The hypnotic state
The brain has different levels of consciousness, or awareness, ranging from fully alert to drowsy to fully asleep, with variations in between. Hypnotic states occur naturally and spontaneously.
Everyday examples include:
- Being absorbed in a pleasant task and losing track of time
- Doing a mundane task (such as washing the dishes) while thinking about something else, to the degree that you can’t actually remember performing the task
- Getting lulled into a dreamy state by boredom, for example, when listening to a dull speech.
Clinical hypnosis deliberately induces this kind of relaxed state of awareness. Once the mind is in a relaxed state, any therapeutic suggestions can have great effect on attitudes, perceptions and behaviours. The way that this occurs isn’t fully understood. Some researchers believe that hypnosis promotes particular brain wave activity that allows the mind to take in and adopt new ideas, while others suggest that hypnosis accesses the ‘unconscious mind’, which is more open to new ideas than the rational ‘conscious mind’.
Results of hypnosis
While it appears that almost anyone can be hypnotised, hypnosis does not always bring about good results. It is unclear why hypnosis does not work for everyone. Some researchers believe that a person is born with character traits that allow hypnosis to work, while other researchers believe that the ability to be hypnotised is a learned skill.
Suggestibility doesn’t mean you have a weak character, as popularly believed. A strong-minded person may be a good candidate for hypnosis because they will strive to get results from treatment.
People who get the best results from hypnosis appear to have a few things in common, including:A good imagination
The ability to get lost in a movie or book
The ability to concentrate and keep mental focus.
Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton
Methods of hypnosis
Typically, relaxing the mind involves the use of imagery. For instance, you might be asked to imagine a peaceful scene. Being in a hypnotic state feels similar to the dreamy state of mind that exists just before falling asleep, except you are alert and aware of your surroundings.
There are many ways to deliberately induce this altered state of consciousness, including:A qualified hypnosis practitioner
Special considerations for hypnosis
It’s important to understand the potential benefits and risks of any therapy, medicine or treatment. Always see your doctor before using any type of complementary therapy. Hypnosis may be safe and may work for others, but it may not be the best treatment for you.
Hypnosis should be avoided if you are suffering from:
A drug or alcohol problem
Chronic pain that has not been investigated and diagnosed by a qualified doctor.