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What is Hypnosis?

by Michael G. Millet

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Most people when asked if they have ever been hypnotised reply “No”, and are mistaken. Everyone has and perhaps quite frequently been in a hypnotic state without realising it. In childhood, daydreaming which is so real to the child that the dream or imagined situation takes the place of ordinary reality, is essentially self-hypnosis. In adult life, many people still daydream occasionally, and most people will have episodes of absent-mindedness or abstraction at times, in which they are, as we say, “in a world of their own”.

For instance, when driving down a familiar road, you may suddenly realise that you have travelled several miles without being able to remember details of that part of the journey. However, while driving, you were perfectly competent, adjusting to road conditions, avoiding dogs and children,
stopping at red lights and so on, and reached your destination safely. Yet you realise that you have no memory at all of the last few miles and probably cannot remember what you were thinking about during that period. Or at another time, you may be engrossed in watching a film on TV or reading a book, when someone asks you a question, and you answer them. Later perhaps, that answer you gave is mentioned again, you have absolutely no recollection of it. And have you ever been surprised to hear from a friend that he saw you in the street, even said hello to you, and you walked straight past him? No doubt you can think of dozens of other examples from your own experience.

In these states, much the same thing has happened as occurs in hypnosis. The consciousness of the individual concerned separates into two streams, which are out of touch with each other. You are actually conscious and aware of only one line of thought and action at this time, while the rest is being done at an unconscious level. In formal trance-work (Hypnotherapy), which is the utilisation of those states for therapeutic purposes, you do not cease, as a rule to be unaware or unconscious of what is going on around you.

Working with a therapist, you may actually be aware of noises outside, the tightness of your shoes, the background music, but your awareness of these things is somehow slightly distant or removed, as you are concentrating much more deeply on what I or another therapist is saying to you, and on what you are using the hypnosis for. It is important to grasp this fact that the Trance State is a natural, everyday phenomenon.

It can be a failure by the therapist to not make this point clear and allowing you to think you have not been hypnotised because it all feels so ordinary. Expectation counts for a great deal. Once a Trance State has been achieved usually by talking for some time in a rhythmic or monotone voice by the operator where you are pulled along the induction path by one continuous thread of speech, you tend to be appreciably more “suggestible" than in the ordinary waking state and it is the use of suggestion which is the most obvious way of utilising hypnosis. (Again, it is helpful to realise that suggestion is an everyday event. The advertising industry would not exist if it were (not.)

The hypnotic experience has the unusual characteristic of combining concentration with relaxation, which allows you to focus on your problem, anxiety or development-need and remain relaxed.  It is fortunately a fact that most people are able to achieve a much deeper state of calm and peace in the Trance State than out of it. Once in that state the mind is much better able to accept suggestions or other hypnotic interventions to work with the particular area of
disturbance. Such an experience can break the link between an idea, memory or thought
and its attendant anxiety and tension. It can help change what you need to change and develop what you need to develop. Suggestions (direct and indirect) and other hypnotic phenomena, therapeutic interventions, visualisation and language structures are made and utilised in this state, so you can achieve something you want, or something that will benefit you, and in this hypnotic state, that acceptance goes even deeper than it would in non-hypnotic states. The control is with you, your own control of yourself, your mind and body.

Hypnosis allows you to control aspects of your whole being that normally you have no direct control over. It follows then that Hypnotherapy is well suited to the treatment of anxiety and, since anxiety takes an array of forms, hypnosis can be usefully applied to a wide variety of conditions. Smoking and overeating are the commonest ways of trying to alleviate feelings of anxiety, so it is not surprising that Hypnotherapy is best known for it's effectiveness in those areas. However, there are many others, beginning in childhood with anxiety-induced behaviours like bed-wetting and nail-biting, and so on into later life with perhaps sexual and relationship dysfunction up to and including drug and alcohol abuse (though it is important to realise that once those have taken a hold, they present a biochemical problem as well. They have become not only psychological).  Phobic conditions are obvious manifestations of anxiety and Hypnotherapy
has a good record in this area. Stress is also another sphere where Hypnotherapy is so helpful where it employs techniques to reduce or eliminate stress, promoting relaxation and reprogramming specific behaviour patterns. Also, it has long been recognised for some time that many physical conditions have a psychological component. Asthma is an obvious example. Skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, etc. are others. It is possible for these to be purely psychological (psychosomatic), in which case they may be cleared up entirely. And even when the condition is physical in origin, it is often exaggerated or even triggered by anxiety, so that Hypnotherapy can be a useful adjunct to current medical treatment.

