Hypnosis is an alternative state of awareness in which our attention is focused on our interior world and we are capable of carrying out actions on a physical, emotional and intellectual level that exceed our normal capability. It gives us the chance to have a privileged access to certain parts of our brains, like for example our memory and central and autonomic nervous system. It can have an impact on our hormonal system, immune system, and neuropeptides system. It enables learning, creativity and fantasy. By having the freedom to access these parts of our physiognomy, it can lead to processes that seem almost magical, even if the only thing that we are doing is using all of our capacity.
The hypnotic process enables us to work with our emotions and experiences in the therapy context. It allows us to move from the framework of our everyday lives, to a psychological, cognitive and emotional level, experiencing new possibilities and solutions by exploring alternative paths.
We establish good communication with our unconscious mind, which in turn helps the conscious mind to be in harmony with it.
Our psychological function is 10% conscious and 90% unconscious.
The conscious thought helps us to think about experiences in a more logical and rational way. It analyses and orders all of the information that we have about ourselves and the world around us in a linear way. The conscious thought says: “I want to quit smoking”, “I’m starting a diet today”, “I’m ending this relationship”, “I want to be better”,…
The unconscious, on the other hand, works in an independent way. It controls everything that is related with our psychological and emotional well-being. It influences to a great extent the body physiology: the heart, blood pressure, hormones, the digestive system, and even the immune system. It is responsible for our automatic actions. It expresses itself through symbolic language and images. With our unconscious we feel what we experience and imagine. It has a great ability for learning. It stores complex learning patterns that are carried out in our first years of life like walking, talking, reading…, and the different skills that we continue to acquire throughout our whole life process.
What is Ericksonian hypnosis?
Milton H. Erickson, a North American psychiatrist from the 1950s, is the father of modern hypnosis. He introduced various changes to hypnosis at the time. Classic hypnosis, had a more authoritarian action protocol and limited its use to people with certain abilities, Erickson, on the other hand believed that all human beings were capable of developing states of trance. He defined trance as a natural process that was necessary for healthy psychological functions, which we frequently access in a spontaneous way, from the very first years of our lives.
From this perspective, M. H. Erickson developed a different way of applying hypnosis by turning the hypnotic process into a collaborative, creative and existential act, in which the person has the chance to gain internal space by widening the possible courses of action, opening new perspectives and strengthening the personality and autonomy of the person being treated. In this new form of hypnosis, the individuality of the person being treated is considered. The therapy adapts to the needs of each patient as if it were a perfectly tailored suit.
Myths and realities
The word hypnosis awakens feelings of ambivalence in many people. On one hand, it evokes the idea of magical cures and it provokes exaggerated expectations. On the other hand, it causes fear of losing control or being controlled by someone else and having to do things they don’t want to. These ideas originate from popular beliefs acquired in television shows and in theatres, which have nothing to do with clinical hypnosis or with the use of hypnosis as a course of therapy. Spectacle hypnotists do not consider the ethical side that lies behind the practice of mental health professionals. Some of the myths that arise from these popular beliefs are:
Myth: Hypnosis stops and prevents the voluntary control of the person.
True: This myth, which derives from the heart of entertainment shows and in which we see people act in an apparently involuntary way, in a ridiculous and bizarre manner, is explained in the prior consent of the person to take part in the show and in other cases that are conditioned by the social pressure that exists once they are on stage. There is no evidence to show that anyone has acted against their will as a result of hypnosis.
Myth: While undergoing hypnosis, the patient reveals secrets against their will
True: The person undergoing hypnosis is not unconscious, they freely decide what they want to reveal. However, it is true that they are capable of recovering and remembering events from the past during the course of the process. Things that someone has denied and forgotten can become more accessible.
Myth: Hypnosis can leave people “trapped” in a state of trance, in a way that they cannot get out of the state and thus undermining their will or resulting in a state of madness.
True: Located at the opposite extreme of dementia, hypnosis brings clarity and coherence. Nobody gets “trapped” in a state of relaxation and concentration. During the trance, the person can either fall asleep or regain their normal state of consciousness.
Myth: Hypnosis provokes unusual, exceptional and almost magical reactions in people.
True: While undergoing hypnosis, only those things that also happen in our normal state of conscience can take place. Therefore, the hypnotised person does not have any reactions or abilities that they do not already have. Hypnosis can help them to discover that they can do more than they think they can and develop their powers and skills.
Myth: Hypnosis is a form of therapy that does not require any effort on behalf of the patient in order to change their behaviour.
True: Hypnosis is not a form of therapy, it is a technique that enables the result of an intervention and which can speed up the treatment by reducing the subjective effort of the person. Nevertheless, the patient should actively involve themselves in the treatment in order to obtain the desired results.
Benefits of using hypnosis in psychotherapy
The use of hypnosis:
• Enables and speeds up the therapeutic process.
• Enables learning processes.
• Can cause physiological changes that lead to a greater harmony of any somatic processes. It reduces stress, enables recovery and healing and strengthens the immune system. Amongst other physiological changes, empirically tested, are: relaxation of muscles, reduced heart rate, regulating blood pressure, reducing hormones that cause stress, breathing can become deeper and more aligned and certain areas of the brain can be activated.
• It allows us to be more centred on ourselves, offering us a more direct access to our emotional part and our unconscious resources.
• It helps to enhance our creativity.
• It promotes self-control.
In which cases is the use of hypnosis recommended?
Hypnosis can be effective to treat:
• Anxiety disorders, stress, insomnia and many other psychological disorders.
• Eating disorders: anorexia, bulimia and obesity.
• Psychosomatic problems like: irritable bowel syndrome, dermatological problems, tinnitus, migraines, gastritis,…
• Pain control, prior preparation for surgery, nausea and vomiting after chemotherapy, accompanying patients through periods of illness,…
• Preparation for birth.
• Stopping smoking.
• It is a magnificent instrument for self-awareness and to develop creativity.
In which cases is the use of hypnosis not recommended?
Hypnosis is not recommended:
– Hypnosis is not recommended for all clinical cases. Each case requires an evaluation on behalf of a professional. Therefore, the proper training of the expert that practices hypnoses is important, which in addition to having knowledge of hypnotic processes, should also have training in psychology and therapy.
– Hypnosis is not recommended when a patient expresses too much fear of using it, it is preferable to apply another technique,
– Hypnosis is not recommended if the patient suffers from a psychotic disorder, then hypnosis can be applied in a very specific and limited way, and once the disorder case has been evaluated.