Integrative learning and change require time and commitment to the change to achieve them successfully. Hypnosis is an effective tool to accelerate the process of learning and change by increasing commitment to the change and “virtual practice” of the change while simultaneously shortening the time required for the change. This special report focuses on hypnosis and provides a background for clients interesting in adding hypnosis as a tool to support their learning and change navigation services.
Special Report: Hypnosis—Tool-to Support-Learning-and-Change
In a recent article on using hypnosis and hypnotherapy in integrative medicine, the healing of body/mind/Spirit, the authors reported that, “there is mounting evidence for the [value] of adding hypnosis and hypnotherapy to conventional treatment of many medical conditions that traditional medicine has found difficult to treat.” (Hartman & Zimberhoff, 2011, p. 56)
While traditional medicine can help diminish the consequences of unhealthy lifestyles, integrative medicine can reverse those consequences, prevent illness and reduce symptoms, resulting in: decreased pain; improved sleep; enhanced immune function and fewer infections; lowered blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose levels; improved bowel function; less anxiety and depression related to illness; fewer complications after surgery; resolution of posttraumatic stress disorder. (p. 56).
Hypnosis has been part of human culture for more than 6,000 years. It has gone by many names and has had a variety of things associated with it. Imagine a dark cave lit by family hearth fires and a story teller telling a story that was known by everyone in the tribe from earliest memory. The story teller was using techniques he had learned to help the tribe remember the story. He didn’t call what he did “hypnosis”–that name wasn’t attached to the process until 1841. What he did was to work with his human instrument and whatever else he could use to help his tribe live and remember his tale.
Parents crooning to their babies to get them to relax and go to sleep are working with similar energy. It’s not called “hypnosis” and it works in similar ways.
Eastern traditions have worked with yoga, meditation, and a variety of practices to heal, to develop phenomenal powers of concentration and more.
Modern hypnosis in the West credit Dr. Franz Anton Mesmer, an Austrian physician, with bringing what he called “animal magnetism” and what was later called “mesmerism” to the Western medical establishment. Mesmer died in 1815 and other doctors picked up where he left off. Dr. James Baird, a Scottish optician, discovered that he could put people into a trance by having them focus on an object. In 1841 he published his findings and called the process he discovered “hypnosis”–from the Greek word for sleep. On 28 July 1847, a decree from the Sacred Congregation of the Holy office (Roman Curia) declared that “Having removed all misconception, foretelling of the future, explicit or implicit invocation of the devil, the use of animal magnetism (Hypnosis) is indeed merely an act of making use of physical media that are otherwise licit and hence it is not morally forbidden, provided it does not tend toward an illicit end or toward anything depraved.” (Wikipedia, 2012)
Dentists have used hypnotism for pain management and to treat anxiety during dental procedures for years. Hypnosis was used extensively by field doctors on the American Civil War battlefields as a pain management tool, especially when the “new” chemical anesthetics of ether and chloroform were not available. (Wikipedia, 2012)
In the 20th Century, Dr. Milton Erickson was a major proponent of hypnosis and greatly expanded our understanding of how it can be used to achieve remarkable insights and change. Dr. Erickson’s work was a tremendous influence on the technology of both hypnosis and neuro-linguistic programming (NLP)—another complementary therapy. Dr. Fritz Perls, father of the “Gestalt” understanding of psychology, spoke about “giving our bodies a voice,” encouraging us to listen to our bodies and let them speak to us. This concept has been very useful in both hypnotherapy and NLP.
While “discovered” in the West by medical professionals, there is a tradition of both medical uses for and application of hypnosis and hypnotherapy and stage hypnotism. Because hypnosis was sometimes seen as entertainment rather than medical treatment, the medical establishment in the USA and Canada was slow to work with it. Acceptance of hypnosis and hypnotherapy by conventional medicine was officially acknowledged in 1958, the year that the American Medical Association and Canadian Medical Association endorsed hypnosis as a valid medical therapy. However, since then acceptance by medical practitioners has not been overwhelming. Much more research has been done and many medical specialties including psychiatry, psychology, surgery, and anesthesiology have explored how hypnosis can supplement traditional applications in their specialties. Development of the electroencephalogram (EEG) and its ability to measure and to display electrical activity in the brain has been very useful in documenting evidence of the presence and usefulness of hypnotism.
EEGs and Stages and Waves of Consciousness
The EEG tracks brain activity primarily at four stages of consciousness, delta, theta, alpha, and beta. Each stage has characteristic electromagnetic waves at various frequencies. The hertz is the unit of measure for these frequencies. The delta stage (up to 4 hertz) is for “slow wave” sleep and unconsciousness. The theta stage (4 to 7 hertz) is normally seen in small children and in meditation, drowsiness and arousal in older children and adults. The alpha stage (8 to 12 hertz) emerges when the eyes close and with relaxation and decreases when the eyes open or with mental exertion. The beta stage (12 to about 30 hertz) is often associated with active, busy, or anxious thinking, and active concentration.
Hypnosis and Stages of Consciousness
Hypnosis normally starts with closing your eyes and relaxing, bringing on the alpha waves and alpha state. Hypnosis literature tells us that much of what happens in hypnosis, especially for adults, takes place with alpha and beta waves. EEG and hypnosis research confirm that hypnosis is not sleep.
