Article by Serena Bostock
The truth of the matter is…you’ve already been hypnotised!
Hypnotherapists aren’t magical with special powers unless you really want it to believe they are…but what is Hypnotherapy?
In this article, I’ll explain ‘The Power of Hypnotherapy’ by looking at what hypnotherapy is, what the experience of hypnosis can feel like, and how hypnotherapy helps people make the positive change they want. I’ll share with you an actual self-hypnosis technique that I use in my own practice, as well as the rich and interesting history that hypnotherapy has.
What is hypnosis?
A client of mine came to me for hypnotherapy because they were suffering from panic attacks that they had in a specific environment. On listening to my client, her story, what she thought was happening and more specifically, what she wanted to experience…it was clear that she had, over time, forgotten how to relax…
‘Get comfortable and begin to focus on your breathing….’
And so the hypnosis begins…To begin, the hypnotherapist guides the person to focus their attention on something seemingly normal. You may be asked to focus your attention on a part of your own body, like a hand or finger or a particular focal point in the room. This helps to move you to the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) that happens just as we’re falling asleep and links back to our primitive brain.
This then leads to what most hypnotherapists call the ‘trance-like state.’ Once the person is relaxed and in a trance-like state, here is where suggestions, imagery and visualisation will be given to help the person deal with the problem they are wanting to change.
A Hypnotherapist is a specially trained and qualified Therapist, who uses a combination of hypnosis therapeutically, psychotherapy techniques, NLP (neurolinguistic programming) and Counselling Skills to help people make positive changes in their life.
‘Most people walk through life in a trance of disempowerment. Our job is to transform that into a trance of empowerment!’
– Milton Erikson
How can hypnotherapy help change an unwanted behaviour?
Have you ever tried to learn or change a behaviour when you’re stressed or anxious? It is a difficult and most frustrating task! We struggle to learn when we’re stressed or frantic. In contrast, we absorb information more easily when we’re most relaxed and calm. This is when we can problem solve better, think more rationally, logically and clearly.
The brain can be thought of as two separate parts…the conscious and the subconscious mind. When hypnotised, the conscious and logical part of the mind is focused on the experience of being relaxed and calm, while the subconscious part of the mind is active, alert and ready to learn!
Whilst in this trance-like state the subconscious mind is more open to suggestions and information is more easily absorbed. The subconscious mind is like a powerful supercomputer, that houses all our significant experiences, knowledge, behaviours, values and beliefs that we have learnt over time. As an adult, the only way to change a belief or behaviour is either for a significant event to happen that challenges our current understanding, repetition or use of powerful imagery and suggestion that engages strong emotions.
From here, this is where the hypnotherapist will offer suggestions in a way that excites or intrigues the subconscious mind, using metaphors, imagery and suggestions suited to the individual’s issue, how they view the world, in a way that will prompt a change in the person’s behaviour.
A study involved athletes carrying out their race in real life and imagining and visualising all the steps taken to perform the same race at their absolute best. In this study participants were connected to machines that monitored their brain activity. During the study they found that the brain circuits that were active whilst imagining or visualising the race event, were the same brain circuits that were stimulated when they were actually carrying out the activity. Therefore, the brain or more specifically, the subconscious mind doesn’t know the difference between what’s real life and imagination.
What does hypnosis feel like?
In this state, you may hear everything that the hypnotherapist is saying or you may drift in and out and hear some things, not others. Some people report not being able to hear a thing, whilst others see colours and hear sounds or feel sensations. The truth is…everyone experiences hypnosis differently and it’s normally a calming and soothing place to be. Hypnosis is indeed one way to reignite that body-mind connection, as research points to the relationship with the body and mind as paramount to overall well-being.
In this busy world, we have become so distant from ourselves that we have forgotten how to relax. Doing something as simple as focusing on your breathing can become an instant anchor to calmness and inner peace, but it has become a taboo subject…something woo woo, akin only to those who are classed as spiritual or enlightened. This is simply not true.
The rich history of hypnosis
You might be surprised to know that hypnosis is not a new concept and is as old as humanity itself. We could date hypnosis as far back as 4000 years ago.
In Ancient Egypt there were priests that could be likened to counsellors, who would elicit a trance to ‘seekers’ in ‘sleep temples’ to find answers to problems in their life and for healing. Ancient Greek also used ‘sleep temples’ and believed that a person in a trance-like state could heal themselves using their dreams. Great philosophers and thinkers of the world such as Aristotle, believed that dreams were messages from the body breaking into everyday life.
