When people talk about guided imagery, hypnotic trance, and meditation … essentially, they are speaking of the same thing. Any time you are very focused on something and you narrow your attention to what you may be focused on, as you might do if you are really engrossed in a good movie, or totally involved in a sporting event, or just daydreaming, you are in a state of trance. A really common trance-like event that I think most of us have encountered from time to time might be driving down the freeway while having a million thoughts and ideas floating in our mind and then suddenly we find we are at our intended off ramp, and the last five or ten miles seem as they have been lost in space. Has that ever happened to you?
The term hypnotic trance and especially the word hypnosis may strike tinges of fear with some people; and I think this may be due in part to Hollywood’s colorful dramas about mind control and brainwashing, or having read some headline in the newspaper about how dangerous hypnosis is, or you may have seen a hypnosis stage show at the fair or in Las Vegas and not really understood what was going on with those people on stage. But what if I was to tell you that hypnosis occurs naturally and often, to all of us?
There is a saying used by many that all hypnosis is self-hypnosis; and although I feel this may not be a 100% true comment, I do think the statement is close enough to the truth that I like to use it quite frequently. So let’s hold that thought for a moment … hypnosis is self-hypnosis.
One of the biggest and most misunderstood myths about hypnosis that I encounter on a regular basis is that a hypnotist is going to hypnotize you and then somehow make you do something you don’t really want to do ... bark like a dog or quack like a duck. The truth is, when it comes to hypnotic trance, no one can “make” you do anything you would not voluntarily choose to do - except you.
The phrase hypnosis is self-hypnosis; essentially this means you will only allow yourself to go into and out of whatever level of hypnotic trance you, yourself, are comfortable with at the moment. No one can make or force you go into a trance ... it just doesn’t work that way.
If anyone has ever seen the video that has been floating around YouTube for the past several years of the bank robber going up to the teller then immediately placing the teller into a hypnotic trance causing the teller to give all the money to the robber and then the teller failing to remember having done anything, let me assure you, it just is not going to happen.
When I interview new clients, part of my job is to educate them about the hypnosis and guided imagery process … and that task includes putting all the myths to rest.
Here is a list of some of the things I have been asked, and let me assure you, none of the following comments are true:
Myth #1 Hypnosis is mind control, exerted by the hypnotist on a weak minded subject.
Myth #2 Hypnosis is about losing consciousness, and afterwards you can’t remember what happened.
Myth #3 It’s possible to become stuck in hypnosis, and unable to come out of it.
Myth #4 Hypnotists have special powers, possibly psychic or related to the occult.
Myth #5 Hypnosis is dangerous, and could damage my mind.
What really happens when a hypnotic trance is induced … and please remember, you have to allow this process to take place, the hypnotist cannot just make it happen … is that the critical faculty of the mind (your conscious awareness) is bypassed in such a manner as to establish a process of selective thinking. The critical faculty, or conscious mind as it is often called, is the part of our brain that we use as our filter, and is the area where we learn, listen, reason, judge, and analyze. It is the conscious mind you use to make decisions, and these decisions are based on information we have stored away in our memories and experiences that we keep stored inside of our imagination. Our imagination is often referred to as being our subconscious mind and sometimes as our unconscious.
If a person allows the critical faculty (the conscious mind) to be bypassed in such a way that one no longer readily distinguishes between hot and cold or sweet and sour as examples, we can then substitute selective thinking for conventional judgment thinking. Selective thinking is our belief system – the person who we have learned to be based on life experiences and memories – and is that area of the conscious mind that filters our everyday information. What hypnotic trance allows for is communication directly with the sub-conscious mind --- and since the sub-conscious mind does not judge or analyze, this process allows for positive changes (suggestions) to take place. This is why change can sometimes take place quite rapidly and effectively.
Hypnosis is an extremely pleasant state of mind whereby you may experience a very deep mental and physical state of relaxation, but also one where you are aware of most everything that is going on around you and one where you are in complete control.
When a person is in a hypnotic state (guided imagery, hypnosis, or meditation), you are not asleep nor are you unconscious.
Let’s repeat that … Hypnosis is not about sleep, and you are not unconscious and you are in control.
What hypnosis can do for you is help normalize the actions of the autonomic nervous system, allowing for the creation of a strong positive expectancy of healing and improving. This allows for the reduction of overall stress and anxiety, and this can promote improved health and well-being.
Hypnosis and guided imagery helps clients discover their inner creative abilities to develop positive thinking and feeling and to transform undesirable habits and behavior patterns. During the process, clients may learn the use of self-hypnotic techniques to assist in achieving goals and resolving issues.
Hypnotherapy is considered to be a client-centered type of hypnosis that uses a combination of transforming and analytical hypnosis, Neuro-Linguistic Programming, and Ericksonian language and metaphors (Ericksonian hypnosis).
Dennis Atkinson is a certified medical/clinical hypnotist and has met the education, training, and certification and testing requirements of the following:
1. American Council of Hypnotist Examiners
2. International Medical and Dental Hypnotherapy Association
3. International Certification Board of Clinical Hypnotherapy
4. National Guild of Hypnotists, Inc.
5. California Hypnotherapy Academy
Services provided by Dennis Atkinson do not include the practice of medicine or psychotherapy.