Hypnosis – How and Why it Works, Myths vs the Facts

Tuesday, March 24, 2009 2:00
Posted in category Ask Rickhead
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Post written by Rick Doyle

Hypnosis – How and Why it Works, Myths vs the Facts

Dear Rickhead: I was thinking about trying to quit smoking but every time I tried in the past I gain weight, not to mention it just seems like I don’t have the willpower to stick with it. Does hypnosis really work? What can you tell me about it?

                                             -Thanks SmokeorSnak

Dear SmokeorSnak: To dispel the many misconceptions surrounding hypnosis and hypnotherapy, you must first know what it is and how it works. It is important to realize that almost everyone, at one time or another, has and probably will continue to be hypnotized or in a mild trance. The mind is made up of two primary parts: the conscious mind and the subconscious mind or inner mind. The conscious mind makes up 10% of the brain and the subconscious mind accounts for 90% of the mind’s capacity/function. The conscious mind is your thinking, rationalization and analytical part of your brain. The conscious mind is your “awake” part of the brain. The subconscious mind is in charge of three primary functions: Operating the body’s automatic functions, memory recall and storage and controlling emotions.

When a person is in a state of hypnosis, it resembles sleep but is induced by suggestion and not fatigue. In hypnotherapy, the therapist is essentially treating the subject through the use of psychotherapy, which facilitates suggestion. A state of hypnosis exists when a person’s conscious mind is in a non-operative state; then the subconscious mind becomes accessible and hyper-suggestibility exists.

In the trance state, a skilled clinician who understands the language of the subconscious mind can suggest changes or commands to be carried out when the subject is in the waking state but only in a hypnotically correct and acceptable fashion.

There are three stages when a person is under hypnosis. All of us have experienced the first stage, which is a light trance. Examples: Day dreaming, zoning out on the TV, etc. In this state, the hypnotist may have only a slight ability to make suggestions. By deepening the hypnotic trance, the therapist is only going to suggest that the subject relax more deeply, which exposes even more of the subconscious mind. As a result, the working stage may be achieved.

In this stage the therapist has more control over the autonomic nervous system. The client is still very much aware of what’s going on, but may appear completely asleep. Nearly all of us have experienced this stage as well. Have you ever driven home from work but have no memory of the trip itself from the point that you started driving? If so, then you have experienced the middle stage of hypnosis. Pain control, trauma resolution, habits, fears and phobias and many problems may be addressed in this stage.

Should the hypnotist continue to deepen the individual from this point, the final or deepest stage of hypnosis is usually referred to as the somnambulistic condition. This stage can be used to address a variety of physical and deep-seated emotional problems. This stage, though more often used by stage hypnotists, when used properly is as safe and relaxing as the other two stages.

Now that you know what hypnosis is and how it works, clearing up myths about hypnosis will be easy.

Hypnosis – Myths vs. Facts

Myth: If we are asleep then how can we hear what is being said or how will I make any changes?

Fact: While under hypnosis you are in complete control. One of the first commands given a subject is that, “you are always in touch with the sound of my voice and will hear everything.”

Myth: What happens if we don’t wake up?

Fact: Everyone wakes up. (That might be the closest to a guarantee you will get on hypnosis that is true). The worst possible outcome for a person under hypnosis regarding waking up is that they may feel so good while they are under, or having been under such a great deal of stress of late, that their mind or their body decides rather than wake up upon command to instead sleep it off. Usually a person will only sleep for 2 to 3 hours in the extreme.

Myth: We are afraid that you will make us tell you our deepest secrets.

Fact: Secrets are safe. Your subconscious mind will protect itself and will not divulge anything that your subconscious mind cannot handle or accept.

Myth: You are going to make me act like a chicken or a dog.

Fact: You won’t do anything you don’t want to do. Only an amateur in stage shows has people do silly impersonations. On the other hand, natural hypnotics account for about 10% of the population. they are people so “ready” or have such an easy ability to focus on the hypnotist and keyword AND easily let go of control that they can be hypnotized deeply and easily FAST.  They are the ones the Hypnotist in a stage show LOOKS for as they are the ones who go so deep so fast that clucking like a chicken with a bad case of fleas seems like a “good idea”.  On their behalf these folks also are the ones who do the very best in hypnotherapy, quitting smoking with hynosis, losing weight, etc. for the exact same reasons. A professional hypnotherapist has a much more objective purpose, which is to help people change.

