‘Fake News’ Gives Hypnosis a Bad Name

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If the sorry state of today’s mainstream media isn’t enough to convince you of the death of journalism and the rise of “fake news,” consider a story that appeared online in a publication called The Press.
The headline of this piece seems to say it all: “Former church leader who used hypnosis on boys faces jail for abuse.”  Since many people won’t even bother to read more than the headline of this alleged story, the message will be clear–church leaders are using hypnosis to lure young boys into who-knows-what-kind of awful acts.  And once again, hypnosis is cast as the villain (along with Christians, for good measure).
But let’s take a closer look at the alleged story.  It seems a retired Methodist minister will be jailed after he was convicted of using hypnosis on four boys in Great Britain and then sexually abusing them.  No matter what your opinion of hypnosis or Methodists, obviously such behavior cannot be condoned.
But wait!  There is a valuable piece of information that is not reflected in the headline, nor in the first nine paragraphs of this story.  To wit, buried in the 10th paragraph (in other words, way down there) is the statement that not one of the victims said they were actually hypnotized, “but they froze in surprise and horror at what the respected church leader was doing.”  .
So, there was no hypnosis here, at least no effective hypnosis.  This leads us to the startling conclusion that the boys were NOT hypnotized into committing deviant acts.  Yet if one reads only the headline and the first nine paragraphs of this smear job, one would get the mistaken impression that it was the evil influence of hypnosis that was to blame.
Why would any legitimate media outlet write a story in such an irresponsible way?  The answer is simple: without the bugaboo of hypnosis, there isn’t much of a story.  As it is, however, the fundamentally dishonest way in which this story is written (in order to achieve an agenda) is the very essence of “fake news.”
Don’t let the fear-mongering and dishonesty of such media outlets fool you.  Hypnosis continues to be a valuable clinical application that brings health and healing to millions.  .

Home-Based Hypnotherapy: A Good Idea?

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Today I ran across an interesting article entitled: “Home-Based Hypnotherapy Helps Kids. with IBS.” The subtitle reads: “Non-inferior to individualized hypnotherapy with a therapist.”
The gist of the piece is that a study was done in which kids treated via hypnosis for IBS and related problems using a CD at home were reported to do “as well” as those who actually visited the office of a hypnotherapist for their sessions.  While that may seem like hopeful news for those who would rather do their hypnosis at home, it begs a number of questions and omits a number of details.
First and foremost, what was on those CDs?  A reading of the fuller journal article tells us that kids used the CD to do “exercises” and that they did so five times per week for three months, but gives no clue as to the content of the CDs or what was involved in the exercises.  One would hope that the CDs were prepared by competent and certified hypnotherapists, but this is not stated.
Another issue is that the kids who got live hypnotherapy only received 6 sessions over the three months (versus the estimated 60 or more sessions on CD for the other group over the same period of time).  Thus, the CD treatment modality involved significantly more exposure to the presumably positive hypnosis suggestions that led to some success.
And success is yet another key factor here.  According to the study, “After 1-year follow-up, the 62.1% treatment success in the CD group was non-inferior to the 71.0% in the iHT group.”  Obviously 62 percent success IS inferior to the 71 percent success rate of the live hypnotherapy group, but statistically, it was judged to be “non-inferior.”  When we consider, however, that the CD group had many more exposures to what was ostensibly the same material, the CD success rate should, in fact, have been much higher than that of the live group.
If anything, this study demonstrates the far greater effectiveness of the live model. 
This is not to say, however, that listening to CDs at home is not helpful.  In fact, when we at 10:10 Hypnotherapy and Counseling do a hypnosis session, it is usually recorded and sent home with the patient on CD to allow listening in between sessions.  This amplifies the positive messages of the session and increases the chances of success.
The bottom line is that the best chance of success in your hypnotherapy is achieved when you are in session with a qualified professional who may or may not send home a CD with you in order to strengthen the already powerful positive suggestions in your live sessions.
Do you have an opinion on this topic?  If so, let us know!

Can Hypnosis Help Your Golf Swing?

