What is hypnosis ?

Simply put, hypnosis is an inward focused state of concentration that allows the subconcious mind to more readily accept beneficial suggestions. While it is often associated with relaxation, relaxation is NOT an essential part of hypnosis, though it is often a 'nice benefit. It is a natural state of mind that occurs on many different levels. In a hypnotic state the brain becomes more receptive to suggestions and this is what makes hypnosis such an effective tool for change.

The human brain has several states of activity. Scientists have described the waking state as a beta brain wave (fully alert). Just as you are going to sleep it changes to alpha (day dream) and then to delta (unconcious daydream) and theta (deep sleep). The alpha state is a very dreamy, pleasant state. During this time the mind is very open to visualizations and creating a rich sensory experience. The more real the experience becomes in the subconscious mind during this state, the more effect it will have on your waking behaviour.

History of hypnosis

Ancient Egyptians, Romans, Greeks, Persians , Indians , Chinese, and Samerians and many other ancient cultures are documented as using hypnosis as a therapeutic tool. Hypnosis has been around for well over 6000 yrs , and some believe that it dates back to prehistoric times.

Between the 9th century and the 17th century hypnosis went through many changes and became more defined by scientists, scholars and physicians; however, it was never brought into the general population during this time.

It was in the 18th century that hypnosis began to gain popular interest in Europe through the work of Dr Frantz Anton Mesmer. Dr. Mesmer (the forefather of modern hypnosis) had remarkable success healing patients by passing magnets over the patient's body to remove blockages from the 'life force' (which were the causes of disease.) Dr. Mesmer found he could get the same results from just using his hands. He believed that the healing was given from the physician to the patient. He called this practice 'animal magnetism' and it enduced a trance-like state in his patients. Unfortunately, his constant 'show boating' lost him favour in the medical community but his name lives on in the term we know today as 'mesmerize'.

Mesmer's student, Armand de Puysegur, took his mentor's work to the next level when he discovered that through the use of words and 'mesmer passes', he could induce a trance faster than Mesmer could have with his hands alone. He also discovered that the person could be operated on without the use of anaesthetic.

Enter Dr. Recamier, the first medical doctor recorded to have performed a surgery without the use of anaesthetic; but the real prize goes to Dr James Esdaile who performed an amazing 300 major surgeries and thousands of minor surgeries, all without the use of anaesthetics. The discovery of chloroform soon displaced 'mesmerism' (hypnosis) as the method of choice for surgeries as it was much easier and quicker to give the patient an injection than to induce a trance.

The next milestone in hypnosis belongs to Dr. James Braid who discovered that a person could easily reach a trance state without the help of mesmeric passes. He inaccurately named his discovery hypnos (Greek for 'sleep') and the term 'hypnosis' was born.

During the following years (mid to late 1800's) hypnosis went through a 'refining' period. Of course this didn't come without some controversy. And out of this controversy came the belief that hypnosis is a 'naturally occuring state and that a physician is not needed to 'induce' a patient into a trance. This belief holds true today.

The next major step was brought forward by Dr. Emile Coue who refined hypnosis to an even greater level. Dr. Coue believed that 'auto suggestion' was the key to hypnosis and that the hypnotist was but a facilitator of change / healing in the patient's condition by totally including his patient into the hypnosis process. Dr. Coue is famed by coining the phrase 'Day by day in every way, I am getting better and better.'

Sigmund Freud, father of psychoanalysis used hypnosis in his earlier days, but later abandoned it because it was believed he lacked the patience necessary to guide his patients into a trance. In many ways, his decision NOT to use hypnosis hurt the hypnosis field for many years to follow.

The next evolutionary step in the 'hypno-movement' came with Ivan Pavlov's discovery of 'conditioned response'. Through this discovery many concepts of hypnosis were strengthened and a revival of hypnosis began.

Milton H Erickson, a psychotherapist and perhaps the greatest hypnotherapist of the 20th centry promoted hypnosis by developing his own style (which changed from patient to patient.) His style of hypnosis is known today as the 'Ericksonian hypnosis'. Milton Erickson was one of the three initial persons studied by Richard Bandler and John Grinder in the development of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP).


What is it like to be hypnotized?

After undergoing hypnosis, people will often state that they didn't feel like they were in a trance (whatever that is supposed to feel like), and that they just felt a wonderful state of relaxation. Relaxing causes a change in the brain wave activity, similar to that time just before sleep when the alpha state is entered.

Mostly every individual will have a different hypnotic experience. Though normally pleasant, other sensations people may or may not experience are:

  • General body heaviness or lightness
  • Total body relaxation
  • Disassociaton of limbs (they are there but they don't belong to you)
  • Little or no body movement
  • Pain reduction while induced
  • Floating sensation
  • Breathing is slower and more relaxed
  • Tingling in limbs
  • An overall sense of well being
  • Tearing eyes
  • Upward rolled eyes
  • Eyelids feel too heavy to open
  • Eye lids fluttering
  • Senses become very acute
  • Facial features become flattened and soften up
  • Vivid recall of past experiences that perhaps you have not thought about for years
  • Drooling
  • Slower swallowing reflexes
  • Time distortion
  • Small irritations no longer bother you
  • Become aware of pulse
  • Vivid Imagery
  • Improved memory
  • Vision become de-focused

How does hypnosis work?

The first step towards having hypnosis work is to put the mind and body into a more relaxed state. Once in a more relaxed state the mind becomes more open or accepting to suggestions. The mind has a natural tendency to go from pain to pleasure and therefore a well formed suggestion would be acceptable. Now the best way to do this is by having a representation (suggestions) of the desired outcome placed into the subconscious mind. Once it has been placed into the subconscious mind, it will begin to manifest the suggestions into reality (providing the suggestion is acceptable to the individual it is given to.) This, in general terms, is how hypnosis works.

Everyone can benefit from learning hypnosis. Hypnosis guides you to an inward focused state of concentration where you are most creative and more susceptible to positive suggestions. As a life coach, I have the skills, training and experience to help you build effective goals to help you reach a new level of satisfaction in your life.