Why Should We Consider Hypnosis?
©2001, revised ©2015 by C. Roy Hunter, Hypnosis Trainer
Have you ever tried to change a habit pattern, or become more self-motivated, only to find your subconscious mind resisting? If so, then perhaps it's time to boldly go where others have gone before: into the world of hypnosis!
Every year the New Year's resolutions of many thousands of smokers literally go up in smoke! Also, millions of dieters experience the fact that diets work on the body but not the mind. Countless others feel like the "light at the end of the tunnel" was that of an oncoming train, and hope to find a way to get up again and keep on going...
Since we can all identify with one or more of these above frustrations, perhaps we should find out how to get the subconscious mind to become the servant rather than the master!
By profession, I've been involved in the hypnotherapy profession since 1983, and have been teaching professional hypnosis in a college since 1987. Although interest in the benefits of hypnotherapy is far greater than ever before, people still ask two very important questions: WHAT IS hypnosis, and WHY should we even consider it? Before discussing what hypnosis is, however, we need to discuss WHY we should even consider hypnosis in the first place.
My clients frequently ask me why they find themselves unable to accomplish seemingly simple goals and objectives through willpower. My response is to explain that acceptance of any new habit pattern requires subconscious cooperation, otherwise your conscious decision to make the desired change is undermined by your own subconscious belief in failure.
There is a basic law of the mind at work: whenever your conscious and subconscious are in conflict, your subconscious invariably wins! This has been proven repeatedly by smokers unable to stop without outside help, by dieters constantly going up and down with their weight, by outgoing people suddenly finding themselves petrified with fright when speaking in public, and by each of us as we wonder why motivation to change often does not come easily.
People usually try to change their habits through will power and/or self-discipline. While they may convince themselves what the logical course of action is, they still imagine themselves doing what they subconsciously desire to do. For example, smokers trying to quit still imagine the taste or smell of cigarettes, or dieters imagine how good junk food would taste - and then wonder why they backslide into old habits.
Simply stated, imagination wins out over logic. Knowing what to do consciously is often not enough to make the difference between success and failure. We must find a way to get the subconscious to accept our conscious decisions; and since hypnosis and/or self-hypnosis can be an effective way to facilitate change at a subconscious level, increasing numbers of people are discovering the benefits of seeing a hypnotherapist!
"Old Tapes" Must Be Changed
For many years hypnosis professionals refered to subconscious programming as "old tapes" since our minds retain everything. But unfortunately, we can't just erase a program tape; we have to record a new program tape over it.
Some old tapes are good. We may be programmed to stop automatically at a red light, brush our teeth every day, say "thank you" when appropriate and act according to certain social standards, etc. We accept these tapes without thinking about them. When the subconscious mind is full of negative program tapes, it's virtually impossible to stay in a positive frame of mind unless those tapes are changed on a subconscious level; and to do this often requires assistance from a professional hypnotherapist.
Several diet counselors have told me that 97% of people who pay money to lose weight find it again in less than two years. In other words, unless the subconscious is changed, what is accomplished through will power may be only temporary. Some of these people have paid literally thousands of dollars to reach an ideal weight, only to end up heavier than when they started! Do you know anyone who has done this? If so, it might be well worthwhile for that person to consider hypnosis.
Other Benefits of Hypnosis
Learning self-hypnosis can help empower the user to remain calm in stressful circumstances, and/or reduce anxieties. Mastering a simple stress-coping technique may help prevent the recovering alcoholic from backsliding during a time of stress.
Sometimes hypnotherapy can also be helpful for more serious issues as well, but may require a professional referral from another licensed health care professional. For example, an ethical hypnotherapist will not see you for pain management without such a referral, as pain is a warning that something is wrong with the body - and the cause(s) must be professionally diagnosed first. In other words, we need to consider hypnotherapy as complementary health care rather than alternative health care.
Just as in any profession, there are competent hypnotherapists...and there are those who have taken shortcuts to go into business. Which one will you choose? Before answering that question, let's consider just what hypnosis is.
What Is Hypnosis?
When is the last time you cried real tears during a powerful movie? Even though your conscious mind knew you were sitting in a theater watching actors and actresses, your subconscious accepted them as real characters because you were in the state of hypnosis! And since the subconscious doesn't know the difference between fact and fantasy, we respond emotionally to what happens on screen. People jump or scream during a scary movie - or get excited during a juicy romance scene - yet the conscious mind knows where they are. And when I saw the movie E.T., it seemed like everyone in the theater cried, including me.
