Hypnosis, also known as hypnotic suggestion or hypnotherapy, is a trance-like condition where a person has enhanced concentration and focus. When under hypnosis, a person typically feels relaxed and calm, and, importantly, is much more receptive to suggestions.
Therapists sometimes utilize hypnosis for helping their patients overcome bad habits, like smoking, or accomplish some positive change, such as losing weight. This is achieved with the assistance of calming verbal repetition and mental imagery that together move a patient into a trance-like state. When relaxed and tranquil, a patient’s mind becomes more open to transformative messages. Hypnosis is often also employed to help people manage adverse emotional conditions, such as anxiety and stress, as well as mood disorders, insomnia, fatigue, chronic pain, and more.
How Hypnosis Works
Hypnosis is, in summary, a benign, altered trance-like state characterized by extremely focused attention, very deep relaxation, and an openness to suggestions (which should be positive in order to promote beneficial therapeutic changes.
The Hypnotic Trance
The hypnotic trance itself is not always therapeutic by itself. For instance, when a person is driving to a store seemingly abruptly arrives, without recalling precisely how they got to the store so soon, that person has experienced an altered, hypnotic-like state. A person could also experience this altered state when just starting to fall asleep. This person can be in a drowsy, dreamy state, somewhat aware, though not totally focused — perhaps focused enough to carry on a very simple conversation, but shortly thereafter not remembering talking at all.
When used for as a therapy tool, research shows that particular images and suggestions presented to a person in a trance can modify their behavior in a positive way. In this state of hypnosis, a person is more prone to take on permanent change, and much more likely to succeed in making lasting, desired changes. This is because nearly all lasting changes occur in the subconscious mind.
Hypnotic Visualization and Imagery
A good example of how visualization — the use of visual images — in hypnosis works is when a hypnotherapist works with a person experiencing claustrophobia. While the claustrophobic person is under hypnosis the therapist might have the patient visualize being in a wide open, relaxing space, like a field of flowers, when getting into an elevator. Through learning to positively visualize stepping into the elevator with no fear, a person is usually then able to actually do this in the real world. This is because the subconscious mind does not differentiate between a genuine experience and a suggested one. Once visualized while in a trance state the body will react to the visualization when no longer in the trance state.
A person’s subconscious mind controls many of their emotions, attitudes, beliefs and behaviors. This doesn’t, however, suggest that information kept there retains unwavering truths about just who that person is. Through positive suggestion the subconscious mind can be retrained to produce substantial changes to emotional expression, health, performance, and outlook. In a sense, hypnosis can reprogram the human mind just as a programmer can reprogram a computer.
Hypnosis operates by bringing about a trance-like state, suppressing the analytical mind and allowing the subconscious to become more responsive to new and different ideas. After recurring exposure to positive symbolism and imagery and carefully guided meditations, rooted, well-established reactions, responses and notions become changeable in significant ways. Repetition and relaxation are important elements of the hypnosis experience.
Self-hypnosis, in short, is hypnosis that is self-induced. A person follows a script that helps relax the mind and body, and then following a few steps, reaches a trance-like state similar to daydreaming. When a person reaches this state, their body is extremely relaxed, but their mind is extremely alert and very tuned-in. It is somewhat similar to meditation, where a person feels a bit like they’re dreaming, yet they simultaneously feel fully aware. Again like meditation, with hypnosis a person can “wake up” at any time, and be in total command of their thoughts.
How Self-Hypnosis Works
When a person is in a relaxed, hypnotic state, an important transformation takes place in their brain. People have likened this to opening a gateway to the subconscious — the region of the brain that governs many of a person’s beliefs, thoughts and perceptions. This is the area of the brain that is often what drives a person to act in a particular fashion. Hypnosis allows a person to reprogram, in a manner of speaking, this part of the brain. This is done by offering the mind helpful and positive suggestions while in the hypnotic state.
Hypnotic suggestions enable a person to remove the automatic patterns of thinking, beliefs and thoughts that often compel a person to dwell on any emotional pain they’re feeling. Under self-hypnosis, a people can do this themselves — they follow proven, time-tested strategies to relax and “turn off” the distracting, negative noise in the mind, talking themselves deeper and deeper into a trance. In that state they give themselves positive suggestions to help themselves alter how they view and respond to pain.
