What happens in hypnosis?

What happens in hypnosis?

22 April 2016: Adding a blog to the site – finally! I dedicate this first entry to the most fundamental questions of what is hypnosis and what happens in a hypnotherapy session? Well, what is it not? Hypnosis is not a quick fix. Hypnosis is not magic. Forget what you have seen on TV or in stage shows: some hypnotic techniques are being employed, yes, but a lot of what you see are sleight of hand and illusionist tricks. And a lot of it is based on compliance – participants playing along to fulfil audience expectations or to please the celebrity hypnotist. A lot of work and skills are flowing into these shows, so I see why they can have great entertainment value. However they distort the perception of what is possible through hypnosis and many people get a wrong idea about how hypnosis works in a therapeutic context.

Hypnosis can be very powerful. It can be life-changing. But for it to have the desired impact you have to actively participate in the process. No hypnotist can force you to do anything you don't want to do. You can decide whether to accept or disregard or amend any suggestion a hypnotherapist is giving you. Hypnotherapists are not like surgeons of the mind: opening it, operating and fixing it. To follow the analogy we could be more compared to physiotherapists: examining the client's functioning needs, looking at the affect of unhelpful cognitive or behavioural 'posture', spotting misalignments and helping the client to correct these. We are prescribing exercises which help to maximise strengths, eliminate bad habits and put minimal strain on weaker areas. And as with physiotherapy, the more you put in, the more you get out. Meaning: your success will increase if you follow up with self-hypnosis and exercises between sessions.

Another misconception is that you will be unconscious or knocked out during hypnosis. On the contrary: most likely you will be fully aware of what's happening and what is being said. Most likely you will be able to remember everything afterwards. Quite importantly so, because we want to work with your mind to facilitate therapeutic change. You will be alert – although relaxed – and I will guide your attention away from your surroundings, your immediate realities and concerns. I will direct your focus to inner experiences such as thoughts, feelings and imagery. Jointly we will create alterations in your sensations, perceptions, feelings and thoughts by directing them to imagine events or situations which, would they occur in reality, would bring about the desired change.

This is the more powerful the more you go along with it and adapt your self-talk, your inner visualisations as well as your sensorimotor thinking. The sensorimotor thinking is a process that is difficult to describe as it is non-verbal, sensual and comprises of intuitive acts of your entire physical system. It involves your muscles, glands and entire organism, flowing and shifting as your body is undertaking all the subtle activities comprised in the actual experience or situation which you are representing to yourself. Your body feels how it would feel to actually be in that situation. It is very important to try and really experience the scenarios we are working on with all your senses, as if they were really happening. It is this felt “rehearsal” in your mind (and body!) that will bring about the most powerful change.

Imaginations and feelings will always overrule willpower. Just with pure willpower you will never achieve as much. Most of us have tried to force ourselves to do something, with limited success. Often it backfires and actually makes relative simple tasks feel like insurmountable challenges. Trying to simply force ourselves creates all sorts of double-binds and can lead to endless internal struggle, to procrastination and avoidance. Similarly ineffective, but probably less contra-productive, are generic affirmations, half-heartedly rattled off. However, if we create the actual felt experiences internally and rehears them until they become automated, then there's a great chance they will turn into our spontaneous tendencies and become habitual behaviours in our real lives.

That's hypnosis! And I am still excited about the changes it can make possible in clients and in myself.

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