by Frances O'Brien
Frances O'Brien, C.Ht.
You're probably well aware that hypnotherapy can help to modify habits you no longer wish to have, like smoking, nail biting and overeating. You may even know that it can assist in alleviating fears and phobias, facilitating a better night's sleep and clearing writer's block. But do you really know what hypnosis is like?
Perhaps you've seen a movie or TV show in which someone was hypnotized and took on a zombie-like expression while being made to commit evil deeds. Maybe you've seen a stage show in which a hypnotist caused people to cluck like chickens, row an imaginary canoe, or some other goofy thing while the audience roared.
The truth is, hypnosis cannot make you do anything against your will. Stage hypnotists are experts at finding those in the audience most suggestible to them and giving suggestions that are subconsciously agreeable. It's all in the context of entertainment. The hypnotist may even suggest something like "Only the most intelligent can by hypnotized," which might influence some to volunteer. But the subconscious has to be agreeable to carrying out a suggestion in order for it to work.
When you come in for a session of hypnotherapy, it's a much subtler, more relaxed experience than anything you're likely to see onstage or in a movie. You're aware of everything that happens. You feel calm and you know you’re in control.
Hypnosis is, in fact, a very natural state of mind. You go into and out of it at least twice every day, when you’re between being awake and asleep. It’s the alpha brainwave state, and you’re more suggestible during it. You're also in hypnosis on those occasions when you drive all the way home from work and upon arrival can't remember any details of the trip. Your mind was somewhere else. Fortunately your body's a good driver, so you got home safely.
What a hypnotherapist does is establish you in the alpha state for a period of time long enough to do therapeutic work. That's when you're most receptive to it. When you receive a suggestion about something you want to change in this state, you’re more likely to accept it and make the change.
And here's a side benefit: Hypnosis feels really good. You’re physically and mentally relaxed. You’re likely imagining yourself doing things you want to do and creating the life you want to live. But while you're relaxing, you’re also experiencing a capacity to learn and to change in beneficial ways.
Although the word hypnosis is only 200 years old, the practice has been around for a lot longer. Franz Mesmer first utilized his theory of animal magnetism, called Mesmerism, in the 1700's. Some consider the Egyptian dream temples of Imhotep to have used hypnosis, and that was over 4,000 years ago!
Today hypnotherapy is a natural, effective means of accomplishing your goals that uses the power of your own mind instead of drugs, machines or surgery. It's safe, often faster than other methods, and the beneficial effects can last a lifetime.
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