Hypnosis

There are many different explanations and definitions of hypnosis. For example:

-A state of high suggestibility

-The suspension of disbelief

-A selective state of mind

-A disassociation (split) between the conscious and unconscious mind

-An amplifier of experience

Of course no-one can know with any certainty what is experienced in anothers mind, making hypnosis a ‘unique and subjective state of mind’, which for the purposes of analogy can be likened to day dreaming, driving on auto pilot, or becoming so engrossed in a good book or film that external distractions just fade away.

An interesting explanation of what many believe happens to the mind before, during and after hypnosis is that throughout the brain are what are termed as ‘units of mind power’. Under hypnosis, these units are focused together and all are able to receive a suggestion. After hypnosis the units disperse once again but each one now carries elements of what was suggested.

While consciousness is entirely suspended in natural sleep, it is most definitely present in hypnosis. This of course makes all the difference. In hypnosis, the subject is still aware of of everything going on around them, and can often remember everything afterwards.

Most hypnotists would agree that any hypnosis is self-hypnosis, in that it will only happen within a state of rapport and co-operation. In other words no one can be hypnotized unless they actively wish to enter the state of hypnosis.

 

Clinical Hypnotherapy

Hypnotherapy works as a wonderful adjunct to other types of therapy such as cognitive behavoural therapy and Neurolinguistic programming because whatever action we take is first of all determined by our thoughts, so if we change our thoughts, we can change the way we behave. The subconscious mind does not like changes but in hypnosis it can be persuaded to make them once it realizes that they are beneficial.

Whatever you want in life, it is important to have a goal. Thoughts have a boomerang effect. If we think negative thoughts, then we attract negative things happening to us. Likewise, if we visualize good things then we attract the positive. The more powerful and intense a thought is, then the more powerful and intense the outcome will be.

 

Clinical Applications

Modern hypnotherapists use hypnosis not only for medical purposes but also as an aid for the resolution of many problems of psychological origins. It is often successful when other, more conventional methods of treatment have failed.

Hypnotherapy can be applied, for example, to the following:

Breaking unwanted habits e.g. smoking, nail biting, stuttering

Habits are learned behaviors. No one was born with a cigarette in their mouth, biting their nails, a fear of speaking or performing before others. Clinical hypnotherapy is a safe and effective way to access your mind-body brain to unlearn old habits and replace them with new learning within your brain.

Advances in neuroimaging with PET scans, functional MRIs (FMRI) and EEG studies have proven that even though we use imagination, hypnotic suggestions, visualization, and ‘pretending’ to offer messages within brain, the results not imaginary; they are real. The neuroscience of brain plasticity or neuroplasticity has shown that the abundance of neurons in our brains are available to configure into any patterns of learning we choose to create. Hence the current phrase, ‘neurons that fire together, wire together’.

Hypnosis and Hypnotherapy can also help remove and change habits by uncovering the emotional life events that created the habits as well as the emotional reasons that have maintained the habit.  And anything that can be learned can be unlearned by learning something else to replace it.

Building self confidence and fulfilling potential

Low self-esteem and lack of confidence is something every one suffers from to some degree, in some area of their lives. You may be surprised to discover that even the most confident people you know don’t always feel confident all of the time.

Confidence and self-esteem is often connected to our beliefs about ourselves. The more negative those beliefs the less confident we tend to feel. Most commonly these beliefs are formed at an unconscious level during our early years; a time when we haven’t yet got the means to make an appropriate evaluation of the events that cause those negative self-beliefs. There can also be situations in adult life that cause our beliefs about ourselves to become more negative, such as job loss, bereavement, abuse or trauma, amongst other things.

If you think about it, your confidence will vary in different types of situations, environments and with different people, this is normal. However, when our lack of confidence or self-esteem starts to have a negative impact on the quality of our lives, perhaps stopping us moving forwards, making new connections with people or leaving us feeling unfulfilled in some other way, hypnotherapy can help you to understand and dispel those beliefs that stop you from feeling good about yourself and give you the tools to build the life you want!

Overcoming phobias, compulsions and panic attacks

There are hundreds of different phobias that people suffer with from the more well-known ones such as fear of spiders, heights, needles and confined spaces to the more obscure such as fear of feathers, cotton wool and numbers.

Perhaps your fear of flying has brought you to this page or maybe you are scared of needles. Maybe you are claustrophobic or have a fear of public speaking. Whatever your phobia, Hypnotherapy can help.