It is important to note that people in hypnosis still can react as things happen. A common misconception about hypnotherapy is that clients under hypnosis cannot react, and therefore the hypnotherapist has ultimate control over the client. In the alpha stage, the client is always in the driver’s seat. The client is fully capable of reacting and making decisions.
Some clients under hypnosis go deeper than the alpha stage into theta or delta stages, and most clients will transition between the beta, alpha, theta and delta stages during the hypnosis session. Some clients will never attain theta or delta, regardless of what the hypnotherapist does. However, almost everyone will fall into the alpha stage on the first session.
Hypnosis in the alpha stage is achieved easily. Hypnosis is a natural state which everyone moves in and out of each day. It’s the state you are in when you are just going to bed—you’ve closed your eyes and are starting to relax. Some people enter that state on waking up—luxuriating in bed before opening their eyes. You are not fully conscious, but you are not fully unconscious either. Research indicates that the flickering light from a television set can induce the alpha waves. Late-night television commercials take advantage of people as they relax into the alpha state with the television still on. Advertisers replay the same commercials multiple times, to wear down resistance and to promote their influence. Reports indicate that people are 25 to 200 times more open to suggestions in the alpha stage than in the beta stage. People often experience time distortion in this state—time either flies by or runs more slowly than clock-time. That is perfectly normal and you may experience that during your hypnosis session.
The actual hypnosis session is quite simple. You start by making sure you will be comfortable for the next hour—visiting the restroom, getting a drink of water, etc. Then you relax in a chair and the hypnosis will begin with an “induction”—speaking to encourage you to relax more fully. The session continues with the “deepening” to get you to relax even more fully and more deeply. When you have reached that level, the hypnotist will work with you on the changes you want to make. Following that he will provide you some suggestions to help you stick with the changes you want. The hypnotist will then bring you out of the trance. Once you wake up you will take a few moments to get grounded before returning to normal activities—driving, etc.
Many people, when they hear about hypnosis, say, “Well, I can’t be hypnotized.” These people have been misinformed, mostly by Hollywood, about what hypnosis is and is not. It is not necessary to be in some sort of an otherworldly trance to be in hypnosis.
In the alpha stage, your mind is slowed down just a little, your focus is narrow, your breathing is slow, and you are relaxed. To say that you cannot be hypnotized is to misunderstand the true nature of a hypnotic state. Anything beyond the light stage of alpha is unnecessary for most purposes. Programming someone to lose weight, stop smoking, overcome fear of flying, etc. can all be accomplished in the alpha stage. You can have an extremely effective hypnosis session while being aware of and able to recall every word spoken by the hypnotherapist.
You also don’t have to worry if you fall asleep during hypnosis. It has been discovered by several research groups that the hearing acts like a surveillance camera. Your eyes close, but you ears cannot close. They remain open always, taking in information constantly. When a mother is “asleep” and hears her baby cry, she will “awaken” immediately. The truth is, we never really sleep. A part of our brain is always alert. That part is our hearing. It stays alert to protect us and or offspring. If someone breaks into your home while you are “asleep,” you will be alerted as soon as you hear a noise. Your hearing is “on” 24/7, taking in information and recording it. In hypnosis, we use this to your advantage, so even if you fall “asleep” during the session, your brain is still recording all of the information in your subconscious mind.
In case you are worried about being too intelligent to be hypnotized, Intelligence is directly correlated to suggestibility. The more intelligent you are, the more easily you can be hypnotized. And there is no need to worry about not waking up. This cannot happen. Less than 10% of the population achieves such a deep trance state that they dissociate or “blackout” like they do when they receive anesthetic. Such people, called “somnambulists,” and they do not consciously remember what happens during hypnosis unless the hypnotherapist suggests that they will. However, even these people will wake up at the end of a session. Most people achieve a light trance state in the alpha stage and are aware of what is happening although they are completely relaxed and focused.
Remember, You are In Control
You are in control. If at any time you have a problem with the hypnosis session, you can end it by counting in your mind “One-Two-Three.” You may be aware of everything the hypnotist says during the session and that’s OK because you are still in hypnosis.
Baghdadi, G. & Nasrabadi, A.M. (2009). “An Investigation of Changes in Brain Wave Energy during Hypnosis with Respect to Normal EEG. Sleep and Hypnosis (11) 2, pp. 40-45. Downloaded from http://ehis.ebscohost.com, Number 62836583 on June 7, 2012.
CauseOf.org (2012). “Causes of Internet and TV Addiction.” Downloaded from http://www.CauseOf.org/brainwaves on June 8, 2012.
Cady, S. (2012) “Where does hypnosis come from?” Ezine article downloaded from http://about-personal-development.info on June 7, 2012.
Eitner, S.; Sokol, B; Wichmann, M. and Bauer, J. (2011). “Clinical use of a novel audio pillow with recorded hypnotherapy instructions and music for anxiolysis during dental implant surgery: A prospective study. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, (59) 2: 180-197. Downloaded from http://ehis.ebscohost.com, Number 5913155 on June 7, 2012.
Hartman, D. & Zimberoff, D. (2011). “Hypnosis and Hypnotherapy in the Millieu of Integrative Medicine: Healing the Mind/Body/Spirit”. Journal of Heart-Centered Therapies (14) 1, pp. 41-75. (Downloaded from http://ehis.ebscohost.com, number 62836583 on June 7, 2012)
Wikipedia.org (2012) “History of Hypnosis” (downloaded on June 18, 2012 from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?oldid=488121100)
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