Hynotherapy – Self Help for Emotional Problems
‘Your eyelids are getting heavy.’ ‘You’re growing tired.’ ‘You’re getting sleepy’.
Recognize these words? They are the typical words you hear in the hypnosis sessions of movie scripts and comic books.
Hypnosis has serious stereotypical issues to overcome. Believe it or not, a hypnotist is a far cry from the ominous goateed man painted in comic books, wielding a pocket watch for compelling subjects into a zombie-like state to do his evil bidding. In fact, only a few hypnotists use a pocket watch.
This whole representation bears a minimal resemblance to real hypnotism. In fact, studies have shown subjects aren’t slaves ready to say ‘Yes, master’ to the slight bidding of the hypnotist because they’ve got their free will.
And chances are, you’ve experienced a hypnotic state of mind before, even without a session with a hypnotist. It is an entirely natural state that we drift in and out of several times a day.
Ever been engrossed in a book and lost track of time? Or have you ever watched a movie that left you scared, sad or happy? Or maybe you’ve even driven home from work and found it difficult remembering the drive? Then you’ve been in the mild state of hypnosis referred to as the ‘Alpha state.’
However, beyond these typecasting, does hypnosis really work as the alternative therapeutic therapy it claims to be? I’d need you to suspend your belief about hypnosis as we investigate that in this article.
Let’s get started.
What Is Hypnosis?
Hypnosis was derived from the ancient Greek word ‘hypnos’ which translates to sleep. It makes use of guided relaxation, extreme suggestibility, and intense concentration to focus the attention of a person on specific thoughts.
Hypnotherapy – or medical hypnosis – uses hypnosis to promote healing and positive development in a patient.
Contrary to many beliefs, hypnosis is not sleep as the Greek work translates to. Instead, the subjects are in a trance-like state, very similar to daydreaming. They are hyper-responsive and hyper-attentive, but tuned out of their environment and focused on a particular subject.
How Hypnosis Works
The exact mechanism behind how hypnosis works has remained a mystery to science for years. The only breakthrough from science came with a study carried out by researchers at Stanford Medical which revealed that neural changes occurred in the brain of people hypnotized.
However, therapists have theorized how hypnosis takes place, and the widely accepted process revealed that it works by changing our state of consciousness and communicating with our subconscious mind.
Let’s see how that happens.
During the hypnotic state, the logical and analytical left part of the brain tasked with reasoning and deduction (the conscious part) is turned off and shows reduced activity, while the non-analytical right hemisphere which is tasked with imagination and creativity (the subconscious part) is made more alert.
The conscious mind is in charge of value judgments. It is logical. It is critical. It is also analytical. That little voice in your head reading this article right now, is your conscious mind.
If I were to walk up to you and say ‘You really should stop taking these speckled sugar donuts for your mid-day snack, you know it’s bad for your weight.’ Chances are, your reaction would boil down to any one or even a combo of these:
• You tell me to shove off and mind my business
• You come up with half a dozen logical sounding reasons why the donuts are the quick fix you need
• You consciously accept that you really should give up sugar and fat ladled foods.
That is your logical, analytical, conscious mind at work. It knows what is best for you. It is aware of the importance of healthy foods and exercise, to maintain an appropriate weight.
But alas it isn’t in control, as it makes up less than 20% of your mind.
Now let’s move to the not-so-rational one; your subconscious mind.
Your subconscious mind is the most powerful part of your brain. It is 80% in charge; it has got the reins.
The subconscious mind also controls your belief system and the automatic functioning of your body. And most importantly, it is much more accepting and accommodating.
You can trust it to relay any information it receives to you.
However, there is just one problem: Our subconscious mind fights these rational, reasonable ideas.
It is because our subconscious mind runs on patterns AKA habits. It is so trusting that a habit formed through sheer repetition is seen as good and serving a vital purpose. It gets such a comfort zone in our patterns and habits that it can’t differentiate what healthy or unhealthy choices are, neither the good or bad ones.
It operates on the ‘habit’ principle. Where the rules of this principle states that ‘known’ behaviors (i.e., binge eating) are considered pleasurable and ‘unknown’ behaviors (i.e., rationalized eating) are considered painful.
Here is where hypnosis comes in.
Hypnosis puts your conscious mind in the back seat and gives you and your hypnotherapist a first class seat to interact with your subconscious.
With the help of relaxation and linguistic technique, you and your therapist can bypass the rational, conscious mind and speak directly to your subconscious mind in a language it understands; the language of pattern and association.
Once in hypnosis and your conscious mind has been bypassed, your therapists can then introduce suggestions that can help make changes to your subconscious mind. (Suggestions which could have been evaluated and most possibly blocked by your conscious mind).
Hypnosis helps change your associations so much that those sugar-laced food metamorphoses from being ‘little buddies’ to ‘sneaky foes.’
It gets better.
Hypnosis reprograms your subconscious mind by providing an update on new and more helpful information. It helps your subconscious mind mentally rehearse better ways of doing things. Such as having the will to pick an avocado, rather than a giant well-stuffed burger.
Here’s Why Hypnotherapy Works
Our mind is highly susceptible to suggestions while in the hypnotic state.
A hypnotherapist takes this opportunity to update our expectations and assumptions to help achieve goals.