Ancient traditions in African Spiritual religions use symbolism, rhythmic chanting, dance and drumming in healing and ritualistic practices that produced psychological and physiological experiences that could be compared to trance. Although not specifically or purposely induced, the nature of these activities could be said to lead to trance and some rituals are still practised today.
It was in the 18th century by Anton Mesmer, followed by James Braid, that hypnosis was formalised and, from there, transformed into a professional practice that we now call Hypnotherapy.
Self-hypnosis for Self-Development…
This is why many Hypnotherapists teach their clients self-hypnosis, which is really what hypnosis is. We can all hypnotise ourselves, we just do not recognise it as such. You’re in hypnosis when you’re thoroughly enjoying an activity and are ‘in the flow’ or ‘in the zone’ or when you’re going down memory lane in a daydream or when driving.
Having the tool of self-hypnosis won’t make you a Hypnotist or Hypnotherapist, but you’ll have a way to reconnect to yourself and a powerful self-development tool to use whenever you like in the future.
Quick tips to self-hypnosis
- Take yourself to a space where you’ll be uninterrupted for 10 – 30 mins.
- Make yourself comfortable.
- With your head straight facing, lift ONLY your eyes to a spot where the ceiling meets the wall. You should feel a slight strain on your eyes.
- Focus on that spot and begin to control your breathing.
- Breathe a little more deeply than you normally would, whilst keeping your eyes on that spot and your head in the same straight-facing position.
- Do 6 x rounds of breathing (one inhale and exhale equals one round). Allowing each breath to relax you.
- After the 6th round, on the exhale, close your eyes and on the inhale open your eyes, whilst still focusing on the spot where the ceiling meets the wall.
- Allow each breath to relax your mind and body even deeper than the one before.
- Continue to do this for as long as you can or until your eyes become so tired that you can no longer keep them open…
- You have successfully put yourself in a trance!!
Whatever the reason for the self-hypnosis..use the self-induced trance-like state to visualise the best outcome possible. You can repeat an affirmation or allow your imagination to see yourself as the best version of yourself, see yourself smashing that interview, or delivering an amazing presentation or winning that race…
Remember! Your subconscious mind doesn’t know the difference between what’s real and what’s not!
(If you suffer from any medical or mental health conditions or are in the first trimester of pregnancy, please consult your GP or Physician before using hypnosis).
A closing statement…
Hypnosis is a powerful tool that dates back at least 4000 years and can help you make significant and profound positive changes in your life. All hypnosis is self-hypnosis, and the hypnotist or hypnotherapist guides you into the REM state, which leads you to a trance-like state, where the conscious mind steps aside, making way for the subconscious that is now open to suggestions to help you make that positive change.
A skilled hypnotherapist can help you make those changes. They’ll follow strong ethical practices, have a recognised qualification and be covered by appropriate insurance levels. I hope this enthused you about the power of hypnosis!
About The Author
Serena Bostock, GQHP, is a Hypnotherapy and Psychotherapy Practitioner and a Therapy Course Tutor, offering CPD courses and hypnotherapy training, based in Derbyshire, UK.
Serena offers one-to-one hypnotherapy through her signature Realign Hypnotherapy Programme to renew your self-belief and embody confidence and hosts a monthly Women’s Circle in her local area.
You can find her at www.serentherapies.com
Sources and further reading
- 2022 – The History of Hypnosis, hypnoself.co.uk/history-of-hypnosis
- 2015 – The Human Givens Institute, Ivan Tyrell – The uses and abuses of hypnosis
- 2014 – The Body Keeps the Score, Bessel Van Der Kolk
- 2014 – You are the Placebo, Joe Dispenza
- 2005 – The Biology of Belief, Bruce Lipton
- 2002 – The Research of Candice Pert – Your Body is Your Subconscious Mind: Mind-Body Medicine Becomes the Science of Psychoneuroimmunology (PNI)
- 1994 – A Comparison Between The Concept of Western Hypnosis and African Trance, Clair Hearne
We at Esoteric Studies Institute thank Serena for this very useful explanation of Hypnotherapy. Although we don’t use it formally in our Spiritual Healing modalities, it is something that weaves itself into our work.