If you suffer with a phobia you know how debilitating it can be. They can stop you from leading a happy and fulfilled life and can often hold you back from doing the things you truly want to do in life.

The reaction can range in severity from slight feelings of anxiety and discomfort to a full on panic attack and losing control of the situation. You may have developed avoidance behaviours to be able to cope with your phobia but this only reinforces the fear.

Our brain has the ability to learn when new things are dangerous. This has been very beneficial to humans as we have evolved and new dangers have come about, for example, cars. When the car was invented our brain would have learnt that it was a potential hazard and learnt to look before we cross the road to ensure our survival! Unfortunately, our brain can sometimes learn that some things are dangerous to us when they are clearly not. The good news is that in addition to being able to learn that something is dangerous, we can also unlearn it, which is where hypnotherapy comes in.

The parts of the brain involved in fear responses are the Amygdala and the Hippocampus. The Amygdala is responsible for initiating the fight or flight response that occurs when we are faced with a potentially dangerous situation. The Hippocampus stores the templates of how we react in those given situations. Our brain will always refer to previous patterns of behaviour in any given situation. So for example, if you reacted to a spider in an anxious way last time you saw one, then your brain will encourage you to do the same again. Hypnotherapy helps to change these templates enabling you to feel calm and in control of the situation.

Surviving trauma or abuse

Many of us experience events which put us or someone else in danger making us feel overwhelmed, frightened and anxious, such as being involved in or seeing an accident of some kind or perhaps being mugged.

After a traumatic experience everyone will feel some degree of stress. For most people these symptoms will pass and they will get over their experience without needing to seek help. In some people the stress response doesn’t diminish and they find it difficult to come to terms with what has happened, which can affect them for months or even years after the event.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a psychological and physical condition that can affect people who have experienced a traumatic event in their life. It is thought that up to 30% of people who go through a traumatic experience, develop post-traumatic stress disorder and it affects people in a variety of ways. Some people, such as soldiers, police, ambulance and fire brigade personnel, are more likely to witness the kind of events that can lead to PTSD.

Hypnotherapy helps reduce your stress and anxiety levels and helps you to get back in control of your thoughts and feelings. It helps you have a more positive outlook on life which is very important as PTSD sufferers can often give themselves a hard time about feeling the way they do.

 

Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

There are a wide variety of symptoms that affect people with PTSD and it also varies in severity depending on the person. Symptoms generally develop immediately after the traumatic event, although in some cases the reaction can be delayed for weeks, months or years. Some of the symptoms include:

  • Feelings of grief, shame, guilt and anger
  • Flashbacks and nightmares of the event
  • Anxiety and panic attacks
  • Depression
  • Phobias
  • Sleeping problems
  • Hypervigilance – you may find it difficult to relax and remain on ‘red alert’ at all times, and you may be easily startled
  • Avoidance of people and/or situations that might remind you of your trauma
  • A sense of numbness, both physically and emotionally
  • Trying to control emotions and thoughts by drinking alcohol or taking drugs
  • Feelings of panic and fear
  • Lack of concentration
  • Physical symptoms such as sweating, headaches, chest pains, general aches and pains, digestive problems etc.

 

PTSD and the Brain

When we suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, we are constantly in fight or flight mode and our body produces adrenaline and other stress hormones.

The hippocampus is the part of the brain involved with PTSD. It is the bit that processes memories. When we have a high level of stress hormones in the brain, the hippocampus cannot perform its job as well as it should and cannot process the memories of the trauma effectively, causing flashbacks and nightmares. Because these memories have not been processed properly, they do not go away and continue to be a source of anxiety and stress trapping us in a vicious circle.

Hypnotherapy helps reduce your anxiety and stress levels and gets the brain producing serotonin more effectively boosting your mood. Once your anxiety and stress levels have been reduced, your brain can start to process the memories and your flashbacks and nightmares will slowly disappear.

Hypnotherapy helps to alleviate the symptoms associated with PTSD and gets your life back on track. The memories will still be there but you will be able to think about them without becoming distressed or feeling like you’re under threat. You will be able to think about them when you want rather than at inappropriate times – you’ll be in control!

Handling stress and anxiety

We have all experienced a level of anxiety in our life at some point. We have probably all felt nervous or anxious about a job interview or a driving test. Perhaps you are feeling anxious about your wedding day or the arrival of your baby. You might be worrying about relationship problems or your finances. All of these issues can create anxiety if you think about them in a negative way.

