When people enquire with me about having Hypnotherapy they are often concerned about whether they can be hypnotised or not. The fact is that we all drift in and out of a state of Self- Hypnosis every day. When we’re driving along and we suddenly realise that we don’t remember the last few minutes of our trip, it’s because our conscious mind has taken a break and left our subconscious at the wheel. When we’re staring out the window and suddenly startle ourselves back into reality it’s because we’ve put ourselves in a mini trance and our conscious mind has clocked off leaving the subconscious to process away contentedly.
There is also an understandable confusion between the process of Stage Hypnosis and Clinical Hypnotherapy. Stage Hypnosis is a highly skilled craft however it is a different skill to that of Clinical Hypnotherapy. Stage Hypnosis relies on the entertainer’s fine-tuned ability to select highly suggestible extroverts, based on their responses to his questions and behaviour. They’re selected because he has established that they will respond willingly to instructions however ‘out there’ because they want to. The primary skill of stage hypnosis is in the performers’ innate ability to pick up on signals via the nuances of body language and the compliance of certain individuals when given subtle instructions. In this scenario the hypnotist learns very little about the participants other than their level of suggestibility, he doesn’t delve into how they think and represent things, so suggestions made will only have a short term effect, as once the participant returns to awareness the suggestions will have no meaningful or relatable purpose for them.
In Clinical Hypnotherapy the properly trained therapist will use their Counselling and Psychotherapy skills to understand how the client represents things in their mind; they investigate triggers for behaviours and emotional issues and gain an empathetic understanding through skilled questioning. Having gained a sound insight into the client’s language and beliefs surrounding their presenting issue they will then place the client in a light trance. This is done so that the clients’ critical factor is relaxed and they are more open to accept suggestions about alternative ways of thinking, feeling and behaving, as long as they align with their value system e.g. an honest person will not accept a suggestion to rob a bank! The trance state is used to assist the client to focus and become absorbed in what the therapist is saying, the trance is a vehicle used to deliver new information to the clients’ subconscious.
The reality is that most people have more difficulty staying out of trance than going into one. When you find yourself halfway through that last slice of cake before you realise what you’re doing, even though you swore you wouldn’t eat any more junk food, is that not because your conscious mind checked out leaving your subconscious to fill time with old habits? When you’re half way through that cigarette and you think wow I don’t remember lighting this, it’s the same thing. Your conscious mind has taken an unofficial break of its own, so the subconscious looks for something mindless to do, a habit it knows inside out that no longer requires conscious effort, it might be smoking, eating, drinking, nail biting, just about any habit you can think of, when you do consciously think about it that is, you will realise that they are generally done in a trance like state.
Paradoxically one of the benefits of Hypnotherapy is that it will help to make you more aware! It will help bring your attention to behaviours that have become so habituated that you’ve done them on auto-pilot while your conscious mind takes a break. When your conscious mind goes for a break, it takes your critical factor with it, that’s the part of you that says “No! We’ve given up chocolate”, it’s taking a nap while you’re chowing down on the family block! When it’s off napping your subconscious mind is not particularly creative so it looks for easy default behaviours also known as… habits.
There’s a number of reasons why our conscious mind goes AWOL, boredom, stress, fatigue to name a few. It has an “I can’t deal…” attitude at times. Sometimes at the first sign of unpleasant feelings it will slink off, for example you sit down to write a report for work or an assignment for college, you have a quick thought like “this is too hard” or “I can’t do this” or “I don’t feel like doing this”, an unpleasant feeling results, the conscious mind says “yuck to this feeling, see you later” and before you know it you spend an hour procrastinating making tea, eating, surfing the net or reading Facebook posts about someone you vaguely knows breakfast, whatever your most easily accessible default behaviour is for the situation you’re in. Hypnotherapy can introduce new defaults, it can also increase the conscious minds ability to deal with unpleasant feelings by teaching mindfulness skills as well as alternative responses and ways of perceiving the feelings, perhaps by reducing their significance to something more manageable or providing better perspective.
So in relation to the question “Can I be hypnotised?” I’d suggest that perhaps a more appropriate question is “Can I be Un-hypnotised?” and the answer is YES YOU CAN!
Georgina Mitchell was born in Ireland, moving to Australia in 1989. Georgina spent many years working in senior management in the Corporate world, before leaving to pursue her passion to become a Therapist.
Melbourne Hypnotherapy Blog
Please note as with all therapies, Results for Therapies delivered by Hypfocus may vary from person to person