The practice of Hypnosis in some form or another has been around a very long time. In ancient Egypt, there existed what would be called today a Renaissance man. Knowledgeable in the fields of medicine, religion, and scholastic pursuits he was also a famous architect who designed the Step Pyramid at Saqqara. His name was Imhotep, and he had Sleep Temples dedicated to him.
Over 4000 years ago Sleep temples were hospitals of sorts, healing a variety of ailments, perhaps many of them psychological in nature. The treatment involved chanting, placing the patient into a trance like or hypnotic state, and analysing their dreams in order to determine treatment. Meditation, fasting, baths and sacrifices to the patron deity or other spirits were often involved as well. This can be seen as early psychotherapy. (1)
In the 4th and 5th Centuries, Greeks and Romans had the Asklepieion which was the name for their healing temple. It was dedicated to the god, Asclepius which was the Greek god of medicine. The 2 stage process of purification ended with the patient spending the night at the temple to have their dreams analysed in the morning by the temple priest. This would occur if they had not been lucky enough to be visited by the god Asclepius who would have given them medical advice directly in their dream. (2)
Reconstruction drawing of the Asklepieion
Moving forward in history we reach the time of Franz Friedrich Anton Mesmer who was a 19th century German physician who coined the term mesmerism meaning an invisible natural force that exists between all living beings, also called animal magnetism. The term mesmerism would later be associated with hypnosis.
A student of Mesmer, the Marquis de Puységur, was the first to describe and use the terminology of somnambulism or what is known today as sleep walking.
Interestingly enough somnambulism is the name for the 3rd stage of Hypnosis, and it is considered by many Hypnotists and Hypnotherapists to be a necessary state of relaxation before any suggestions can be accepted. It is perhaps why the idea of Hypnosis makes many people uncomfortable as those who do sleep walk seem to not have any control of their situation and actions. This is not true of those in a hypnotic state but more on that later!
History is filled with fascinating information about Hypnosis. During the American Civil War (1861 to 1865) field doctors used Hypnosis on injured soldiers but once they reached the field hospitals, modern medicines of ether and chloroform were considered easier and faster to use to calm and sedate those who were injured. Hypnosis was also used during both World Wars to help soldiers suffering from PTSD or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Did you know that Sigmund Freud used aspects of Hypnosis to create Psychoanalysis?
Today thanks to the work of pioneers such as Clark L. Hull, Andrew Salter, Bob Neill, Pope Pius XII (Hypnosis was banned by the church until he gave his approval of Hypnosis in 1956) The American Medical Association, The British Medical Association, The American Psychological Association, and work of Weitzenhoffer and Aron, Hypnosis is widely used and accepted around the world today. (4)
WHAT IS HYPNOSIS?
In a nutshell: Hypnosis is a relaxation technique. It is used to be able to experience a state of deep physical relaxation, while the mind experiences a sense of hyper-focus. In this altered state of awareness, the subconscious (sometimes called the unconscious) mind becomes open to new suggestions.
THE CONSCIOUS AND UNCONSCIOUS MIND
The conscious mind is what we think of when we think of our mind. The ability to know and understand the difference between reality and fantasy is due to our conscious mind. The fact that we can tell the difference between the past, present and future is due to this as well.
When we wake from a nightmare, our heart pounding, it’s our conscious mind that tells us it was not real. Our conscious mind is also responsible for our ability to identify all of our beliefs that we are aware of, and reminds us of what we SHOULD be doing.
Our unconscious mind knows WHY we do the things we do.
The unconscious mind (also referred to as the sub-conscious) is far more flexible than the conscious mind. For the unconscious mind, time is irrelevant and everything is real. Past, present and future happen at the same moment. This explains why an event that happened years ago, can feel as real as if it happened yesterday. Think of those popular media posts that showcase the top blockbuster movies from 20 years ago. More often than not they tend to shock people because the emotional connection is in the unconscious mind. It doesn’t feel like 20 years have passed!
Any event which impacts us in a way that is emotionally significant to us is not only recorded in our unconscious mind as real, every single event and feeling associated with it is recorded as real as well, even if it wasn’t.
So a child watching their parents fighting, records every single aspect of that, including how they were feeling, what they imagined the parents to be feeling and every fantasy and reality associated with it as real.
HOW CAN HYPNOTHERAPY HELP?
Hypnotherapy is a therapeutic method of Hypnosis is used to program new suggestions at the core levels the mind. These are existing beliefs that were formed in childhood. Let’s look at an example of how It can help someone using the fictitious character of Susan, who represents that child mentioned above who witnessed her parents fighting:
Susan has the belief that money is bad. She believes that money leads to heartache and lost love, so for her, it’s been better not to be financially successful.
