As a hypnotherapist, there are some questions that I get asked a lot. Questions like “Can you control my mind?” or “Can I be hypnotised to do something that I don’t want to do?”. When I meet people who haven’t experienced hypnosis or hypnotherapy for themselves, I get a lot of these questions and that is understandable. What most people know of hypnosis or hypnotherapy is derived from TV or stage hypnosis. However, when it comes to what you see on TV or on the stage, my advice is to take it with a pinch of salt. Stage hypnotists are entertainers first and foremost. Similar to watching a magician on stage, you may wonder how they do it but also know there is some trick behind it. Similar to magicians, stage hypnotists also rely on a lot of smoke and mirrors. In fact, most of what they do is not hypnosis at all!
Perhaps you may have seen someone on stage do something that they could not possibly want to do. These seemingly remarkable results are partly down to the very careful selection of audience volunteers (including the use of actors). The stage hypnotist carries out a suggestibility test with the whole audience, and then picks the most suggestible and outgoing volunteer to go up on stage. The test might involve asking the audience to clasp their hands together, while also giving suggestions that no matter how hard they try to separate them they can’t. Some people are more responsive to suggestions and engage more with their imagination, so if they are really trying to imagine that their hands are stuck together then they will appear so. It is important to note that suggestibility is not a sign of gullibility. Research shows that highly suggestible individuals usually have a higher IQ, are more confident and motivated, and become absorbed in their imagination easily (when reading, watching TV etc.). Once the volunteer is on stage, the stage hypnotist’s authoritative presence plus the overwhelming effects of social compliance contribute to the seemingly unbelievable things you may witness.
So as a hypnotherapist, can I make you do anything that you don’t want to do? No, I can’t. Hypnosis doesn’t work like that at all. You have to want it. So if it’s not mind control, then what is actually happening? The answer is hypnosis is just about using your imagination and your attention in a very specific way, to help you achieve positive change. Hypnosis enables you to rehearse thinking, feeling and behaving differently in different situations. It helps you face your fears, and change your internal self-talk to something more positive. Hypnosis gives your brain a chance to re-learn and find solutions to your problems. Quite often the answers are very simple – it often comes down to self-belief. If you believe in yourself, and have confidence in your ability to achieve your goals, then you will do just that.
So what actually happens in a hypnosis session? As a hypnotherapist, I guide my clients into a state of relaxation where they can become more responsive to positive suggestions. The positive suggestions I provide will come from what the client has told me they want to work on and what they want to achieve. It’s important to remember that when in hypnosis you can choose which suggestions you want to accept. You won’t be unconscious or asleep. Hypnosis is not something that is done to you, instead it requires your active conscious engagement and motivation.
There is a saying that ‘All hypnosis is self-hypnosis’. That’s because when you are in hypnosis you are the one who is actually doing it. The way to get the best out of hypnosis is to actively try to imagine and go along with the suggestions. Have you ever watched a film and become so engrossed in it that you actually start to feel like you are there experiencing it along with the characters? Perhaps a scary thing happens and you jump out of your seat. In a similar way to hypnosis, you are not watching the film telling yourself “This is not real and they are just actors etc.”. You are instead fully engaged in what is happening, with a willing suspension of disbelief. Hypnosis is a skill like any other – the more you use it and practise it, the better you get at it and the more you get from it. The people that get the most out of hypnosis, really try to go along with the experience and try to experience the suggestions. For example, if they find that they are not quite picturing the suggested image, then they try harder.
Research supports the use of hypnosis for treating a wide range of issues including anxiety, pain management, overcoming sleep disorders, stress related illnesses, IBS and obesity. Research has also shown that hypnosis and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy together is one of the most effective therapies for a range of issues.
If you are interested in finding out more about hypnotherapy in Cork (or online), contact me to book a free 20 minute consultation call.