Today's blog is about hypnosis. There are a large number of misunderstandings about what hypnosis is...that it is some sort of mind control by the hypnotist or mind reading, for example. Or the act of hypnosis is somehow cavorting with evil. Defining hypnosis is really very simple. Shelley Stockwell-Nicholas, PhD in her book Hypnosis: Smile On Your Face, Money In Your Pocket defines it as "a natural state of heightened awareness where you easily accept suggestions, listen to inner wisdom, replace limiting imprints and (meet) with your higher self" (p. 19). We all enter into various levels of hypnosis throughout the day, while we are watching TV, a movie, or reading a book, while we are driving down the freeway passing the exit signs without noticing them, and even while you are sitting in a church listening to the pastor give the message you are in a state of hypnosis. When you intentionally engage in practices like meditation or yoga that involve deep breathing and a sense of inner calm you are practicing self-hypnosis.
I've given examples how hypnotic states happen to each person during everyday events. Now I will discuss what happens during intentionally induced self-hypnosis. Here I will be talking about what I do when I go into hypnosis. This is the same process that I teach others when I am guiding them through the process. First, I make sure that I am well hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids and that I have gone to the bathroom before starting. Also, I make sure that I have 15 to 20 minutes or more of free time to spend in a relaxed state and turn down (or off) any phones or other distracting noise. Here I find that soft music or white noise playing in the background can be very soothing; however, music with words can be very distracting. I find a place in the room to either sit or lie down that is comfortable. Then I take a relaxing deep breath. Hold for 5 seconds and let it out. I take another deep breath and let it out. I continue to deep breathe. In my head, I'm telling myself with each breath, I'm going five times deeper into relaxation than I was before. For me, personally, it takes 5 to 7 deep breaths before I am relaxed enough to move onto the next portion of the hypnosis.
At this point I would think about the pathway to my favorite place to make the journey in my mind. When I was first learning hypnosis, it was soothing to me to have a longer trek because I was nervous and it helped me relax more. Now that I've been doing hypnosis for a while, I found that my trip down the path does not need to be as long to have the same purpose. But in the beginning, I would think about every detail of the path: the sites; the smells; what I felt on my skin; what I tasted; everything down to the last detail. This makes for a vivid experience. My favorite place happens to be a rock below a waterfall on the South Fork of the American River so my trail goes through the forest in the woods.
Once I have arrived at my favorite place, I can sit on my “rock” and enjoy the view in my mind for a while, relaxing. There is no tension in my muscles; my breathing is calm and even; to an outside observer I may appear to be asleep. While I am meditating on the rock I can give myself positive affirmations and reverse negative statements. (Note: the subconscious doesn’t hear the negative in negative statements, so if you tell it not to do something…it hears just the opposite.)
The main "business" that I do while I am in hypnosis, besides positive affirmations, is go to my "control room." This is a location that I have created at my favorite place that has door on it with a lock and key that only I can open. Inside this room is a control panel to all the parts of my body including my mind. Everyone's control panel looks different, but in explaining it to clients I compare it to the knobs on radio. The volume on the dial or lever can be turned up or down to increase or decrease the sensation being felt. For example, if I'm feeling highly anxious, I can go into my control room, see what number my anxiety knob is set to and turn it down to a number that I'm much more comfortable with. This can be done with any sensation being felt. Any issues of concern can be taken care of at the same visit, each with it's own control, dial, knob, or lever.
To bring myself back to room awareness I count to five. 1, slowly, calmly, gently. 2, everything is relaxed. 3, I’m feeling great from head to toe. 4, it is like I have splashed my face with fresh spring water. 5, my eyes are open and everything is fine (Stockwell-Nicholas, 2009). That is the basic extent of what happens with hypnosis. There really is nothing mystical about it.
It is my hope that this explanation has clarified for the readers what hypnosis is and isn't. Of course, if anyone has any questions, please feel free to post them in the comments section and I will answer them either there or in future blogs.
References: Stockwell-Nicholas, S. (2009). Hypnosis: Smile On Your Face, Money In Your Pocket. Creativity Unlimited Press. Rancho Palos Verdes, CA.