Yet, those four words can also illicit an uncomfortable silence. It’s similar to when you walk into a room of people talking, and the conversation instantly comes to a halt. You might have been the topic of discussion. It’s the multitude of misperceptions about hypnosis that produces such a divergent set of reactions. I’ve heard it all during the six years I have practiced hypnosis: “It’s mind control,” “It’s a form of magic,” or — my personal favorite —“Hypnosis is like voodoo.” I assure you that hypnosis is none of those things. How can I be so confident? Well, if hypnosis was indeed mind control, my sons might actually clean their room when asked. At this point, I’d settle for them turning the light off in the bathroom.
Of course, this then raises the question– what is hypnosis? An internet search produces a somewhat vague answer: Hypnosis is a relaxed and focused state of concentration characterized by extreme suggestability.
Let’s try a more descriptive definition. Accept for a moment that each of us has two minds – conscious and sub-conscious. Our conscious mind is the center of reason and critical thinking. It’s how we engage with people and react to external activities throughout the day. Although obviously important, our conscious mind is also kind of a downer. It tells us why we can’t do things. It may think we are unqualified for a job we desire or not talented enough to stand in front of an audience and sing.
Have you ever been unable to sleep because you’re occupied by tasks for the upcoming day? You can thank your conscious mind for that. In comparison, much of your creativity and imagination resides in your subconscious mind. Think of your subconscious as being on mental auto-pilot. And, guess what? Each of us allows our subconscious mind to take control multiple times during the day.
Perhaps you were driving and suddenly realized you missed your exit. That’s called highway hypnosis. Maybe you reacted emotionally during a tender moment in a movie. That’s a form of hypnosis that Hollywood refers to as the suspension of disbelief. (Cont. on p. 77)
In hypnosis, a person allows their subconscious mind to take the lead which results in them achieving a high level of relaxation while being open to positive suggestions. Notice that I wrote “a person allows.” That’s because all hypnosis is self-hypnosis. You could never be hypnotized without your consent, and you would never do anything while under hypnosis that was outside of your moral parameters.
Hypnosis is a powerful tool that can help you achieve meaningful and positive outcomes in your life, including stress management to promote emotional and physical well being, academic or career advancement through positive visualization, and improved athletic performance, especially at critical times during competition.
Here is an example of the benefits of hypnosis in action. Recently, I visited with a woman who — from an outsider's point of view — is the definition of exceptional. She is stunning, smart, personable and professionally successful. Yet, like many of us, she has been challenged to manage a stressful environment and address long-standing self-esteem issues. I guided her through a hypnotic induction which provided stress release. We then focused on two visualizations: (1) Opening a door to a warm glow of light to establish base feelings of confidence, comfort and strength; and (2) recalling a time in her life when she recognized and embraced her beauty, intelligence and appeal.
We then attached these feelings in her subconscious mind to a special phrase, which we then reinforced through a mantra. It's a process similar to the "ohms" during yoga.
Will our hypnosis session be the cure to all that troubles her? Not quite. Yet, it has afforded her a more positive outlook which, in turn, creates an environment in which she can choose to remain on a good path.
MARC RUSSELL HAUSMAN