A large number of people hypnotize themselves daily without even being aware of it, studies show. One very common and well-known example is that of highway hypnosis. This phenomenon takes place when a person is driving and reaches their destination with no recollection of a large part of the entire trip. The person’s brain determines the trip is uneventful, so the person begins thinking of different things. In a sense the person’s brain goes on autopilot, and the person drives for miles and miles without any awareness that their still driving. When the person eventually snaps out of their thoughts, they then realize they’ve arrived at their destination, but they are unable to recall just how they got there.
Self-hypnosis is usually accomplished with the aid of self-hypnosis audio tracks, which can be purchased and downloaded from a number of hypnosis-related websites. While listening to a hypnosis audio a person is gradually guided into a state of deep relaxation by the voice of a hypnotherapist. This is accomplished through a process called progressive relaxation, which consists of following basic, straightforward verbal instructions, and reacting positively to the advice and suggestions the hypnotherapist issues.
Who Can Be Hypnotized?
The simplest answer to the question “who can be hypnotized” is that just about anyone can be hypnotized. The question should, perhaps, be reframed as “to what degree can any one person be hypnotized?” Contrary to what many believe, a person who is able to be hypnotized is not gullible or weak-minded. The capability to be hypnotized — or “hypnotizability” — is essentially related to intelligence, as well as the capacity to have heightened focus and awareness, as documented in an article in the Archives of General Psychiatry.
As an example, if a person in a hypnotic state was asked by a hypnotherapist to give up take off all their clothes or to give up their wallet, that person would not unless they actually wanted to. Similarly, if a person in the audience of a hypnotist’s stage performance was chosen to take part in the show, that person would bark like a dog only they really wanted to. It turns out that in general, a hypnotist will select only participants who are believed to want to be a part of the show and act a bit silly. There’s usually a little “pre-screening” of audience members to rule out audience members who don’t exhibit enthusiasm about having fun, or even being at the show.
Health Benefits Of Hypnosis
Hypnosis can bring about greater focused attention and concentration, which helps to use the mind in a more powerful way, according to the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis (ASCH). This controlling of the powers of the mind has motivated clinicians and researchers in a variety of fields to investigate the use of hypnosis in reducing or eliminating the negative aspects of a variety of health conditions.
Hypnosis Improves Deep Sleep
Based on CDC data, up to 70 million Americans experience some kind of sleep disorder, which helps to explain why the average American gets just 6.5 hours of sleep each night. A sleep-deprived body has limits on its ability restore and repair itself — fortunately hypnosis can play a role in helping people fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.
When sleeping, the body naturally heals itself — the mind is rejuvenated, hormone levels are brought into balance, and a host of crucial health processes take place. When a person deprives themselves of good, quality sleep, they’re putting their physical and mental health in jeopardy.
The origin of many sleep disorders can be found deep in the unconscious mind. At night time, when a person should be laying in bed, winding down and ready to drift to sleep, feelings of anxiety and anxiousness may arise instead. Stress can cloud thinking, resulting in an inability to de-activate internal dialogues to get to sleep. Insomnia hypnosis can often offer a solution by providing a guide for relaxing and inducing sound sleep. In short, hypnosis can help get over bedtime uneasiness and nervousness, unwind and relax quicker, and, as a result, fall into the deep, restorative sleep that’s so important for good mental and physical health.
In a recent study, researchers in Switzerland were able to measure the effects of hypnosis by monitoring brain activity in a large group of young, healthy women as they napped for 90 minutes following the listening of a hypnotic suggestion tape. Many of the women were found to be very inclined to hypnosis. The women in this subgroup spent close to 75 percent more time in the deep, restorative slow-wave phase of sleep after listening to a hypnosis tape than they did after listening to a neutral-spoken text.
Hypnosis Can Ease Chronic Pain
According to the latest CDC statistics, up to 80 million American adults have suffered through pain that lasted over 24 hours. Traditionally, drugs have been the most common treatment option — physicians often prescribe opioid medications to treat cases of chronic pain. These drugs, however, are costly and can be highly addictive. As the opioid crisis deepens, the medical community, scientists, and researchers have become more and more concentrated on discovering alternative methods to deal with pain. While the search for better prescription drugs continues, many people are wondering if there isn’t already a drug-free alternative option that provides some, if not total, relief from pain.
