In order to understand what hypnotherapy is and how it facilitates long lasting change, we must first attempt to understand what hypnosis is and what it works on. The brain and the mind (not all people believe these are one and the same) have been analyzed and described using various sets of scientific and colloquial buzzwords, i.e., conscious and subconscious; left and right; front and rear, etc. Physically, the brain has divisions and classifications, and experiments have led to association of certain functions to certain physical locations.
Does hypnosis work on the brain or the mind, and which part? These questions and more like them are debated without end. Fortunately, there is a common ground for agreement that is measurable by machine, the self, and observers through definable feedback. The brain emits frequencies that have been charted and fairly well agreed upon. These frequencies are from 0 to 60. The different groups of frequencies have been given names and associated thought pattern characteristics as follows:
0 - 4 delta: total unconsciousness
4 - 7 theta: very relaxed, suggestive
7-14 alpha: relaxed, suggestive
15-20 beta: normal consciousness, analytical
21-60 beta: active to hysterical
What is generally agreed upon, although the terminology varies, is that the slower the brain wave frequency, the more relaxed the person becomes and with it a fuller use and ability of the creative portion of the mind. This occurs at the Alpha range down into Theta. If a person can enter into the Alpha state, he or she can better condition, or more importantly, re-condition his or her mind in a creative sense and alter perceptions and increase inherent abilities.
Is it difficult to enter the Alpha state of mind? The fact is everyone is in this state at one time or another throughout the day. Boredom produces it. So does daydreaming, a relaxing moment, deep breathing, a temporary loss of equilibrium, meditative techniques, yoga, martial arts, doing something with a passion, and many more. Any one can enter the Alpha state of mind. You don't have to be intelligent or in any way special.
Hypnosis is the altering of one's own brain frequency to achieve at least the Alpha state with the guidance of an operator or facilitator (the hypnotherapist) in order to receive positive suggestions to this now alert creative mind often referred to as the sub-conscious or Inner Mind™.
The ability to receive positive suggestions and to act upon them is improved in the Alpha state, although suggestibility can and does occur to some extent in the Beta state. But although you might enter an Alpha state of mind through meditation or other similar modality it is difficult to give oneself positive or constructive suggestions for change without re-triggering the beta state of mind with its analytical blocking mechanisms. Even if a person can give meaningful suggestions to oneself, his or her ability at receiving positive suggestions and enabling them might be deficient.
There are two main areas of suggestibility: receiving and blocking. We can receive or accept a suggestion or block or resist it. Sometimes we resist it so successively; we don't even know it was made. Likewise we can be so receptive, we think and act on a suggestion we only think was made, when in fact no suggestion was actively or consciously made.
In addition there are two categories or qualities of suggestion: positive, ones that will help us to improve, and negative, ones that will prove detrimental to our ultimate potential. These four factors reveal the following behavioral characteristics:
Depending upon our imposed or learned concept of self (either for good or bad) we have developed one or more these abilities. The inherent skill of resisting negative suggestions in our lives is different from that of opening up to positive suggestions. In fact, we spend much of our time, because of a sensed need for protection, developing the skill of resisting what we feel to be negative suggestion.
Unfortunately, this very ability is learned in an indiscriminate way that also allows us to block the reception of messages and suggestions for positive change. Fortunately, the ability to receive positive suggestions can be developed, while the blocking mind is properly adjusted through the use of re-education and hypnotherapy. Re-education includes restoring one?s sense of perception back to a truer sense of reality. In our need for self-protection and the ever changing complexities of our environment, we may have established within ourselves, unrealistic expectations, goals, and thought associations. These would distort our inner mechanisms for correctly receiving and blocking suggestions.
The obstacle here is the analytical mind and its evolved blocking mechanism. This is the part of us that is skeptical and resists change. It is the chatter in the back of the mind. It is the barrier we cannot quite see over, no matter our effort. It is the thoughts imposed on us as we grow and that we maintain in order to find comfort in a fixed definition of ourselves to gain a feeling of security. How many times have you said ?If only...?. If only you could stop the chatter, the endless dialogue in your mind telling you all the reasons why you can?t, why you shouldn?t. Or worse, there is no active dialogue; the resistance is locked deep beneath your conscious level, in a place where you have been repeatedly told that you cannot reach. If only you could. Some day, you say. This resistance can be overcome by oneself through perseverance, patience and diligent practice, but it can take a while. Unfortunately many people lose patience before they see any real results. Hypnotherapy facilitates this positive change at a much faster rate and with longer lasting results.
Therapy: Techniques for Lasting Change
Depending upon the situation many tested therapeutic techniques are used by the hypnotherapist. Five very common and successful techniques used when the person is under hypnosis are desensitization, creative visualization, guided imagery, anchoring, and auto-hypnosis.
