Who Can Be Hypnotized?

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It always fascinates me that whenever I meet someone new and I tell them that I practice hypnotherapy, they often seem to want to tell me one of two things: 1.  that they can be easily hypnotized; 2.  that there is no way they could ever be hypnotized.

In general, people who are fascinated with the subject of hypnosis (but who have never experienced the process) seem to believe, or more likely want to believe, that they would easily fall into a trance induced by a hypnotist.  There are several different psychological forces at work here.  First, there is the tendency of some people to want to please someone like a therapist, perhaps because they see therapists as good, helping people who are due some respect.  It is also a widely-reported fact among therapists that the number one thing a patient wants from a therapist is to be liked,  thus they express a liking for what the hypnotist does. Then again, there are some who simply find the whole idea of hypnosis to be exciting and interesting, and those individuals want a hypnotist to know that they are definitely open to being hypnotized.  Perhaps they are even hoping for a demonstration of hypnosis on the spot!

The other group, however, is quick to proclaim that they could never fall into a hypnotic trance, for a variety of reasons.  Again assuming they have never tried hypnosis before, some of these individuals claim they are too strong-willed to ever be taken in by such nonsense.  Others say that they are too intelligent to be hypnotized, implying that only a mind-numbed moron would allow himself or herself to be “taken over” by someone else’s ministrations.  Of course, some individuals are convinced that hypnosis has no basis in science and has no real effects; that it is a bogus undertaking, and thus any efforts by a hypnotherapist would be ineffective in their case.  Still others cite their own inability to relax, or to pay attention to anything for more than a few minutes.

Having hypnotized literally hundreds of people over the years, I also find that there are those who hint–or outright state–that they don’t want anyone mucking about in their minds and possibly unearthing secrets known only to them.  It is important to note here that these individuals are not expressing a disbelief in the effectiveness of hypnosis on them or anyone else.  On the contrary, they seem to be saying that hypnosis may be far too effective on them, and that the results could be embarrassing for them!  Rather than openly expressing such a fear or subjecting themselves to what they view as shame or embarrassment, some will simply insist that they cannot be hypnotized for other reasons, including those mentioned above.

Then again, there are times when hypnotherapy patients will turn out to be mistaken in their expressions about how easily they can be hypnotized.  I have personally seen cases where individuals will express great enthusiasm for hypnosis and its possible benefits, but will later say they found it difficult or impossible to “go into a trance.”  In subsequent interviews, some such patients have revealed previously unspoken reasons for not wanting to be hypnotized (“My husband thinks it is hogwash and may be the work of the devil!”) or for not wanting the hypnosis to work (“If I lose weight, it will hurt my overweight wife’s feelings.”}.

On the other side of that coin, I have also seen cases where individuals who disbelieve in the validity of hypnosis and/or their likelihood of being hypnotized will cooperate fully with the process and do beautifully in resolving a presenting issue.  Sometimes these people do not even realize that a change has occurred until the hypnotist points out that 40 minutes has passed on the clock, or until someone else notices a marked change in their behavior.  Such individuals are often pleasantly surprised.  While they may not have wanted to be hypnotized, they were apparently holding on to the slim chance that it might actually help them.

And this brings us to an answer to the question posed in the headline of this essay: “Who Can be Hypnotized?”  The obvious answer is that anyone who wants to be hypnotized–either consciously or unconsciously–can be hypnotized and can derive great benefit from the hypnotherapy process.  What this means is that the patient must be completely honest with himself or herself about whether this process is something in which they desire to participate.  For this reason, a skilled hypnotherapist will do a thorough screening to reveal any negatives that could compromise the effectiveness of the hypnotherapy session.

As an addendum, let me note that some studies have purported to show what percentage of the population in general is “suggestible” enough to be hypnotized.   Such studies, however, rarely take into account the psychological issues mentioned above.  Further, as practitioners have learned in clinical practice, suggestibility is not the key issue. Rather it is the level of desire to solve a problem and to allow the hypnotherapy process to work that will ultimately decide who can be hypnotized and how effective that hypnosis will be.

The Problem of Measurement in Hypnosis

In perusing the web, I ran across a neat little article from Psychology Today, dealing with “The Trouble with Hypnosis.”  Since I wasn’t aware that we had any trouble with hypnosis, I delved into said article and came up with an interesting point of view.  You can look at the piece via the link above, but let me summarize, if I may, just what the author believes is the “trouble” with the treatment mode known as hypnotherapy or hypnosis.

