Hypnosis has always been tied around controversy, skepticism, and suspicion. Going by the many myths that have been spread about it, the history of hypnosis itself, and the many entertainers that use hypnosis for comedy and entertainment, you can understand why it is a subject of discussion.
However, hypnosis is actually real, useful, and beneficial in the health industry for helping with various health issues.
Here, we take a look at the main indicators that show hypnosis is a genuine medical intervention that should be given more credit than it is actually getting at the moment.
The Ideal Concept of Hypnosis
Many people know hypnosis from stage hypnosis where the technique is portrayed as a way of taking charge of someone’s mind and getting them to do whatever you want them to.
This has made hypnosis appear sketchy, suspicious, and even mystical.
By seeing stage hypnotists perform, some people have concluded that the hypnotist has some sort of mystical powers of controlling anybody’s mind or they simply make a deal with their participants to lie to the audience.
However, hypnosis that is used in hospitals and medical institutions is meant for health improvement purposes and is normally conducted by a well-trained, qualified, and licensed hypnotherapist.
In hospitals, hypnosis is referred to as hypnotherapy as it is used as a tool for various therapies including psychotherapy and in treating different conditions such as managing pain and sleep disorders (1)(2)(3)(4).
Hypnotherapists lead the patient to the hypnotic state that makes them receptive to the therapy they are receiving and makes it easy for them to accept and apply the needed change in their lives.
Hypnosis itself brings a significant shift in the patient’s mental state and it also allows them to feel things differently from how they are normally used to.
It is also important to note that while there are actual changes when someone is hypnotized, the experience is not an entirely strange one.
We often get into trance-like states almost every day.
People who are used to reading enjoyable novels that they love often fall into a hypnotic-like state. The same for people who daydream a lot, people who undertake tasks they are used to and sometimes people who meditate or pray (5).
Hypnosis brings about a natural state that allows us to perceive and feel things a little different than we usually do.
Let’s take a look at how the hypnotic state is like and what happens during that state.
The Hypnotic State
To achieve the hypnotic state in the patient, the hypnotherapist gets the patient in a fairly comfortable position and then guides them through the session into the state.
They help the patient relax their mind and direct their attention to their inner experiences such as mental imagery, cognition, and feelings while detaching from their immediate environment through that period (6).
With the use of verbal guidance or mental imagery, the hypnotherapist creates a hypnotic reality for the patient in such a way that the patient feels like what they are being led to imagine is real.
This then brings about a state of trance where the patient’s levels of concentration, attention, relaxation, and calmness as well as openness to suggestions increase.
Also, the patient feels less self-conscious than they normally are.
In this state, the hypnotherapist is now able to guide the patient through the targeted areas of their lives and help them make the kind of change they desire to see in the near future.
Since the levels of perception and suggestibility in the patient are high, they will be able to take up the changes readily and easily apply them in their life.
Most false theories claim that the hypnotized subject loses their ability to control themselves and can even be made to do all sorts of things that the hypnotist desires.
This is false because the patient still gets to keep their free will and moral judgment that keeps them in control even while in the hypnotic state.
Therefore, you cannot do anything you don’t want to do even when hypnotized.
The hypnotic state is seen to be a state of hyper-awareness and you don’t lose any aspect or control over any aspect of your life.
Our guide to the 12 most common myths about hypnosis helps give you a better understanding of how hypnosis and the hypnotic state is really like as opposed to what many falsely believe about it.
Changes in The Brain During Hypnosis
Recent studies have also shown that hypnosis does change the activity of the brain when a person is hypnotized. There is increased activity in some areas of the brain that are linked to various functions while there is also decreased activity in other areas.
At the basic level, the hypnosis technique deals with the subconscious mind where we hold our belief systems, concepts, and habits we have taken up through the years.
It helps hypnotherapists to access the areas of their brain, and life in general, that the patient is affected by and be able to address them in psychotherapy as well as other therapies.
A study by Stanford University School of Medicine has revealed the 3 areas of the brain that are affected when a patient gets into the hypnotic state (7).
The first is area is one of the parts of the salience network in the brain, the dorsal anterior cingulate, that is associated with emotional processes. The study concluded there was decreased activity in this area (8).
The second activity was the increased connections between the insula and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex which is known to be a brain and body connection that aids the brain with processing and controlling what is happening in the body.
The last activity was decreased connections between the default network mode (that consists of the posterior cingulate cortex and the medial prefrontal cortex) and the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex.
This activity signals a disconnect between your actions and the awareness of them. It is the same experience when you are taking on a task that you are used to, you don’t think about the task, you just work on it.
The activity is what makes it possible for the patient to readily take up the things suggested by the hypnotherapist.
Hypnosis as a Therapeutic Tool
Hypnosis can be carried out in different situations for varying purposes and there are also different types of hypnosis that are applied in specific ways.
There is self-hypnosis which is administered by an individual to themselves without the physical help of a hypnotist and there is also guided hypnosis where a person is hypnotized by a hypnotist for various reasons.
As earlier mentioned, when hypnosis is done in clinical situations and for therapy reasons, it is known as hypnotherapy. This is where hypnosis is used as a therapeutic tool to help the hypnotherapist understand and better help the patient with their condition.
For the better part of its history, hypnosis was used in such situations by different physicians like Sigmund Freud, Josef Breuer, and others to help treat different health issues and it is still practiced today in similar cases.
Among the many health conditions that hypnosis has been found to be effective in dealing with include Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), migraines, facilitating smoking cessation, controlling clinical pain such as in surgeries and childbirth, and managing sleep disorders (9)(10)(11)(12)(13)(14).
While there are so many other health problems believed to be treated by hypnosis, the above mentioned are the ones that have been researched on and found to be managed by the technique.
Research Studies on Hypnosis
Going by the fact that hypnosis has been used in different forms since thousands of years ago, a good deal of studies and experiments have been done on it.
Although back then it was believed to be a form of magnetism, animal magnetism, later on, scientists were able to understand some aspects of it and better define the properties of the hypnotic state and how they help us live better and more fulfilled lives.
And while there were disputes about different aspects of the technique, almost all scientists believe in its ability to manage different health conditions.
More recent studies have also proven hypnosis to be a reliable method of treating the conditions mentioned above and its potency in other fields if well studied (15).
Some people claim that hypnosis works due to the placebo effect but studies like the one which showed how hypnosis changes brain activity, as well as other studies, have proved this claim wrong (16).
The one application of hypnosis that has been met with a lot of skepticism by many experts is where hypnosis is used for retrieving memories (17).
This application has been found to cause the creation of false memories in the patient and thus bringing defective results. Further studies have been called on in this area to establish if it can be a good strategy for this purpose.
Essentially, hypnosis is a real, genuine, and well-studied technique that has been refined over the years by experts. There have been numerous studies that confirmed its effectiveness in different clinical situations.
And as it keeps being studied and applied, we will get to discover more of its uses and applications in our lives.
Therefore, it is necessary to keep away all the doubts about the hypnosis method and take it up willingly for our own benefit not to mention making use of it when needed.
Our beginner’s guide to hypnosis sheds more light on what hypnosis really is and it might help you get a better grasp of it.