HYPNOTHERAPY - WHAT IS IT AND WHAT IT ISN'T
In the scientific world of 2012, hypnosis still cannot be easily or absolutely defined. It is easier to state what it is not, rather than what it is. Trance is not sleep, unconsciousness, magic, nor mind control. Much of the mystery still surrounding hypnosis is this lack of a clear definition.
Historically, hypnosis was associated with sleep and loss of conciousness. Generally experienced as restful and relaxing, it is different to slumber. In trance you are aware of your surroundings, hearing sounds, smelling smells, being aware of movements and in control of your actions. Consciousness is not lost, it becomes more selective. In trance it is usual to be more aware of internal processes than in the outside world's activities and distractions. In the altered state you select what you want to be aware of, allowing yourself to concentrate on solving a problem or just enjoying the relaxation.
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Some theorists state "hypnosis does not exist at all" suggesting that people act in the way they think the hypnotised should. If true, it is even more amazing that people can have surgery, for instance, using hypnosis for pain control and "pretend" to feel nothing. Though we cannot absolutely define hypnosis, our knowledge of it is increasing with ongoing research.Contemporary scientific studies show, trance is a natural state of mind and, like other states, such as alertness or pleasure, has many different components. Trance occurs naturally when we daydream, giving us the ability to become engrossed in our thoughts and fantasies. It can occur spontaneously in response to stress, allowing us to remain calm in a crisis, so we can cope with the trauma effectively.
Suggestability is sometimes associated with gullibility or being weak-willed, but this is far from being the truth. Inability to appreciate and judge suggestions would prevent us from trying anything new; we'd be stuck with fixed and unchangeable ideas. Our capacity to change lifestyle to fit circumstances is due to our noticing and reacting to verbal and non-verbal suggestions in our enviroment around us. Suggestibility is a valuable human trait, allowing us to grow and learn, increasing our knowledge.
"Clinicians learn readily that they exercise control over most patients only to the extent that the patients are prepared to let them." Hypnosis involves no loss of mental control. The skilled practitioner will help clients become more discriminating in their available choices; clearly defining the desirable changes and facilitating ready accomplishment.
The great majority find trance very pleasant and relaxing. Often they will say "I have never felt so relaxed in my life," or "that was so pleasant, I didnt want to come back". Some are surprised by how normal and natural trance seems, expecting an experience unlike anything they've previously known; sometimes claiming trance hasn't happened, " I can't have been in trance because I heard every word you said," or "I could come out of it at any time" or even "I was still in control of my actions so I can't have been hypnotized." All these statments are true because the client is in control of their personal behaviour and aware of their surroundings: nevertheless they've accessed trance.
Relaxation is only one of the benefits; there is a whole range of pleasant sensations to be gained from hypnosis. Some feel they are floating, their body seems light; others feel they are becoming heavy as their muscles become more relaxed. Some go into trance readily: children and people who become engrossed in reading, creative activities or work are sometimes thought better able to respond.
What Erickson called the "common every day trance" is all around us. T.V. watchers often go into trance and return to normal awareness having lost track of the programme; gazing into the flame of a fire, watching the moon, browsing supermarket shelves - whatever.
Utilizing trance makes available the benefits of hypnotherapy. Opinions vary on whether deep trance is necessary for effective therapy, it was once thought to be essential. Today most practitioners find depth of trance is not so important. In "Personal Change Through Self Hypnosis", Pam Young quotes freud as saying "it was possible to produce the greatest of changes through the lightest of trances, as much are related to customary behaviour".
Trances can, for convenience, be divided into three types;
(1) A light trance, only slightly more pronounced than a relaxed daydream; imagination being enhanced, and with attention turned inwards.
(2) Moderate trances, in addition having muscle relaxation to a degree where there may be an unwillingness to move, perhaps pleasant awareness of rhythm of breathing and pulse, feeling emotional serenity and peacefulness. Light and moderate trances are those most used for therapy. They facilitate physical serenity, allowing easy access to the subconscious and increase mental agility giving the hypnotized person new ways to appreciate his stored expriences.
(3) Deep trances intensify physical relaxation to a state of lethargy, people in deep trance generally show an unwillingness to respond, and pay scant attention to the hypnotist. Deep trance may limit the effectiveness of hypnotherapy, as it tends to slow the client down, losing some mental flexibility. The client simply cannot be bothered to speak and lack of verbal communication is limiting. Yes, we can, and do speak in trance! Learning to use trance is like any other skill, each will learn at their own rate. Good training and practice brings success.