Hypnosis - Fact or Fiction - by Christian Flint, MA, M.C.Ht.

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As I now close-in on almost 30 years of being a Clinical Hypnotherapist, I look back over a career that led me into the Self-Help Profession.  I remember, when I learned to use hypnosis, at the age of 11, I believe that I learned it well because I had no fears or doubts about it.  As a matter of fact, when I first learned it, I was told by the "Hypnotist" (actually, a Physical Therapist) that it was a form of "Progressive Relaxation".  And, while that is the moniker often given to the induction of Hypnosis / Hypnotherapy, I still had no reason to doubt or present any form of resistance in my learning.

To those of you that do not know my story, I was born with Cerebral Palsy.  I had several major operations to help me walk.  I have dealt with pain my whole life.  As anyone with Cerebral Palsy can tell you, it comes with the affliction.  Just after my most Progressive Operation at Duke University, I was to begin Physical Therapy within the first 4 - 5 days of recovery and rehabilitation.  From my former years of ongoing Physical Therapy, it only meant agony and pain for me.  I was extremely apprehensive about the operation and rehabilitation because I knew what was to come: many weeks of grueling, painful and intensive Physical Therapy.  

I can almost remember the exact moment the Physical Therapist came into my room at Duke University Medical Center, as she introduced herself.  She had a wide, reassuring smile.  But, to me, she only represented the beginning of an incredibly painful recovery.  Having just had both femurs cut in two, rotated and then held in place by steel plates in my legs and hip bones, I was in ongoing pain from the moment I woke up in the recovery room, only three days before.  I was in no mood for physical relocation, much less all of the movement and adjustments that goes along with Physical Therapy.  

Amazingly, I lucked out.  I got a Physical Therapist that was assigned to me that already knew the major benefits of Hypnosis, Guided Imagery and Progressive Relaxation.  Upon seeing my apprehension and stress, she decided to make our first two - three sessions about teaching me Hypnosis / Progressive Relaxation.  She never even used the word "hypnosis".  She just began using this amazing "best kept secret" as she probably was unsure in how to begin working with a young patient still in so much pain and anxiety about the upcoming rehabilitation.  

(You can read that full story in past blogs and writings.)  

To make the long story short, I was incredibly fortunate to have such an intuitive and knowledgeable Physical Therapist.  She used her best skills to calm me and get me going in almost a painless recovery of several months thereafter.  Even better, she taught me my most useful tool and skill I use today.  Since I first learned hypnosis, I have not stopped using it.  And, when I finally found out that what she taught me was defined as "hypnosis", I have been an avid student and Clinician in teaching, training and utilizing it with others.  

When I began using hypnosis, I never foresaw a life of helping others and using hypnosis as one of those primary skills and tools.  It is incredibly beneficial and applicable in so many areas of life.  And once most people use it and "get it", they also begin using hypnosis in various areas of their lives.  

The saddest part about my Profession is having to educate people properly on hypnosis: what it is and how it can be utilized.  Truthfully, Hollywood, their movies and TV Shows, etc... have damaged and marginalized hypnosis in how people understand and misinterpret its value.  Hypnosis has long been improperly defined as "mind control" or a form thereof.  And, while there are stories that pertain to the powerful misuse of hypnosis, "mind control" is not what hypnosis is about.  

Hypnosis is also not "mind over matter".  "Mind over matter" is the definition of "will power".  Will-power is not what hypnosis is and hardly defines it.  Hypnosis is also not some form of "invisible magic" or "Voo Doo".   Hypnosis too often gets portrayed as a form of sinister mind control or "spell" put onto another person.  And, Hollywood has scarcely portrayed hypnosis in its most valuable forms: self-improvement and personal empowerment.  

Hypnosis is better defined as; Breaking old bad habits and creating a new productive or empowering "habit".   As when people ask me what I do Professionally, I often tell them as my "Elevator Pitch", "I help people break their old, unwanted unproductive habits, and create new, more powerful and productive habits".  While this does not directly address issues such as Pain Management or Hypno-Birthing utilizing hypnosis for instance, it does adequately, and better define, hypnosis as it is.  

Realize, your subconscious mind rules and directs MOST of your life in each day you live it.  What hand you brush your teeth with or hold an eating utensil takes ZERO "conscious" effort anymore, because your subconscious mind is doing all of that work.  Your subconscious mind has a much better memory than your conscious mind does.  Meaning, what you make a conscious effort to remember, is already imprinted within your memory and utilized by your subconscious mind.  For example, have you ever woken up in the morning realizing that you have a blanket over your feet, legs or body, only to realize that at some point in the night, you pulled the blanket onto your body without ever waking up??  Your subconscious mind did that. And, it does hundreds of things every day, that you are unaware of consciously.  

Your whole day (and night) is literally action-after-action and thought-after-thought of interconnected patterns and "habits" you have formed over days, months and years of your life.  In short, your day is mostly made up of habits overlapping habits.  This is called your "routine". The way you get into a car. The way you turn on the ignition, the volume you keep your car radio, braking for red lights and stop signs, are ALL mostly actions of your subconscious mind.  This means, you made little conscious effort whatsoever to carry out these tasks.  It is only when we misplace our car keys or have to remember to bring an umbrella, do we break our subconscious repetitions and make more conscious decisions.  

So, what is it exactly, that hypnosis does?  And, how does it really work??

