Hypnosis – What Is It?

Hypnotherapy Northampton


Most people will say they have never experienced hypnosis, but in fact we go through the hypnotic state at least twice a day – as we go to sleep and as we wake up. In fact probably more times than that, i.e. a boring programme or sermon, film or tv, the eyes flutter or may close, but you can still hear what’s going on, and would respond if spoken to.  I always tell my clients, “You are not going off to fairy dairy land, or in a coma, or under anywhere”. It’s just that television programmes that use the hypnotic state make it look like that.


The “trance state” we call “hypnosis” has been used for thousands of years. Study has shown that primitive people used the hypnotic state. Shaman would use chanting and monotonous drum beats as well as eye fixations to induce a state of catalepsy of the body. This then appeared as though the shaman had magical/mystical powers, given by the Gods – but actually was just a deep state of “hypnosis”.


Imhotep is the earliest known physician. Around 2980 – 2900BC he was the physician to the pharaoh Zoser. People looking for psychological help attended Imhotep’s temples and consequently these temples were well attended.


Ancient Hebrews included meditation and chanting, and breathing exercises, to induce a state of ecstasy called Kavanah (this is similar to the auto hypnosis we know today).


Frans Anton Mesmer (born 1734) is often thought of as the modern father of hypnosis. Wearing a long, pale lilac, silken robe with a short iron wand in his hand, he would pass slowly through patients fixing his eyes upon them, waving the wand and touching them with it. Some felt as though insects were running over their skin, some, young women especially, would go into convulsions and then fall down, “mesmerised”.


A person in the hypnotic state may appear to be asleep, but they are far from sleeping. In this state, which could be described, half wake, half sleep, a person may experience heightened awareness, and will definitely have full overall control, but at the same time be open to suggestions given by the “hypnotist” or themselves. The word hypnosis was given by James Braid, a well known surgeon in Manchester in the mid 19th century, (“hypnos” the Greek word for sleep).


There are four stages of hypnosis: light, medium, deep, and somnambulistic. In hypnotherapy light and medium stages are used most successfully. The medium stage for example could be used for planting suggestions for stopping smoking, stopping nail biting, as well as suggestions of good confidence for giving a presentation, best man speech, oral examinations or successful driving test.  The light stage might be used for recalling and speaking about old memories or even current events which are causing anxiety in one way or another.


The state of hypnosis is an extremely helpful tool when resolving all manner of psychological and emotional problems, or simply to induce relaxation.  Clients, at the end of a session, often open their eyes and say,”I felt so relaxed”.  And this can happen with clients that have previously said they can never relax and that their minds are always buzzing.


There are five rules with hypnosis:


1) You are not “going under” anywhere

2) You are not going to sleep

3) Your mind may wonder, that’s no problem

4) You do not need to be relaxed to go into hypnosis

5) You will be always be in control


Hypnosis has been used for many years to help and resolve all forms of anxiety, depression, fears and phobias, smoking cessation, bed wetting, confidence building, and even for planting positive ideas and actions following CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy), and stress management.


June Taylor

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