A few facts about hypnosis
A search for images connected with hypnosis will produce many like the one with this article. Some are even weirder, and some are downright scary. Fainting young ladies and looming, predatory men (usually with goatee beards, though I have yet to work out why). Hypnotists with swinging watches or multi-coloured eyes.
Is it really like that? Well, no. And here are some of the reasons why.
Hypnosis is not the greatest word for what I do.
The term hypnosis was coined by James Braid who was trying to separate his therapeutic procedures from mesmerism, which was not taken seriously by most of the medical community.
It comes from the word 'hypnos' which is Greek for 'sleep'. Later, Braid realised that being in hypnosis wasn't much like being asleep at all, and tried to rename it; unfortunately, he chose 'monoideaism' (meaning focussed on one idea). It never caught on.
It's different on the stage
Stage hypnotists probably still use the word 'sleep' because they use fast inductions (methods of hypnotising people) and need a single-syllable word that is easy to say quickly and emphatically. Stage hypnotists ask you to do daft things because it's entertaining for their audience. Hypnotherapists don't because they don't have an audience and it wouldn't solve your problems.
Hypnotherapy relies on us accepting suggestions made by the therapist.
We are all susceptible to suggestion. There is a massive, worldwide advertising industry based on that very fact. But we can always reject suggestions we don't like or which are inappropriate to us.
Hypnosis puts us in a calm, focused state where we are more than usually susceptible to suggestion; when therapists use it to suggest ways in which we can be happier or deal with our problems, we comply. But we always retain the ability to say no.
Operations can be carried out using hypnosis
James Esdaile worked in India in the 1840s and used hypnosis as his only anaesthetic for operations to remove what he called 'monster tumours' (up to 80 pounds in weight). Previously no anaesthesia had been used at all and many patients had died from shock or blood loss. Esdaile claimed that the introduction of hypnotic anaesthesia cut the death rate in these operations from 50% to 5%.
Hypnosis is not a lie detector.
I've had the odd call from people who want me to hypnotise their partner and ask if they’re having an affair. Unfortunately for these callers, people in hypnosis can invent or imagine information, make mistakes and even tell lies. This is one reason it’s important to see a hypnotherapist who is well trained and will not ask inappropriate or leading questions which might result in you working with inaccurate information.
Debbie Waller is a professional hypnotherapist, specialising in stress, anxiety and related issues. She also offers EMDR which is used for trauma, PTSD, phobias and OCD and publishes hypnotherapy-for-ibs.co.uk for those interested in using hypnotherapy to relieve the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.
Debbie owns a multi-accredited hypnotherapy school, Yorkshire Hypnotherapy Training and offers further training for qualified therapists via CPD Expert. She is the author of Their Worlds, Your Words, editor and contributor to the online magazine Hypnotherapy Training & Practitioner, and co-author of The Hypnotherapy Handbook.
For more information on any of these services, phone 01977 678593.
Researcher & drafter: Rachel Waller.