Hypnosis is an amazing tool.  It literally goes into your mind and readjusts your "habits".  For instance, if you are a smoker, you are totally into the habit of smoking.  You barely make a conscious effort to smoke anymore.  You take the cigarette out of the box the same way.  You put it in your mouth and hold it in the same position, while you use the same hand and actions most always, to light the cigarette.  ALL of these actions are reactions and responses to a cigarette / nicotine addiction, for example.

Hypnosis goes into your subconscious mind and redirects / changes the patterns of smoking and nicotine cravings and triggers.  And, with proper hypnosis, you "break the old habit of smoking" and "create a new habit of not smoking", literally.  

Most people disregard hypnosis simply because it appears far too simple.  As many people have told me, "There has got to be something more to it."  "What is the trick?"  In truth, there is no "trick",  Amazingly, our minds ARE that easy to use.  Habits can be created and habits can be broken.  You just need to know how.  Again, take smoking for example.  I ask smokers, "How long did it take you to create the habit of being a smoker?"  Most cannot answer that question accurately.  They can usually remember around the time they began smoking.  But, they rarely remember any "conscious" efforts they made in order to create their smoking habit,  But, it all starts with one cigarette and that first effort to light it.  If you can start a habit with one cigarette, why would it not be plausible to create a new habit of being a non-smoker?  That is my reply and answer to most.

Yes, it does sound overly simplistic to many.  But, your life, your reality, is all made up of small, repetitive habits you have created and sustain / maintain.  Further, I am amazed at how many people struggle with that reasoning, even though they live it everyday.  

For instance, if you lose your job and find another, do you continue to drive the old way to your former work?  No, you create a new habit to drive to your new employment.  After two or three uneventful and successful drives to your new job, you forget about the conscious efforts you have made to arrive at your new job.  Quickly, you have formed a habit on driving to the new job.  Less and less conscious effort goes into reaching your newer destination.  

Also, when people tell me they "have tried hypnosis before and it did not work", I can assuredly tell them this: "Well, somehow, someway, you did not do hypnosis correctly".  If it was you who tried using "Self-Hypnosis" then you need more practice, guidance and time to learn properly.  If you worked with a Hypnotist / Hypnotherapist, and it did not work well enough, then I would say you were improperly matched with the Hypnotist.  Just like with any profession, such as doctors, lawyers, plumbers, painters, accountants, etc...  there are some good ones and some that are not so good.  Do not judge hypnosis merely on the Practitioner you encountered.

And, what about those that believe they are impervious to hypnosis?  I also get people who tell me that "Hypnosis does not work on me."  That phrase tells you many things.  It surmises hypnosis to be that of a "trick".  "That trick does not work on me" is how they seem to think of hypnosis.  Remember, hypnosis is not a "trick".  It is not "mind control".  And, it is not a "prank" you pull on someone.  Hypnosis is a process.  Hypnosis is either done correctly, or it is not.  If you are a client and you are "resistant" to it, then you will not be able to enjoy the many benefits it can offer.  

Resistance is common in those who are scared, apprehensive or doubt hypnosis.  It is the equivalent of saying, "I cannot float on my back in the water."   Well, you can.  But, you are afraid to relax and trust that your body is buoyant and can float, once relaxed and stretched out on top of the water.  One can lay comfortably and breathe, even while floating on your back in the swimming pool.  The key elements are "trust" and practice.  

Additional research is also showing that, the smarter you are, the more you can utilize and benefit from hypnosis.  Intelligence is proving to be a larger component of those who are hypnotize-able, as well as its overall effectiveness.  Some of the reasoning has been because intelligence makes the client more capable of "imagining" and connecting the metaphors and affirmations to the imagery and practice in life skills / applications.  While this is newer research, I believe it to be very accurate.  As, I have realized this in my many years of work with clients.  

Does this mean that you will not do well with hypnosis, if you are of average intelligence?  No.  This merely means, that hypnosis can work more efficiently for you and in even less time, if you have higher intellectual capacities and understandings.  I have worked with people of varying degrees of intelligence, and also children.  I strongly believe that there must be an optimism about hypnosis and a "comfort level" and trust between client and Hypnotherapist.  That is also a strong predictor of success.   

Finally, hypnosis is not some unusual psychology trick that a psychologist finally resorts to, in unsuccessfully treating a patient with other modalities.  Hypnosis is something that ANYONE can utilize and work with.  While, I recommend a seasoned professional with specialized training in Hypnosis / Hypnotherapy, you still need to find a Hypnotist that is right for you.  Sometimes the Hypnotist does not fit the patient / client, and vice-versa.  

Hypnosis / Hypnotherapy has been accepted by the American Medical Association since the 1950's.  And, it is accepted and well-recognized by the American Psychological Association.  If you research hypnosis, there are tens of thousands of research studies that have been implemented that prove that results from hypnosis are not only valid, but in some cases, extraordinary.  

And, when skeptical people ask me about the effectiveness / efficacy of hypnosis overall, I simply tell them this:  "You probably have aspirin in your medicine cabinet at home.  You know aspirin does not cure everything.  And, when you get a headache, you might choose to take aspirin.  Most often, the aspirin cures the headache, or helps some.  But, if the aspirin does not cure the headache, does that lessen your belief in aspirin to give relief otherwise?"    In short, hypnosis is not a cure-all.  But, it definitely is something to learn and utilize in your life.  It can, however, cure and help in many things in your life.    

Learn it well.  Utilize it.  You won't be disappointed.  

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  • Robyn Virga on

    Sounds awesome, thank you for a very good, well written, believable article!

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