Demystifying Hypnosis

Are you scared of hypnosis? Many people are, either for personal
reasons or because of religious beliefs, most of which result from
misconceptions about the process. Almost all of the people who fear hypnosis
think they have never been hypnotized, or would not choose to be hypnotized if
they were given the chance. In fact, however, most of us have experienced
hypnosis many times, but we haven’t known it. Have you ever stood in a
supermarket checkout line, idly daydreaming, only to realize with a start that
the person in front of you had already checked out their groceries, while you
had checked out of normal awareness? Have you ever gazed into a flickering
fire, remaining transfixed by the dancing flames, without thinking? Ever zoned
out in a hot tub in a state of total relaxation, or missed your exit on the
freeway while you were somewhere else? All of these experiences are states of
natural hypnotic trance, and very few of us would be afraid of them. What
scares people is the idea that someone could control them and alter their
actions, beliefs or personality against their will. Stage hypnosis has
contributed to this fear by causing people to bark like a dog, cluck like a
chicken, or do something embarras- sing or outrageous in front of a lot of
people. The truth is that no one can use hypnosis to cause you to do anything
which you are fundamentally not in agreement with. If you bark like a dog,
regress to age 5, or embarrass yourself it is because you are already open to
that experience, want to have a good time and cooperate with the suggestions
given to you by the hypnotist. Stage hypnotists only select those subjects who
they have observed to be highly suggestible.

What is hypnosis? Hypnosis is a simple natural state of
mind available to all of us as a wonderful tool for healing and personal
growth. From our experience, it is an altered state of awareness, in which
other aspects of the mind besides the conscious, thinking mind (which may be
partially present or not present at all) can be accessed. Hypnosis involves an
inward focus of attention, bodily relaxation, and a receptivity to ideas and
suggestions which come either from one’s own mind or the verbal instructions of
the hypnotherapist. Various phenomenon are commonly reported by those who have
experienced hypnotic trances. Almost everyone reports that they are very
relaxed, often with a sense of heaviness or floating. Their breathing rate
often slows down, facial muscles smooth out into a relaxed expression, and
there are often small unconscious movements of muscles, or fluttering eyelids,
indicating changes going on within the person. Many people report that they
never felt so good as when they were in trance and they don’t want to come
out, but everyone does. If you did not come out of trance when you were
instructed to do so, you would simply fall asleep and awaken naturally when you
were ready.

How is hypnosis useful? Hypnotic suggestions can be likened to
software for your mind. You can program in useful suggestions and beliefs about
how you want to be, what you want to do and how you want to feel about yourself
or anything else in your life. Hypnosis reaches your subconscious mind, the
first level of mind below your conscious waking state, which often comes out
naturally in memories, dreams, daydreams and the little voice in your head
which reminds you of important and trivial details. This part of your mind has
amazing abilities to remember the past, gather and utilize information from
both normal and para- normal sources, feel emotional states, relieve pain, heal
the body-mind, change habit patterns and program your future. The subconscious
responds much like a small child. It is very literal, obedient, and accepts
suggestions which are either stated directly or in the form of stories or
metaphors. In hypnotherapy the subconscious mind is accessed easily and worked
with to accomplish the goals of therapy. Deeper, or unconscious, levels of the
mind may also be tapped in order to produce other hypnotic phenomena such as
anesthesia for pain relief.

Hypnosis helps in understanding the root causes of illnesses
which stem from traumatic events, emotions, beliefs, past lives, and physical
imbalances. We have used hypnosis many times to understand inexplicable
illnesses for which we or the patient can find no con- scious reasons. Often
illness has a metaphorical basis, as in the patient who is experiencing a
difficult situation as a literal “pain in the neck”, or when a person who is
feeling a lack of emotional support develops knee or lower back pain and
weakness. One patient developed chest pain after the breakup of her marriage,
which was her way of expressing her “broken heart”. In hypnosis, she could
express and relieve her grief which allowed the chest pain to go away.

One of the most important uses of hypnosis is to resolve and heal
old traumatic incidents.
This is based on the idea that it is the way we
remember our past that affects us, not what actually happened. Through hypnosis
you can go back in trance, remember memories that have been repressed and
change your history, developing new abilities to deal with traumas, and resolve
and express emotions which have been buried for years.

Changing habits. Hypnosis is very successful in working with
people who want to stop smoking, lose weight or change unwanted habits,
obsessions and compulsions. We work with the parts of the personality that are
in charge of the behavior, and find them a different way to get their needs met
through a more constructive or enjoyable behavior. It is possible to link the
triggers for the habit in such a way as to elicit the new behavior instead.
Sometimes, making the habit aversive to the patient works, or giving direct
suggestions about doing something else which is incompatible with the habit,
but desireable to do. Hypnosis can produce very long lasting results in
changing habits if the correct methods are used for the individual client.

Hypnosis has so many wonderful and exciting applications that we can
only begin to dis-cuss them here. We recommend that you experience it for
yourself with a well-trained, expe-rienced hypnotherapist You can also learn
self-hypnosis and experiment on your own. We are sure that you will be
delighted with the changes in your life and your health, once you have gone
beyond fear into the real experience of hypnosis.

Drs. Judyth Reichenberg-Ullman and Robert Ullman are naturopathic and
homeopathic physicians and cofounders of the Northwest Center for Homeopathic
Medicine in Edmonds, WA. They are coauthors of
The Patient’s Guide to
Homeopathic Medicine and Beyond Ritalin: Homeopathic Treatment of ADD
and Other Behavioral and Learning Problems. They can be reached at (206)

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Written by Judyth Reichenberg-Ullman ND MSW

Explore Wellness in 2021