The word hypnosis, coined by an English physician in the 19th century, has given us an inaccurate picture for well over a century. It is derived from the Greek word hypnos, meaning sleep; but hypnosis is not a state of sleep. Rather, it is the same state of altered conscious awareness described above. It is the same relaxed state of mind we enter daily when our brain wave activity slows down to a frequency called "alpha," which we pass through on the way to and from sleep.
Our bodies become physically relaxed when this state of mind is reached, as in meditation, so an observer could perceive us to be asleep; however, the awareness of a person in hypnosis is heightened rather than lessened. Because the conscious mind has relaxed, the subconscious mind becomes accessible; thus giving us expanded possibilities for change. The power is not with the hypnotist - but within the minds of each one of us as we enter hypnosis. And since all hypnosis is, in reality, guided self-hypnosis, a more accurate definition of hypnosis would be guided meditation - or guided daydreaming.
This same state of relaxation is familiar to you, although not by the name "hypnosis." Every day you experience four different mental states: beta (waking state), alpha (meditative, relaxed state of mind where hypnosis occurs), theta (dream state), and delta (unconscious).
Benjamin Franklin made an important observation while serving on a committee to investigate the work of Mesmer in the 18th century. He noted that the so-called power was in the imagination of the participant, and NOT with the facilitator! Thus, hypnosis does not put you under someone else's power. This was personally proven to me when a woman hypnotherapist hypnotized me deeply and tried several different ways to suggest that I shave off my beard. After several minutes of her persistent prejudice, I brought myself out of hypnosis and gave her one lecture on ethics I hope she remembers for the rest of her life. Needless to say, she has never hypnotized me since!
The effective hypnotist is not a scientific mind controller, but an artist who facilitates your ability to use your imagination and respond to simple suggestions. In other words, I do not put a client into trance. The client creates his or her own trance state, using me as an artist who provides my voice as a point of focus; and enters what may also be called the ALPHA state, mentioned above. This is a mental state where one's brainwaves can be measured to have slowed down to a rhythmic vibrational rate.
Believe it or not, we create our own hypnotic trances; and have done so thousands of times since childhood! Most of my clients are amazed upon discovering the various ways that we ALL experience hypnosis frequently during our every-day lives...
How We Enter Alpha
The most common hypnotist in the world is television. Have you noticed how you can be perfectly content watching a good program; and then during a commercial break you suddenly have an urge to raid the refrigerator? You may have drooled over a pizza commercial, but your conscious mind knows that you have a bag of potato chips, so the suggestion given by the sponsor is modified by your conscious mind. The imaginative part of your subconscious produces a brief image of munching potato chips, and you are on your feet in a flash, headed for the kitchen! You might also find yourself checking the refrigerator for something else to go with the chips. Does this sound familiar? You are responding to hypnotic suggestion whenever this occurs.
Many parents have noticed a child totally mesmerized by the Saturday morning cartoons. I have had to stand directly between the television and child to get acceptance of a simple suggestion such as taking a dirty cereal bowl to the kitchen. The child can be in such a deep state of hypnosis that there is immediate acceptance of the sponsor's suggestion to get the cereal with the toy in the box. The response is so automatic that the little hand is in the grocery bag, finding and opening the box of cereal - even before the groceries have been put away. Additionally, if TV doesn't hypnotize you, radio might do so!
In case you think you are immune, how often do you remember to ask for cellophane tape, take photocopies, or grab for a facial tissue when you sneeze? And do you call it facial tissue? Also, what do you think of with the words, "You deserve a break today, at...."
Another example of our daily trip into the alpha state is at night in bed, just before falling asleep. I used to get irate at the neighbor's dog barking while trying my best to go to sleep. In effect, I would enter the alpha state and think to myself, "I can't sleep with that #?!@? dog barking!" I had unknowingly been giving myself nightly hypnotic suggestions to be at the dog's mercy. After I realized what I was doing to myself, I reversed it by thinking, "Every sound I hear makes me sleepier and sleepier." The result was the ability to sleep soundly with a German Shepherd barking frequently less than thirty feet from my bedroom window.
We can enter alpha in numerous ways: staring out the window while daydreaming, getting lost in a good book, sitting in Church engrossed in a sermon, listening to music, or whenever we find our imaginations running freely.
