How does hypnotherapy fit into the therapeutic space.
Okay, so hypnotherapy is a modality of psychotherapy that uses the natural neurocognitive, the phenomenon of trance, or hypnosis, to alleviate presenting complaints and reach therapeutic goals. So in hypnosis, we take advantage of the fact that a person’s brain is programmed. And inclined to go into this natural state we call hypnosis or trance in order to help them alleviate their presenting complaints and reach the therapeutic goals.
What are the conditions for hypnosis.
I’m sure we’re going to get there exactly how it works technically. We all actually hypnotize ourselves all the time. For example, driving somewhere very familiar and you forget the route you took, and suddenly you’re home. That’s actually a state of hypnosis called highway hypnosis or planning to go to the shops after work. And suddenly you’re at home, you’re like, Oh, I forgot, or walking into a room and forgetting what you walked into the room for, or watching a movie and experiencing emotions based on what’s going on for the characters in the movie. Those are all kinds of hypnosis.
And we are naturally programmed to hypnosis because it’s very therapeutic for the survival centre of our brain for our amygdala. The pattern of brainwaves is very regulatory. So everybody has got the potential to be hypnotized. And we hypnotize ourselves all the time. But in order for hypnosis to take place in an interpersonal context, whether it’s therapy or stage hypnosis, or whatever the context for hypnosis is there have to be three conditions.
The first condition is that there has to be communication. So I have to share some kind of communication with the person that I’m going to be inviting to hypnotize themselves at that moment. Because I can’t hypnotize anybody, however, I can show you how to hypnotize yourself. Secondly, there has to be consent. So you cannot hypnotize somebody that doesn’t want to be hypnotized. And then finally, there has to be freedom from fear. So if a person doesn’t understand hypnosis and is still under the misconceptions and myths about hypnosis. That it is allowing somebody to take over, or it’s mind control, it is giving control over to the other person, they will be fearful.
And hypnosis does not have to be fearful. Hypnosis is actually incredibly safe. It can be incredibly effective, but it’s also incredibly safe. And I always explain to my clients exactly how hypnosis works, so that they understand how safe it is. Now sometimes, I get a lot of people asking me specifically for hypnosis, but it’s actually that is not the norm. The norm is usually that time presents for therapy. And I will see that this particular client would benefit from hypnosis. Then I will introduce the concept of hypnosis. And explain to the client exactly how it works, then invite them to experience hypnosis.
How does hypnotherapy work.
All hypnosis is self-hypnosis, but it’s not always true. As the hypnotherapist, I am the car or the GPS and the client is the driver. The client tells me where they want to go, and what they want to work on. They want to work on the belief that they can’t be loved in a relationship. Or they want to work on smoking, they want to work on their fear of public speaking, they want to work on this belief that romantic relationships are going to be traumatic for them. Basically, anything that is happening outside of the conscious awareness in a subconscious that is informing the range in their role repertoire.
So they want to work on something like that. They tell me where they want to go. They put the destination into the GPS. And I know the route to go there, but I’m not driving the car. So I will say turn right yeah, I will say in 200 meters go left or whatever it is that the GPS says. And in that, the client will get into a state of trance, which is actually just a pattern of brainwaves. This is a naturally occurring pattern of brainwaves that we all experience throughout the day. And the client will then be able to deliberately manufacture, this pattern of brainwaves. In order for us to reach the therapeutic goals but I’m not the one driving the client is the one inducing their own trance.
How does a stage hypnotist like Andre the great get people to act like a chicken on stage.
I’m so glad you brought that up. Because on stage hypnotism is real hypnotism. In fact, the model of rapid induction hypnosis that my colleagues and I trained in was developed by Dave Ullman who himself was a stage hypnotist. He wasn’t a psychologist or psychiatrist. He was a rival at the time of Milton Erickson who was also seen as the father of hypnosis. We just have different principles from the Milton Erickson Institute on how to induce that trance. But Dave Ullman and Milton Erickson were rivals at around the same time in the 1950s and 1960s. And Ullman’s father was a stage hypnotist along with Dave Ullman himself.
Now Dave Ullman worked very closely with the Mayo brothers from the Mayo clinic. Because one of the phenomena of a state of hypnosis called the Esdaile state is named after James Esdaile who was a British physician. He worked alongside Dave Elman at the Mayo Clinic using hypnosis as a part of anaesthesia which lowered the rates of anaesthesia related mortality. Because they were having to use less anaesthetic per patient. And back in the 1950s and 60s, the medication wasn’t as effective as it is now and there was a high risk of anaesthesia. And in the head of anaesthetics wanted to publish an article about the use of hypnosis in anaesthetics. The Mayo brothers prevented her from doing so because they didn’t want to discredit the clinic because hypnosis was seen as fringe science.
Dave Ullman himself was actually a stage hypnotist. Now how people like Andre the amazing hypnotist work is that the person that is participating with them wants to have a good time. They want to be the centre of attention, they want to have a different experience, they want to bite into an onion and have it taste like an apple. They want to do that. So they volunteer. So how it works is that Andre the hypnotist will say who would like to come up.
