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What is hypnosis and how is it used?
Bowen Center is proud to be a leader in the state and region in using hypnosis to help our clients. Hypnosis can be a powerful tool in helping people discover solutions to their problems.
Hypnotic work dates back hundreds of years. It was widely used during the first part of this century, in the early days of psychiatry and psychotherapy. There has been great interest in hypnosis in recent years. In our busy, fast-paced world, many clients feel a need to make quick progress. Hypnosis may help clients achieve prompt, lasting results.
The purpose of this webpage is to explain hypnosis to those who may be interested in experiencing it as part of counseling. There are many myths about hypnosis that have created much confusion. By providing facts, we seek to help our clients make informed choices about counseling options.
Myth #1: Hypnosis is like sleep.
Fact #1: Hypnosis is not a sleep state. While hypnotic trance is different for everyone, it is more like a daydream in which one's attention is focused on things we often ignore. In trance, one may focus attention on mental images, physical sensations, unspoken ideas, emotions or memories. Typically, time seems to pass quickly.
If you have ever been so absorbed in a book or TV show that you lost track of time, you've been in trance. Most of us probably experience some form of trance on a daily basis.
Trance is a normal, natural state of mind. Yet, trance is also a state in which people can influence their own "unconscious mind". This is difficult to do in our usual state of conscious awareness. The unconscious is the part of the mind that does things "automatically", with little conscious intent or control. The unconscious is the stuff of dreams, of habits, and of physical functions and changes.
Myth #2: I won't remember what happens when I'm in trance.
Fact #2: Not necessarily. You can remember whatever your mind chooses to remember. You probably won't remember everything,
but that has more to do with what you were paying attention to than it has to do with trance itself. Even in a state of full waking consciousness, we don't remember every bit of information that comes our way, because we don't pay attention to everything.
Myth #3: Many people can't be hypnotized.
Fact #3: Most people can do hypnotic work. In the past, many therapists practiced "directive hypnosis" and basically ordered people to go into a trance state. ("You are getting sleepy." "You won't be able to keep your eyes open.") Most of us have a natural resistance to being ordered to do things. Resistance to trance probably has more to do with what the therapist does than with the client's personality.
We prefer "permissive hypnosis" where the client is in control and is given lots of choices. It is much easier for people to participate freely when they are invited into trance rather than directed into it.
Myth #4: I'll remember things with hypnosis that I can't remember otherwise.
Fact #4: Maybe. People may remember new things in trance, but that is not always the case. Generally speaking, people may recall things that would be good to remember and probably won't remember things that are best left alone. The client's subconscious mind will make those decisions, not the therapist.
It is important to realize that "memories" recalled in trance are not always reliable. They may not be true memories. They may really be fantasy images, memories that have been changed by time and experience, or something the person was told by someone else. Much unnecessary heartache has happened when a person acted on hypnotically-recalled memories, believing they were true, only to find out later that they were not.
Myth #5: In hypnosis, I will go back and relive my past.
Fact #5: "Age regression" (reliving past experiences) is practiced by some therapists, but it is not as widely used as it once was. It can be disturbing and may not be necessary. We believe that change happens in the present and toward the future, so we usually don't focus excessively on the past. Our intent is not to ignore the past, but rather to help clients focus their attention and energy where it is likely to do the most good — in the "here and now". When someone is burdened by unwelcome, painful memories of past trauma, for example, hypnosis can often help. It is quite possible, however, that the client can get better without having to relive these frightening experiences.
Myth #6: Hypnosis will instantly solve my problems.
Fact #6: While we have personally seen some clients make remarkable and rapid change, hypnosis is not a magical cure. It does not work for everyone, and it is not a substitute for hard work by the person trying to make changes.
Hypnosis can help people change habits, learn to relax, heal old hurts, get in touch with inner strengths, learn to look at things differently, or discover solutions to problems. Persons must then take responsibility and change their behavior. Without that commitment, the benefits of hypnosis will probably be small and short-lived.
Occasionally, clients express discomfort with hypnotic work on religious grounds. Among the concerns we have heard is the belief that during hypnosis clients surrender their free will and self-control to the therapist. A few people have stated that trance and dream-states are places where God speaks, so we should remain "hands off."
The first concern assumes that hypnosis has far more power than it really does. As has already been said, people will not do anything in or after trance that they would not otherwise do.
The second issue, and other concerns like it, are more complicated. There are many Scripture references to God communicating with people in dreams or in trance. (John's visions, detailed in Revelation, are noteworthy examples.) We respect clients' spiritual convictions and religious traditions and will never attempt hypnotic work with clients who don't think it's appropriate.
We will work on clients' concerns in other ways that they find acceptable, perhaps using biofeedback, relaxation training, or some form of "talk therapy." Many of our staff are heavily involved in their churches and have deep spiritual roots, yet have not personally experienced this conflict between hypnosis and spirituality. This likely has to do with religious tradition, views of pastors past and present, and individual upbringing. Our job as therapists, however, is to respect clients' spirituality, not to challenge or try to change it.
While hypnosis is not as magical as some people believe, it is a powerful tool in helping people grow. It is especially useful in working with problems that seem "automatic" and outside our conscious control. (For example, certain habits or the sleep disturbances, flashbacks, and upsetting memories often caused by abuse or other trauma).
By studying and mastering hypnotherapy, we seek to be more and more helpful to the people we are privileged to serve.