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What Is Hypnosis

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Hypnosis is a different state of consciousness, which you can naturally enter so that, for therapeutic purposes, (hypnotherapy) beneficial corrections may be given directly to your unconscious mind. (

During this essay I will talk about the history and what the psychological and physical aspects of hypnosis are. Further to that I will be discussing the role of relaxation in hypnotherapy, and will touch on how such treatments have been used in medicine.

We experience the "hypnotic state" in everyday life and it often occurs without recognition as such; for example; when driving, walking, talking etc. we go into "automatic" mode. It is believed our minds can go from alert state to different levels of consciousness whenever we do activities in this "automatic" mode. These are hypnotic like trances.

Neurologists believe that the left side of the brain is where the logical control centre of the brain exists (conscious mind) and the right side controls creativity (subconscious mind) ( This supports the idea that under hypnosis the conscious mind takes a back seat and the subconscious mind takes over.

Everything we have learned is stored in our subconscious (p11 hypnosis for change) for example because we have already learned to drive, our driving skill is stored in our subconscious and our conscious mind drifts off allowing our subconscious to become more active. Hypnosis gives us the ability to tap into the workings of the subconscious mind in perhaps the only way we can.

History of hypnosis

Australian aborigines have used a hypnotic like trance for thousands of years and still do, it is also widely observed that the North American Indian and the Hindu cultures also use similar practises. (P6 psychotherapeutic counselling year one - module one)

Franz Anton Mesmer is often referred to as the "grandfather" of hypnosis. He believed that magnetism was the cause and cure of many health issues. In 1774 Mesmer produced an "artificial tide" in a patient - Franziska Osterlin by having her swallow iron, he then attached magnets to her body, and she reported feeling streams of "fluid" running through her body and was relived of her symptoms for several hours. Although this did cause convulsions, Mesmer believed this freed a blockage in the "fluid" which was the cause of the problem. (P70 hidden depths) Mesmer did not believe that the magnets alone had achieved a cure but that it was in fact his own "animal magnetism." Soon after he stopped using the magnets, and began using electrodes, he then continued on to using only his hands. Mesmer's taste for theatre and showman ship may well have contributed to the hostile reception he received form the medical establishment of the day. His life went on to be dogged with controversy, and he spent the last 30 years of his life living as a recluse. (History of The way in which Mesmer made shows of his practises, is what we would now refer to as "stage hypnosis."

The next person to have a substantial influence on hypnosis was French psychiatrist Leon Chertok along with one of his students Puysegur in 1785. They worked on the principles that it was not necessary to induce convulsions and that words were enough. He believed

. The magnetist needed to listen his patients

. They often re-experience painful thoughts and feelings.

. The clients need to be seen regularly.

.The magnetist had to be patient

.Their symptoms may return temporarily.

(P7 psychotherapeutic counselling year one - module one) these practises still apply today.

In 1843 - James Braid, an English doctor from Manchester, renamed magnetism/mesmerism as hypnosis - "Hypnos" was the Greek god of sleep. This maybe where the misconception that during hypnosis a person is asleep. Braid fist thought that under hypnosis the nervous system was linked to certain cure by suggestion. He went on to dismiss this theory. Braids then found that he was able to induce trance by having patients focus their eyes on illuminated objects, held at distance from the face. We now know this as the eye fixation technique.

Sigmund Freud supported the use of hypnosis, believing that human have powerful hidden mental processes, the theory that formed the basis of his later works. By the mid 1890's he had given up hypnosis as it had fallen out of favour.

The acceptance of hypnosis in medicine is owed to research done in the 1920's and 30's by Clarke Hull and Milton Erickson. Erickson was able to put a person in a trance without mentioning the word hypnosis. This approach is widely accepted as the most effective technique.

Psychological and physical aspects of hypnosis.

When clients are under hypnosis, changes occur in the brain. The electrical activity of the brain can be measured using Electroencephalography (EEG). The first (EEG) was recorded in 1929 by Hans Berger. It is regularly used to assess severity of brain injuries. (EEG) gave us the electrical activity of the brain known as brain waves. There are four main types of brain wave:

Beta - 15-40 cycles per second (the fastest, present when we are engaged for example having a conversation.)

Alpha - 9-14 cycles per second (when we are relaxed or at times of creativity)

Theta - 4-8 cycles per second (during dreaming and some meditative states, they are aslo associated with our subconscious mind.)

Delta - 1-4 cycles per second (the slowest, in deepest state of rest, detached awareness and sleep) (P10 year one - module one)

It is when in theta that we can experience deep relaxation and hypnosis. As it stands alpha and theta are most commonly seen in hypnotized clients. This would support the idea that under hypnosis the conscious mind gives way to the inhibitory nature of the subconscious mind.

Experiments by Ernest Hilgard showed how hypnosis can alter perception. He instructed people under hypnosis not to feel pain, he then placed their hand in ice-water. While non-hypnotised individuals had to remove their hand after only a few seconds due to the pain, the hypnotised individuals were able to leave their hand in the ice-water for several minutes without experiencing



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