What is Hypnotherapy? What Can it Help With? And How?

A deep dive into what hypnotherapy is, how it works and accesses the subconscious mind to rewire the brain and what problems it can effectively resolve.

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What is Hypnotherapy?

Clinical hypnotherapy is an alternative therapy in which hypnosis is used to create a state of increased suggestibility in order to help individuals deal with a number of concerns and conditions

Although hypnotherapy can be traced back to ancient civilisations, its journey through history has generated much research and dedication. Today, hypnotherapy has become a widely recognised therapy and is now taught as part of medical studies curriculum in a number of countries, such as France.

Although it can help with many issues, it mostly known for its effective resolution of fears, addictions, and past trauma. It accesses and disrupts the negative programmes running in the subconscious mind, and changes the operating system from deep within. In order to understand how hypnotherapy can change subconscious programmes, let’s briefly explore its evolution and explain how exactly hypnosis works.

When Was Hypnotherapy First Used?

Most ancient cultures already used hypnosis in some form. ‘Ecstasy state’ is referred to in ancient texts such as the Indian Sanskrit book, as are rituals like the Hebrew fixation on alphabet letters to induce the ‘Kavannah’ state (effectively, auto-hypnosis). Ancient Greece and Egypt had ‘dream temples’ that were visited for healing purposes. Suggestion therapy in Egypt can be traced back to the time of Imhotep, around the 2600s BC.

The Evolution of Hypnosis as a Therapy

Since the 18th century, hypnosis evolved as a therapy, with notable figures such as Emile Coué, who believed that healing one’s troubles could result from auto-suggestion.

It was used as a treatment of what is known today to be Post Traumatic Stress Disorder during World Wars I and II and the Korean war. The use of hypnosis developed in the 20th century and progressively gained more understanding with research and practice. It was popularised by figures such as Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) and his concept of hypnotic regression therapy.

Today, hypnotherapy is widely recognised as an effective clinical therapy. Proven results have consistently evidenced its capability, efficacy and high success rate. Increasingly, research is being undertaken to understand and harness the power of the subconscious mind.

What is the Subconscious Mind?

Our subconscious mind is the inner system that runs all our programmes, habits, unconscious behaviours, and stores all the data from our life experiences, memories, fears and desires. 95% of everything we do results from habit, so you can imagine how powerful it can be to change those programmes for the better. This is what hypnotherapy does; it is a solution-based approach, aimed at healing or positively changing behaviour, in order to achieve the wanted result. So, how do we reach our subconscious mind?

How to rewire your brain using the power of your subconscious mind

Reaching the subconscious

We all naturally drift into states of trance-like relaxation throughout the day, where the subconscious becomes more accessible and open to suggestion. Professional Hypnotherapists use ‘scripts’ that utilise a certain process, tone, language and visualisation techniques to create the necessary conditions for transformational work. Hypnotic inductions can prepare the mind by creating the appropriate brain frequency (alpha waves) to accept suggestions of positive change. These will induce relaxation, create a safe space, utilise their client’s imagination to access their subconscious mind and once reached, guide it to implement change and achieve the therapeutic purpose.

The subconscious mind is the place to effect change. Accessing it, is unlocking the key to the power source.

As you sow in your subconscious mind, so shall you reap in your body and environment.”

Dr Joseph Murphy

What Can Be Treated with Hypnotherapy?

Clinical hypnotherapy utilises hypnosis to help manage and even overcome a vast number of issues and conditions. It can lead to transformative change in many areas, such as health, self-improvement (skills and abilities), fears and phobias and combatting bad habits and addictions. Documented research shows that hypnotherapy also helps with physical manifestations such as chronic pain, eczema, or irritable bowel syndrome.

Here are five of the most popular problems that can be resolved effectively with hypnotherapy:

1. Hypnotherapy to Beat Anxiety

It could be argued that everyone will experience anxiety at some point in their life. Anxiety is generated by thoughts and not something that is actually happening. Understanding this, highlights the prospect of combatting it. Since we are its originator, we can control anxiety ourselves.

The sufferer becomes consumed with worries about what has happened or what might happen. Unable to differentiate between the real and the vivid imaginary, the mind and body activate the ‘fight or flight’ response. Hypnotic suggestions can be designed with an understanding of what may cause anxiety (for example, a particular event, past experiences, a build-up of smaller stressful situations). The safe place accessed through hypnosis sets the scene to focus on the reframing of causal events and healing suggestions, so that the mind no longer generates overthinking cycles.

2. Hypnotherapy to Overcome Stress

Stress is also a condition that everyone is likely to experience, often due to their work, relationships, kids etc. The issue worsens when the stress is prolonged over extended periods of time. Chronic stress can lead to serious health issues.

