Trance occurs naturally when we daydream,
giving us the ability to become engrossed in our thoughts
and fantasies. It can occur spontaneously in response to
stress, allowing us to remain calm in a crisis, so we can
cope with the trauma effectively. Traditionally, it was
thought, hypnotised people were likely to act upon any
suggestions given to them and this led to the idea that
hypnotists could control their clients' actions. Suggestion
plays a part in hypnosis, as it does in everyday life.
We all use suggestion, if we say "let's go out for
dinner; I've heard that the food at X restaurant is really
good," it is suggestion. The advertising industry
operates by suggesting their products are more desirable
or necessary than others; political parties use it to encourage
the electorate to believe their programme is better for
the country than those of other parties.
These methods do not force the receiver into compliance,
rather they are evaluated and, if liked, can be accepted.
Suggestibility is sometimes associated with gullibility
or being weak-willed, but this is far from being the truth.
Inability to appreciate and judge suggestions would prevent
us from trying anything new; we'd be stuck living with
fixed and unchangeable ideas. Our capacity to change lifestyle
to fit circumstances is due to our noticing and reacting
to verbal and non-verbal suggestions in our environment
around us. Suggestibility is a valuable human trait, allowing
us to grow and learn, increasing our knowledge.
Opinion is divided as to whether or not hypnosis increases
hypersuggestibility. Dr. Milton H. Erickson, a leading
psychiatrist and hypnotherapist, reported that in his experience, "hypersuggestibility" was
not noticed, although the list of individual subjects worked
with, was approximately 300 and the number of trances induced
in them, several thousand... Far from making them hypersuggestible,
it was found necessary to deal very gingerly with them
to keep from losing their co-operation,.... According to
Ellenberger (1970 p.115) "Hypnotic subjects are hypersensitive,
The hypnotised will not do anything that is unacceptable
to them; censoring everything the hypnotist does or says
and responding according to their own beliefs. Dr. Fred
Frankel, professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School
and head of a clinic for therapeutic hypnosis, said, in
1976, Clinicians learn readily that they exercise control
over most patients only to the extent that the patients
are prepared to let them. Hypnosis involves no loss of
The skilled practitioner will help clients become more
discriminating in their available choices; clearly defining
the desirable changes and facilitating ready accomplishment.
Stage hypnosis gives the impression that hypnotised people
will obey any command. Part of the skill of the stage performer
is in setting up his subjects so this appears to happen.
The famous American hypnotherapist and stage hypnotist,
Ormond McGill, says that 20% of the population is able
to develop a trance suitable for the stage and that the
shows tend to attract a greater proportion of these people.
From this group the performer selects his subjects and
by the time the participants have reached the stage, they
have already completed a complex selection process, designed
to find the most obedient and compliant individuals in
the audience. Even by volunteering to go up, they are already
committing themselves to becoming part of the act.
Those who do volunteer are safeguarded from doing anything
offensive, because they are able to ignore the hypnotist
or come out of trance whenever they want. By accepting
the "party" frame of stage hypnosis, they can
let their hair down with little inhibition, always able
to claim the hypnotist was responsible for their actions!
In the same way a drunk blames alcohol for his behaviour,
the volunteer blames the hypnotist.
Stage-hypnotists, like therapeutic practitioners, have
no special "powers" and cannot force people to
act against their will or code of behaviour.
If trance does not increase suggestibility, unquestionably
it does reduce resistance to new ideas. It also encourages
greater mental agility, creating opportunities for changes
in behaviour, allowing different perspectives on problems
and providing a flexibility to adapt to changing circumstances.
Hypnosis enables us to use subconscious resources for changing
our behaviour. Sigmund Freud, the originator of psychoanalysis,
believed that the subconscious is where all our animal
instincts and needs are seated. Milton Erickson regarded
the subconscious as a very powerful and constructive force
for life which should be fully used. The British scientist,
Daniel Dunnett, concluded after a series of experiments
that quite outside our consciousness, our brain is carrying
out elaborate and sophisticated activities. You're intelligent,
but your subconscious is a darned sight smarter!
Many authorities believe the subconscious uses 90% of the
brain capacity and from birth (possibly even while in the
womb) it has been recording every thing that happens to
us. We use our conscious minds to analyse events and make
decisions (when they are based on logic rather than insight
or feelings). The subconscious mind runs our bodies for
us, making sure we breathe and maintain our body temperature,
regulating our heart rate and blood pressure, taking care
of balancing and dozens of biochemical processes. We simply
could not cope with the extent and complexity of our physical
functioning consciously. Our minds would be overflowing
with all the adjustments needed to survive, leaving us
no time to do anything else. The close relationship of
trance to subconscious process allows hypnosis to influence
the way the body works, modifying functions normally outside
conscious control. In America, hundreds of thousands have
been taught how to manage their blood pressure.
Perhaps you can remember how much effort was needed when
you learnt to ride a bike. You had to learn to balance,
to steer, to pedal etc., at the time there almost seemed
to be too many things to do at once. As soon as you had
mastered bike riding, all the necessary skills became stored
in your subconscious making it possible to ride the bike
with little conscious effort, allowing you simultaneously
to ride, talk, and pay more attention to your surroundings.
The patterns of skill necessary for bike riding, swimming,
reading, speech, etc., once learned are all stored permanently
in our sub-conscious and always readily available.
All learning follows the process.....
Define / What is hypnosis, hypnotherapy, trance?
How is the therapy used to treat stress, fear, anxiety, to
stop smoking and for other problems and illnesses?
The U K Guild of Hypnotist Examiners
in 1981, The UKGHE is an elite organisation of some 350
highly trained registered therapists in hypnosis - hypnotherapy
- NLP (neuro-linguistic-programming)
The UKGHE works to a very high standard
of code of ethics and welcomes other therapists to join
Application to join is through the Board of Examiners
Details can be obtained by
ringing 01229 583750,
or writing to:
Green Lane Farm,
Cumbria LA12 0JX
Questions & Answers
There is more information
about hypntherapy on another page called Questions and
covers many of the typical questions that we are often
asked about our therapy and how we answer them.
Q & A section