What is hypnosis?


An Austrian medical doctor, Franz Anton Mesmer (1734 Ė 1815), is considered the father of modern hypnosis and hypnotherapy. Before being treated in hypnosis with hypnotherapeutic techniques, it may be very helpful to have a basic understanding of what the state of hypnosis is.

Little of what is portrayed in so-called 'stage hypnosis', is in fact hypnosis. The purpose of the stage 'hypnotist' is to ENTERTAIN, and not to HEAL! They therefore create cleverly orchestrated, hilarious situations to trick the audience into believing that the 'hypnotist' has full control over the subjects by getting them into his 'power', putting them in a 'deep sleep', and making them behave in bizarre ways. In fact, no human being has that amount of power or control over any other human being. As the primary function of the unconscious mind is survival, to protect the integrity of the self, it never allows a person to lose control and disregards suggestions considered to be threatening to oneís physical, emotional or spiritual survival. It concludes that we know with certainty that the hypnotherapist possesses no power (magical or otherwise) over the patient. Control lies within the patient.

In the more relaxed form of hypnosis we experience the same feeling or state as when we awake after a good nightís rest. While we feel deeply relaxed we can remember our dreams, but after we have gotten up to go to the bathroom we cannot remember the dream any more. On the other hand, we experience the attentive or concentration form of a hypnotic state when we drive from point A to B. After we have driven for a few kilometres we realize that our thoughts were so focussed on something else that we donít know if we obeyed all the traffic rules. Yet, we were in full control of the vehicle and if someone had swerved in front of us, we would have reacted instantly.

Due to its complexity, it is very difficult to exactly define the state of hypnosis. Hypnosis can be seen as an alternate state of consciousness where the patient deals in a more direct way with their emotions, instead of rationalizing it. During hypnosis the patient is deeply relaxed, in an elevated state of alertness, totally focussed, the mind is crystal clear, thinking becomes acute and all the senses are sharper. This resolves that the patient is more open to suggestions.

Hypnotherapy enables communication between the conscious and unconscious minds. Besides being responsible for survival and protection, the unconscious mind is also responsible for storing traumatic events and emotions. Therefore, if some memories are too painful it cannot be accessed by the conscious mind, only by the unconscious. In order to access these memories the hypnotherapist facilitates the communication process between the unconscious and conscious minds. The hypnotherapist guides the patient, like a trainer of an athlete guides the athlete through his/her training programme, into his/her own unconscious mind to discover both these mentioned trauma and inner resources stored there. Only the patient him/herself can delve into his/her unconscious mind. No one else can access it. Due to the fact that the patient is in control, he/she decides whether or not to disclose what he/she discovers. The patient is then guided in various ways to resolve and overcome his/her trauma or problem, mostly in a safe, calm and serene manner during hypnotherapy.

Hypnotherapy is utilized to address pathology in a holistic manner taking cognisance of all five areas of human functioning, namely cognitive, affective, physiological, spiritual and conduct-oriented functioning.

The four individual models of hypnotherapy mostly applied in South Africa and in this practice are discussed next. Sometimes only one model is used, but for the most part combinations of two or more approaches are skilfully combined in treating a patient. Other more basic approaches, like cognitive behaviour and/or rational emotive therapy, are also incorporated into hypnotherapy.


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