There are two kinds of people that go up those that want to have a good time and prove that hypnosis works. And those that want to go up and prove that it doesn’t work. Then they do a screening and of course, those who want to prove that it doesn’t work that don’t get selected. Because they don’t go into trance because they haven’t consented to it. So then they go off and on ones that want to participate, will stay behind.
I saw a stage hypnotist and on the show was an Ex-Miss South Africa. And she said to the hypnotist, I just don’t want to look foolish. I’ll do anything but don’t make a fool out of me. He smiled and nodded then winked at the audience. When she was deeply in trance, we can see when a person’s deeply in trance certain physiological things that happen that a person can’t do on purpose that are are spontaneous things.
So you can see she was deeply in trance. Then he said to her “Right, you are world famous opera singer. And everybody here is here to hear you sing your best aria now go ahead and sing it”. She simply shook her head slowly from side to side and said, “No”. So she didn’t want to do that. She didn’t want to be made to look foolish. And so she said, Nope.
So you cannot make a person do something under hypnosis that they don’t want to do. And you cannot make somebody believe something under hypnosis that they don’t want to believe. Or that their subconscious does not believe is in the best interest of the system. Because the subconscious is always looking after you to protect you. That’s why if you’re sleeping and you smell smoke, you will wake up or you hear a loud sound when you’re sleeping, you wake up because your subconscious is always looking after you. And it’s the very same in hypnosis.
So to answer your question, stage hypnotism is real. But it relies on those same things, communication concerns, and freedom from fear. And the people that cluck like a chicken to bite into the onion, want to have that experience. They want to bypass the critical faculty and have a selected experience that is something different and have a good laugh.
How did hypnotherapy become a part of health care.
Freud himself, he was actually very bad at hypnosis. So he and his friends went down to the hypnosis school in the south of France against their supervisors’ wishes. And he tried to learn hypnosis and he was very bad at it. Freud couldn’t do it, it would take him almost an hour and a half to induce even a light trance. And so that was when psychology once again said no to hypnosis because Freud was bad at it.
So he developed his free association technique as compensation for not being able to do hypnosis. This is actually a kind of hypnosis but he didn’t do the rapid induction. And hypnosis then fell by the wayside again. It was brought up again in the 1950s and 60s and yes, exactly like you say new and fringe and because it wasn’t well understood, it was seen as almost quackery.
What is the difference between a hypnotist and a mentalist.
So mentalists typically use a branch of hypnosis called neurolinguistic programming. I’m not an expert on. But it is all down to the language that you use, in our frame of reference, we call it your semantics. So it is all down to the language that you use. And we see very good mentalists like Darren Brown, who do absolutely incredible things. But the thing is for a mentalist and sometimes coaches use neurolinguistic programming. And it would, it would be the difference would be what would be the purpose.
So for a coach using NLP, or a psychologist using hypnotherapy, the agenda would be to alleviate presenting complaints and reach therapeutic goals. Whereas for a mentalist it might be more for entertainment, research, neuroscience or evidence purposes. So I’d say that the difference really is actually only down to the agenda and the purpose. Whereas actually, the neurophysiological, and the neurocognitive processes might be very, very similar to one another, just different ways. My GPS might say, go on the highway, whereas the mentalist’s GPS might say, take the back routes, because the highway is congested, for whatever reason. It’s just different routes for different objectives, but also going into the same pattern of brainwaves. Bypassing the critical faculty for selective thinking.
So Hypnotherapy makes the subconscious changes that the conscious mind cannot.
Absolutely and my mentor who trained me in hypnosis is doctor Warrick Fipps, who is an incredible hypnotherapist. Warrick actually says that all therapy is hypnotherapy. You might be using rapid induction, or you might be using CBT. Maybe you are using brain spotting or narrative therapy. But the definition of hypnosis is that it’s a frame of mind, in which you bypass the critical faculty for selective thinking. And we see that in absolutely every single form of therapy.
Let’s say, there’s something that I want to change. And if it was something that the person could consciously change, they would have changed it. They wouldn’t need to come to therapy. So it’s something sitting in the subconscious. And we work insurrectionary. So we say what happens in the subconscious is the result of events in the interactional field, and gets perpetuated by events in the interactional field. So that’s our punctuation, that it all sits in a subconscious. And if the person could change it consciously they would.
So you have to bypass the conscious mind, you have to go past the conscious mind and talk directly to the subconscious. Now, in psychodynamics that might be through analysis, in person-centred therapy, that is when the person becomes emotional, and brain spotting that is when the person gets into the particular pattern of brainwaves by looking at the pointer. At those times, there is a bypass of the critical faculty where the subconscious is now open to suggestions and suggestions for selective thinking. A new way of programming and updates of the schemas that lead to more effective functioning. and that’s applicable to all forms of therapy.
