What does being hypnotized feel like?
Every human being has gone into hypnosis regularly since they were born. Hypnosis is that state that begins approximately thirty minutes before you fall asleep and that you can go back into for thirty minutes after you wake up. You also enter it when you’re absorbed in reading or watching a movie or TV. It’s that completely relaxed and comfortable state in which you become less connected to the outer world and begin moving towards that vagueness that precedes sleep.
Your body is as deeply relaxed as your mind. Sometimes you feel like you’re floating; sometimes you don’t feel anything at all. One client describes it as a “dream-like state of mind.” Others talk about being very calm and that, sometimes, it’s almost like an out-of-body experience – except that you always know exactly where you are and feel absolutely safe and secure. Others just feel relaxed and nothing unusual. These people are often not sure they’ve even been under hypnosis — until I remind them that their hand rose off the table simply because I suggested it did or they saw the images we developed with peculiar visual, auditory, and emotional clarity.
But, even in the deepest state of hypnosis, you can always hear everything the hypnotherapist says and talk with her or him. You can even have your eyes open. If they choose, a person can come out of the state at any time. But most people enjoy the whole hypnotherapeutic process so much that they rarely do.
Every time I hear people talking about how effective hypnosis is, they mention the power of suggestion. You mention it in your articles, but have never really defined it.
In a normal day, everyone gets suggestions all the time such as when someone tells you what route to drive or which shirt to buy. It’s an idea given to you by someone else that you receive and consider consciously. Usually their effectiveness depends on the knowledgeability of the other person. If they know the area better, you’re more likely to travel as per their suggestion. But, even if they are only as familiar with the place as you are, just hearing a suggestion gives it power. It goes to the forefront of your mind and overshadows your other ideas. However, if that suggestion is different from what your subconscious is comfortable with, then when someone tells you to take a route that involves going through a neighborhood you have negative associations with, your subconscious isn’t going to let you take it no matter how much faster it is or more logical.
But there is one time when the subconscious mind is very open to absorbing suggestions — during hypnosis. Hypnosis occurs during the thirty minutes before a person falls asleep. You may have heard in school that what you study just before you go to sleep is what you’ll remember best. This is because during hypnosis, the critical facilities in your conscious mind, such as logic and reasoning, are already only half aware of what’s going on and are no longer filtering out new, potentially uncomfortable, thoughts and ideas.
A hypnotherapist is skilled at coming up with words and images that “speak” to their client. The idea that a person’s hand can become so light that it will defy gravity and float up into the air seems impossible consciously, but to the subconscious anything is possible. If a person is not in hypnosis, logic and reason will tell them that their hand is not getting lighter; however, when under hypnosis, the subconscious mind pays more attention to the voice of the hypnotherapist than the physical reality. Therefore, they will believe that their arm is becoming lighter. If a person is visual, one might concentrate on the image of the hand rising or playing in the breeze. Auditory people are encouraged to hear the air lift their hand. Kinesthetically oriented people are told to feel the air lift their hand. In nearly every case, the hand will rise.
It’s never just the power of suggestion that affects people, it’s how a suggestion is given and when. When created by a skilled hypnotherapist, the results can be profound and life changing.
A lot of my friends are always complaining that they are “stressed out.” Can hypnosis help?
Like everything else your response to stress is a learned behavior, a habit. Some things that trigger stress begin in childhood and are related to specific things such as going to the doctor or a general pressure to be Number One. Others are related to current pressures or fears. Sometimes stress may not seem to be related to anything at all. While some people think they strive on stress, they are all actually using the anxious energy to drive them forward in a way that will cause them to mentally – and possibly physically – collapse. Through a few sessions of hypnosis you can always lighten one’s current stress level, but sometimes, that is not enough.
While it would be nice to get rid of stress by what causes it, that’s not always possible. Everyone has to see a doctor at some time. Life gives us difficult situations that can’t be resolved for a long period of time or you can’t always leave a job even though your co-workers, bosses, or responsibilities are overwhelming. In these situations, dealing with the stress comes from two directions: techniques that help the individual control the feelings of stress and suggestions that adjust their response to outside triggers.
The one technique that helps everyone is to get them deeply hypnotized and create a Special Place in their mind where they are absolutely calm, comfortable, and safe. I work intensely with the imagery of the place, not just what you see, hear, and touch, but the more primitive smell and taste. The trick is to have them feel so relaxed and secure that even the concept of anxiety can’t arise. Then that feeling of calm is tied into an anchor, usually pressing together the thumb and first finger of the non-dominant hand. The suggestion is given that whenever they press their anchor, the calm and safety of the Special Place will flow throughout their body, washing away all feelings of stress. Or, they can close their eyes, press their anchor, and take a mini-vacation. This quickly becomes a valuable tool a person can use for the rest of their lives.
