“Most people walk through the world in a trance of disempowerment. Our job is to transform that into a trance of empowerment.”
~ Milton H. Erickson
“He who looks outside, dreams; he who looks within, awakens.”
~ Carl Jung
As a transformational coach, part of my work involves using hypnotherapy. (Transpersonal hypnotherapy, to be exact, but I’ll get to that in a minute.)
So many of my clients get freaked out by the word “hypnosis” that I took to calling it “guided meditation.” That’s a less-loaded term for what this powerful healing modality can be, but maybe it’s not a bad idea to clear hypnotherapy’s dubious name.
To that end, here are answers to a few common questions I’ve received in the past.
Isn’t hypnotherapy that thing where a guy on stage makes you cluck like a chicken?
No. That’s called Stage Hypnosis and it gives hypnotherapy a bad name. Mainly because those clucking people on stage are either really susceptible to hypnosis, actors or drunk. Or all three.
Hypnosis is a state of deep relaxation. That’s it. You are always in control, and you can always “snap out of it.” It’s like when you’re meditating and the cat leaps into your lap. You aren’t stranded in the glowing ethereal bliss of nirvana’s outer realms; you jump and toss the cat out of your lap (with loving kindness).
How does it work?
The hypnotherapist uses words and sometimes music to help you enter into a relaxed state. In that state, the conscious mind—or ego, the watchdog over all we do and think—takes a break from all its hard work.
This opens our subconscious mind, the place where our personal memories and habits are stored—to suggestions designed to change or enhance our behavior, depending on what is needed. We do this using imagery and metaphors that are chosen to resonate with you personally. (The craft is a lot like writing, actually. In fact, the healing words spoken to you in a session originate in what is called a “script.”)
Hang on. Couldn’t a hypnotherapist “suggest” I rob a bank?
That practitioner probably wouldn’t get a lot of work. Still, it wouldn’t matter. You cannot be coerced to do anything that doesn’t make sense to you. In other words, because the suggestion to rob a bank is out of character for you, your conscious mind will reject it.
All hypnosis is self-hypnosis. You are always in control.
What many of us don’t realize is that we enter states of hypnosis every day. Because our subconscious mind is the place we store habits and memories, it is called upon much of the time to do its job. You don’t have to remember how to drive or how to peel a banana. Your subconscious remembers. If you’ve ever been daydreaming as you drive to work and remembered to make your exit at the last minute, you were in a state of self-hypnosis. In fact, daydreaming is a form of mild trance, or altered state of consciousness.
Why would someone need hypnotherapy?
This is the cool part. Many of us have habits we wish to eliminate (smoking, drinking too much, overeating, biting our nails, etc.), fears that debilitate us or behaviors that are detrimental to our wellbeing. By accessing the subconscious mind (the place where these habits and traits replay over and over again) and providing alternative suggestions, we can retrain the brain to behave in a more beneficial way.
There are other uses of hypnotherapy as well. Athletes use hypnotherapy to improve their game. Artists use hypnotherapy to break through creative blocks.
Hypnotherapy works for anyone who simply wants to relieve stress and feel refreshed. It’s like a massage for the mind.
Why would anyone want to make a career of this? And what does “transpersonal” mean, anyway?
Transpersonal hypnotherapy means working with all of the Self—mind, body and spirit. That is what draws me to this work the most. There are so many possibilities present for all of us when we quiet the ego and let the deeper self come forth. We spend so much time “in our heads,” totally disconnected from the eternal truth that is in all of us. I love the idea of helping others to hush the frenzied mind and listen to the inner voice, the one that has been present since the beginning of creation.
So, that’s basically it. Whether you call it hypnosis or guided meditation, hypnotherapy is an effective way to ask your ego to take a tea break while you reconfigure the warp coils of your subconscious mind toward your highest good.
Have you had hypnotherapy? Share your experiences below. The more we find common healing ground, the deeper we connect as sentient beings. In my book, that’s a pretty good thing.
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Editor: Travis May
Photo: Wiki Commons