In this article, we will discuss what hypnosis is and does it, in fact, work and therefore answer the question if it is real or not. I’m sure you would like to know what hypnosis is and does it work and something that’s real. This article will hopefully explain a lot more about it. For information about my London hypnosis sessions click here.
Hypnosis is indeed very real and has been around since the 18th century. However over the last decades, it has really become a lot more popular with hypnotherapists using hypnosis for all sorts of issues and problems.
The real hypnosis history
The word hypnosis comes from an ancient Greek word, which relates to the word sleep or ‘hypnos’. It was perhaps first coined in the 19th century by Etienne Félix d’Henin de Cuvillers. He was very interested in behaviour and the mind and how suggestion might affect those two during a hypnotic trance. It is popularly told that the surgeon, Dr. James Braid is understood to have begun using the term ‘hypnosis’ around the same time. He very much saw hypnosis as real, using it on patients.
The famous German physician Franz Mesmer began to look into the concept of a hypnotic trance in the 18th century. Mesmer said that he noticed and could prove there was something he called ‘animal magnetism’. He considered that to be an invisible fluid or liquid, which flowed and ebbed between plants, animals, and people. This fluid could be altered and affected in order to create changes in people’s thoughts and behaviour. It turns out that unfortunately Mesmer was a bit of a charlatan. Perhaps that might be where the negative connotations of hypnosis first came about. People then began to view hypnosis as not real but assumed it was some sort of quackery.
However, already in the late 19th century and going into the 20th century, hypnosis has began to be scientifically explored and used in ways that were very therapeutic in orientation. Sigmund Freud, at the beginning of his career was extremely interested in hypnosis and its use with patients. He saw hypnosis to be very real and used it to help patients get more in touch with their unconscious mind. Using hypnosis you could uncover the real causes of mental illness. In a sense, some of hypnotherapy today is a continuation of Freud’s work. Freud himself, in later years, began to use hypnosis less. However, that does not mean that hypnosis is not in fact, a very real, valid and useful tool.
What do we know about the real reasons hypnosis works?
Many journals and articles have talked about how hypnosis really does work well for many conditions, helping people make very real changes. You can see it as a sort of top down way of altering or regulating your conscious awareness, overriding behaviours, representations, and instinctual responses to events and situations.
Hypnosis therapy will normally contain two main elements. During a session you will first of all experience an induction into a hypnotic trance. And then following that, suggestion work or visualizations. The hypnotic induction is really the first stage of the hypnosis process. And there is a matter of controversy and disagreement about how to go about an induction. Often it will involve a gentle relaxation of the body. It may involve counting down numbers into a deep trance. It might also involve distracting the eyes or using suggestions. It may, when appropriate, even use physical touch of a shoulder or hand, to help somebody move into an altered state. Some hypnotherapists will use sound as well. For example binaural beats.
Is hypnosis real for everyone?
It may be true that some people are more suggestible than other people. That therefore highly suggestible people will find it easier to go into a hypnotic trance and gain from hypnotherapy. However, it’s also true that you only need a very light trance to do some very real hypnotic work. Hypnotic suggestibility can be viewed as really the ability to allow words and experience to be used in a beneficial way for your own good.
Hypnosis has a positive and real affect on the mind
Brain imaging tools and techniques have shown that in a hypnotic trance, the prefrontal cortex and other key brain areas are affected and are highlighted during different phases of relaxation and trance. It is those areas particularly involved with and responsible for complex functioning which might include processing emotions, memory, and perception, or learning new tasks. These gain a great deal of calm and soothing during a real hypnosis experience.
How hypnosis works in the brain is still yet to be fully imaged and understood. But we do see that the brain reacts and relaxes when in the hypnotic trance.
