What to expect from Hypnosis

man gesturing

In a clinical sense, hypnosis is the medium from which a therapeutic intervention (hypnotherapy) takes place;

But what happens next?

When one thinks of hypnosis their mind can be taken in two directions: Firstly, stage hypnosis, where one engages in hypnosis for the purpose of entertainment; a laugh and giggle, so to speak. Secondly, and more seriously, as a method of delivering a therapeutic intervention. Naturally, this site and this article will focus on the second of those two directions!

So if you are thinking of seeking help for a life issue, it is likely that you may have a few questions? And one of the questions you may like ask is, “what can I expect from therapy?" Now that may sound like a question you'd think was easy to answer but experience has taught me differently. Mostly this is because potential clients will focus more on what they don’t want, than what they do but let me explain. Let’s say you have a debilitating anxiety disorder and you are asked, “what do you want?” The most usual answer is something like, I don’t want to be anxious any more! Sounds both logical and reasonable, doesn’t it? Well, the absence of anxiety is not what you want, it’s what you don’t want and the clue to that is in the answer itself “I don’t want to be anxious!” So, if anxiety is what you don’t want, then what do you actually want? Obviously, it is the opposite of anxiety and that is found in peace, calm and relaxation, essentially a state of inner peace, balance and/or tranquillity. However, there is a secondary anomaly with, “I don’t want to be anxious any more" and this is simply because anxiety is a natural human experience, in essence, the presence of the fear response (fight or flight) and you may just need that on occasion? So, the idea of living without it is both absurd and, potentially, dangerous! As is anyone suggesting or promising to give you a stress-free life!

Sometimes when I ask a client what they want from therapy, it is not uncommon for them to say, “I want happiness.” That’s great I say but how would you define it, i.e. what is happiness? At this point there is most often a long pause and very seldom is there a definitive answer!  The problem, however, is in the pause because mostly the brain will not afford us the luxury of time to think, if you cannot or do not know what happiness is, then it will attempt to provide it for you, maybe a new pair of shoes, a wallet, trousers or a new handbag etc. On occasion, it does so in very extreme and bizarre ways! However, my argument, is if you cannot define what you want, to yourself, in simple, clear and unambiguous terms; how can you expect your brain to help you achieve it? It is the vagueness and ambiguity that creates the disclarity of our life's purpose and that often leads us towards issues, such as, psychological or mental imbalance; aka a problem! If you have ever considered goal setting, you will know that it centres on the clarity of mind, purpose and action. One of the more common acronyms for goal setting is SMART: Specific - Measurable - Attainable - Realistic - Timed. The reality of life, at least in terms of how I have discovered it, is that this applies to many more aspects of our life than just goal setting. Hypnotherapy helps you become SMART about life and living!

However, knowing what you really want can be complicated too, if only because the way life has represented itself in your brain, is often predicated on false, erroneous, vague or ambiguous sensory stimuli. Sensory stimuli come in the form of memories based on what we see, hear, feel, smell or taste. When we are young we obviously have a young immature and undeveloped brain, nevertheless, it has to make sense of the world it lives in and because the logical processes of cognition, reasoning and analysis are not yet developed in those very early years, it is not uncommon for our brain to make illogical and irrational choices or decisions? But hey, we’re kids, so that’s OK, isn’t it? Well in most cases it is but, in others, it is seemingly not OK? Children, at least Christian children, mostly believe in Santa Claus and some, even the tooth fairy (remember what I said earlier, about “false, erroneous” info) and I am not aware of any adult facing an issue/trauma relating to a seemingly innocuous childhood experience, i.e. as a consequence of discovering that Santa and the tooth fairy are not real people? But what about a person with a spider phobia? Every person with one, that I have ever worked with, unilaterally says, “I know it’s ridiculous, they won’t hurt me!” Some even quote their intelligence as a reason why they should not be afraid! But it isn’t their cognitive, intellectual systems of logic, reasoning, critical thinking etc. that create the fear; it’s their emotional system! The emotional system is pretty simple, albeit, in an incredibly complicated way, it works on a shoot first, ask questions later basis. We, on the other hand, just love to ask questions and when we respond in an overwhelmingly emotional way, that clearly doesn’t make sense, essentially we are thrown off-kilter. So, despite knowing that the average domestic spider won’t hurt you (although in some countries, they can and will), they totally freak out at the sight or mere mention of one! However, even in countries where spiders do represent a danger, spider phobias are still relatively rare!

The reason why I am going into so much detail about spiders is that similar, mental or emotional processes are at play for many of the malaise that we humans suffer from. Sometimes this can start in the womb before we are born. As an example, it is known that the foetus experiences its mothers emotions and also hears the sounds of the world outside, so, a mother with a spider phobia will very likely have a phobic response during the pregnancy, the baby feels the emotion and hears the screams, panic etc. but has no context. After birth, again, the mother will likely have another phobic attack, the baby now observes this, it doesn’t directly feel the mothers emotions but babies have a tendency to get stressed when they see their mother in distress. At this stage, both mother and baby are in the fight or flight (the same or at least very similar to the in vivo experience) and now the baby has the inkling of an issue but still has no context. At some point down the line, the infant discovers that the object of this abject terror is this tiny little 8 legged thing called a spider and a spider phobia ensues! This is now locked in emotional memory (often in implicit, non-declarative memory) and is thus, beyond reasoning, logic, analysis and/or intelligence. They can know logically, reasonably and analytically that the spider won’t harm them; they just don’t know it emotionally!