Why does Susan believe this?
As a young child Susan witnessed her parents fighting repeatedly about money. The child she was saw her parents fighting and decided (imagined) that they must not love each other and that money was the reason, so money was bad.
In reality it was the lack of money along with other factors she knew nothing about which led her parents to fight with one another.
As she grew up, Susan took the memory of her parents fighting, and everything associated with it that was lodged in her subconscious, and used that information to formulate the message that money was something she didn’t need in her life. Since money was bad, she subconsciously decided to sabotage herself so that she would never have enough money, thus fulfilling her childhood belief that money is bad and it leads to heartache and loss of love.
HOW DO WE CHANGE THE MESSAGE WITH HYPNOSIS?
Let’s look at the example of Susan again:
In a Hypnotherapy session, Susan is taken through a process which encourages her to relax to a level in which she will be more receptive to suggestion. Once in that very relaxed state, she is given a new message which will break the repeating behavior pattern.
The new messages will replace the old one Susan has existing in her subconscious if she allows her conscious mind to accept the change. You see, Hypnosis is not like a Hollywood movie where the unwilling participant is blindly following plans implanted in their subconscious.
In real life, Hypnosis works if you want it to. If Susan were to resist the new messages, then the effects would only be temporary and she would be back where she started.
Interesting Fact: Remember that Hypnotic state called somnambulism? Well sometimes there are people that need to reach that level in order to accept the new messages. Not because they will have lost control at that point, but because it is a level where they are able to relax their conscious mind enough to allow it to happen.
IS HYPNOSIS REAL?
Hypnosis is very real. It is a natural and normal state of the mind. We all experience states of Hypnosis throughout every day of our lives.
Have your sensations and perceptions of the world ever been altered through suggestion? THAT is Hypnosis.
Let’s look at a very common and pervasive system that is present in our daily lives. So present that in this modern age we don’t even think about it anymore.
Advertising and Marketing occur on a daily basis and greet us in every aspect of our lives. From the moment we wake up until we fall asleep at night it is there.
No you say, I am not influenced by marketing at all! Really? How many times a day do you look at your phone? As a matter of fact just what kind of phone do you have? Is it one of the big name brands? (Maybe even the one named after a fruit?) How often do you check your social media accounts?
If you have ever bought a name brand product or told someone that something was “the best” even if you were not sure that was true, you have been the recipient of Hypnotic Suggestion.
When you decide to purchase one alternative over another, the ads that you were exposed to implanted the message into your subconscious mind that one product is better than another, and that makes you choose brand x over brand y.
Marketing uses the power of suggestion to make you think about a particular product or brand name to be the first mental/emotional association you make with that product. Let’s play a little game: Think of the words “toothpaste” and “fights cavities” What brand comes to your mind? Why that brand and not another?
The answer for all of it isHypnotic Suggestion (also known as Marketing.)
This fake but awesome retro ad was created by the Sao Paulo ad agency Moma Propaganda
WHY DOES IT WORK?
Hypnotherapy works because Humans by nature are easily influenced, and because we have a conscious and subconscious mind. In our very own world history there are examples of individuals who were was able to sway the opinions of others to follow those individual leaders’ desires. Now of course there were many other factors at play, but by reinforcing an existing bias or belief by repeating the same message over and over again and presenting “evidence” (Marketing a.k.a. Hypnotic Suggestion) these persons were able to implant a subconscious message which had a profound impact on not just their country, but the world.
Authors Note: Having a lifelong love of history, learning about human behaviour and how fascinating marketing can be, has led me to this observation.
There is no such thing as waking up in Hypnosis because you are not actually asleep. True Hypnosis is a very relaxed state in which a person’s senses become hyper focused. This hyper focus allows for information to be readily received while being relaxed, but the person being hypnotised has complete control of the situation.
If someone falls asleep during a Hypnotherapy session it is most likely due to external forces in their life, combined with the relaxation they feel during the session. Once they reach sleep, they are past the point of actual Hypnosis.
WHAT DOES HYPNOSIS FEEL LIKE?
Imagine yourself watching television lying comfortably on your couch. You don’t actually remember doing it but suddenly you are having a moment where you are not sure if you are awake or not. You can hear the television on but you could also swear you were in the program just a second ago! How is that possible?