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Much of what we do in clinical hypnotherapy involves making changes in order to bring health and healing to our clients, but hypnotherapy has another use that brings smiles to the faces of many–as an aid in enhancing sports performance.
Much of what goes on in playing any sport involves what is going on between your ears.  Golf is a perfect example of this.  It is not unusual for a professional golfer to be disturbed during his or her swing by a noise–however innocent–from the gallery.  With potentially millions of dollars riding on each swing of the club, such a disturbance (and the resulting mis-hit) may be significant indeed.  Even for the everyday golfer–or tennis player, swimmer, volleyball player, baseball player, footballer, etc.–the mental game is a key aspect of success.  The best players are not only physically gifted; they also have a handle on the mental side of things, knowing that having the right mindset is critical to success.
There are many things that can interfere with the mindset in sports performance.  Some of these are exterior to the individual–an inopportune noise, a stiff wind, rainy conditions, or anything that distracts the performer from her or his task.  Many more such factors are already inside the mind–negative thoughts, distracting thoughts, emotional upset, fears, and insecurities.  It is these distractions in particular that respond well to hypnotherapy by a trained and certified hypnotherapist.  In many cases the distracting thoughts are obvious, but in just as many the problem may not lie on the surface, but in the subconscious mind of the individual who must perform.  Again, the hypnotherapist is skilled at uncovering such thoughts.
Do you suffer from a performance difficulty?  Hypnotherapy is especially effective in dealing with distracting or disturbing thoughts that may hamper performance.  It can also help you sharpen focus for those times when intense focus is required.  If you’re stuck performance-wise–or you know someone who is–call us today for a free phone consultation.  We stand ready to help!  904-347-5677 or ara@10-10hypnosis.com.  

When Hypnotherapy DOESN’T Work

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Hypnotherapy is a psychological treatment modality that seeks to mobilize the patient’s own subconscious mind in order to accomplish a therapeutic goal that is agreed upon by patient and therapist.  Like any other treatment modality, however, it is not successful 100 percent of the time.
This is not surprising.  When you visit your physician and he or she writes a prescription, there is never a guarantee that said prescription will work as desired, even if it is effective for most people.  As physicians know very well, different treatments work for different people.  So, when hypnosis, a tried and true method of making behavioral and emotional changes, fails to deliver, what is the problem?
The best answer is that the hypnotherapy treatment does not work because the patient does not want it to work.  How can this be?  As an example, a patient came to me wanting to start eating healthy and losing weight.  Over our first few sessions, he seemed to do very well, reporting modest weight loss each week, along with increased relaxation and a general feeling of good health.  Then the weight loss suddenly stopped, and the other benefits were lost as well.  What caused the change?  It seems that the man’s wife, who did all the cooking, was offended that her husband was eating less at every meal and even leaving food on the plate.  So, in order to spare his wife’s feelings, the man reverted to his former unhealthy eating patterns, which resulted in a halt to his progress.
We see this reluctance to allow the hypnotherapy process to work in habitual smokers as well.  While they profess to want to quit this deadly habit, sometimes they are only going through hypnotherapy in order to prove that it won’t work, which will allow them to continue.  Again, they do not want the hypnotherapy to be successful. 
In my clinical experience, this lack of desire for success accounts for most of the cases in which hypnosis fails or is not as effective as hoped.  That said, there are also some individuals who, for whatever reason, are not responsive to hypnotherapy as a treatment–just as they might not be responsive to a particular drug prescribed by their physician.  There will always be individual differences.
The good news is that for such patients, more straightforward counseling may accomplish what hypnosis cannot.  The mind is a wonderful instrument, but each mind is different in terms of how it responds to a treatment.  We may never know exactly why this is so.  Only our Creator has the final answers.

Hypnosis and the Bible

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Much has been said about the practice of hypnosis as it relates to spirituality, but very little of it has been positive.  Based on fear and superstition–and a healthy dose of mischaracterization from movies and other media–some have even come to regard hypnosis as a “tool of the devil.” Yet the Bible tells quite a different story.

While the word “hypnosis” did not exist in ancient times, the Bible does make reference to a “trance.”  In fact, the word is used several times, most notably in the following text from Acts.