Many of the other issues we face can be similar in nature, for example, you are the oldest of three children, say 4 years between you and the next and 7 to the youngest. For 4 years you are the apple of your parents eye, you have them all to yourself, then along comes this sibling, you are obviously too young to appreciate the complexity of this new relationship, you will neither know, nor care, about how useless this new addition is or why your parent’s attention is now fixated on this new arrival but, relative to your perceptions about how little time you are receiving, compared to the new arrival, your brain will or could be making decisions! Of course, now armed with 4 years experience as parents, they will likely be more confident and, maybe, a little less paranoid of everything the new arrival does. This can be translated by you as, different treatment and by the time your next sibling arrives a whole lot of stuff can happen. This can be more complicated for you because many of your core logical and analytical processes are now coming on board but your brain is still very young, very immature and does not function in the way an adult brain does. Your parent’s, on the other hand, may find it difficult to function at your level and they will mostly use their logical processing to figure out your illogic. For the most part, this all turns out quite well; let’s call it the Santa Claus theory of parenting! However, many parents face their own emotional hangovers from their own childhood experiences (the Non-Santa Claus theory) and this can affect both their and your mental stability.

Let’s say your father felt neglected and unloved as a child, a consequence perhaps, of his younger brother/sister getting more, and, perceptively, better treatment than him, so, rejection (the apparent absence of the chemical correlates of love), can play a critical role in his feelings of love and safety. Your mother, through mother/infant bonding (an effect of oxytocin/vasopressin), becomes more focused on you or the new arrival, it’s as if they are now the focus of all her love and attention. Your father may now, subconsciously, activate latent childhood emotional memories, perhaps relating to jealousy, lack of love, neglect, rejection etc. and abnormal behaviour could ensue. It is unlikely that this will be the first time such behaviour has been experienced by him and the degree to which it has manifested, as he developed, is the degree to which his now/then cognitive processing can distort or corrupt those childhood memories? In essence, as we experience sensory stimuli that activate childhood memories, those memories go through a process of recall and reconsolidation as we sleep. So, the newly reconsolidated memories have now been updated (maybe distorted or corrupted) and that can lead to any future recall no longer being that of the childhood memory but, rather, the recall of the adult reconsolidated version of that childhood memory! In that context, we now talk about that memory using adult language, logic and reasoning. The problem, at least potentially, being, that we are totally unaware of that nonconscious process and still think of the recall as being the recall of the childhood memory. Hopefully, it is now somewhat easier for you to extrapolate these processes outwards to many of the issues you may be facing?

So, getting back to the original question, what can you expect from hypnosis? Well, I would hope, through the process of the therapy, a more clear and better understanding of how problems can manifest and why, at least sometimes, visiting the past can be of such importance in discovering how your young brain converted a childhood experience into an adult problem?

The way we learn things when we are young influences the way our brain develops and if there is a lot of highly (negative) emotional aspects to our living experience, that can have the potential for a drastic emotional response to seemingly nonemotional events, if only in the eyes of others we engage with, resulting in conflictual relationships and moral and ethical dysfunctionality. Hence why people's reactions to novel experience can occasionally seem so out of place and/or noncontextual?

So, when preparing for therapy it can be useful to be open-minded and willing to explore the realms of your deeper brain/mind, as well as the possibility that life may just not be the way you actually see it, at least from the inside out? Hypnotherapy has the potential to change the way your brain processes information, information that may have been erroneously encoded when you were much younger. That said, it may not have been erroneous back then because the brain that encoded it was undeveloped, immature and lacking in the intellectual capacity you acquired over the course of your developmental stages. As already mentioned, Santa Claus and the tooth fairy are mild examples, of a belief that most often harmlessly evolves during childhood and then safely transmutes into adulthood as a fantasy. Spider phobias, et al, are examples that do not. So, in preparation for therapy, be prepared to be Trans4ormed with hypnotherapy because what you know logically and intellectually, may just not be what you know emotionally! That Tranceformation is available right here in Singapore by Thom Bush, your resident, UK trained, Clinical Hypnotherapist and Certified Hypnotist!

Note: The natural laws of attraction and abundance can only exist, for us, in the presence of clarity of mind and purpose and the more clear that is, the better. When your mental understanding correlates with your articulation of that which you want, you have a purpose and you have clarity. It is from within this perspective, internal and external, that synchronicity occurs. synchronicity is the meeting of mind with the forces of the universe. When mind meets the universal elements of life; then you are living!

So, to answer the original question, "what can you expect from therapy" the answer; whatever you want!


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