While there are many things that people can do to take control of their stress they are all, of course, much more powerful if they have been instilled and reinforced in hypnosis. I start with calming breathing techniques, teaching how to relax one’s body, and, finally, self-hypnosis. I also use this, my favorite breathing technique, for sleep and anxiety. All you need to do is take very deep breaths through your nose using your abdomen inhaling “CALM,” hold it for a moment, and then exhale through your mouth as though you had a straw there and exhale STRESS. After you pause, then start again. Imagine the Stress leaving your body never to return. I generally recommend doing CALM and STRESS twice and then at least 2-3 repetitions using C-A-L-M and S-T-R-E-S-S.
Stress caused by job issues, relationship problems, problems stemming from childhood, and more, need to be addressed directly. Very often the problem at work is with the boss or a co-worker. I usually block the person to those people’s negativity. Then I retrain so that instead of responding with stress, they remain extremely calm. Relationship problems need similar treatment, but often you have to work on getting the strength to start directly addressing the problems with the other person.
Incidents that occurred in the past have to be attacked in many directions. You have to give people general calming tools and block them to both external AND internal negativity. But because the negative emotion causing the stress comes from the inside, you have to work with the memories of what initially caused the stress. Sometimes you have to search for them before you can desensitize them. Then you cut the emotional connections to the incident and the trigger. Ironically, very often what triggers stress may not even resemble what originally caused it.
The other things that people can, and should, do on their own is to maintain a healthy lifestyle and make sure they get in approximately 30 minutes of exercise 5 days a week. This not only keeps your body and mind healthy, but it releases endorphins, the brain peptides/neurotransmitters responsible for putting you in a positive mood.
A lot of people say hypnosis is dangerous. Is that true?
Myths about hypnosis, perpetuated by Hollywood movies, urban legends, and fiction, lead people to think all kinds of untrue things about hypnosis, including that it is somehow dangerous. In fact, hypnosis is a natural state that always occurs 30 minutes before you fall asleep. Nothing bad can happen to you in hypnosis; you are always in control and can come out of it whenever YOU want to. In fact, you will hear everything that is going on and will be talking with your hypnotherapist while you are hypnotized. It feels like when you’re caught up in a movie or a book – or just about to fall asleep.
One of the oldest fears about hypnosis is that the hypnotist is controlling you and can make you do whatever they want – even commit murder. This is completely impossible. If anyone suggests something that goes against your values, moral belief system, or is in any way dangerous to yourself or anyone else, it is rejected immediately. Your hypnotherapist is merely giving your subconscious the suggestions you asked for. Even a stage hypnotist – who is an entertainer and not a hypnotherapist – doesn’t make people do things they don’t want to do. He or she finds the people who are extroverts and love to perform. People are also much more likely to do silly things while they’re with a group.
You don’t have to worry that you will suddenly start thinking about scary or painful things. The number one job of the subconscious mind is to protect you, and it is always on the job. Another fear is that you can go into the trance and not wake up. However, since hypnosis is a normal part of the sleep cycle, your hypnotherapist can easily wake you if you do fall asleep.
The only area of concern regarding hypnotherapy is making sure you find a well-trained, capable hypnotherapist you feel comfortable working with.
How do you hypnotize someone? Rhiannon Wade
There are many ways to hypnotize people. One of the best known and most used are Eye Fascinations or Eye Fixations. The first induction I ever performed was an eye fascination and I still use them regularly as a deepening technique. With many of my clients, it’s the fastest way to hypnotize them initially after the first session. The basic concept is the very natural process mimicking falling asleep.
The hypnotherapist tells the client to look at something that’s above eye level and pick a small spot in it. Then the client looks for an even smaller dot within that. As clients stare at the spot, the hypnotherapist repeatedly talks, usually in a very gentle voice, about how their eyes are blurring as they stare and that it’s making them blink. Next it’s mentioned that once a person starts blinking, the harder it is to stop blinking. Soon people find it more and more difficult to keep their eyes open because the upper lids are growing heavier and, once their eyes are solidly shut, they are hypnotized. Some protocols have the hypnotherapist snap their fingers and say “deep sleep” or “and you’re hypnotized” or they just say the words and don’t snap their fingers. But, in the end, all the hypnotherapist has done is guide the person to the point just before sleep — which is hypnosis.
Sometimes clients are directed to look at an object in front of them, such as a painting, a vase, a spot on the door, or even the famed pocket-watch. Sometimes the hypnotherapist will hold up a pen and have the client stare at the very, very tip of it. Hypnotherapists who work with children sometimes have them string clear beads together with some sort of clear plastic shape at the end and use that. The child then gets to take their string of beads home.
My question is tied to my desire to understand how it is that my mind no longer responds to the pressure I was feeling before which I thought was an emotional response based on past situations where I felt attacked and helpless. But it seems that my mind is now able to be rational under pressure and that sort of button can no longer be pushed? Can you explain how it works? (I had one session with this client. SF)
In your life, your subconscious mind was trained so that certain things in your environment would trigger specific feelings, like how you used to respond to feeling attacked by feeling hurt and helpless. What we did in hypnosis was to change your response, first by establishing a constant and consistent sense of peace and calm. Then, instead of having your subconscious immediately jump from “I feel attacked” to “I feel hurt and helpless,” my suggestions re-directed it so that it acknowledged the attack, but you remained calm and focused. We call that “retraining the brain.” I also gave you other suggestions that supported this including ones to start, continue, and end the day being focused, and to block you from all negativity.