Hypnotherapy is also regularly employed for Dentistry, sleep disorders, natural childbirth, self-esteem and motivation, learning, sports and creativity.  Frequently, of course, suggestion in itself is not enough because there are underlying reasons for the problem. Sometimes these need to be made conscious and worked through; sometimes they can be processed at an unconscious level. Either way, Hypnotherapy and Hypno-Analysis can be very useful provided that the operator has the appropriate psychotherapeutic skill to deal with the content. It is important that you choose a therapist who is trained in psychotherapy, not merely in the induction of Trance States.

In some areas, such as pain control, depth of trance is important, but for most purposes the level of trance is a good deal less important than the accuracy of the suggestions or other therapeutic interventions. A correct suggestion given in a light trance will be beneficial. An unsuitable suggestion given in a very deep trance will be largely or completely ignored.

Hypno-Healing is another extremely useful application of hypnosis where your own body`s natural resources and recuperative abilities are harnessed to help you deal with illness. It is important to know you can only be hypnotised if and when you agree to it. You accept, comply and act on only those suggestions that feel right to you - suggestions that fit your moral and value systems. You can terminate a Trance State at any time.  You come out of hypnosis just as easily as you go in, like awakening from a daydream.   Even in the most unlikely event of the Hypnotherapist being called away or even dying (God forbid!) during an induction, you would simply drift into normal sleep or immediately awake.

My clients always report an elated and cheerful feeling after the session that stays with them for the rest of the day. Hypnosis on TV or in a nightclub appears dramatic. At a party or in a club, with a few drinks inside you, and with your friends egging you on, you would be quite likely to do silly or even humiliating things quite willingly even without hypnosis. Because of the situation, and because you, and the audience, believe that the hypnotist can make you do things, you go along with whatever he or she suggests.  If the hypnotist is skilled and intelligent, he or she will not suggest anything that you would find really offensive, because it would not work and you would come out of the trance. Hypnosis cannot make moral people behave immorally. The hypnotist will suggest only the sort of things the person is likely to expect and accept, and so, as far as the audience is concerned, it works.

Hypnosis is not a truth drug either; it is actually just as easy to lie in a trance state as it is in a normal state. In hypnosis, you know what you are saying, and you will not do or say anything that contravenes your inner principles. Hypnosis is not anti-Christian or the work of the Devil as some people sadly believe. All the major religions of the world including the Roman Catholic Church (the largest Christian organisation in the world) have investigated hypnosis, because of the false ideas in the past about its moral and mystical character, and have approved it as a medical technique. However, it does share many features with mystical and religious experiences and can be very like deep meditation. I access and utilise this side of hypnosis in my Transpersonal, Metaphysical, Past Life Regression / Healing and Shamanic work with clients.

The clinical side of my work and the clinical application of hypnosis is thoroughly practical and down to earth and I use it to treat all kinds of disorders, both physical and psychological. Hypnosis is not new. In recorded history the Greeks used trance induction to treat anxiety and hysteria; the Druids called it '"magic sleep"; Dr. Franz Anton Mesmer (1733-1815) called it "animal magnetism"; and Dr. James Baird (1795-1860) named it "hypnosis" which is simply the Greek word for sleep. He thought it to be `nervous sleep`, and modern monitoring of brain rhythms indicate that it is a separate state of consciousness somewhere in between sleeping and waking.

As a Hypnotherapist, I act as a clinical facilitator to mobilise this natural talent in practical and purposeful ways to improve physical and mental health, and improve the quality of life for you. Hypnotherapy is a highly effective tool for modifying behaviour and for healing and is undoubtedly the single most powerful and under utilised resource in healthcare and personal development today. No matter how special your problem is, it can be successfully reduced or eliminated by the thoughtful application of hypnosis. It really is an inner smile that is released from somewhere deep inside you.

Michael G Millett Dip.CHP, MNCH(Reg), MHRS, PNLP, PLH, MNACHP is a certified counsellor, hypnotherapist and psychotherapist associated with The Replingham Clinic, London SW18.

He is registered with the National Council For Hypnotherapy and holds certificates in Transpersonal Therapy and Past Life Healing from the London College of Transpersonal Hypnosis and Healing and is an NLP Practitioner approved by the Society of Neuro-Linguistic Programming USA and the Association of NLP (UK). In addition to his private practice in North West London, he works with HIV and AIDS sufferers using combination therapy.

He can be reached at:

Tel: 07000 4 CHANGE / 07000 42 42 64


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