Can you make me cluck like a chicken...?
I have been asked variations of this question by many people when I tell them I am a Hypnotherapist. Like most people, I had no idea what hypnotherapy was until I began to study it. My only experience was saturday night tv where various stage hypnotists would make people do stupid thing for entertainment. I didnt understand how this worked or could be useful in a therapuetic setting. I soon discovered that what was being perfomed on stage was called a "rapid induction", and was not used in Hypnotherapy. Rapid inductions rely on pattern disruption, that capitalises on a moment of confusion in the conscious mind by providing the unconcious something to latch on to in order to make this confusion go away. That is why people follow the orders of the hypnotist in that moment; it is the easiest thing to do at the time! Of course, some people are more susceptible than others, and peer pressure has an effect also, but the subconcious mind is designed to keep us safe and will not let us do anything we truly dont want to. So no, unless you secretly want to, I cant make you cluck like a chicken!
Hypnotherapy works in a very different way to this rapid "stage" hypnotism. The basic premise of hypnotherapy is getting the client relaxed enough to allow the consious mind to take a step back, and allow them to access the information held in the unconcious mind. The unconcious mind is noticing everything around us all the time. This information then needs to be filtered to find things that are relevant, else we would be barely able to function due to sensory overload. This is a job for the concious critical faculty, which works as a barrier between the concious and unconcious mind, alllowing only things it deems relevant and important through. The things it decides are important vary, but it primarily wants us to avoid anything "negative" and keep us safe. Once it has found a formula that works, it sticks to it. For example; that flame burnt us last time we touched it, lets never touch it again!
All of our present habits, mannerisms and thought patterns are a result of past influences and experiences, we have effectively been programmed by our past. Once we have formed these patterns, they are very difficult to change, even if the initial event that caused the response has long faded into insignificance in our conscious thoughts. This is the point of Hypnotherapy; to find out what the negative thought patterns are, and turn them into something positive. This could be as simple as being aware of why we act or feel the way we do so we realise that we dont have to do it anymore, or trying to overwrite these patterns with something more positive.
Another thing that is widely misunderstood is what being in a state of Hypnosis is actually like. The word hypnosis comes from the greek word "hypnos" which means to sleep, but hypnosis is not a state of sleep. A better description would be an "altered state of consciousness". In fact, you will have been in a hypnotic state many times throughout your day. Have you ever been driving somewhere and couldnt remember the journey, although you arrived safely at your destination? When did you become totally engrossed in a movie? It's likely that you were in a state of situational hypnosis. When you are in this state your brain waves slow down, dropping from Beta waves (which we use for reasoning, logic and descision making) into Alpha waves (this is used for imagination, creativity, learning and suggestability). This is all that is happening in a hypnotic trance, slowing down your bran waves to allow more access to thoughts and memories. A technique which has been used for centuries in yoga and meditation, and is now used in film and advertising. There is a reason there are ad breaks in your favourite shows; you are likely to be in Alpha brain waves watching, so ultimately more suggestible to thier products!
Animal noises aside, hypnosis is a normal, natural and usually pretty enjoyable state in our everyday lives, so it stands to reason that if we can use it to help us we should!