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What Does Hypnosis Feel Like?

Question:

What does being hypnotized feel like?

Answer:

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.

How hypnosis changes emotional responses

Question:

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)

Answer:

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.

Phobias — Can hypnosis help me get rid of my fear of spiders and what’s it like?

Question:

I’m scared of spiders.  It used to be that if I saw one, I’d have a panic attack but now even a picture of a spider causes me to panic.  Can hypnosis help me?

Answer:

What you have is a phobia, specifically arachnophobia, the fear of spiders.  While fears and phobias are very similar, a fear is when you get panic attack symptoms that are triggered by something realistic while a phobia is when the panic attack is triggered by irrational and sometimes unknown factors.  Usually, as in your case, the phobia will become more and more easily triggered until it becomes a significant problem in everyday life.  However, for all the discomfort, a phobia is essentially a habit and very easy to handle in hypnosis.  At no point do we bring up the actual feeling of the panic so that the person feels completely safe and comfortable throughout the experience.

Phobias are usually created when someone experiences feeling panicked, terrified, physical pain, or the fear of impending danger and then associates it with something around them, whether or not what they’ve associated the feeling with caused or played a part in creating the negative feeling.  Very often the trigger is only marginally related to the original emotion.  Since you’ve been scared of spiders since childhood, chances are that it’s based on a psychological experience.  But phobias based on truly traumatic experiences, such as abuse or physical trauma are much rarer than people think.  You may have been scared by something other than the spider, saw a spider, and “pinned” the blame on it.  Maybe someone bullied you with a toy spider and you became scared of the toy and not the person.

However, phobias that develop in adulthood are quite often due not to something psychological, but physiological, i. e., due to hypoglycemia or a lack of sugar in one’s system.  This mimics a panic attack and the person associates that shakiness and panicky feeling with something around them.  People skip breakfast or eat poorly, get that panicky feeling later, and suddenly they begin to develop a phobia around whatever they were doing or where they were when the feeling hit them — driving, eating a specific food, or taking tests (when a person is already pretty nervous to begin with).

Ironically, for such a potentially life-disrupting condition, a phobia is fairly simple to manage.  The technique of systematic desensitization allows for the person to feel absolutely calm and then imagine that when they wake up they’ll no longer have any irrational responses to anything.  From then on when the trigger is referred to or seen they associate it with comfort and relaxation and the negative symptoms disappear.  The client is able to think about the phobia trigger and the fear is gone.

It will often take one to three sessions for a phobia to resolve.  A phobia that was produced by a significant trauma is very different since we need to diffuse the incident and all the additional damage it has caused.  This requires more time and may require working in partnership with a psychotherapist.