Myth: We don’t like being controlled.

Fact: Again, you won’t do anything you don’t want to do.

Myth: You can’t hypnotize me.

Fact: Everyone is hypnotizable. The only people who cannot be hypnotized are people with extremely low IQ’s or are mentally retarded and people with brain damage. If you can count to five and have even a little imagination you can be hypnotized. Natural hypnotics account for about 10% of the population. They are people who have an easy ability to focus on the hypnotist and keyword AND let go of control that they can be hypnotized deeply and easily FAST. They are the ones the Hypnotist in a stage show looks for as they are the ones who go so deep so fast that clucking like a chicken that just laid an egg seems like a great idea! On their behalf these folks are the ones who do the best in hypnotherapy, quitting smoking, losing weight, etc. for the same reasons.

Myth: How do we know if it really works or that we were really hypnotized?

Fact: A challenge susceptibility test, watching a stage show or a professional or asking the hypnotherapist to induce a convincing suggestion while under, are the best ways of believing that you were really under.

Myth: We tried it once in a group to quit smoking and to lose weight but it didn’t work.

Fact: GROUP SESSIONS DON’T WORK FOR BAD HABITS. It is usually a rip-off and has a very poor success rate at best. If you have 100 smokers in a room then you have 100 different reasons for why they started smoking. You also have 100 reasons why they kept smoking and 100 reasons why they want to quit smoking. You also have 100 different levels of desire and dependence. No one hypnotist is going to effectively address each of these 500 different reasons! Habits must be and are most effectively treated in a one on one setting, with a licensed Certified Hypnotherapist or a Registered Hypnotherapist.

Myth: Hypnosis is guaranteed to work.

Fact: If someone guarantees it to work – run the other way. When working with the human mind only a liar or a thief would guarantee that hypnosis will work 100% of the time. Although in the right hands of a legitimate professional hypnotherapist it is about 95% effective for smokers who WANT to quit and follow a full reinforcement with tapes and other treatment suggestions, there are still 5% out there that it may not work for at that time. Honesty and trust are the best policy.

Myth: Technique A is better than technique B. This book or this style works the best. This new approach is the best.

Fact: No on book or technique is the right one or the wrong one. Each is merely an opinion of its author and for that person probably works very well. A good Hypnotherapist will stay abreast of most of the techniques and styles being practiced. They will use what works the best, as deemed necessary for each individual client. A guarantee is a far less believable than an assurance that comes with a good proven reputation that comes from the mouths of sucessful former clients. 

Fact: An amateur can do serious harm to a person. Hypnosis is becoming more and more regulated and should only be used by professionals.

On a final note as a retired multi credentialed therapist in both addictions and hypnosis as well as other sub-specialties, hypnosis is a great tool, not a cure, for many problems. It was a technique for accessing serious problems at a very deep level or modifying behaviors such as overeating, smoking, fears and phobias and combined with some additional tools with consistent usage of reinforcement tapes, etc. hypnosis can be a fast effective long term treatment for many people including those who want to quit smoking or lose weight, but not everyone. You have to want to make the changes and stick with the course of treatment. Be very careful when choosing a therapist. Just because a person knows how to hypnotize someone or has MD/PHd behind their name does not mean they are good or qualified in your problem or even competent as a Hypnotherapist. Good professional Hypnotherapists know their limitations, always record their work and in most cases offer reinforcement programs included with their treatments. A therapist who can refer you to a therapist who is qualified for a specific problem is likely to pass you on to a better clinician and subsequently better results. One last ‘suggestion’, work on one problem to completion at a time. Smokers, quit smoking for say 2-3 months before you tackle weight loss.  Remember it took years of usage and bad habits well practiced to get you to the point of asking for help, the mind can make great changes on big problems but go easy and consistantly and over time hypnosis can make those lifetime problems much easier to over come.

To Ask Rickhead a question, please email: askrickhead [at] topicisland [dot] com


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79 Responses to “Hypnosis – How and Why it Works, Myths vs the Facts”

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