About Hypnosis

I think it is important to stress that I encountered and learned about hypnosis in an unorthodox fashion.  I want to share with you some of what I have learned, in the hopes that you will be inspired to find applications for hypnosis in your own life and for people who are important to you. 


However, I have learned that use of hypnosis sometimes is not straightforward.  If you are interested in learning about hypnosis, I would encourage you to work with a health care professional who has received training from a national society such as The American Society for Clinical Hypnosis, The Ericksonian Society, The National Pediatric Hypnosis Training Institute, or The Society for Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis.  Of course, we would be happy to see any patient up 21 years of age at Center Point Medicine. 


Nonprofessionals ought not practice hypnosis for medical problems because this might cause a patient to delay receiving appropriate medical diagnosis and management.


I learned that even though a definition of hypnosis is elusive, its effects can be described.  In broad terms, hypnosis can affect anything under the control of one’s mind. 


For example, as perception of pain is under the control of the mind, hypnosis can affect perception of pain.  How can you know perception is under the control of the mind?  An example might be an injury someone might suffer during an athletic event.  Oftentimes, the pain of the injury does not become apparent until after the event is over.  How does this happen?  During the event, the athlete is so involved in the activity, that he or she does not pay attention to the pain.  Once the activity is over, the pain is perceived.  Similarly, subjects can be taught how not to pay attention to pain if they choose not to pay attention. 


Sometimes, patients are very good at paying attention to pain, and in this way intensifying the experience.  For example, patients might become very upset when they are to undergo blood tests, because they fear the pain will be great.  This fear actually intensifies their pain perception.  In a way, these patients are using hypnosis to worsen their pain experience.


Hypnosis also can be used to change attitudes, which are also under the control of the mind.  For example, if a student wants to improve his or her motivation in school, this can be done through hypnosis exercises.  Similarly, children can learn how to keep their beds dry at night by applying appropriate hypnosis techniques.


On the other hand, hypnosis cannot be used to control somebody else’s mind.  The cartoon image of hypnosis is, “You’re getting sleepy and soon you will be under my control.”  This is not reality.  When hypnosis is used as entertainment, it often appears that the “entertainer” is exerting his wishes on the audience.  What is occurring in those instances is that audience members decide to follow the entertainer’s instructions.  By following these instructions many people are able to hypnotize themselves.  As long as they continue to follow the instructions, they continue to be hypnotized.  But it is essential to understand that hypnosis is under the control of the subject.


Most importantly, I learned that it is important to explain what hypnosis is to my patients, so that their misconceptions do not stand in the way of their success with these techniques.


This blog has been written for a general audience.  However, I hope that some health care professionals will find it of interest.  These professionals may have questions about my thoughts and hypnosis methods.  However, their concerns may be of minimal relevance to the non-medical public.  Therefore, I will devote next week’s blog to such issues.  Paul’s story will continue the following week.

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