What you just experienced was the power of Hypnotic suggestion, as your subconscious mind accepted all the information it was receiving as reality. As you became more and more relaxed, your subconscious mind started to accept the messages that were being received. In your case it was what was being said on the program you were watching.
What about people who attend Stage Hypnosis shows and become “stuck” or unable to wake up?
Stage Hypnosis is a show in the truest sense of the word. They are well planned out and organized utilizing aspects of human nature that people seldom think about. Social and peer pressure are very strong factors of influence that most people do not consider, but Stage Hypnotists use it to their advantage to see just who is willing to follow along!
An example of this is using the hand clasping test. Audience members are asked by the Hypnotist to hold their hands together, and then he/she tell the audience that they can’t pull their hands apart. The Hypnotist will keep track of which audience members were unable to pull their hands apart as possible volunteers for the show.
Why can’t they separate their hands? Well in reality they could if they tried to, but the pressure of being in a room full of people who can’t seem to tear their hands apart combined with their own internal dialogue (low self-esteem, self-doubt, not wanting to be singled out as different etc.) causes them to keep their hands together.
Other tactics that are used are to tell the audience that only those with an open mind can be hypnotized. “So what?” you may say, but do you want to be seen as the only boring, closed minded person in a room full of open minded, receptive people who came to see a Stage Hypnosis show?
What about those people who have become “stuck”?
People who become “stuck” by the Hypnotist are either one of three things:
1. They enjoy the drama and the attention so they committed to “staying in a trance”
2. They are enjoying the feeling of such deep relaxation that they don’t want to give it up.
3. It is a publicity stunt.
For a Hypnotherapist, there is no value in having clients remain in a “trance state” after the scheduled session is over. True Hypnotherapists would rather you emerge from your “trance”, pay your bill and free up the space for the next client!
It’s amazing how fast a client will come out of “trance” once their Hypnotherapist tells them they have to pay for the extra time (over their appointment ) they stay in “trance”!
Many other methods are used in shows, but in the end no one can make you do anything without your consent. If someone clucks like a chicken in a show it is because on some level, they wanted to act silly, and clucking like a chicken on stage gave them that chance.
Hypnosis is not magic. Your morals and ethics determine what your limits are. A Stage Hypnotist or Hypnotherapist can’t make you do anything against your will. A persons capacity is generally far beyond what they imagine it is though, so that is often why Hypnosis can alternately enthrall and scare people.
It is not the Hypnosis itself, but what they are actually capable of doing that is the real magic.
HYPNOSIS IN ACTION
Based on individual acceptance levels, Hypnosis in general can work on a variety of issues ranging from breaking habits, overcoming fears and phobias, aiding with insomnia, smoking, confidence, concentration, aid in studying/learning something new, and issues around body image.
Hypnosis can also be specialized to target areas such as Dentistry, Surgery (Hypnosurgery) and Labour and Delivery (HypnoBirthing), Traumas such as PTSD, can also be helped with Hypnosis. Areas of body/comfort/acceptance /transition can also be aided by Hypnosis. (e.g. Body Dysmorphia and Transgender)
Hypnosis is not just for those who want to be on the stage or train to become a Hypnotherapist. Self-Hypnosis is something almost anyone can learn and in fact most people practice it daily without even realizing it.
Any time a person gives themselves a message, whether it is positive or negative, that is Self-Hypnosis:
“That meal was so good. I cooked the chicken perfectly.” “These pants make my butt look awesome. Hello fabulous me!” “I did great today. I really nailed that interview. They will hire me for sure!”
“I burned the dinner again. I really can’t cook!” “This outfit looks terrible on me. I need to lose weight!” “I can’t believe I got lost again. I have the worst sense of direction!”
HOW TO CHANGE THE NEGATIVE MESSAGE
People talk to themselves all the time. Some people talk both out loud and internally, but many others just have ongoing conversations, statements and rants inside their own head daily and that is okay.
If however those conversations take over your life to the point that you are having severe trouble functioning in daily life, then you need to seek medical/professional help and Self-Hypnosis could be used as an aid in addition to other ongoing treatments.
1. DETERMINE THE NEGATIVE MESSAGE
To begin to change the message you first have to know what that message is. A person may give themselves multiple messages all the time, and each one can be worked on, but to start, it is best to choose the one that is the most predominant in your life, especially if it affects your life negatively.
Examples: You refuse to date because you think you are not attractive enough, or you rarely socialize because you are too nervous to talk to people.
2. WRITE DOWN THE NEGATIVE MESSAGES THAT YOU WANT TO CHANGE
Make a list of all the messages that you want to change with the most persistent one at the top of that list.