The trouble, from PT’s point of view, is that hypnosis as a process does not seem to lend itself to measurement  Yes, believe it or not, despite many attempts to quantify and capture this experience in a bottle, researchers have not been able to show that anything special is going on physiologically when a person enters hypnosis (beyond the obvious drop in blood pressure, slowing of heartbeat, deeper breathing associated with being relaxed in any condition).  That is, there don’t seem to be any brainwave patterns that can be readily identified as indicating the “hypnotized” state.

Actually, this is not quite true.  According to one online source, “In some studies, EEGs from subjects under hypnosis showed a boost in the lower frequency waves associated with dreaming and sleep, and a drop in the higher frequency waves associated with full wakefulness. Brain-wave information is not a definitive indicator of how the mind is operating, but this pattern does fit the hypothesis that the conscious mind backs off during hypnosis and the subconscious mind takes a more active role. Researchers  have also studied patterns in the brain’s cerebral cortex that occur during hypnosis. In these studies, hypnotic subjects showed reduced activity in the left hemisphere of the cerebral cortex, while activity in the right hemisphere often increased.”

The real problem seems to be that we don’t quite have that telltale brain signature that screams “this person is under hypnosis.”  And if we can’t reliably tell whether or not a person is in a “trance,” then we can’t reliably measure such a trance.  Measurement, you see, is the scientist’s bread and butter.  If we can’t measure something, then how on earth can we find out how it works, or to what degree it works in any given situation?

These are fair questions for physiologists, but they are actually irrelevant for psychologists, who have been trying to measure behaviors and their causes for more than 100 years without anything like what a hard-core scientist would call “scientific accuracy.”  The hard fact is that we are dealing with human behavior, and much as we try–sometimes with limited success–to predict such behavior, we are nearly always stymied by the fact that every human mind is different.  That is not to say that brains are necessarily different, but it is to say that the processes of the mind–while they can be generalized to some extent–do not in any way lend themselves to comparative measurement from one mind to another.  [Merriam Webster defines mind as “1 :the element or complex of elements in an individual that feels, perceives, thinks, wills, and especially reasons. 2 :the conscious mental events and capabilities in an organism.”]

I find this strangely reassuring, in that it confirms that we are not cranked out of the celestial factory with minds that work exactly the same.  That would make us little more than advanced robots, and it would be rather boring.

The fact that hypnosis is not a measureable process does not concern us, because in countless studies and in countless practitioners’ offices, the results have spoken for themselves.  As long as we accept that we have not yet figured out the physiology behind hypnosis–if physiology is even relevant–this should not prevent us from taking advantage of the obvious salutary results.  I am reminded of the fact that even in medicine, which assuredly holds itself in higher scientific self-esteem than mere psychology, some compounds are known to work for some conditions, yet the scientists do not precisely know “how” they work.

Will we ever know precisely “how” hypnotherapy works?  That certainly is a question for speculation!


Why Hypnosis is So Effective at Breaking the Smoking Habit

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For readers of this blog, it is certainly no secret that hypnotherapy is a highly effective tool for changing lives, enhancing health, and breaking bad habits.  That goes especially for the odious habit of smoking cigarettes.

In fact, when it comes to methods for stopping smoking, a study of 6,000 smokers found hypnosis to be the method with the highest success rate, according to an article in the Mirror, a British publication. But why is hypnotherapy more effective than nicotine gum or patches or drugs?

The key to answering this question lies in the idea that while many refer to smoking as an “addiction,” it is actually a habit.  According to the American Psychiatric Association, “People with addiction (severe substance use disorder) have an intense focus on using a certain substance(s), such as alcohol or drugs, to the point that it takes over their life.” Smokers may certainly feel like their lives are ruled by a need for cigarettes at a certain time or in a certain situation, but the problem is not nearly as severe as for those who are truly addicted to alcohol, for example, which is known to cause delirium, tremors, hallucinations, liver disease, and possibly death.

On the other hand, a habit, in psychology, is “any regularly repeated behavior that requires little or no thought and is learned rather than innate. A habit—which can be part of any activity, ranging from eating and sleeping to thinking and reacting—is developed through reinforcement and repetition,” says the Encyclopedia Britannica.  . This certainly better describes what happens to smokers.

Consider some of the feedback I have gotten from literally hundreds of smokers with whom I have worked over the years.  Almost no one–even among long-term smokers–says they smoke because it “tastes good.”  Instead, they (mistakenly) believe that it will help reduce stress–while in fact in may actually aggravate such stress.  Most smokers will habitually reach for a cigarette at a particular time (in the morning, or after a meal), in a particular place (visiting a bar is often a trigger), or in a particular situation (at work, or while reading or having a glass of wine, for example).

These habits become ingrained to the point where there is a psychological need, especially if the smoker thinks having a cigarette is beneficial.  While some claim there is a physical addiction to nicotine taking place, others–including E-Cigarette Politics, point out that “No clinical trial specifically to examine the potential of nicotine to create dependence in people who have never consumed tobacco has ever been published.”

