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What is Hypnosis?

(by psychologist by Rúnar Helgi)

Hypnosis induces a state of consciousness that can be used for therapeutic purposes to improve general well-being and enhance certain aspects of people's behaviour. It is used, for example, to treat sleep problems, severe headaches and to strengthen people's concentration in studies or sports.

What are the effects of hypnosis?

Common misconceptions about hypnosis include that the person who is hypnotized is rendered into an involuntary tool in the hands of the hypnotist, or that they can access mental superpowers. That is not the case. The effects of hypnosis are rather an everyday phenomenon that ordinary people experience almost every day. Daydreaming is an example of a hypnotic state. The same can be said about the mind of someone who is engrossed in watching TV, listening to music or concentrating on a task. A hypnotic state is really nothing more than an altered state of consciousness where the attention is directed to a specific object or task.

This is sometimes compared to being in between a sleeping state and an awake state, where the subconscious is more easily accessed. Hypnosis is a method of getting into such a state and taking advantage of the susceptibility of the subconscious, for example to sharpen one's concentration on a specific issue. Thus, it is a natural phenomenon of consciousness that one feels when one's attention is directed to something specific without the environment causing distractions. The hypnotized person's concentration becomes so strong that environmental stimuli or other thoughts cannot disturb him, and in some cases he is not even aware of them.

People's experiences with hypnosis are very different. Some find it more like a deep, almost sleep-like relaxation; others feel that they are floating in their thoughts. In reality, each person's experience is unique and it is difficult to describe hypnosis in a general way. It is important to distinguish between hypnosis that is used for therapeutic purposes and hypnosis that hypnotists use for fun, and "make" people do tricks, although both are based on the same phenomenon, hypnosis.

Common misconceptions about hypnosis

The person who is hypnotized is not a puppet in the hands of the hypnotist. Although a hypnotist can induce a hypnotic state, the fact is that there is no hypnosis without the will of the hypnotized. People under the influence of hypnosis are in control over their actions, just like daydreamers can control whether they continue to daydream. Hypnosis is based on the suggestibility of the hypnotized person, and if a hypnotist asks the hypnotized person to do something that goes against their conviction, they will not obey; no more than they would normally. Hypnosis is therefore not brainwashing, even though people's behavior and mental activity can change as a result of it. The hypnotist uses persuasion and suggestion in order to influence, but the hypnotized person is not an unwilling recipient. For example, they can move, scratch, sneeze and cough during the hypnosis. And they can escape the hypnotic effect - for this, it is often enough to open their eyes.

Also, many people think, often as a result of having seen it in movies, that hypnosis is a special highway to super memory where all the actions of people from infancy and even alleged past lives are faithfully recorded. It's not, although hypnosis can help people focus on emotional responses and recall things while hypnotized, but research doesn't show that memory is better when in a hypnotic state.

How does hypnosis work?

A person, who seeks out a hypnotist who knows how to use hypnosis, is asked to share the issue they wish to get help with. After such a conversation, the hypnotist teaches the person how he or she can get into a so-called "susceptible state", which consists of nothing more than focusing attention on one specific thing. This is done in different ways; for example, the person could be made to look at a certain spot in the air for several minutes. In the Hollywood version, a pendulum is made to swing back and forth. About 20% of people can easily get into that kind of state. Another fifth of people have difficulty with this. Most people, that's about 60% of people, fall in between and get hypnotized with some effort.

After the hypnotic state is achieved, the hypnotist would strengthen or deepen it with instructions for relaxation, deep breathing and with metaphors, for example, that the client is walking down a flight of stairs where the relaxation increases with each step. The rest of the session differs depending on what the client's issue is, but generally the hypnotist gives suggestions and instructions that the client should follow. Hypnotherapy takes different lengths of time, from two to ten sessions. The role of the hypnotist is actually to teach self-hypnosis so that one can use that technique at home, as a mode of self-healing and self-care.

Hypnosis is not a universal solution to all problems. Its effectiveness differs from one person to another. Hypnosis is harnessing the subconscious susceptibility using the power of suggestion in a systemic way. When used effectively, it can lead to positive changes in people's lives.


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