3. WRITE A NEW POSITIVE MESSAGE THAT IS A REALISTIC OPPOSITE OF YOUR NEGATIVE OLD MESSAGE
This new message has to be a complete opposite that you will believe. If you write that you will lose 100 pounds in 2 months, it will not work. Not only is that a dangerous message to give yourself, it is so unrealistic that you will not believe it. Let’s look at our previous negative messages and see how we can change them:
EXISTING NEGATIVE MESSAGES
“I burned the dinner again. I really can’t cook!”
“This outfit looks terrible on me. I need to lose weight!”
“I can’t believe I got lost again. I have the worst sense of direction!”
NEW SELF HYPNOSIS REALISTIC POSITIVE MESSAGES
“I can cook. I make delicious lasagna.”
“I know the basics of cooking. It will be fun to take a course and learn more.”
Regarding Clothing/Body Image:
“I am excited to go through my wardrobe and clean it out. I am sure there are many great outfits that I have forgotten about that will look amazing on me”
“I feel wonderful when I exercise. I am going to walk up the stairs 3 times this week”
“I accept that I need help and that’s okay. I will install a GPS in my car”
“I remember directions differently than others. I will add looking for landmarks when driving to help me, and that’s okay.”
4. POST THOSE POSITIVE MESSAGES EVERYWHERE YOU WILL SEE THEM
Purchase a large poster board and write down your top positive message and then all the others underneath it. Write BIG and BOLD so that you can see it clearly. Place it in a central location of your home where you are sure to see it, like your living room or bedroom. Get yourself some sticky notes and place those all around your home with the same realistic positive messages. You can post them on your bathroom mirror, your kitchen cabinets, in your car and many other places. GET CREATIVE. Bonus points if you chose the brightest sticky notes you can find!
5. KEEP A JOURNAL
Start to write your day down in a journal. It doesn’t have to a fancy one, but it can be if that makes you feel good about doing it and it motivates you to write. Keep track of your day but also note when you expressed negative messages to yourself. Take a moment to re-read what you have written and see if you can start to see any patterns. Start to notice if there are any events or persons that trigger your negative messages to yourself.
If you find for example that you are extremely negative to yourself at work, consider the reasons. Perhaps your boss is overly critical or you have a heavy workload that is unrealistic for one person. Look into avenues that can assist you. Whether that is talking to your boss or HR Department about a resolution or delegating work to others if possible. You may also consider working on your resume in anticipation of looking for a new job. Rework any negative messages to yourself to reflect a realistic positive message.
You may also want to relay those new positive messages as needed, if possible.
For example: The next time the overly critical boss makes a negative comment to you, He/she can be told that you are doing your job to the best of your ability, and you are proud of your strong work ethic. You can even remind your boss of a contribution that you made that was a benefit to the company. If it was an excellent presentation, well worded report or even a time management strategy that was of benefit, remind yourself and others of the positive things that you have done.
6. CREATE A SPACE THAT HONOURS YOU
Find a space on a wall in your home that will be seen by anyone who enters it. On that wall place every accomplishment, certificate, image, drawing, writing piece etc. that you are proud of and have achieved. Purchase frames that you like and frame everything that can be framed. If you have trophies or other pieces that can’t go on a wall you can create a beautiful alter to showcase them. Find a sturdy small table and place that underneath your wall where you can put those pieces. You can decorate it any way that you like, add candles or incense and even add your own picture as well. It’s a tribute to all that you have done. Be proud of what you have accomplished and your negative messages will start to change. You are worth it. Remind yourself of that every day when you look at that space.
7. TAKE A BREAK
Find time for yourself to rediscover who you are and what you really want out of life. Sometimes that means disconnecting or reducing your connections to Social Media and the Internet in order to avoid the constant bombardment of messages that can make you feel unhappy and can increase your negative messages to yourself. The perceived perfection that is presented to people every day in media can be very wearing on the soul. Try to lessen or disconnect from it if possible. Even if it is only for a few hours a day, choose to spend that time in other ways. Have dinner with family or friends, take a walk, or visit a local art show or festival. Be a tourist in your own city/town/village. Volunteer to take yourself out of your own head and help others.
The following sources helped me with some of the information that is written here.
or contact the National Guild of Hypnotists to find one in your area: https://ngh.net/
"Hypnosis is a fascinating subject. There is much more information available from many sources such as books, lectures, classes and more, including my website and blog. If you are interested in learning more about Hypnosis I encourage you to do your own research, see what is out there and what speaks to you." ~Jade