The term “Hypnosis” originally comes from the Greek “to sleep” or “put to sleep”. For those of us living with Chronic Pain being able to induce sleep, or some form of it, at will (and thereby be in the only pain-free state we know), sounds like just the ticket.
And research has shown it to genuinely make a significant difference, in respect to pain, for some.
It has only been considered a form of or practice within the medical field since the mid-19th century, but hypnosis or hypnotherapy has come a long way. We now know it to be affective for the management not only of pain but too, from stress, anxiety, sleep problems and headaches (all of which, in many cases, are conditions “related to” Chronic Pain). It has even been shown, in recent research, to help with healing tissue injury.
Hypnosis that is conducted by a trained therapist or health care professional is considered a safe, complementary and alternative medical treatment. To find one you may wish to contact the Society of Psychological Hypnosis.
What is Hypnosis?
The history of the term may have its roots in the idea of sleep, but hypnosis actually involves a very relaxed, trance-like condition. Unlike sleep, when an individual is in a hypnotic state they actually experience heightened awareness and focus while remaining uncritical and open to suggestion. This brings up the interesting point that you must be open to the process, as without your willingness, hypnosis will not work.
In this state, the conscious mind is suppressed and the subconscious mind is revealed. The therapist is then able to suggest ideas, concepts and lifestyle adaptations to the patient, the seeds of which become firmly planted and realized in normal day-to-day activities.
During hypnosis, according to Dr. Carol Ginandes, out of Harvard, “the body is released from conscious control during the relaxed trance-like state…, breathing becomes slower and deeper, the pulse rate drops and the metabolic rate falls.” This deep state of relaxation also calms our nervous system and releases such feel-good hormones as serotonin.
“We don’t yet understand the mechanisms by which these suggestions are transplanted by the mind into the language of the body,” says Ginandes
In a hypnotherapy session you are always in control, and you are not made to do anything you would not normally want to do. Quite the contrary, it empowers you to do the very things you are wishing to achieve/realize within your life such as changing bad habits. It is generally accepted that all hypnosis is ultimately self-hypnosis; a hypnotist simply helps to facilitate your experience.
What Hypnosis is Not ~ Common Misconceptions
Some may think of hypnosis as “stage hypnosis”- this is the form used for entertainment, found in novels, on TV or in the theatre performed by “Mentalists”, the “look deeply into my eyes” or “follow the swinging watch: back-and-forth, back-and-forth”, idea. Counter to this cliché stereo-type, people do not lose control of their behavior, become forced to act in ways counter to their core beliefs or experience amnesia afterwards.
Hypnosis may not be appropriate for everyone, especially those under significant mental duress, like many who live with Chronic Pain experience. Those who are struggling with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), severe anxiety, including panic attacks, and persons with mental illness need to be particularly cautious and checking with your Primary Care, Pain Management Doctor and/or Psychiatrist is an absolute necessity before attempting hypnotherapy.
The Mayo Clinic particularly recommends: “…Special caution before using hypnosis for age regression to help you relive earlier events in your life. This practice remains controversial and has limited scientific evidence to support its use. It may cause strong emotions and can alter your memories or lead to creation of false memories.”
A quick video (and a lot of helpful information) from the Oxford Hypnotherapy Organization can be found here.