Hypnosis or Hypnotism’s ability to reach and make connections in the individual’s subconscious makes it a powerful tool for healing. In recent years the benefits of applied hypnosis, in the form of hypnotherapy, have begun to be recognized. However, the history of hypnotism means that many people still regard it with a mixture of fear and skepticism.
Throughout history there have been healers reputedly able to cure the sick after placing them in a state resembling sleep. Modern medicine’s interest in the potential healing powers of hypnosis began in the 18th century as a result the work of the Austrian physician Franz Mesmer.
Mesmer, who lived and worked in Paris, pioneered the uses of both hypnotism and psychoanalysis (a technique elaborated by Sigmund Freud more than 100 years later) in medicine.
Mesmer believed it was possible to harness mental energy and developed rituals around his treatments that hypnotized, or mesmerized, his patients. His ideas were fashionable for a time but he was later denounced as a fraud by the French Academy of medicine.
In the 1840s, however, Mesmer’s work was taken up by Scottish physician James Braid. Braid showed that a trance could be induced easily and that, while in this condition, individuals could not be forced to act against their will.
As a result, the medical profession began to take a serious interest in hypnotism and for many years, until the introduction of safe anesthetics, it was used to reduce pain during surgery.
At the end of the 19th century Freud used hypnotism to help patients remember traumas in the childhood but then abandoned the technique in favor of psychoanalysis.
Hypnotism fell into decline until the 1950s, but in 1958 the American Medical Association approved hypnotism as a useful medical tool.
Since then, hypnotherapy has been used to treat a great number of physical and psychological problems, including chronic pain, migraine, headaches, muscle tension, anxiety states, stress related conditions, depressions, addictions and phobias.
Dentists often use hypnotherapy to overcome a patient’s fear of pain, while obstetricians frequently employ the technique to reduce pain during childbirth.
Hypnosis – Hypnotherapy in Practice
A hypnotic trance is a state between walking and sleeping. In this state you are aware of everything going on around you but feel completely detached from it. However, you are able to speak and to end the trance if you wish to.
For years, scientists have tried to explain how hypnotherapy works. Many experts now believe that hypnosis puts the two sides of the brain, the left, which tends to deal with language and logic, and the right, which handles emotions and symbolism, in closer communication with each other.
This allows connections between behavior and its underlying causes to be identified and understood. Research has shown that during a hypnotic trance the body relaxes deeply and that there are beneficial changes in heart rate, breathing and blood pressure similar to those seen during meditation.
Although in skilled hands hypnosis is a very safe technique, it can be dangerous if mishandled, so it is important to consult a qualified practitioner, preferably one with training in clinical psychology, or a therapist who is also a medical doctor or dentist. Most people can be hypnotized easily and practitioners use a variety of standard technique.
Hypnosis – A hypnotherapy session
The therapy will take place in the practitioner’s office, which usually has subdued lighting and comfortable furniture. When you are sitting or reclining comfortably, the therapist will carefully explain what is involved in the process.
You should feel relaxed, calm and, above all, safe. If, for any reason, you do not feel at ease with the therapist, do not feel awkward about terminating the session at this stage.
The therapist will attempt to relax you further by asking you to imagine you are drifting or sinking into comfort or by describing a beautiful, peaceful scene to you. As you relax, your eyelids will began to feel heavy and your eyes will close. You are aware but detached.
Once you are in a light trance, the therapist can start to investigate the causes of your particular condition or problem, and once they are identified, can suggest solution to you.
There is a widespread, but unfounded, feat that once under the spell of a hypnotist individual can be made to behave in uncharacteristic ways. In this condition you are open to suggestion but cannot be made to accept or do anything you would not normally wish to.
The Hypnotic State
If hypnotism appeals to you as a therapy, you should visit a hypnotist. After a few sessions, however, you may also be taught self-hypnosis. This enables you to induce what is known as an auto hypnotic state at home and remain in it for about 20 minutes at a time.
The benefits in terms of deep relaxation and the effects on heart rate, blood pressure and breathing are the same whether you induce the state yourself or are hypnotized by a therapist. However, it is important that you are taught such techniques by a properly qualified practitioner.
Once you have learned the technique of self hypnosis, regular practice can be a great help in controlling your back pain. To enter into a hypnotic state, you may find it helpful to imagine yourself in a tranquil setting. Remember to practise Hypnosis regularly.