What is Hypnosis
I'm a hypnotherapist trainer and I use hypnosis with my clients every day.
As a hypnotherapist, it can be a good idea to have an alternative professional title on hand - such as the innocuous 'trainer' - to avoid the inevitable questions. I was chatting at a party the other day when a friend of a friend asked me the dreaded question - "What do you do for a living?" I say 'dreaded question' because as soon as you mention 'hypnosis' you usually get a barrage of all kinds of half-baked assumptions and mythology.
Instead of saying 'hypnosis', I actually prefer to talk about 'updating instinctive responses' or 'enabling your unconscious mind to work for your best interests' but, you know, people like the word hypnosis. It conjures up all kinds of weird and wonderful images and - let's face it - people like drama!
How many times have I heard: "Where's your swinging watch?" or "Can you make me eat onions?" So anyway, this friend of a friend asks: "Can hypnosis make me more confident? And how does it work?" Bearing in mind that I was off duty!
Well, firstly, how it works is pretty easy once we clear away all the piercing eyes, swinging watches and black-caped mumbo jumbo. Hypnosis is a natural state akin to night time dreaming, which happens during the Rapid Eye Movement phase of sleep, otherwise known as REM.
REM sleep is called 'paradoxical sleep' because brain wave patterns are similar to how they are during wak-ing hours. During the last three months in the womb, the human neonate experiences more REM than at any other time during its life. It's during this time that many human instincts are 'programmed' - such as empathy, fear of heights and the ability to learn language.
By this time my new friend was looking glazed - quite trance-like, in fact. But by now I was warming to my subject and continued...
So if instincts are laid down through the REM state before birth, then it makes sense, during life outside the womb, to go back into the REM state in order to change your responses to things. Which is what hypnosis does.
Your instincts try to help you out, but sometimes they've just learned the wrong response. So your instincts may have learned to produce anxiety when it's not actually helpful - such as during public speaking, dating or socializing.
I've never heard anyone say they consciously decided to bring on a panic attack or a blush - these things just get switched on instinctively. So for 'hypnosis', think 'instinctive programming'. You can understand why you have a problem, but if you want the problem to disappear, it's your unconscious responses that ultimately need to change.
When hypnosis has done its job we hear things like: "I didn't even expect to feel different but, you know, as soon as I got into that interview room I just felt so much more relaxed!" When people talk like this what they are telling me is that their instincts have updated. This is not the same as consciously learning something. And this is why we use hypnosis.
Gamely trying to keep up and perhaps wishing he hadn't asked, my new friend's next question was: "Is this why hypnotists used the swinging watch method - so they can artificially induce the REM state in their subjects?"
"Yes, I replied - now you're beginning to understand what most people never do, what hypnosis is and why it works." But you know the watch swingers hadn't made the connection between the REM state and the eye movement caused by the watch swinging induction - they just knew that somehow it worked.
The first step to being confident within a situation is to truly imagine being confident in that time and place. Your imagination is aligned to your instincts, and so can program them. People can imagine something scary, sexy or annoying, and their instincts can produce emotional responses - even when those these things aren't actually happening in reality.
The more dream like and rich this imaginative experience is, the more fixed the new hypnotic blueprint or 'template' will be for actually being more confident in those times in the future.
Using hypnosis for confidence means that you no longer have to try to be confident, because the confidence starts to become and feel natural.
But my new friend hadn't finished yet. "What about problems? Can people cause them by doing negative self hypnosis?"
"Sure they can," I said. If you think about an upcoming event at the same time as feeling nervous, then you are priming your instincts to feel anxious in that future event. But we use hypnosis to get people performing to the best of their potential.
You know the rest of the party was a bit of a blur, but I recall thinking that all truly successful people have learned to use hypnosis positively whether they realize it or not.
So to sum up, hypnosis mimics the REM state to help you program your instincts to create the sort of re-sponses you require.
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