On the next day, as they were on their way and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the [f]sixth hour to pray. 10 But he became hungry and was desiring to eat; but while they were making preparations, he fell into a trance; 11 and he *saw the [g]sky opened up, and an [h]object like a great sheet coming down, lowered by four corners to the ground, 12 and there were in it all kinds of four-footed animals and [i]crawling creatures of the earth and birds of the [j]air. 13 A voice came to him, “Get up, Peter, [k]kill and eat!” 14 But Peter said, “By no means, Lord, for I have never eaten anything [l]unholy and unclean.” 15 Again a voice came to him a second time, “What God has cleansed, no longer consider [m]unholy.” 16 This happened three times, and immediately the [n]object was taken up into the [o]sky. [NASB]

In this context, clearly it is God himself who puts Peter into a trance in order to reassure him about what is permitted to eat.  No one would suggest there is anything demonic in this.  Next we have another quotation from ACTS.

17 “It happened when I returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, that I fell into a trance, 18 and I saw Him saying to me, ‘Make haste, and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony about Me.’ [NASB]

Again, we see the Lord using a trance to pass on vital knowledge.  In fact, nowhere in Scripture is the trance associated with evil.  So, the next time someone questions the value of hypnosis on a spiritual basis, feel free to direct them to the Book of Acts!

Hypnosis Q&A: Can Hypnosis Really Recover Lost Memories?

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The answer to this question depends on what kinds of memories we are talking about.
For example, one of the most controversial uses of hypnosis has been in the so-called recovery of “suppressed memories” of traumatic events.
There was a time not so long ago when it was believed that the subconscious mind records an exact record of everything that happens to a person, and that if hypnosis could tap this record, even long-lost memories could be recovered.  This technique has been famously used to allegedly help victims of psychological and physical trauma to recover memories of what was done to them long in the past, and by whom it was done.  The idea is that the memory has been suppressed by the unconscious mind because it is too painful for the conscious mind to deal with.
Unfortunately, this way of recovering “memories” rests on a false premise: namely that what the unconscious mind records is an exact record of what went on–similar to a video recording.  Research has shown, however, that this is simply not so.  What the mind remembers is its own “story” of what happened, and this story–told by an individual to himself or herself–has many contributing factors, such as the emotional state of the individual at the time of the event, the ability of the individual at that time to understand what was happening, the influence of those attempting to recover the memory, and the desire of the individual to change the story to make himself or herself appear more heroic or blameless.  Readers interested in this subject should consult Elizabeth Loftus’ groundbreaking work “The Myth of Repressed Memory.”
The key point is that what is “recovered” could certainly be tainted by a number of factors to the point that it is far from a factual representation of any situation remembered.  I have yet to see any convincing evidence that exact memories of past events can be extracted by hypnosis, but I have seen that an individual’s feelings about such events can be uncovered by reliving the the events under hypnotherapy.  This can be highly useful in therapy.
Other memories, such as the location of a lost object, can indeed be recovered, but this is more a case of the individual concentrating on the object–aided by hypnosis–and simply accessing information already contained in the mind.  This information is usually not of a traumatic nature, so suppression for that reason is not a factor.
To be sure, this is a very complicated subject, and we have barely scratched the surface here.  It is worth remembering, however, that hypnosis–while it may look like magic–is not.  Helping the mind to relax and focus is sometimes all that is needed to retrieve the “lost” information sought.
Please keep your questions and comments coming!

Hypnosis Q&A: Undue Influence?

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Q: Isn’t hypnosis just a way to take over a person’s free will and make him or her do whatever the hypnotist wants?
A.  Fortunately for all of us, the answer is no.  People who are given hypnotic suggestions that are contrary to their deeply held beliefs and desires will simply reject such suggestions.  In our clinical setting, of course, patients are only given positive, healing suggestions–many of which are agreed upon by the patients in advance of the hypnotherapy session.  Not surprisingly, such suggestions are almost always welcomed.
Hypnosis, then, acts as a magnifier of these positive suggestions, as the patient is able to focus clearly on the positive changes desired, while ignoring other thoughts that could interfere with such healing.
Yet almost every media and cinema representation of hypnosis involves some nefarious individual bent on bending the will of some poor victim through hypnosis. This perception has become ingrained in our public consciousness over the years to the point that the average person assumes it is true.  This is most unfortunate, because most clinical hypnotists–like others who practice healing arts and sciences–are interested only in helping individuals to marshal their own subconscious resources to affect positive change and healing.
This is not to be confused with stage hypnosis, whose end is to entertain an audience.  I will have much more to say on that in answer to future questions.
Meanwhile, please rest assured that hypnosis cannot subvert the strong will of the individual.  In fact, it is primarily because hypnotherapy patients have such a strong will to change and heal that hypnosis is such a wonderful and effective treatment modality!
Keep those questions coming!

