To use hypnosis successfully one must have a proper understanding of the subject without any of the common misconceptions. We quote from the booklet, “What Every Subject Should Know About Hypnosis and Self-Hypnosis,” by David A. Gouch, M.D. and Garland H. Fross, D.D.S.: A clear definition of hypnosis is difficult to obtain, primarily because no one really knows for certain what goes on inside a person’s head when he is in hypnosis. But without delving into technical verbiage, these are some of the facts that we do know about the hypnotic state: Our minds work on two levels–consciously and subconsciously. We use our conscious minds as we go about our day-to-day business. We make decisions, we perform physical actions, we think, and so on with our conscious mind. Our subconscious mind, on the other hand, handles the bodily functions we don’t have to think about, such as heartbeat, breathing, elimination, blinking our eyes, feeling pain, etc. It also handles our habits–the actions which are largely under voluntary control, but which we do without thinking. It is the subconscious mind that comes into play when hypnosis takes place. When a person is hypnotized, his conscious mind is somewhat subdued. It is not asleep at all, but merely less interested in what is happening. This allows the subconscious to become a little more active. When a hypnotist talks to a person who is in hypnosis, the subconscious mind more readily accepts what it is told and governs the body accordingly. If the hypnotist tells a person’s subconscious mind that the heartbeat is increasing, that part of the mind accepts the suggestion uncritically and the heartbeat may begin to speed up. If the hypnotist tells a subject that all of the feeling has left his hand, the subject may feel nothing when pinched. In simple terms, hypnosis is merely a state of increased suggestibility a state in which we are more likely to be able to accept the suggestions of another person than we are without the condition of hypnosis. “Can I be hypnotized?” is one of the most common questions asked of hypnotists. Generally speaking, every normal person is hypnotizable that is, persons with an I.Q. of at least 70 who have no severe mental disorders. Actually each of us passes through a brief hypnotic state every day: just before falling asleep at night and upon awakening in the morning. Also, television advertisers attempt to capitalize on our suggestibility through the use of repetition and rhythm–two of the components used in the induction of hypnosis. So, hypnosis is not alien to our lives at all. It is a natural state and a very comfortable one. And hypnosis is not “only for weak-minded persons” as some people assume. In fact, strong-willed, more intelligent persons are usually the better subjects. All of us are suggestible in varying degrees. Studies have shown that about twenty percent of the population is capable of achieving a light degree of hypnosis, about sixty percent achieve medium hypnosis, and twenty percent can reach the deepest states. For most conditions that can be helped with hypnosis, only a light to medium state is required. So don’t be too concerned about how deeply you go into hypnosis. Although nearly everyone is hypnotizable, some people do not allow themselves to go into hypnosis. You cannot be hypnotized if you do not wish to be, and if you resist in any way hypnosis will not occur. Some persons resist going into hypnosis because of fears about the hypnotic state itself. They may be afraid they will never awaken, for example, or say things they would rather not say. Although these things do not happen (and they will be discussed later), a person’s concern about them will keep him from being hypnotized. You are not asleep or unconscious when in hypnosis. Most persons new to hypnosis expect to go into some kind of “trance” from which they will awaken remembering nothing. This is a myth that has been perpetuated for many years by stage hypnotists, movies and stories. When you are in hypnosis, even in the deepest stages, you always hear the hypnotist’s voice and may hear other sounds around you as well, such as the ticking of a clock, cars driving by outside, or voices in the next room. These sounds probably will seem rather unimportant to you and will not disturb you, but you will hear them nonetheless. You may not “feel” hypnotized at all. In fact, most people cannot tell the difference between a hypnotized state and a “waking” state, and will insist that hypnosis did not occur when it most definitely did. There is no “hypnotized feeling,” so you will not know for certain whether or not you are in hypnosis unless certain subjective indications are pointed out to you by the hypnotist. Some people find that they feel relaxed and lethargic when in hypnosis, for example. Others have tingling feelings in their fingers; others feel detached, and so on. Also, expert hypnotists have ways of knowing and proving that hypnosis exists in a subject, and may administer certain “tests” when they feel that it is necessary. Hypnosis is safe. A hypnotized person will do nothing that he or she would not agree to do through other methods of persuasion. A subject can hear the hypnotist at all times and will not accept a suggestion if he does not wish to. A subject will not answer any question that he does not wish to answer. The subconscious mind contains certain “safeguards” that will not let you do anything or accept any suggestion that may be damaging to you. And you cannot remain in hypnosis for more than a few minutes without the presence of the hypnotist. Therefore, no one has ever been “stuck” in hypnosis. If left alone, a subject will awaken on his own after a few minutes or simply fall into a natural sleep from which he will awaken normally. Contrary to many second- and third-hand stories that have even found their way into print, hypnosis has never caused anyone to become mentally ill, has never forced a person into performing an immoral or illegal act he strongly did not wish to perform, and has never turned anyone into a “zombie” who must carry out every command of the hypnotist. The induction of hypnosis takes many forms. Usually the hypnotist simply talks to you while you look at a spot on the wall or possibly at a revolving disc. Or you may merely sit comfortably with your eyes closed while the hypnotist helps you to relax completely, and gradually you merge into a state of hypnosis. In any event, you will not be given any drugs unless the hypnotist is a physician or psychiatrist who feels that a relaxing agent may be of help. Do not accept drugs from anyone other than these two kinds of practitioners. Post-hypnotic suggestions are suggestions given by the hypnotist that will remain in effect after the subject emerges from the hypnotic state. A hypnotist might suggest to a subject, for example, that later, when she sits in the dentist’s chair and taps her jaw twice, her jaw will become numb. That suggestion will hold over until she activates it by tapping her jaw. Other suggestions are more general. A suggestion to an overweight subject, for example, might be that he will find it easier and easier every day to stay on his doctor’s diet. With repeated sessions and with the reinforcement of self-hypnosis, the subconscious mind will begin to accept the suggestion and will help the body to react accordingly. Self-hypnosis is a condition in which you can “program” your own subconscious mind, and this ability probably will be taught to you by your hypnotist. With the use of self-hypnosis, you will be able to continue programming yourself for the results you want, and the results will come more quickly. Self-hypnosis differs from meditation in that during self-hypnosis the subconscious mind is in a state of activity–awake, accepting and digesting the specific suggestions that are being fed into it. Although meditation provides a very comfortable and relaxed state, the subconscious mind is in a state of relative inactivity and is too passive to digest the suggestions one might give himself. Self-hypnosis is very effective and for all practical purposes completely safe. It can be done quickly and easily, and the hypnotic state can be terminated at any time. The main function of hypnosis is to facilitate communication with, and the re-programming of, the subconscious mind. At this point you might say to yourself, “Why can I not just employ will power to end my bad habit?” Harry Arons answers this question as follows: The trouble with the use of will-power in breaking any habit: it leaves one enervated and limp, so that the habit can take an even more tenacious hold. With hypnosis, use of the will is unnecessary. A hypnotized person is in a “subconscious” state, with his conscious, critical faculties in abeyance. With the autonomic (self-regulating) system in control the imagination (rather than the will) is stimulated to appropriate action. The result is an involuntary–and therefore effortless–response; the subject loses his desire for smoking almost without knowing how or why it is happening. Suggested Reading The online bookstore of the National Guild of Hypnotists has a nice selection of competently written books and competently authored audio and video tape recordings, CDs and DVDs concerning hypnosis. Contact: www.ngh.net (603) 429-9438

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