Why does it look like mind control when someone is under hypnosis? Niall Wade
The reason people confuse hypnosis with things like mind control is that most people only see examples of hypnotized people in movies and on TV. But those people aren’t really hypnotized; they’re actors pretending to be hypnotized.
Many years ago, when hypnosis first became popularly known, plays and books started distorting hypnosis to use it for dramatic purposes. The hypnotist became a villain, often a wizard or vampire, who would use his “powers” to make the other characters do evil things like murder. The actors’ faces look almost frozen, zombie-like — just like you think they would be if they were actually under someone else’s control and their own mind and will power have been taken away. But this is all pretend.
If you want to see someone who is actually under hypnosis, you’ll notice that at stage hypnosis shows, people are usually slumped over in their chairs and they look like they are sleeping.
But in no way can any hypnotist or hypnotherapist ever make someone do anything that they personally believe is wrong. A person’s moral, core beliefs are sacrosanct and cannot be affected or changed. You can also never be made to do something that would hurt you personally. Hypnosis consists of suggestions and the subconscious mind will always reject the dangerous ones.
I’ve been reading your site and was wondering exactly how hypnosis works.
There are two parts to our minds, the conscious and the subconscious. The conscious mind is our awareness, the thoughts and feelings we experience everyday. It experiences the world based on what comes through our five senses during the time we are awake, but it doesn’t take everything in. While we can control most of our actions and feelings through our conscious decision-making, we can’t always — such as when our will power is too weak to stop us from eating things we shouldn’t or emotions boil up that we have no control over.
Below that is our subconscious mind which we are not directly aware of except when thoughts “jump” into our mind. This is where our imagination lies and is the seat of our creativity. It registers all the information we receive more quickly and completely than the conscious mind, but without a sense of time, logic, or reasoning. In it are established all our central beliefs, conditioning, and every kind of habit from behavioral to emotional. Its processes are closely tied to the brain itself, which is why we sometimes call hypnosis “retraining the brain.” Unlike our conscious mind, the subconscious “thinks” in images.
When the client is in hypnosis, they are in a semi-awake state – a form of trance — where there is direct access to the subconscious, better known as suggestibility. The hypnotherapist phrases his or her suggestions using the images and words he or she has discovered that are most meaningful to the client. These go directly to the subconscious mind which, as long as it doesn’t violate the client’s core moral belief system and reinforces what the conscious mind wants to believe, is seen as true and accepted. This then changes how the brain actually thinks so that it changes associations such as when cigarettes no longer seem pleasurable or comfortable, but make you feel sick. Or instead of triggering a panic attack, a once fearful object creates feelings of calm and comfort.
I’ve never had trouble sleeping in my life until we recently had a major shake-up where I work. But even though things have pretty much calmed down, I still can’t seem to get more than four hours of sleep a night. Half my friends say I should try hypnosis while the others say I should just see a doctor but I’m a little uncomfortable taking pills for what may be a long time.
The main differences between hypnosis and medication is that hypnosis itself puts you in the state that occurs naturally starting about 30 minutes before you fall asleep. That alone starts preparing your body for returning to your normal sleep pattern. Your hypnotherapist will usually make suggestions and give you relaxation techniques that you will use that evening to put yourself back in hypnosis and your brain will start regaining its natural ability to quickly move from hypnosis to regular sleep with all the necessary stages of sleep.
Usually the process takes less than 4-8 sessions, especially if the problem began after something that temporarily changed a person’s routine. Your case sounds very similar with a break in your your normal pattern and now you’re having difficulty getting back to your natural schedule. This often occurs frequently after the holidays.
Doctors have to be very careful when prescribing sleep drugs. No matter what other side-effect(s) they might have, all sleep medications can cause psychological dependence.
The newest type of drug imitates the actions of the brain hormone melatonin which is what normally regulates your sleep/wake cycle. It may take as long as 10 days to become fully effective. Side effects rarely occur, but they include the possibility of doing activities while quasi-asleep like driving, eating, and making phone calls at night and having no memory of them in the morning. Mental changes can occur as well such as agitation, anxiety, nightmares, and other changes in your usual thoughts, mood, or behavior.
Older medications contain selective Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). GABA receptors work in the brain and affect levels of alertness. These are directed specifically at the receptor thought to affect sleep. Side effects include memory problems and activities like sleep driving and sleepwalking.
Often people will use an over-the-counter allergy medicine. Most contain diphenhydramine that works on the body’s histamines, which are what create cold and allergy symptoms. Diphenhydramine also has a sedating effect, hence its use in sleep. While it is efficacious with mild, infrequent insomnia, all histamines are known for creating morning grogginess. Other side effects can include difficulty urinating and confusion or delirium.
While hypnosis’ greatest advantage may be that it has no side effects, because hypnosis has returned your brain to his normal sleep/wake cycle, you will continue your normal sleep schedule while, sometimes, stopping a sleep medication means that your sleeping problems may return.