Feeling anxious at times is quite normal but it can often get the better of us and become a constant feature of our daily life. Some people find it hard to control their worries and anxieties. Anxiety is created by negative thinking and the more we think in a negative way, the more our brain encourages us to continue that line of thought and we become trapped in a cycle of negative thinking. We often think negatively about the past and worry about what might happen in the future which both cause a great deal of anxiety.

Hypnotherapy helps to break that cycle and gets you focusing on the positive aspects of your life. It gives you more control over your thoughts, feelings and behaviours, enabling you to deal with any situation life has in store for you.

 

Symptoms of Anxiety

Anxiety is an unpleasant feeling and has a physical effect on the body. Symptoms of anxiety may include:

  • Excessive, ongoing worry and tension
  • Heart palpitations
  • Shortness of breath
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Sweating
  • Restlessness and irritability
  • Panic attacks
  • Fatigue
  • Sleeping problems
  • Trembling
  • Muscle weakness or tension
  • Headaches
  • Being easily startled
  • Poor concentration
  • Nausea

 

Anxiety and the Brain

Anxiety is a normal reaction which our brain initiates in response to stress or danger. When our brain perceives danger it initiates the flight or fight response. This response is great when we are actually faced with danger but it can become disproportionate to the point where our brain gives the same stress response as it would to a life threatening situation.

The parts of the brain associated with anxiety are the Amygdala and the Hippocampus. When our brain picks up on something potentially dangerous, the Amygdala starts the flight or fight response and you become scared and anxious before you even realise what has triggered it. This response is very quick indeed. At the same time, a slower process happens which is more thoughtful and considers all the options. The sensory cortex of the brain picks up stimuli from your surroundings and then the hippocampus checks whether you’ve experienced this kind of situation before and how you reacted to it. Your brain processes all this information and if it decides that there is actually no danger, the flight or fight response is shut off and you calm down and return to normal. If your brain perceives that the danger is real, then the flight or fight response continues. Now the slower, more thoughtful process can sometimes short circuit especially if our anxiety levels are already high and as a result we over-react to situations and go straight to panic mode!

Hypnotherapy helps reduce the levels of stress hormones in the brain which will help to bring your anxiety back in to check and you will see an improvement in your symptoms. It will also get you focusing on the positive aspects of your life and stop those recurring thoughts that can perpetuate anxiety.

There are various degrees of anxiety ranging from mild to severe and not everyone who suffers with anxiety has panic attacks. Your anxiety may be just a temporary thing, such as examination or wedding nerves, which can be helped with hypnotherapy quite quickly. If your anxiety is more persistent then more sessions will be required, which can be discussed during the initial consultation.

Controlling weight

Many people struggle to keep their weight down and in an attempt to lose weight try various dieting methods but often do not see the results they were looking for. In many cases dieting works for a while but then the weight just piles on again. This often leads to a low mood and we feel more fed up than we were before we started the diet.

Stress is often a big factor in weight loss and weight management. When we feel stressed we often comfort eat or eat unhealthy convenience foods, both causing us to put weight on. Hypnotherapy reduces your stress levels allowing you to cope better with day to day life which will reduce the need for comfort eating and binging.

Hypnotherapy puts you in a positive frame of mind which is so important when you are trying to lose weight. It will help you to stop worrying about your weight and you will start to see weight loss as an achievable goal.

Hypnotherapy helps you lose weight by replacing your unhealthy eating habits with new healthier ones. It also changes the way you feel about yourself and your body, helping you to feel more confident and ultimately, more happy about life. When you feel better about yourself, you will feel more motivated to exercise and the more you lose weight, the better you will feel about yourself and the positive cycle continues until you reach you’re ideal healthy weight.

Poor Sleep

Sleep problems are extremely common, affecting a third of our population. Most of us will experience insomnia at some point in our lives.

It’s difficult to define what a good night’s sleep is as we’re all unique; some people function very well on six hours sleep – others can’t cope if they have less than eight. Your age, environment, diet and the amount of exercise you take, as well as your general lifestyle all play a part in determining how much sleep you need, as well as affecting the quality of your sleep. It is important not to become too obsessed with how much sleep you’re getting – what’s more important is the quality of your sleep and how well you function during the day.

The most common symptoms of insomnia are:

  • Difficulty falling asleep – clients often describe being unable to “switch off”.
  • Waking during the night, often with a racing mind.
  • Waking very early and not being able to go back to sleep.
  • Feeling tired, irritable, poor concentration, difficulty with daily functioning.

Often there are underlying emotional disturbances which affect sleep, such as stress, anxiety or depression. However, sometimes sleep problems simply develop into a habit, persisting long after the original stressor has passed.