The truth is that hypnosis is highly effective for smoking cessation because it is highly effective in helping people to change their habits–or to substitute a new habit for the old one.  A number of my patients have substituted drinking a bottle of water for having a cigarette, for example.  One patient I worked with just wanted to have a cigarette burning next to him in the ash tray as he worked.  He rarely bothered to even take a drag.  Some are satisfied just to have a pencil between their fingers instead of a cigarette.

Hypnosis is also very effective at psychologically linking smoking to something the patient finds disgusting or distasteful, such as dog food or a “plate of hair.”  Obviously, this aversion is helpful in avoiding cigarettes.

Do you or does someone you know have a problem with the deadly habit of smoking?  If so, we invite you to try hypnotherapy.

Can Hypnosis Help You Find Lost Objects?

One of my favorite characterizations of hypnosis is as follows: “Hypnosis is not magic, but it looks like magic.”

Most of us have been conditioned by media to believe that amazing results are possible with the use of hypnosis–and in some cases that is true.  What is also true, however, is that allowing the public to think that hypnosis is some kind of supernatural voodoo is not helpful to hypnotherapy as a scientifically-proven mode of help and healing.

Yes, practitioners can sometimes achieve startling results with hypnosis, but the results are only startling because many observers don’t fully comprehend what they are seeing.  Take the example of using hypnosis to find a lost object.  A patient recently asked me if it was possible to do just that.  My answer was, “Yes, assuming that you already know where the object is, but you are for some reason unable to access that information in your conscious mind.  Your unconscious mind, however–the part of your mind that notices things that your everyday conscious mind may overlook–may well remember where that object resides.”

Proceeding on that assumption, I conducted a hypnosis session dedicated to this subject, giving the patient a post-hypnotic suggestion that while she did not consciously know where the object was (her family had searched the entire house), as soon as she walked in the door of her home she would instantly know where the object was and would go directly to that object and retrieve it.

Sure enough, the patient told me the following week, the minute she walked in the door she went to a bookcase, moved it away from the wall, and retrieved her lost object, which had apparently fallen on the floor behind the bookcase.  Her conscious mind had no idea that the object had fallen behind the bookcase, but her unconscious mind evidently had noticed it and had given up that information while she was under hypnosis.

So, is this magic?  Definitely not!  There was no psychic manifestation.  What happened was simply that the patient was able to tap into her subconscious mind and retrieve information that was not available in her conscious thinking.  She really “knew” all the time where the object was.

While this is a wonderful use of hypnotherapy, we must emphasize that nothing supernatural or occult took place here.  This is not to deny, however, that the supernatural is real–as most practicing adherents of religions would surely acknowledge.  To be sure, we still do not fully understand the workings of the subconscious mind, but we do understand that the mind has many wonders that we are just now discovering.


What is “Past Life Regression?”

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When it comes to hypnosis, the amount of misinformation that circulates on the World Wide Web is sometimes astounding.  For example, an article on a British web site for journalists tells about a reporter who tried hypnosis to rid himself of an allegedly disabling fear of spiders.

The hypnotist in this case uses the hypnotic state to reveal to the reporter that his real trouble is that he is so attached to his mother–who also has a morbid fear of spiders, and who passed that fear on to the boy earlier in life.  .

Says the reporter:“This technique of taking me back to when I was a child is known as ‘past life regression’ and it encouraged me to talk with my former self and tell the 10-year-old me that I didn’t need to be afraid.”  The only problem with this is that hypnotically taking someone back to a previous point in their current life is not a past life regression.

One wonders how a journalist–who is supposed to labor to get the facts straight–could make such an error.  Then again, the sorry state of journalism in this day and age is not the subject of this article.

So what exactly is “past life regression”?  Wikipedia correctly states: “Past life regression is a technique that uses hypnosis to recover what practitioners believe are memories of past lives or incarnations, though others regard them as fantasies or delusions or a type of confabulation.”  This obviously presupposes a belief in reincarnation of some kind–the idea that we have all lived previous lives and keep having to live additional lives until some deity is satisfied with our spiritual maturity.

I don’t have the energy or the space to debate the validity of this concept, but I can point out that in the demonstrations of past life regression that I saw in my professional training, subjects typically were unable to describe details of their past lives without prompting from the hypnotist.  Such prompting–or suggestion–is obviously unethical.

That being said, proponents of reincarnation will doubtless be convinced by such demonstrations, despite the methodological errors.  My main point here is to encourage you to think twice about anything you hear in the consumer media about hypnosis.  Chances are, the information is flawed.

‘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!