• What Exactly Is Hypnosis?

    By Linda Ritchie, PhD

    “Hypnosis is a state of mind in which the critical faculty of the human is bypassed, and selective thinking established”, said Dave Elman in the journal Hypnotherapy in 1964.

    The word “hypnosis” is derived from the Greek word for sleep.  However, it is a misnomer.  Hypnosis is not the same as sleep.  It is a state of inner absorption, concentration and focused attention.  It is like using a magnifying glass to focus the rays of the sun and make them more powerful.  When your mind is concentrated and focused, you are able to use it more powerfully.

    Clinical hypnosis refers to the therapeutic use of many naturally occurring phenomena – such as relaxation, improved recall of information, regression, accessing inner resources, and dreaming.   Hypnosis allows people to use more of their potential.

         All hypnosis is actually self-hypnosis.   When using hypnosis, a trained professional merely assists a client by guiding them through a process that allows them to access their inner processes, i.e., their subconscious mind.

    Professional health care providers use hypnosis in three main ways.  First, they help the client tap into and use their imagination.  Mental imagery is very powerful in a focused state of attention.  The mind is capable of using imagery, even if it is only symbolic, to assist us in bringing about the things we are imagining.  Sports history is full of examples of athletes using hypnotic techniques to enhance their performance – Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, and Mary Lou Retton.  Visualizing a flawless performance enhances the actual performance.

         The second way hypnosis is used is to directly present ideas or suggestions to a client when he or she is in a state of hypnosis.  Hypnosis bypasses the critical faculty of the conscious mind.  The critical faculty is that part of your mind that passes judgment.  That is why hypnosis can be so powerful and so effective for creating change – because it bypasses the critical observation and interference of the conscious mind.

    The critical faculty of the conscious mind can be very resistant to change.  Have you ever wanted to change the way you think, feel, and behave but found it extremely difficult to do so?   Hypnosis allows a person’s intention for change to take effect more easily.  Ideas and suggestions that are compatible with what a person wants have a very powerful impact on the mind.

    Hypnosis can be used to help an individual tap into his or her natural abilities and facilitate changing dysfunctional beliefs and behaviors at the most basic levels.  It can be used for relief of depression and anxiety-related disorders and is successfully used for pain management, habit changes (diet, exercise, smoking), building self-esteem, and ego strengthening.

         Finally, hypnosis may be used for unconscious exploration, to better understand underlying motivations or identify whether past events or experiences are responsible for or contributing to a current problem.

        It is important to keep in mind that hypnosis is like any other therapeutic modality.  It is of major benefit to many individuals, but individual responses do vary.  When considering hypnosis, always verify the training, experience and credentials of the professional offering hypnosis as a technique to facilitate change.