Even hard rock music induces alpha in some people (although not me!). Some people believe that music helps them think. Looking at the mountains, or lake, or waterfall, or meadow, etc., helps others to think and/or meditate. Ability to imagine is enhanced, memory is enhanced, creativity is enhanced, and it becomes much easier for the subconscious to respond to whatever we imagine ourselves doing.
Remember that we may enter alpha at various times during our waking hours - and while there, whatever we imagine is going straight into the subconscious! And because we are suggestible, it behooves us to be careful about whatever we imagine or daydream.
Being in a state of meditation, alpha, or self-hypnosis is neither good nor bad - it is what we are thinking or imagining that produces either a positive, neutral, or negative result.
The language of the subconscious is imagination. A competent hypnotherapist will help teach you how to use your imagination for greater self-empowerment. Those who have shortcut their training might simply try to hypnotize you deeply and give scores of suggestions in hopes that some of them work.
How Do We Choose a Competent Hypnotherapist?
I could literally write an entire article addressing this one question alone. Let's sum it up by stating that you should consider several important questions:
1. Do you want a devoted hypnotherapist, or someone trained in another health care field who only occasionally dabbles in hypnosis?
2. Do you want someone who has taken a respected training program of at least 120 hours in the specific applications of hypnotherapy, or a health care professional licensed in another profession who took only a 3-day or 5-day crash course in hypnosis?
3. Do you want someone who promises to "cure" you in only one session, or do you want someone who will be truthful about the fact that most goals (including smoking cessation) require several sessions to insure long-lasting results? Remember that NOBODY has a 100% success rate, so if someone makes promises that seem unbelievable, check elsewhere. There is no therapist alive who can help all the people all the time; however, a competent hypnotherapist can help most of the people most of the time.
4. Do you want someone who will "do it to" you, or do you prefer someone who believes in an approach of self-empowerment for the client? Ask your prospective hypnotherapist who has the power during trance. In my opinion, the most ethical philosophy is that all hypnosis is guided self-hypnosis, although even today there are those who debate this. Who would you rather go to?
5. Do you want someone whose price is the lowest in your area, or are you willing to consider that cheapest is often not the best? (I've seen many clients with previous failures because they looked for cheap hypnosis the first time around.)
If possible, ask for a free 20-minute consultation before booking a series of sessions. Most ethical hypnotherapists are willing to meet you prior to forming a client-relationship. It is also important to feel comfortable with your hypnotherapist. Good rapport increases the probability of success.
Additionally, it is important for YOU to make a commitment to success. If you expect the hypnotherapist to simply MAKE you change without any effort on your part, you might be disappointed.
Often there can be a conscious desire to change, but there may also be strong subconscious resistance, which could block simple post-hypnotic suggestions. If this happens to you, a competent hypnotherapist can help your subconscious release the cause(s), whereas a hypnotist with minimal training might try to convince the client that he/she was not yet ready to change.
My belief is that a competent hypnotherapist should fit the technique to the client rather than vice versa; and I call it diversified client-centered hypnosis.
If you wish to become more informed than 95% of the American public, then order my book THE ART OF HYPNOSIS: MASTERING BASIC TECHNIQUES. It is available from Crown House Publishing or on my website. This is a layman's book written for the beginning student of hypnosis as well as those who are just curious; but I believe that you will learn enough to make an informed choice should you ever desire the services of a professional hypnotherapist. I've also written a book of advanced techniques for the professional entitled THE ART OF HYPNOTHERAPY (also available from the same publisher). Both these books have been praised highly by my peers. View the Table of Contents of each online at www.royhunter.com/books.htm.
Hypnotherapy is finally starting to emerge into the Light once and for all, with what I call the new ethics: the ultimate goal of empowerment for the client.
I hope to see my profession continue into the 21st Century at warp speed! Perhaps you can boldly go with us and journey into a path of greater empowerment.
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Roy Hunter practices hypnotherapy near Seattle, in the Pacific Northwest region of the USA. He also worked part time for the Franciscan Hospice facilitating hypnotherapy for terminal patients for seven years, and taught a 9-month professional hypnotherapy training course based on the teachings of Charles Tebbetts for over 20 years. Roy is the recipient of numerous awards, including awards from three different organizations for lifetime achievement in the hypnosis profession. You may see Roy’s numerous awards at the "About Roy Hunter" page.
Roy is available for mentoring and coaching.
Originally posted: September 21, 2001
Last updated: July 11, 2015