Hypnosis is, perhaps, one of the most misunderstood and controversial methods of psychological treatment. The myths and misconceptions that surround hypnotherapy mostly stem from people’s ideas about stage hypnotism. The truth is that stage hypnotism is essentially a theatrical performance and has about as much in common with bona fide clinical hypnosis as many Hollywood movies have with real life.

The fact is that hypnosis is a genuine psychological phenomenon that has valid uses in clinical practice.  Simply put, hypnosis is a state of highly focused attention or concentration, often associated with relaxation, and heightened suggestibility.  While under hypnosis (i.e., in a hypnotic trance), it seems many people are much more open to helpful suggestions than they usually are.

The positive suggestions that people are given while hypnotized are referred to as “post hypnotic suggestions” because they are intended to take effect after the person emerges from the trance and is no longer under hypnosis.

The suggestions given to people under hypnosis appear to be an important part of the mechanism through which the procedure works. While many people won’t accept or respond to an up-front, direct suggestion, under hypnosis, suggestions seem to get into the mind - perhaps through the “back door” of consciousness where they often germinate and take root as important behavioral or psychological changes.

Contrary to popular belief, people under hypnosis are in total control of themselves and would never do anything they would normally find highly objectionable.

Also, it’s a fact that not everyone is susceptible to hypnosis. Some people seem to possess a trait called “hypnotizability” that, like other traits, varies greatly among individuals. To be successfully hypnotized, a person must want to undergo the process voluntarily and also possess at least a moderate degree of hypnotizability.

Even highly hypnotizable people may not benefit from hypnotherapy, and a single session of hypnosis usually does not produce lasting results. Often, a person will have to undergo a series of hypnotic procedures to reinforce whatever constructive suggestions may be given.

The most frequent clinical uses of hypnosis include: breaking bad habits, overcoming insomnia, recalling forgotten experiences, and as an anesthetic for managing pain.

You can easily test the benefits of self-hypnosis. Simply sit or lie down and get comfortable in a quiet setting. Then, close your eyes and take in a few deep breaths, slowly, in and out. This places many people into a mild trance and a state of comfortable relaxation.  In this state, say some optimistic things to yourself (e.g., “I can easily skip dessert”) and picture some pleasant events (e.g., visualize succeeding). Even a five-minute session can prove very helpful to some people.

Remember:  Think well, act well, feel well, be well!

Copyright by Clifford N. Lazarus, Ph.D.

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