Why hypnosis? It was my question thirty-one years ago when a colleague suggested I learn it, unable to fathom how this hocus pocus could benefit my clients.
How wrong I was.
Hypnosis is one of the most widely misunderstood treatment modalities that exists, but I took my colleague’s advice. On a warm June day in 1991, with skepticism but enthusiasm, I attended the training. Funny, how memories stay embedded in your mind. I recall my exact attire, a blue dress with pink flowers, entering the classroom and sitting among my peers to learn about this mysterious tool.
Within minutes, our instructor, Dr. Daniel Brown, put us into a trance. The deep relaxation was exquisite, a sense of tranquility experienced in this state of well-being. Thus began my love affair with hypnosis, and over the short but intense training period, I learned the answer to my question of why.
As a talk therapist, I discovered another toolbox that could provide further help in promoting health and healing.
In the nineteen-eighties, sexual abuse came out of the woodwork. I was seeing many clients who endured this atrocity, and hypnosis was a method used to augment healing and recovery.
Also, hypnosis, which is famous for its help around smoking cessation and weight loss, was utilized for other habits, phobias, pain management, and afflictions plaguing human beings.
Now, I use it far less for trauma other than providing a safe place. The bulk of my hypnotherapy work focuses on self-efficacy, including the performance anxieties, which I will discuss at a later date.
Yes, my why was answered, but thirty-one years later, I continue to clarify what hypnosis is and isn’t.
So what is hypnosis?
It is an altered state of consciousness, where certain stimuli come forward and others retreat in the background.
As I explain, if you become engrossed in a good book and don’t notice time passing or someone talking, you are in a hypnotic state.
Without recognizing it, we are in and out of hypnotic states. Think about it. You are dining in a restaurant, conversing, and immersing yourself in someone’s sharing. People are chatting, but you don’t hear them because you’re not listening. Their discussion fades into the background.
For a couple of decades, I offered this explanation, and about nine years ago, while hearing a ninety-year-old physician/hypnotherapist, I added another.
Dr. Dabney Ewin reminded us that hypnosis is a daydream, and now I provide both interpretations.
Yes, hypnosis is a daydream, a dissociative state, one of the phenomena of hypnosis. Consider taking a car ride, and do you wonder how you arrive at your destination? Where were you? Your imagination may have been in play, but your driving instincts were in high gear and somehow you reached your desired place of travel. You were daydreaming.
There is much to unpack regarding hypnosis, and next time, I will discuss its history. For now, I dedicate all of my hypnosis articles to Dan Brown, who died a few months ago. Not having contact with him in years, I was dismayed along with others when we learned of his death.
Although I attended several seminars, he was my first and most influential teacher in hypnosis. There are no adequate words to express for his brilliance in teaching, research, and writing. Not only was he dedicated to helping us in the mental health field hone our skills, but he was just as earnest in serving his clients to heal and recover.
Now thirty-one years later, over half a lifetime, I reflect on that first training of long ago. The exercises and people in my class become alive in my mind, and with a poignant smile, I think about Dan Brown and his amazing gifts.
Who knew this dubious but willing participant would become a fervent practitioner of hypnosis, applying unique skills to help others plagued by afflictions, trauma, or other issues related to the unfairness of life?
I send a wave and a hug to my hypnosis mentor and salute him for what he provided me and the thousands of others who practice hypnosis. I hope he is smiling from afar.
Author’s Note: Much of my information was garnered from Dr. Brown and his brilliance displayed in his seminars and his book, Hypnotherapy, and Hypnoanalysis. He co-authored it with his mentor, Dr. Erika Fromm, and although it was published in 1986, it remains a source of reference for many of us.