The Mind, Hypnosis and Hypnotherapy
Even in today’s modern innovative world, very little is truly understood about the intangible matter of the mind, yet it is evidently such a powerful vital part of what makes us who we are. We know that each mind contains a unique pattern of links between brain cells which are created and modified during our lives and, are determined by our life experiences.
One way of making this intangible concept tangible is to think of it with personality housed inside a very complex computer system with a network of lines to every part of our bodies facilitating movement, memory, analysis, growth, repair and maintenance.
Scientists believe that the mind comprises two main parts: the conscious mind and the subconscious mind. Our conscious mind uses rational, logical and analytical thought whilst our subconscious is the storehouse of all emotion, memory and imagination. The subconscious also governs our autonomic or ‘automatic’ nervous system which looks after our body’s physical functioning and control.
In understanding how the conscious and subconscious minds fit together, many choose to imagine an iceberg. What is on the surface is just a very small part of the whole. The majority of the force is concealed. In our daily living, we are ‘above’ the water aware only of our conscious thoughts and actions. However, we are really governed by the powerful unseen often unconsidered force of our subconscious. Our urges, reflexes, gut reactions, irrational fears and habitual behaviour are controlled by a force far greater, of which we are often unaware.
The Mind is a great Power. To befriend your mind and to begin to understand your own power within, sets you free to achieve whatever you want to achieve.
Hypnosis – Naturally…
Hypnosis has long been associated with the strange and mysterious, with sideshows and stages, but the truth is that it isn’t the least bit mysterious or supernatural…that’s just entertainment. In fact you have been in hypnosis literally thousands of times. You didn’t notice it because it’s an entirely natural state of mind for all humans and many animals. Daydreaming, being deeply engrossed in a book or film, or lost in thought elsewhere whilst driving, unaware of time passing are things that most of us do very often.
To take driving for example, your subconscious knows how to drive the car and whilst you are distracted in your thoughts, it does this on your behalf. The knowledge to drive exists within your subconscious and you drive in this way on ‘auto-pilot’. But we are always protected by the conscious part of our mind in that if we need to, we can come back to full awareness and pay attention to conditions on the road.
Scientifically speaking, the process of hypnosis allows us to descend through a series of brainwave patterns – beta, alpha, theta and delta in the same way as when we fall asleep. The beta state is when we are awake and fully conscious and brainwave patterns range from 5 to 40 cycles per second. In hypnosis as your mind calms and you feel more physically relaxed, you enter an alpha state as brainwaves slow to between 9 and 14 cycles per second. A deeper hypnosis enters a theta state with brainwaves slowing to between 5 and 8 cycles per second. In this theta state, the mind is more readily able to absorb visualisation and suggestion and positive affirmation. Delta brainwave state is related to sleep which occurs when our brainwaves slow to around just 2-3 cycles per second.
To Dispel a few myths…
You are not asleep or in any way unconscious. You remain fully aware – many experience a heightened awareness. You maintain control at all times. Hypnosis is entirely voluntary. No-one can be hypnotised against their will. In this way, you can talk, you can open your eyes at any time and be fully back in conscious awareness. In hypnosis we can never be made to say or do things that we do not want to do or say. You cannot be made to violate your own values or accepted patterns of behaviour.
You may have heard of a ‘trance state’ which is often referred to with hypnosis. The connotations of ‘trance’ in a therapy context conjure up mysticism and powerlessness on the part of the client, and this is frankly very misleading. In a therapy context, trance is no more than relaxation with focussed attention, in the same way as daydreaming. There is no trance, per se… There is no spell… As you allow yourself to relax, your brainwaves respond and, guided by the therapist, you are simply better able to gently focus your attention in a way that is beneficial to you. No-one has ever got ‘stuck’ in hypnosis, the same as no-one has ever got stuck ‘daydreaming’.
How long has The Theory of Hypnosis been around for?
Back in the 1780s, Franz Anton Mesmer seems to be the first person to extensively introduce the notion of hypnosis, using what he called ‘animal magnetism’ to create a state of hypnosis. He believed that our bodies had some kind of magnetism and that bringing a magnet close to the body would help balance and harmonize this magnetic fluid around us. It was, however, James Braid (1795-1860) who actually first coined the term ‘hypnosis’ from ‘hypnos’, the Greek God of sleep after seeing a presentation of Mesmerism, who forced a pin beneath the finger-nail of a young girl without her feeling any discomfort. He went on to discover the concept of ‘waking hypnosis’. Also, during the 1800s, James Esdaile developed the idea that a deep relaxation created by hypnosis can numb any sensation of pain. He used hypnosis as a method of clinical anaesthesia performing hundreds of operations. Bernheim and Liebault did much to promote popularity of hypnosis during the late 1800s in their development of the theory of suggestion therapy and promoted the idea that all hypnosis is really only guided self hypnosis. The American Medical Association and the British Medical Association both endorsed the use of hypnotherapy in the 1950s.
So how does Hypnotherapy work?
When you’re in hypnosis, your conscious mind is less active. This allows the subconscious to become more accessible. Your conscious mind is just quiet and resting, but still alert – I like to think of it as the guard in the century box at the palace. Very still, but very observant. Ready to act if necessary if there were an emergency and you needed to be alert instantly. You remain aware, just relaxed – so you know that you could just open your eyes and be your normal self instantly.
Classical Hypnotherapy mainly uses suggestion and guided imagery, whereas Advanced Hypnotherapy uses psychotherapeutic and conversational techniques in hypnosis. In this way, I act as a facilitator to guide you in your thoughts, to achieve a greater understanding of your issues and start to find new ways of thinking, feeling and behaving.
Many of us, at one time or another, have unresolved difficulties, habits or symptoms. But however hard we consciously try to change, the old behaviour creeps back. Willpower and conscious reasoning alone, are at times, simply not enough. Often, this is because the thought or habit is a programmed response as a result of adopted beliefs about yourself and your abilities. Problems occur when an individual’s circumstances change, but the emotional response does not.
The process of hypnotherapy allows you to explore deep rooted feelings about past and present experiences and relationships in a totally safe and confidential way. At times, using an analogy of a third person – our subconscious – can enable us to look at emotional blocks in a new way. As we do this, we set ourselves free. This allows us to then begin to move forward in the way we choose for ourselves. The subconscious governs our survival. It is always trying to help us to instinctively survive in the illogical emotional way it has learned. Understanding how it is trying to help us, even when it doesn’t seem like ‘help’ is vital in the process of change.
Getting the most out of ourselves…
Hypnotherapy isn’t just about clearing specific or vague floating issues in our lives.
Once we know what we want and where we want to go, once we are free from those outdated fears and unhelpful belief systems that got in our way, we can begin to move forward. Whether we walk or whether we run, little by little – chunk at a time – we learn about ourselves and how we can embrace the process of change. We begin to acknowledge that we can enjoy better health, we can perform to our best ability, and we can be who we want to be…
“I found Lisa very easy to engage with. This was important – as a first time participant in this type of therapy I didn’t know what to expect” Ian, 36, Director