Now it can be through hypnosis. As I said, it can also be through using metaphor. So when you tell your clients a story or use a metaphor. It is also when your clients is emotional. It’s also when you use experiential therapies like animals in psychotherapy, or when you play. I like to use sometimes games in my sessions with my client, to demonstrate a metaphor that I’m wanting to put across as an option for selective thinking to the subconscious. So in all kinds of therapy, there is this state of mind, there’s something that that I need to change. I can’t do it consciously. Bypass of the conscious mind for selective thinking and rapid induction hypnosis is just a very acute and direct version of that.
Your subconscious is like a computer in sleep mode.
Exactly the subconscious and the unconscious are always working to keep you safe. So the unconscious being for physical well being, the subconscious being for emotional well being relational well being and emotional safety they are always on, it’s only the conscious mind that switches off. And in hypnosis, we do not switch the conscious mind off, it is not sleep. It is easier to access a pattern of brainwaves with your eyes closed and your body still, but it is not sleep.
And back in the day of the 1950s and 60s, when stage hypnotism was a very popular form of entertainment, people looked like they got stuck in hypnosis or fell asleep. But they actually didn’t actually instance a very deep state of trance. Which is just so lovely, so blissful and so therapeutic, that they kept pressing the snooze button. Every time a therapist or hypnotist wanted to bring them out. They said no thanks because it was just so nice.
So in hypnosis, we don’t switch off the conscious mind. Not like when you sleep, the conscious mind switches off, to decompress and get rid of what it doesn’t need to rest, recharge, restore. But the subconscious and the unconscious are always working. That’s why you keep breathing when you’re sleeping. Your endocrine system keeps working when you’re sleeping. And your subconscious is also constantly keeping you safe, which is why you dream when you’re sleeping. Because your subconscious is working to process information, the relational field processes the emotional world in order to integrate these rules about how to keep yourself safe in your relationships, which we call schemas.
What risks are there to hypnotherapy.
So the risks of hypnosis would be that it doesn’t work and you waste your time and your money. And then also, you know, doing something like self-hypnosis by yourself if it’s uncontained. Or going to a hypnotherapist that doesn’t understand the oversaturation of the central nervous system. And in trying to put a person into hypnosis, they can have an adverse reaction. I usually only see this in other kinds of brain-based therapy. I’ve never had this in hypnosis.
I like to think of hypnosis as like the hand beater that beats the cream by hand and it never over beats it. Whereas sometimes the brain-based therapies are like an electric beater and the neurofeedback is like the cement mixer. And those you actually have to first make sure that there’s enough space, if you think about, if you beat something with an electric beater, you have to make sure there’s enough space so it doesn’t spill over. But those would be the only real risks of hypnosis that you waste your time and money.
And then obviously, things like false memories, so to go to somebody that knows what they’re doing in terms of their posthypnotic suggestions or working with regression analysis. And also if you’ve got a very overstimulated or over-saturated central nervous system that the therapist knows firsthand to ground and contain a central nervous system before trying to do any work with it. But I think that would go for any kind of brain-based therapy and hypnotherapy is a brain-based therapy.
So the first one is that it has to be as if it is happening now. So I eat less exercise more I lose weight easily. Okay, you can hear which is my favorite one to do when the Christmas pants feeling a little bit tight. Is that exercise more I lose weight easily. Okay, so it has to be realistic. Not wake up in the morning. 10 kilograms lighter, okay, so it has to be realistic. It has to be something that your subconscious will buy. Okay?
Not I don’t want to smoke any more. It can be I am confident and confideny in social settings and enjoy engaging with people. Okay, smoking is something that helps you with social anxiety. So it’d be something like that. And it has to be said at least 15 times, it has to be at certain times. Like when you are running on a treadmill, not when you’re running on the road so much were you paying attention to other things or just before you go to sleep at night. Or when you are listening to bilateral music, or when you’ve done a self hypnosis trance at times like that.
The technical criteria is that it has to be happening now. It has to be something that is going to happen, that is positive, so happening rather than not happening. So not stop feeling self conscious in public more, I feel confident and relaxed when I’m with people. And it has to be plausible for the subconscious. Okay, the subconscious not not stupid, it has to be plausible.
Not so much a technical aspect, but it also has to be a little bit rhythmic. There has to be a little bit of rhythm to it, that you lose exercise more, I lose weight easily. I create healing within myself, in every day in every way I am better and better. If we look at that every day, and everywhere, I am better and better. What was that guy’s name, Emil KU, who said that every day and everywhere, he said, I am getting better and better.
But we understand in hypnosis, you have to say in every day in every way I am better and better, I create safety within myself, I love and accept myself. So there’s a little bit of a rhythm to it. And then it actually helps your subconscious get into that pattern of brainwaves as you are giving that suggestion, because the suggestion creates bypass of the critical faculty, as much as the critical faculty creates opportunity for selected thinking. And so having a little bit of a rhythm to it actually helps it go deeper and even quicker.
To listen to the podcast with Jeanie Cave on hypnotherapy click here