Hypnosis has real positive effects on cognition
Hypnosis is certainly a technique which involves a more concentrated form of attention. Cognitive processes are therefore positively affected in a real way whilst in a trance. Hypnosis is about a deeper attention, and therefore your attention becomes more selective and narrowed down. This is similar to when in focused concentration. Take for example, when driving a car or when reading a book, or when daydreaming. During these times, you will notice that you become less aware of things in the periphery as such. This means that hypnotherapy and hypnosis can be used as a way to help people ignore stimuli that they do not wish to experience. And that’s exactly why hypnosis has been used to help people as a form of analgesia when going to the dentist or as a way to simply ignore distractions and therefore be more present with the task at hand. Hypnosis can be of real help to focus when engaged in public speaking or going through something a little stressful. The attention can be trained to be focused on that narrow area rather than on other things in the vision which are distracting or could be causes of stress.
Is stage hypnosis real?
Hypnosis, of course, has become a stage attraction. And that might also relate as well to why hypnosis can get a bad press. Rather than seeing it as a magician’s trick to cause audience laughter and entertainment, hypnosis as used by a clinical hypnotherapist is a powerful way to bring real lasting changes. As a therapist, I will use hypnosis in a very real way to help people. Often people will ask questions about hypnosis, worried that they may lose control or be manipulated to do things they do not truly wish to. These fears are all rooted in watching stage shows and television hypnotists.
Clinical hypnotherapy is very different from a stage hypnotist show. Sometimes the stage hypnotist will not be fully aware of the real power hypnosis can have and therefore could do damage. It’s possible that after a stage show, if you’re not prepared for hypnosis, you may find that you have after effects such as anxiety or other concerns.
Some real ways clients gain from hypnosis
A very important area of hypnosis is called regression therapy. Hypnotic regression is a method to help somebody uncover memories that have become repressed or to understand and remember situations in the past better. This might be used to deal with a traumatic event, should somebody have post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), for example.
Regression therapy can also be useful to get to more of the causes or first events that led to a phobia or anxiety in the present. Regression can be used to deal with traumatic experiences and it’s sometimes used in something called hypnoanalysis where psychoanalysis is integrated and mixed with hypnosis tools.
Past life regression is a form of hypnosis therapy where somebody is taken into lives that they’ve had before now. I personally have performed past life regression for several clients. You might question the usefulness of this should you not believe in past lives. However, whether you believe in past lives or not, past life regression can be useful. This is since the memories or images that are brought up by the subconscious would be useful information. Someone may see things suppressed and information that will be helpful somehow in the here and now to guide them to solve a current challenge. For example, somebody with a challenge in the present may find through past life regression that some important memories, images or concepts are brought up by the subconscious. It will be those that will be useful to process and think about in relation to the present.
However an important area to mention in relation to this is so called ‘false memories’. It can be true that we remember things in ways that aren’t representative of what really happened. And as such, memories can be tricky and one has to always take them with a pinch of salt. That’s why it’s very important to go to a hypnotherapist who is well trained and is able to use their skills in a real way, that is safe and beneficial for you.
What are the real issues which hypnosis helps?
What are the uses of hypnosis? As mentioned, hypnosis is a wonderful way to alter how you perceive and think about events and parts of your life. It is a therapy which is used more and more in Europe, the United States and the UK for all sorts of health problems. I use hypnosis more and more for digestive issues, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). I also use hypnosis to help people with insomnia and sleep disorders, helping people relax before bed, help control pain, as well as more commonly known applications such as quitting smoking, overeating, addictions and general stress and anxiety.
Self hypnosis is also a useful technique to gain. Self hypnosis is real hypnosis and will involve learning how to place oneself into a trance. This means that you can gain relaxation whenever you need to. I will frequently make hypnosis recordings for clients which involve self hypnosis.
Is hypnosis a real option for children?
People often ask if hypnosis is suitable for children. On the one hand, it is true that children are often a lot less aware of why they feel as they do, or about the causes of their distress. A child however can very easily go into a hypnotic trance, in fact much more easily than an adult. As such, hypnosis is a wonderful way, without the need for a lot of talking, to help children reduce stress or anxiety. Hypnosis can help in a real sense with challenges such as bullying, exams or peer group pressure concerns.