How does Hypnotherapy really work?


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It is easy enough to understand that hypnotherapy is talking therapy that uses hypnosis. However, what is hypnosis? Why use it? How does it actually work? When most people think about hypnosis, they think of a hypnotist putting someone ‘under’ and making them do strange and wonderful things. Alternatively, maybe you think of it as a nice relaxing experience, during which a hypnotherapist speaks softly to you offering you suggestions. You may come across explanations of hypnosis. Such as, ‘communicating with your subconscious’, ‘tapping into your inner resources’ and various other vague expressions.

Common Misconceptions

The hypnotist does not have any power or control over the person being hypnotised. This is a misconception. Years ago, you would see stage hypnotist dressed up in cloak, top hats, wearing pointy beard and going under pretentious names like, ‘The Great Hypnos’. The reason for all the dressing up was simply to make them look special; giving people the idea that they had special powers and could control people’s minds. The hypnotist does not use special power to hypnotise people. They do not hypnotise anyone. The person being hypnotised hypnotises himself or herself. All the hypnotist does is guide them.

A hypnotised person remains the same person. Only their behaviour is altered in the hypnotic state. Hypnosis does not give you any special powers. You have exactly the same abilities as in the normal waking state.
When in a hypnotic state you are fully aware of everything around you. You do not lose any control or awareness. In fact, your awareness increases.

Allow yourself to see what you don’t allow yourself to see

Milton Erickson
Hypnotism concept gold pocket watch

Going around in circles

People trying to solve problems often go round and round in circles. Going over the same ideas never finding an answer. We have limited beliefs, self-defeating habits, and insecurities all of which limit the way we think and behave. It is not the problem that is the problem. The way you think about the problem is the problem. If your thinking is rigid and limited, you go around in circles. Thinking in a box.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.

Albert Einstein

Limited thinking

Most people experience problems because of the limited way they think. When you consciously try to think of a solution, you come up with the same ideas. You feel like you have tried everything. You may well have tried everything you can think of consciously. Most people have experienced trying to solve a problem and trying everything they can think of. Despite trying everything, they fail to find an answer.  Then someone or something might give them a new idea and suddenly the answer is there. It is so blindingly obvious that you wonder how you did not see it before. The reason they could not see it, because they got so entrenched in a limited box of thoughts that they could see anything beyond.
We all have limited thoughts and limited beliefs in what we can and cannot do.

Frames of reference

Everyone is different; we all have different experiences and abilities. One of the first tasks for a hypnotherapist is to assess a person’s abilities to be utilised. As the hypnotherapist explores the person’s world, new frames of reference and belief systems are created. Instead of thinking inside the same box (frame of reference) new alternative ways of thinking arise. Hypnosis temporarily allows a person to break out of their limited ways of thinking, limited frames of reference and belief systems. Therefore, you can experience other patterns of functioning within yourself. Hypnosis is not about making you more suggestable to program you to think a certain way. A therapeutic hypnotic state helps a person sidestep their own learned limitations so that they can more fully explore and utilise their potential.

Subconscious responses

Most people really cannot direct themselves consciously in hypnosis because such direction can come only from their limited conscious thinking. Hence, it is important to learn to allow your own unconscious response to express itself during hypnosis. Hypnosis is about learning to break free from the limited loops you are stuck in and allowing new ways to respond to appear. We all have a great deal of flexibility and creativity available to us. Just think of how creative, wonderful, and weird the dreams you create can be. The conscious mind is limited to connect to and using these resources. Hypnosis enables you to break free from those conscious limitations and connect to all the resources you have.

the mind

Still, how does hypnotherapy really work?

Helping you learn how to experience hypnosis, to break free from your limitations is useful. Then what happens? Is it as simple as enabling someone to experience a hypnotic state and then suggesting to him or her that, “They will not want to eat chocolate”, or “You will forget all about that abusive past”.

Different forms of suggestions

Once in a hypnotic state, the hypnotherapist can give you suggestions to help guide you. The suggestions can be direct or indirect. For example, a direct suggestion would be commanding, such as “Your arm will feel numb”. An indirect suggestion starts a train of thoughts and experiences such as, “You may recall a time after you had a local anaesthetic and part of your body went to sleep, you can experience a similar feeling now in your arm”. A direct suggestion tells a person what to experience. A more indirect suggestion allows them to make use of their own experiences and utilise the ability to respond to them. By making use of many forms of suggestions, a person is guided to their own abilities.

How does hypnotherapy really work?

Therapeutic hypnosis enables you to break free from your limited thinking. With guidance, you connect to the abilities you have within you. Discovering alternative ways of thinking, new ideas, beliefs, and different way of viewing the issue. From the new understanding, change is created.