Hypnosis: the How

Hypnosis, simply expressed, is a state of intense mental focus. The mechanics may vary slightly from one therapist to another, but that perfect, razor-sharp focus will always be the goal. Neurologically, hypnosis causes the mind to enter an Alpha state, a specific level of awareness that can be measured scientifically. What precisely occurs in Alpha may never be known fully, but what is understood so far can be used to great personal effect.

Alpha is a trance-state, one of many, and we enter it many times a day on our own. Anytime we cease to be fully aware of our larger physical environment, one of the trance states is often at play. An engrossing movie, an involving book, that special song– each of these takes us out of “ordinary” reality, permitting us to be fully in that mental “moment.”

Hypnosis is only an extension of that process, intentionally, and although there are often two people involved in attaining it, it is essentially a self-directed paradigm. The steps are clear and easy to follow, whether we work on our own or with a hypnotherapist, and the vast majority of people can enter a useful hypnotic state without extensive effort.

In fact, we use the system of induction in order to rapidly become free of it. Concentrated slowing of breath, often including counting inhalations and exhalations, begins the sharpening of focus. Eye fatigue is also a frequent element, in which focusing on a candle flame or a swinging pendant for a brief period will cause the eyes to want to mimic sleep by closing. Progressive relaxation is also a common component, whereby momentary tension and release of muscles along the body will further focus the mind.

Each portion of the induction, once fully learned, can be streamlined so that the subject can access the useful state more rapidly and fully over time. Finding the focus is the goal, and practice makes perfect.

But it isn’t a level of external unawareness we seek, not exactly. It is a total focus on one thing, rather, in which only one avenue of perception and input is brought to the mind’s center stage that characterizes hypnosis. This is why we place trust in hypnotherapists, for instance, whose training allows them to guide us in changing something about our minds or bodies.

And change can occur, quite dramatically in many cases, due to the fact that hypnosis is a highly suggestible state. Resistance to change is lower, and since the mind is only focused in one direction, the usual roadblocks do not apply in the same way. Imagination is harnessed, ways to succeed are rapidly mapped out, and a general positive spin can be brought to the equation. We can lose weight, quit smoking, or even lower our blood pressure, all because we can be taught through hypnosis to utterly believe these things are possible for us.

To be fair, the process of accepting post-hypnotic suggestions can go even farther in enhancing our lives. Many subjects can be taught to override pain completely, undergoing surgery without anesthesia, and others can be taught through hypnosis to eradicate lifetime patterns of behavior and health that no longer serve. Evidence ranges widely from anecdotal to clinical, but enough people have been helped through hypnosis that the practice is generally considered to be a valid alternative addition to both medical and psychological protocols.

No regimen, however, works for every single person. Sometimes underlying issues must be addressed, to confront and end mental blocks. But hypnosis can be a powerful instrument for change, and what it offers demands our attention.

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