For many people, when they hear the word “hypnosis,” they might imagine someone similar to a magician inducing a strange and mysterious trance on a subject, who they can then make perform embarrassing and comical behaviors. In reality, that image is an exaggerated description of stage hypnosis—which is an entirely different subject, really, than therapeutic hypnosis. Although stage hypnosis is based in the same concepts as hypnotherapy, it is used differently and for different purposes. Hypnosis used for therapeutic reasons doesn’t look or feel like a mystical phenomenon for most people—and that’s because hypnosis is really just a deep level of relaxation which allows for access to the subconscious mind. It’s actually measurable by changes in brain activity; in other words, it’s a real mental and physiological state, rather than an unexplained or strange phenomenon.
Another interesting thing about hypnosis is that it’s a state of consciousness that we experience many times a day, without even knowing it. When we watch TV, read, daydream, or start to fall asleep at night, those are all examples of times when we are in a state of hypnosis. So there’s really nothing weird or scary about it—it’s a natural state to be in. Another myth about hypnosis is that the client is under the control or power of the hypnotist. In truth, all hypnosis is self-hypnosis because the client always has the choice to ignore what the hypnotist says. The hypnotist is a guide who can say the right words, but it is up to the client to choose to accept them and follow the instructions.
In hypnotherapy, a practitioner will guide a client into a state of hypnosis and then make suggestions to the subconscious mind. Upon returning to a fully awakened state, the client’s conscious mind will begin to accept the suggestions as true, and those suggestions become beliefs which can profoundly shape that person’s experiences. The reason for this can be demonstrated through the placebo effect. The placebo effect is a proven phenomenon in which a person is given a medicine and told that it will cause a certain effect. That person then experiences that effect, based on what they were told the medicine was supposed to do. In reality, the medicine is just a “sugar pill” or a placebo, meaning it’s not a real medicine; but the effects that the person experienced were real, and they happened solely due to the belief that they should happen. This effect is an example of the power of imagination and belief.
Another example is when you are told that something is going to hurt, and it does—yet when the same action is done to you without that negative warning, or with an affirmation that it won’t hurt, it often doesn’t. When we expect pain, we often experience it. That’s not to say that pain is all in the mind, of course—yet, through hypnosis, it has been demonstrated that pain can be eliminated by the power of the mind. Hypnosis has even been used to successfully produce anesthesia in surgery, without the use of drugs.
Hypnosis for childbirth uses this same principle. We train our minds to believe in our ability to birth naturally, easily, safely, and without pain; and we do just that. It really works, and it’s not magic. It’s the power of our minds.