One of the most common questions I get as a hypnotist is ¨does hypnosis work¨ ? The short answer is: yes. So when people ask me this, the person is asking if it’s ¨real¨ (as in does it actually exist). Also if it does, will it work for them?
Before I unpack this question further though, it’s important to note that in 1955, the British Medical Association (BMA) approved the use of hypnosis for psychoneuroses and hypno-anesthesia in pain management in childbirth and surgery.
The American Medical Association approved a report on the medical uses of hypnosis in 1958 and in 1960, the American Psychological Association gave its endorsement as a branch of psychology.
To really get to the heart of this question we have to examine and define hypnosis.
This is something people have been trying to do for hundreds (if not thousands) of years and it is important to keep in mind that there seems to be as many definitions of hypnosis as hypnotists.
One of the modern hypnotists, noted author and teacher Dave Elman, described hypnosis as:
¨the use of suggestion, whether direct or indirect, to induce a heightened state of suggestibility in which there is bypass of the critical faculty of the mind, and selective attention to the suggestions given¨
The famed hypnotherapist and Psychiatrist Milton Erickson called it the ¨shrinking of the focus of attention¨.
Another common definition: ¨Hypnosis is a state of awareness dominated by the subconscious mind¨ Michael Preston-M.D
Noted psychotherapist Stephen Gilligan writes:¨Hypnosis is conceptualized as an experientially absorbing interactional sequence that produces an altered state of consciousness wherein self-expressions begin to happen automatically, without conscious mediation¨
So here we have some differing perspectives laid out by noted professionals engaged in the use of hypnosis (and I´ve left out many more) and one of the main discussions often had, is the idea as to whether hypnosis is an altered state of awareness or a process.
The difference is important because if we think hypnosis to be a state, it’s almost as if it becomes a thing, a noun: something absolutely tangible. This often comes with the idea that we can ¨go into¨ hypnosis and that like a lake, we go deeper and deeper into it. This perspective is supported by the experience of the hypnotee, who often can feel themselves sinking down in a deeper lever of hypnotic focus, experiencing states of altered perception and so on.
The other side of the argument, often put forward by those of a more cognitive oriented bent, is that it’s a process, a set of attitudes and specific type of focus that allows one to access deeper and more profound resources of the mind.
After studying and working with many models of hypnosis and examining the most plausible evidence, I have reached the personal view is that hypnosis is not a special or altered state, rather it is a completely natural condition of the mind where you experience a very specific type of focus, often accompanied by deep relaxation of the nervous system
It is a mind-set that allows you to access very powerful resources of the psyche, including all mind-states. So in essence, it is process AND state.When used by someone trained in hypnotherapy, it can be considered as the ¨mother¨ of all psychotherapies!
In my opinion, hypnosis, in combination with Cognitive-Behavioural and Coaching Techniques, is quite simply the most powerful change ¨technology¨ that exists. Even though there are many different views on hypnosis, I believe that there are some that are more in line with reality than others.
While many of the effects and changes people report seem to be magical (such as having profound experiences that resolve deep issues rapidly) the magic is not because of a hypnotist’s power or skill, it is because of the individual’s ability to enter into the process. It is a two-way, collaborative process where the hypnotist shows you how to use your mind in ways that are most aligned with the reality you prefer. The truly magical moment comes when you realize that you are always able to connect with a vast reservoir of abilities, insights and wisdom.
Hypnosis does work. Will it work for everything always? Do you know anything that works 100% of the time? Like with most things, the best way to find out if it will work for you is to try it for yourself.