Just the word HYPNOSIS can be terrifying. So many myths and misunderstandings about HYPNOSIS prevent many people from going for the hypnotic help that would solve their problems.
In essence, HYPNOSIS is simply using your imagination.
HYPNOTHERAPY is like guided daydreaming.
And therein lies the power of HYPNOSIS to transform lives. Few people know that the 400 or so psychotherapies rely on the underlying hypnotic process for their success.
Yes, of course the essential criterion for a positive outcome to therapy is the client-therapist relationship. But the love showered by the therapist onto his or her client triggers positive self-hypnosis within the client. And that’s how permanent change comes about.
Love is a powerful tool for healing.
That explanation would likely not sit well with many therapists, including those who practice hypnosis. Most of us prefer to believe that our techniques, our theories are the Truth – and essential for real change to take place in our clients.
I’m reminded of a furious argument years ago among members of the National Guild of Hypnotists about whether abreaction is absolutely necessary for a client to enjoy real change.
Just like a similar fracas about the supposed essentiality of somnambulism, the arguers suffered from what I call the Therapy Delusion.
One consequence of being wedded to particular theories is that we become unable to see the basic similarity of, for example, EMDR and EFT to hypnotherapy.
Indeed, EMDR advocates become incensed when the parallels between their practice and hypnotherapy are pointed out. Some EFT believers are convinced that tapping is a hypnotic short-cut; others are vehement in their claim that EFT had nothing to do with hypnosis.
In the years since I researched such topics for my PhD dissertation brain specialists have discovered that psychotherapy and hypnotherapy have physical effects on the brains of clients: new neurons and synapses are actually created by the therapeutic process.
This also explains two other phenomena we notice: relapses and the need for repetition. Relapses occur when something (such as a fresh trauma) triggers the old patterns of neurons because those dysfunctional patterns don’t die when new neuron pathways are created; they just lie dormant.
And repetition is required because the new synapses need to be strengthened.
When a hypnotized client imagines herself thin and confident (or whatever her goal is) in the near future, she is doing more than what we might at first suppose such guided daydreaming could achieve.
She is creating, or activating, positive brain patterns.
Like “Doris” whose adult daughter brought her to the clinic where I work “as a last attempt to help her be rid of her depression.” Doris had led an active life until a year before when she lost interest in her work, friends, family and church activities.
Her medical doctor had solemnly told her and the daughter (who, ironically, was a nurse) that Doris was doomed to an ongoing, debilitating depression. Drugs were his only answer. But the daughter had seen too many patients turn into helpless zombies and desperately hoped there was a non-drug alternative.
We began by disputing the doctor’s hypnotic pronouncement. I told Doris that “medical diagnosis is not destiny.” In hypnosis, Doris had no difficulty recalling her energetic life, especially at her church where she had been an enthusiastic volunteer.
I prescribed a minimum action of a daily walk. In her hypnotized imagination Doris saw herself getting out of the house every day, re-connecting with friends and family. These post-hypnotic images were strengthened with words about things she’d previously told me she used to enjoy such as organizing pot-luck suppers at the church.
We did not have an MRI machine to verify the non-depressive neurons that Doris set in motion. But her actions spoke loudly: she went for daily walks, reconnected with friends and family and once again felt worthwhile, especially when she helped out at the church.
The repeated inner self-hypnosis Doris developed enabled her to shake off the depression. And although in her case we don’t have MRI evidence, I’m certain new, positive patterns of neurons were laid down.
Doris succeeded in throwing off her depressive symptoms because:
- a new, non-medical explanation of depression was provided
- she felt the sincere belief of the therapist that she could change
- she enjoyed the re-framing provided by the hypnosis ritual
- she was challenged to choose to come alive.
by Bryan Knight, MSW. PhD.