The use of hypnosis in treating health issues is fairly extensive. It’s role in the context of pain management may be the most well-researched area of hypnosis and health. Two meta-analyses (the combining of data from multiple studies) of existing pain and hypnosis research judged hypnosis beneficial in reducing pain related to several medical conditions, including cancer, arthritis and fibromyalgia.
Hypnosis Can Treat Anxiety
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) states that every year at least 40 million Americans are affected by anxiety disorders, making anxiety the most common form of mental illness in the country.
Relaxation techniques — including hypnosis — are often employed to ease anxiety. Hypnosis works to reduce anxiety by stimulating the body to trigger its natural relaxation response by using a nonverbal cue or phrase, decreasing blood pressure, slowing down breathing, and bringing about a general sense of well-being.
Because of its capability to harness the power of the mind, hypnosis is frequently utilized to alleviate anxieties associated with medical procedures, such as scans, surgery, and even giving birth. As reported in the Wall Street Journal:
Hypnosis Can Help in Weight Loss
For many people, overeating and overindulging tend to be associated with the mind as much, or more, than appetite or a simple love of food. Overeating is often triggered by specific events, relationships and feelings. A person’s mind can convince the person that in particular circumstances food provides an important function — eating food relieves the stress a person is feeling from some uncomfortable, troubling, or sad thoughts.
For a person to change their eating habits and realize long lasting, enduring weight loss, the person must break through their mind’s unconscious barriers, get rid of the negative thoughts and feelings, and, importantly, replace those thoughts with more positive, constructive information. Hypnosis is the key to making this happen. Hypnosis enables a person to access these automatic thoughts — thoughts that arise automatically and uncontrollably — delete them and replace, or develop, more positive thoughts and associations that won’t result in the stresses that cause overeating.
While more research is needed, the research that does exist demonstrates that hypnosis can play a role in weight loss for many people. Studies have determined that people who used hypnosis along with dieting lost more than twice as much weight as their counterparts who dieted but did not participate in hypnosis therapy. A 2014 study in International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis found that the 60 women in the study who underwent hypnosis therapy lost weight and enhanced their body image.
Sexual Issues Improved Through Hypnosis
Intimacy and closeness with a partner is a significant part of a fulfilling, satisfying relationship and, in many relationships, this includes physical intimacy. When sexual related difficulties arise the result can be tension that leads to other complications and difficulties. Frequent sexual issues for men include erection problems, premature ejaculation, and loss of libido (sex drive).
Hypnosis to Treat Premature Ejaculation
Premature ejaculation is the term used when a man ejaculates too quickly during sex. Hypnosis works on a subconscious level, stimulating positive changes by means of the power of suggestion and visual imagery. As mentioned earlier, this hypnotic technique can be used to decrease anxiety and stress in a person. Anxiety and stress can frequently feed into a man encountering premature ejaculation, so hypnotherapy techniques used for stress and anxiety reduction can be very helpful in dealing with premature ejaculation. Hypnosis can also help in bettering self-esteem and self-confidence, two other factors that often play a role in premature ejaculation.
Hypnosis to Treat Erectile Dysfunction (ED)
It is quite common for men to sometimes fail to get or maintain an erection. Over-consumption of alcohol and tiredness are two typical contributors, and should not be a cause for worry. If a person has problems more frequently and regularly, though, a visit to a doctor is a good first step to take. Mental health conditions such as depression can bring about erection problems and in such cases a physician may suggest counseling or sex therapy. Just as anxiety and stress can contribute to premature ejaculation, they can also play a role in erectile dysfunction (ED). As hypnosis can be helpful in treating premature ejaculation, it can similarly be helpful in dealing with erectile dysfunction. For this reason hypnotherapy is sometimes used on its own, or in conjunction with counseling.
Hypnosis to Treat Loss of Libido (Reduced Sex Drive)
Both women and men may go through a period of reduced sex drive — a loss of libido. There can be a number of causes for this, including relationship issues, tiredness, lack of confidence or stress. Hypnosis may help with lowered sex drive in a few different ways. If the cause is depression, anxiety or stress, hypnotherapy should be considered as hypnosis has been proven to be of benefit in treating each of these problems.