A range of different techniques can teach you to relax more easily, calm your mind and re-establish a natural sleep pattern. You’ll also learn practical techniques, including self-hypnosis, to practice and use on your own, leading to better quality sleep.

Coping with nervousness e.g. exams, public speaking, stage fright

Public speaking is an incredibly common source of anxiety? Here are some of the main possible reasons for this “stage fright”:

  • Unfamiliar situation – because most people speak formally to an audience only rarely, the novelty of the situation is a cause of apprehension
  • Lack of confidence – stems often from a feeling that others are better speakers than ourselves, or that they know more about the topic in question
  • Sense of isolation – the speaker is alone and vulnerable
  • Self-consciousness – about our accent, grammar, voice and image generally
  • Fear of looking foolish – we may worry that we will forget what we wanted to say, and will stumble over our words, or will say the “wrong” thing

The fear of public speaking, which is a form of social phobia, is of course irrational but is all too real to those who suffer from it.  The good news is that hypnotherapy can help you to get over public speaking anxiety by using the power of your own subconscious mind.

Hypnosis can help with building up your confidence, helping you to remain calm and relaxed.  You can learn how to recognise your body’s unique reaction to stress and anxiety and to develop new healthy and positive ways of thinking and feeling.  Deep relaxation techniques used in hypnosis help you to focus inwards and start to build your feeling of confidence, calm and self-belief.

In hypnotherapy you may use visualisation techniques, using the power of your imagination to rehearse or practice a speech or presentation in your mind.  By doing so you will have already experienced the feeling of delivering a great performance and your mind has been pre-programmed for success.  With your feelings of confidence and control restored, public speaking can be approached with a new level of calmness and assurance.

Learning how to relax

Self hypnosis is the ability to become deeply relaxed at all times – not just when you are with your hypnotherapist.

You could say that self-hypnosis is simply teaching yourself to relax on demand. There are a number of ways to achieve a state of deep relaxation – listening to CDs or using different relaxation techniques. Following your first hypnotherapy session you will usually be given a CD to listen to. These are voice recordings, containing suggestions that you feel comfortable and relaxed. Together with this, there are breathing exercises and relaxation techniques which will teach you to feel very relaxed. For most anxiety based problems, this ability to become relaxed is, on its own, enough to help you to feel better.

Enhancing sporting performance

Serious athletes and sportsmen are often determined to find anything that will give them an edge over their competition, as well as help them perform optimally. Hypnosis and imagery have been utilized by many such athletes to improve their game.

Since the unconscious mind is really the driving force between most of our beliefs and behaviours, it makes sense that a technique which elicits change at the unconscious level can be highly effective. Hypnosis is such a technique. Hypnosis can help an athlete overcome issues of self-doubt which may be keeping him from moving to the next level. It can help an athlete hone his skills, fine-tune a technique, and have a level of self-belief and confidence which will enable him to excel beyond what he may have previously thought possible. Hypnosis can also help an athlete acquire the intense focus required to be at the top in his sport. Hypnosis can help an athlete overcome performance anxiety or pre-game jitters which can make the difference between winning a gold medal and coming in 6th place.

Tiger Woods is an excellent example of an incredible athlete who has used hypnosis to achieve a phenomenal level of success in golf. He has reportedly been utilizing powerful self-hypnosis techniques since his early teens. Not only has he used it to visualize every swing and stroke in his mind before carefully executing it on the course, he also uses it to “get in the zone”.  Self-hypnosis methods have helped him, like many successful athletes, quiet his mind, release any anxiety, and become 100% focused as he plays the game. Such laser focus can be especially important in a game like golf where onlookers and other things can be very distracting. Tiger Woods has clearly shown how powerful hypnosis can be to conquer his mind and achieve extremely high levels of success.

Athletes will often use imagery and visualization just before their event to achieve their desired goal. By closing their eyes and focusing on achieving their goal, they can improve their performance. Once they have pictured it in their mind they then proceed to do it. Utilizing this technique is especially beneficial when the sport requires a brief burst of energy.

Another way that hypnosis can help competitive athletes is in dealing with pain and injuries. Learning to dissociate from the pain can help them better cope with it and perform in spite of it. Relaxation methods can also be particularly helpful when it comes to managing pain which is a part of most sports. Hypnosis can also help athletes recover more quickly from a sports injury. By accelerating the recovery time the athlete can return to practice and competition more quickly, which can be very important for athletes competing at the highest levels.