By Tim Ringenburg ~
Since the early 1960s, the American Medical Association and the American Psychiatric Association recognized that hypnosis was a viable modality to address certain psychological problems. Today, many individuals use hypnotherapy to stop smoking and control weight, like celebrities Matt Damon and Ellen Degeneres. But despite its acceptance and popular usage, many people are afraid of being hypnotized.
There are several sources of concern. The image of Count Dracula staring deeply into the eyes of his prey seems one of many iconic figures that play into the public’s perception of hypnosis. The thought that hypnosis is a form of mind control and that a client is completely helpless under the power of the hypnotist persists in public mindset. But hypnosis is far from the danger presented by television, movies, and other media.
No one can be hypnotized against their will. Under hypnosis, the client is in control and aware of everything that is occurring. During that time, the client’s focus is heightened and sharpened. The process of hypnosis is a collaboration between the hypnotherapist and the client working together to effect behavioral change.
The average person experiences hypnosis at least three times in the course of a day. It is a natural state that the mind drifts into before, during, and after sleep. By definition, Hypnosis is a mental state where the conscious mind and the unconscious mind receive the same message [International Medical and Dental Hypnotherapy Association]. The unconscious mind is where all the values, morals, and experiences are stored. The conscious mind is where assignments of likes and dislikes, truth and falsehood, and the various colorization of our experiences happen.
Hypnosis allows the unconscious to accept the message without the conscious mind’s evaluation or preconceived opinion. The unconscious only embraces the suggestion upon realizing that it will not endanger or harm. The unconscious’ responsibility is to protect the mind and body of the client. Any suggestion that violates the personal values or morals of the client are rejected.
Another fear of hypnosis is that the client will reveal any secrets that they carry with them. This fear is based on the thought that the client is “helpless” or “out of control”. However, while experiencing hypnosis, the client in complete control. In fact, the imagination is so engaged that, should a client chose to lie or dissemble, it would be easier rather than harder to do so.
Hypnosis is a successful modality because the conscious mind is temporarily bypassed and the imagination is engaged. The mind is free to accept positive, healthful suggestions without encumbrance or delay. The imagery used by the hypnotherapist becomes more vivid and impactful when the mind engages the power of the imagination. Hypnotherapists are experts in word selection. Through the use of imagery, word choice, and meaningful metaphor, they communicate to the unconscious those goals, changes, and positive behaviors the client is seeking. By embracing these goals, the client’s conscious mind is motivated and supported to succeed.
Hypnosis has proven an effective modality for anxiety control, smoking cessation, weight control, pain control, stress reduction, insomnia, PTSD, and a host of other behavioral maladies. It is not a panacea, and is often used as a complement to psychological therapy.
One should not fear experiencing a state of hypnosis. The human mind is not programmed like a computer. Those qualities of personality, emotion, and character assure that each person can embrace mindfulness and behavioral change easily and effortlessly. Thus the fear of the mesmerizing vampire becomes “de-fanged”.