You’ve got these subconscious thoughts that are shaped by your expectations and experience, which then influence your conscious actions.
Our expectations which are deeply embedded in our mind affect our perception. If you’re trying to lose weight, these thoughts could range from
1. Weight loss is impossible
2. It is just too difficult giving up my favorite food.
3. I am so busy there is no time to exercise.
The thing is you are being set up for failure by your subconscious mind. These assumptions are reinforced by our expectations, memories, and experience.
Sadly, many of our bad habits – depression, overeating, and negative self-talk – are deeply rooted in our subconscious.
With hypnosis, these negative assumptions are altered and updated. By overriding these expectations, with newer, positive more helpful suggestions, the subject can perceive the world through fresh and new eyes.
While in the state of hypnosis the therapist can suggest lifestyle adaptation and ideas that become firmly planted in the subconscious mind.
Since our unconscious mind is also responsible for our autonomic bodily process, therefore hypnosis can also lead to physical relief of pain. The control of headaches is a good example as hypnosis allows the mind relegates the awareness of pain.
Uses of Hypnotherapy; What Research Has to Say.
Since around the 18th century, many people thoughts of hypnosis has been treading the line between mental sleight of hand and therapy. However, decades of research and clinical trials have helped dissolve the aura of mystery surrounding it and have revealed it to be an alternative treatment for a variety of disorder.
Let’s take a look at some problems where hypnosis has been found effective as a form of complementary and alternative treatment.
Insomnia and sleep disorder
With the use of relaxation and self-control suggestions, hypnosis can help manage insomnia and other sleep disorders like sleepwalking, sleep terror and bed wetting.
A study carried out on sleep-deprived subjects in 2010, revealed hypnosis worked for inducing and increasing slow-wave REM sleep.
The subjects were able to achieve 80% more slow-wave sleep after listening to a sleep hypnosis tape before their nap (2).
Hypnosis can also help the mind and body relax, and relieve it of the anxiety that sleeplessness can create.
Hypnosis can help deal with the underlying biological and metabolic causes of weight loss and kick-start healthier habits. It helps in challenging negative mindset about eating and our moments of temptation.
A hypnotherapist can help a patient build a positive relationship with exercise and food, without impacting their emotional wellbeing.
A study carried out in 1986 on subjects battling with weight loss showed hypnosis was useful to an extent for the subjects. The study which was carried out on two groups showed the hypnotized group lost 17 pounds, while the group that didn’t undergo hypnosis lost only 5 pounds (3).
Stress seems like such a small word with it six letters, yet it is one of the most significant issues faced by people all over the globe. Excess stress can cause a whole host of physical, emotional, psychological, and behavioral problems.
Hypnotherapy can help address the underlying emotions that feed stress and change the way you respond to stress. Hypnosis creates a state of deep relaxation and deals with the stress responses which are responsible for the symptoms experienced in the body.
A study carried out by a team of researchers from the University of Florida showed hypnosis helped patients undergoing medical operation and childbirth had greater control over their stress and anxiety over those who didn’t.
Most often, low-level confidence is rooted in painful events and negative experiences in our teenage or adult life.
Hypnosis utilizes the mind to help challenge these negative self-thoughts as well as beliefs that limit you in life. It helps the patient generate more positive thoughts, improve their self-image and increase their determination.
A clinical study published in 2004 on chronic substance users aimed at training them to prevent a relapse, revealed subjects who used self-hypnosis had an increased level of self-esteem compared to other groups that didn’t.
Shyness is a social anxiety disorder that causes subjects to have an extreme fear of being embarrassed. If not adequately addressed, it can lead to anxiety, depression and even substance abuse.
A recent review of 101 clinical trials covered by a BBC report revealed hypnotherapy was more effective than medication in treating this social anxiety.
The report also expressed the need to increase such patients’ access to psychotherapy.
Hypnosis provides a natural remedy for anxiety with the use of relaxation techniques that help give a drug-free sense of tranquility.
Findings from a study published in the Anesthesia and Analgesia journal revealed hypnosis alleviates preoperative anxiety in adult patients. The study was carried out on three groups.
The first group which was put under hypnosis showed a 56% decrease in their anxiety level. The second group who received support and attentive listening with no hypnotic suggestions had a 10% increase in their anxiety level and the last group, ‘a standard of care group’ reported a rise of 49% in their anxiety level (7).
Also, a review of research carried out in 2010, shows six studies which suggest hypnosis was significantly effective with anxiety (8).
Depression occurs as a reaction to a traumatic event. Traumatic triggers could range from losing a loved one or a job, to bankruptcy, and divorce.
Hypnosis can work better than medication because it resolves and addresses the deeper underlying cause of depression, i.e. jealousy, fear, anger, blame or guilt.
A 2009 meta-analysis showed that hypnosis helped with depression, as hypnotherapists can make suggestions that enable subjects change and explore how they perceive painful moments.
The recent years has seen hypnosis increasingly practiced as a form of complementary and alternative treatment for a variety of problems.
So yes, hypnosis is totally real and it works; however, it is not magic.
You should know that hypnosis isn’t 100% effective for 100% of people, but it is worth giving a try because even surgeries don’t have a 100% success rate.