You are literally rewiring your brain for the better to change your habits, skills, behaviours and emotional experiences.
In a hypnotic state you are able to process the events in your day, deal with things that have been on your mind and find solutions to your problems.
The whole process helps you to align your goals with how you want to feel, think and behave and therefore move you that step closer to achieving your goals.
So if you have tried going at it alone with willpower or been to other therapies and not achieved the results you were looking for, then do look into Hypnotherapy.
If you’re interested in experiencing hypnosis yourself and want to learn more about whether it is the right thing for you, then do get in touch.