Desensitization involves helping the person to put their feelings into meaningful control. Often times a person becomes over-sensitized; his responsive feeling to a stimulus is out of proportion with it or does not sufficiently fade when the stimulus is removed. Desensitization is the method used for restoring a balance between cause and proper effect. This allows the person to learn to grant and receive permission for one to change.
Creative visualization consists of the Inner Mind rehearsing one's new choice of interaction. Imagine allowing your Inner Mind to see yourself dancing under hypnosis. The moves are clear, precise, and everything you visualize along with its perfection goes into a part of your memory, where you can draw upon it permanently even when you are no longer in hypnosis. You will be able to perform these movements as if you practiced them physically for years, even while under pressure of the game. You will then learn the real meaning of spontaneity. Hypnotherapy enhances this effect and reduces the amount of time necessary to see results. This is important, because once results are experienced a person becomes more excited about participating. Four of the ingredients to any behavior modification are anticipation, participation, excitement, and acceptance.
Often on TV we see the high jumper staring at the path of his approach to the high bar, moving his head back and forth, his arms slightly pumping, and finally his head jerking up at the moment of approach as if he were actually jumping. We see the baseball pitcher staring down the path from the mound to home plate, seeing more than the signal from the catcher. We can almost see in his eyes the reflection of the ball as it travels through the air; the perfect curve ball or break-away pitch.
For as they see it, so it happens. What the Inner Mind sees, understands, and believes is manifested into subsequent and immediate actions of the body. This is true for both physical activities and mental skills.
Actors practice their monologues in front of the mirror to practice their faces and their lines in order to blend them together into one action. If they were to also visualize themselves performing in the theater, their effort would be rewarded many times over, because not only would they see the audience?s faces and practice their words, they would solidify their performance with the energy of the audience. Not only would they lessen their fear in this way, they would also enliven the real performance. Their connection with the audience would be a more real, more sincere, and most of all more believable. Finally, if they further visualized making the normal mistakes actors sometimes do and watched these mistakes corrected, they would truly gain an internal calm and power that would make them remarkable.
Guided Imagery, while similar to creative visualization, uses all five senses, not only the visual, and develops the memory picture with the aid of a story. The hypnotherapist takes the person on a guided journey developing the use of all five senses, with a detailed and developed story with the person as the main character, developing his or her sense of positive expected outcome. Symbolism and imagery are highly used.
During the session, the hypnotherapist anchors the results and feelings of all positive acceptance to positive suggestions with some physical gesture by the person in hypnosis. Auto-hypnosis then is the utilization of the sum results of the positive anchoring during the hypnotherapy session. The person in hypnosis is given a trigger by which he or she can instantly activate the positive state of mind and new responsive feelings acquired under hypnosis after the hypnosis session ends.
The positive changes that were developed under hypnosis remain with the person after hypnosis ends and can be fully retrieved with auto-hypnosis while a person is in the beta mind.
One Approach: The Inner Mind Potential
It has been my experience that the inner mind with its memory of unscathed full potential is lying in expectant waiting and is fully awakened to consciousness through a state of hypnosis. The analytical mind is temporarily suspended (like suspended disbelief when you are watching a sci-fi movie) while the creative part of the mind is enhanced and alert. The positive messages you want to send and receive become very powerful. What the person asks for and allows to be, now goes immediately into that portion of the memory that the motor control sections of the brain use to cause physical motions. You can literally change the remembered behavior of the body for both physical actions as well as verbal skills, such as communication, negotiations, speeches or even acting.
It is felt by many that through your learned experiences you map yourself; more or less set up preconditioned responses to future stimuli. And many feel that once this map is created, they are stuck with it forever. This is not true! The potential you were born with is never lost; just covered over with a more immediate map, a map that can be removed or by-passed; re-mapped.
The inner mind is very powerful and can be rediscovered and redeveloped by anyone.
The hypnotherapist therefore has three initial tasks in performing hypnosis:
1. to help the client achieve the Alpha state or deeper2. to educate and help the client to increase positive suggestibility while decreasing the cross-over blocking effects of negative suggestibility3. to give the person positive suggestions for change.
The final factor to consider is the difference between a hypnotist and a hypnotherapist. While both perform the first three functions: inducing the Alpha state, developing proper suggestibility, and making positive suggestions, the hypnotherapist uses therapeutic techniques to acquire permanent, positive change in order to allow the client to properly alter perception and to enable patterns of constructive thinking and action. Repeatedly telling someone over and over to change, even in hypnosis, only effects a temporary change at best.
The awakening of the inner mind under hypnosis with techniques to allow permanent and continuing growth after hypnosis allows a person to enjoy his or her full human potential both in sports and in interaction with others. From this comes confidence, self-esteem, and motivation. What a great gift to give yourself!