A survey commissioned by the by the Mental Health Foundation in 2018 found that 74% of UK adults had felt so stressed at some point over the year, that they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope.

Clinical hypnotherapy is a hugely successful remedy to stress, starting with the accessing a deeply relaxed state, one where stress and tension are diffused by the very nature of the process. Suggestions will implement measures to fight tension, trigger calmed responses, stick to a routine program, or turn the dial down in situations where stress would normally present itself.

3. Hypnotherapy for Weight Loss

As weight management becomes one of the fastest growing concerns health problems in the world, weight loss is one of the most aspired objectives. However, moderating food intake can be a more complex process than breaking a habit altogether.

Like other problematic areas, there are two aspects to address with weight loss; the first one is to regulate the excess eating and the second is to explore the deeper issues that may lead to overeating. It is essential to change self-perception as well as eating habits in order to effectively maintain the desired result long term.

Feelings of vulnerability, stress, loneliness or boredom are often associated with eating, as if eating was a means to improve those moods. In fact, it makes you feel worse and continues the downward spiral as your size increases. As well as working on the underlying emotional issues, hypnotherapy can build confidence and self-esteem. Negative coping habits can be broken and the patients can visualise themselves as a slimmer fitter self, with the inner power to resist temptations. Suggestions can focus on hunger and enjoying the meals as opposed to random eating. They can manage specific food cravings -such as chocolate- and motivate exercise activity.

4. Hypnotherapy to Overcome Fear of flying

In fears and phobias such as the fear of flying, the body’s natural ‘fight or flight’ response has somehow become anchored to a situation or object, even though there is no actual threat. When the trigger is activated, a feeling of panic, anxiety and fear takes over. The sufferer will do what they can to avoid the situation or object, even if the avoidance response is disproportional or irrational.

In today’s world, fear of flying can become a real handicap, both in your professional and personal life. Some individuals manage to carry themselves to an airplane whilst experiencing extreme anxiety and fear, whilst others simply cannot face the idea of flying at all.

Fear of flying often originates from a specific event, such as an experience of bad flight turbulence. In his Handbook of Hypnotic Suggestions and Metaphors, Dr Corydon Hammond points out the role of the airline’s terminology in conditioning people to experience fear. Words such as ‘terminal’, ‘last call’, ‘final destination’ or ‘how to cope with a crash’ procedures are not helping!

The aim of hypnotherapy will be to address the limiting beliefs, disrupt the current anchor and ‘unlearn’ the negative response.

5. Hypnotherapy to Stop Smoking

Hypnotherapy has helped many individuals to stop smoking. The perspective here would be to return to their original state of being a non-smoker, as opposed to giving something up. It is an effective treatment when the individual is ready and committed to stop. It is quoted as a ‘stop smoking aid’ option in many countries’ Public Health advice and documentation.

The process will aim to work on both the physical and psychological dependency. It is useful to explore what are the perceived benefits of smoking, for example calm the nerves, help relax, social facilitation etc. One of the most popular limiting beliefs is the calming effect of smoking. In fact, the ‘relaxation’ results from the relief of the anxiety of produced by nicotine withdrawal, basically ‘the fix’. It also derives from the habit of having a cigarette as a ‘go-to’ in a time of stress -almost like the British traditional ‘putting the kettle on’ to make your troubles go away. An anchoring association has been made there between smoking and stress relief.

Understanding these perceived benefits will help adapt individualised suggestions to one’s particular needs and associations with smoking. Hypnosis will aim to break the negative thinking patterns associated with smoking and reprogram the unconscious mind to produce the same positive intentions that smoking (are believed to) give, but in a healthy way. This will secure a long-term breaking of the habit and a return to self-perception as a non-smoker.

In Summary

Recent decades have seen an unprecedented surge in the study of the brain, with growing knowledge on the fascinating power of the human mind. Hypnosis enables us to harness that power, disrupt the subconscious negative programmes that are running our life and change them to create a better operating system.

The success of Hypnotherapy in changing habits and creating positive change is well-documented. It utilises our best resource -the subconscious mind- to break free of unwanted habits, behaviours and thought patterns. It allows us to access the required mindset to help achieve desired goals. Hypnotherapy truly is the holy grail of transformation. This is why it is taking an ever-increasing role in the health and well-being world. To quote Dr Milton Erickson, American psychiatrist known as ‘the father of hypnotherapy’:

“Most people walk through the world in a trance of disempowerment. Our work is to transform that into a trance of empowerment.”

Dr Milton Erickson

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