Hypnosis: Mystical Illusions or Relaxation Technique?

Michelle Velan, Founder of Wondersource

When hearing the word hypnosis, people often visualise a man on stage barking like a dog.

In reality hypnotists are not people with magical powers that transform you, but a trained professional who can use a legitimate psychological process for self-improvement. According to the Mayo Clinic, hypnosis puts a person into a trance-like state in which they have heightened focus and concentration and has been used clinically to help with anxiety before medical procedures, for example.
This therapeutic method has grown to become popular among actors and athletes for help with performance issues including confidence, phobias and goal-setting. Actor Kevin Costner, legend Michael Jordan, and even former President Barack Obama are fans, the latter using the technique to treat his smoking addiction.

Known for its principle of relaxation, hypnosis has been practiced in Western medicine for over a century. Used to treat phobias, self-esteem issues, and other mental health concerns, a study from the Journal of Pediatrics showed a high significance in the reduction of anxiety and pain of adolescents with cancer when they practice hypnotic techniques.

What happens during hypnosis?

There are two stages involved in hypnosis. For the technique to be successful, it is critical that the hypnotherapist gain a full understanding of your problem and what needs to be achieved. This is done by:

1) Induction
The hypnotherapist puts you into a deep state of relaxation or a trance-like state that enables you to be open and prepared for therapeutic improvements. Like zoning out in a daydream; you are completely awake and aware of your surroundings. More importantly, you are in full control of your body. When you are calm and relaxed, your irrelevant thoughts, troubles and fears are tuned out.
Getting into this state gives the hypnotherapist access into the subconscious, or the part of mind that is not in your focal awareness. Think of it as the brain’s control panel, the part that allows you to do things without thinking—where your bad habits or unresolved traumas could develop and endure. It is said that the subconscious regulates bodily sensations and emotions, therefore, it is possible for you to access memories that you have chosen to forget.

2) Suggestion
Hypnotists give verbal cues once you are in the induction state. The idea is for you to take these cues and approach scenarios as if they were your current reality. For example, if you have performance anxiety, you could be asked to imagine yourself on a stage in front of a large crowd. Remembering that you have free will and are not forced to do something that you are not comfortable with, you will be given suggestions for how to make that experience as pain-free and successful as possible.

The science
When it comes to the science behind hypnosis, research emphasizes the cerebral cortex, or the part of your brain that is mainly responsible for memory, attention, perception and awareness. Stanford Psychiatry professor Dr David Spiegel says, “It is a powerful means of changing the way we use our minds to control perception and our bodies.” He and his team identified hallmarks of the brain during hypnosis:
– Decreased activity in the dorsal anterior cingulate – bringing you to a trance-like state
– Increased connections between dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and insula – the brain/body connection
– Decreased connections between the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, the medial prefrontal and the posterior cingulate cortex – the disassociation between your actions and awareness of doing them.

The duration of hypnotism varies depending on your mental state and personality. You can discuss the number of sessions that you need. It is important that you get a structured plan for treatments as this could be supplementary to other therapies.

Want to be paired with a Hypnotist? Schedule a free consult with Wondersource today and we’ll match you with the right person.

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