But HOW Does Hypnosis Work? (Part 3)

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In our previous discussions, we have learned a bit about what happens in the mind of a hypnotherapy subject during the process of hypnosis.  Remember, however, that every mind is unique, and the best we can do is speak broadly about the process of hypnosis for people in general.

We have seen that suggestions offered to subjects who are in a hypnotic trance (relaxed and focused, but not necessarily asleep) are often adopted by the subject, assuming that the suggestions are normally agreeable to that subject.  This then results in a change of behavior or attitude–or both.  But just how long will this changed behavior or attitude last?

To answer this, let’s consider the subject of the post-hypnotic suggestion, that is, a suggestion given to the subject during hypnosis that will show itself later, after the hypnosis session is done.  For example, if a client is hoping to find some lost article in her home, I may give her the suggestion that “as soon as you walk in the door of your house, you will instantly remember where that article is and you will go right to the spot and retrieve it.”  In this case, the suggestion only has to last for the hour or so until the lady returns home, whereupon her subconscious mind directs her to the lost object.

But what about suggestions that lead us to a more permanent change in behavior, such as suggestions about stopping smoking?  Some research indicates that such suggestions may last as long as 10 days, although in practice we see a wide variety of time spans.  This is why it is so important to reinforce suggestions by having multiple sessions or having subjects repeatedly listen to the session on CD.  In the example of smoking, the unconscious mind keeps hearing and repeating the anti-smoking ideas over weeks and months, until the unconscious “habit” becomes NOT smoking, rather than lighting a cigarette.

It should come as no surprise that learning a new behavior takes time and practice.  When most of us first learned to ride a bicycle, we had to have help and we had to think about what we were doing in order to remain upright on the bike.  Over time, however, the actions become automatic, and for the most part we don’t give them a second thought.

Overall, this is what we are often attempting to do in hypnotherapy–that is, the teaching of a new positive behavior that, with repetition, becomes part of the subject’s normal behavior.  That we are able to accomplish this is many cases is a testament to the effectiveness of hypnosis and to the power of the subconscious mind–a power that can be tapped by each and every one of us, if we are willing.

This concludes our brief series on how hypnosis works, but I am sure there are many questions out there about one or more aspects of this powerful treatment modality.  In my next few postings I will answer any and all questions you may have (as well as some I have heard often).  Just send your query or comment to:

ara@10-10hypnosis.com

I look forward to hearing from you!

But HOW Does Hypnosis Work? (Part 2)

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Welcome back to our discussion of the mysteries of hypnosis–in particular our examination of how hypnosis works to affect desired changes in thoughts or behaviors.  Again, let me state that no one definitively knows the answers to these questions.  What follows is my opinion, informed by research, training, and experience.

We have already noted that hypnosis and hypnotherapy work by accessing the unconscious mind–the part of our mind that generates dreaming and is alternately blamed or credited for behaviors that may be desirable or undesirable.  But just how does the clinical practitioner (I am not talking about stage hypnosis here) gain access to thoughts that are, by definition, not generally accessible to the conscious mind?

Hypnosis begins with encouraging the subject to relax.  In the movies, various alleged practitioners use the command “sleep!” liberally, but in actuality we want our subjects to relax deeply, yet still focus their attention on the hypnotist’s words or actions.  Sleep is not what we are seeking, in most cases, although it may spontaneously occur.  A common technique, called progressive relaxation, encourages subjects to relax their bodies, one part at a time.  Hypnotic subjects may be asked to respond to questions from the hypnotist while in this state of intense awareness and relaxation, which requires a level of consciousness a bit higher than a typical snoozefest.

