Updated: Sep 1
When hearing the word “hypnosis”, people often visualise getting drawn into mystical illusions that are detached from reality. Inaccurate representations in Hollywood fiction have led people into having false assumptions about what hypnosis actually constitutes of.
In reality, hypnotists are not psychics with inexplicable powers that can easily transform you. Hypnosis is a legitimate psychological process for self-improvement. According to the Mayo Clinic, hypnosis — putting a person into a trance-like state in which they have heightened focus and concentration — has been used for decades for legitimate purposes. It is used clinically to help with anxiety before medical procedures, for example.
This therapeutic method has ultimately changed the lives of many and has grown to become a popular trend among public personalities, including actors and athletes who sought help with performance issues including confidence, phobias and goal-setting. Actors Kevin Costner and Debra Messing overcame fears and used it to find courage in dealing with challenging roles. Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Sean Connery are also known advocates of hypnotherapy for performance. It has also been used by celebrities to treat addiction; former President Barack Obama, Ashton Kutcher, Adele, Matt Damon and Drew Barrymore all successfully quit smoking thanks to hypnotic techniques. Moreover, Angelina Jolie, Jessica Alba and Kate Middleton all used hypnobirthing, a form of hypnotherapy, when giving birth. Even Albert Einstein was known to use hypnotherapy to enhance his creative thinking.
Known for its principle of relaxation, hypnosis has been practiced in Western medicine for over a century, with key contributions on the development of psychoanalysis rooted in the works of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung. Having been studied scientifically for a long period of time, according to health psychologist Carol Ginandes, the functions of hypnosis are to naturally help people feel better. This 2006 study from the Journal of Pediatrics showed high significance in the reduction of anxiety and pain of adolescents with cancer. In essence, the applications vary from the treatment of pain to enhancing performance, and it is commonly used to treat phobias, addiction, self-esteem issues and anxiety.
What happens during hypnosis?
It is critical that the hypnotherapist gains full understanding of your problem and what needs to be achieved. A certain issue is addressed, such as a persisting disorder. There are two stages involved in hypnosis:
The hypnotherapist puts you into a deep state of relaxation or a trance-like state that enables you to be open and prepared for therapeutic improvements. The trance-like state is just like zoning out in a daydream; you are completely awake and aware of your surroundings. More importantly, you are in full control of your body. When you are calm and relaxed, your irrelevant thoughts, troubles and fears are tuned out.
Getting into this state gives the hypnotherapist access into the subconscious, or the part of mind that is not in your focal awareness. You may see it as the brain’s control panel, as it makes you do things without any deep thinking. It explains how your bad habits or unresolved traumas could develop and endure. It is said that the subconscious regulates bodily sensations and emotions, therefore, it is possible for you to access memories that you have chosen to forget. Therefore, hypnotherapists are very careful when triggering this aspect.
You must be accepting of verbal cues given by your hypnotist. These are brought through associations, commands, or metaphors that are used for guidance. The idea is for you to approach things normally as if it were in reality. For example, if you have performance anxiety, you would be asked to imagine yourself to be on a stage with a large crowd of audience. Although you are asked to embrace ideas fully, remember that you have free will. You are not forced to do something that you are not comfortable with. You will then be guided into going back to consciousness.
The duration of hypnotism varies depending on your mental state and personality. You can discuss the number of sessions that you need. It is important that you get a structured plan for treatments, and this could be supplementary to other therapies.
When it comes to the science behind hypnosis, researchers emphasise on studies in the cerebral cortex, or the part of your brain that is mainly responsible for memory, attention, perception and awareness. Every step in hypnosis therefore aligns with significant brain activity.
Stanford Psychiatry professor Dr David Spiegel says, “It is a powerful means of changing the way we use our minds to control perception and our bodies.” He and his team of scientists identified hallmarks of the brain during hypnosis:
Decreased activity in dorsal anterior cingulate
This brings you to a trance-like state, so you don’t think of anything else.
Increased connections between dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and insula
This serves as a brain to body communication that helps you feel and adapt to the hypnosis treatment that therefore gives you control. This makes you aware that the process is happening and you are the subject.
Decreased connections between the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, the medial prefrontal and the posterior cingulate cortex
There is disassociation between your actions and awareness of doing them, and this makes you engage with what the hypnotherapist suggests. This is how your imagination heightens.
Habit control hypnotism
Hypnosis is more commonly used in hypnotic behavioural modification that releases negative behavioural habits that may be taking over your life. You may find yourself utterly powerless and frustrated. Bad behaviour potentially leads to diminished physical health, anxiety, and isolation. For many people, choosing this adjustment has enhanced their personal development that turned into life success.
Through the power of suggestion, you would be able to acquire control over destructive impulses. This in turn develops positive coping mechanisms. However, breaking bad habits is only possible if:
you are sure that you want to make changes
you believe that you are capable of making these changes
you are open to use tools and techniques
Author of Subconscious Power: Use Your Mind To Create The Life You’ve Always Wanted and hypnotist, Kimberly Friedmutter says, “Hypnosis has a 93% success rate even with less sessions than both behavioural and psychotherapy combined, according to research studies.” The main purpose of hypnosis is therefore to remove negative attitudes, maladaptive behaviours and negative self-image underlying symptoms.
A study in hypnosis for smoking cessation demonstrated that from individualised hypnosis sessions, 81% of patients reported they have completely stopped smoking at the end of treatment. Overall, 95% of patients were satisfied with this. In another study, hypnotic intervention was combined with Rapid Smoking treatment protocol, by which 39 out of 43 patients reported abstinence up to a 3-year follow up.
In weight loss treatments, a study showed that by the end of a 9-week programme, hypnosis clients showed more significant weight loss compared to those who received normal behavioural therapy. Hypnosis clients maintained their goals in weight loss, up to 2 years.
Are you ready to change your life with a renewed mindset? Elisa Reale is our certified hypnotherapist at Wonder Source who can help you free your mind, let go of old habits and reach your highest self. Find out more here.