Inducing this state of focus and relaxation serves the purpose of essentially putting aside the thoughts of the conscious mind and allowing unconscious thoughts to surface.  Typically, the conscious mind becomes so bored with the drone of the hypnotist that it shuts down and awaits something more interesting.  As a result, the therapist can speak more directly to the unconscious mind, which remains active even while the conscious mind decides to put itself on hold.

Please be aware that this is a much simplified version of what happens in many hypnosis sessions.  The relaxed and focused mind tends to be much more receptive to suggestionx from the hypnotist, but only if those suggestions are syntonic (agreeable) to the subject in the first place.  In most cases, hypnotherapists will offer suggestions that come directly from the subject before the session begins.

From this point on, the therapist is simply repeating and reinforcing positive messages that the subject has agreed are helpful.  If the goal is to lose weight, for example, suggestions may center around selecting a healthier diet, stopping eating when one is full, or only eating when the body actually needs fuel to run efficiently.  Long after the hypnosis session is over, the effects of these suggestions may be felt and actualized in behavior–sometimes much to the surprise of the subject!

Again, I should emphasize that a hypnotic subject will not do things that are against his or her own values or morals.  The idea that hypnotists can somehow brainwash their subjects is pure hogwash.

So once the positive suggestions have been given, how long will the new thoughts or behaviors last?  We will discuss that subject in our next posting.

Comments or questions?  Please feel free to share below.

But HOW Does Hypnosis Work? (Part 1)

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In our last post, we looked at the question of whether or not hypnosis or hypnotherapy actually works, which it undoubtedly does.  But that begs another, perhaps more interesting, question: Just how does hypnotherapy work in the mind to affect desired changes?
First, let me state that no one actually knows the answer to this question, although there are many interesting ideas.  If this surprises you, think about the fact that there are a number of drugs that share this same mystery; that is, they do work for the prescribed conditions, but doctors are not sure exactly how working works!  Science has not yet caught up with real world functionality.
So what follows is my own opinion about how hypnosis enables individuals to make changes, based on my training, my research, and–most important–my experience as a clinician.  It should also be stated that I am taking a broad overview of hypnosis as a practice, acknowledging that there are many differences in therapeutic modalities while at the same time stating that most forms of hypnotherapy share the same basic factors.
Most hypnosis clinicians agree that hypnosis involves the unconscious mind.  According to SimplyPyschology.org, “the unconscious mind comprises mental processes that are inaccessible to consciousness but that influence judgements, feelings, or behavior (Wilson, 2002). According to Freud (1915), the unconscious mind is the primary source of human behavior. Like an iceberg, the most important part of the mind is the part you cannot see.”
Freud said this part of the mind is filled with images and thoughts that, if known by the conscious mind (the part we use during most of our waking lives), might prove disturbing or upsetting.  Be that as it may, our unconscious thought processes can exert a powerful influence on our perceptions and behaviors.  These thought processes are often blamed for otherwise inexplicable things, such as unreasonable fears or habits that seem to arise out of nowhere.
The unconscious is also thought to be expressed in the realm of dreams, which suggests that the understanding of our unconscious mind is far different–and usually far less logical–than that of the conscious mind.  It is for this reason that dreams, when remembered, often seem to be nonsensical to our conscious minds.  To put it another way, the unconscious mind has a language and symbolism of its own–an idea advanced famously by the noted psychologist C. G. Jung.
Since most of us acknowledge that the unconscious mind has the power to influence behavior and perception, it follows that influencing or changing what goes on in the unconscious mind itself can and will bring about positive changes, whether the problem is a phobia, a bad habit, anxiety, or your errant golf swing.  This is the task of the hypnotherapist: to access the unconscious mind, to see how that mind is influencing or causing undesirable feelings and behaviors, and to change or repair thought patterns to yield more positive and helpful results.
In our next posting, we will discuss how the hypnotherapist works with the unconscious mind to achieve those desired results.
Meanwhile, your comments and suggestions are always welcomed.