What is Hypnotherapy and How does it Work?

What is hypnotherapy and how does it work, is one of the key questions many people ask me before deciding on which therapy process will be the right one for them. There are so many treatments available nowadays and it is often difficult for people to understand what to expect and the science, if any, behind them.

There is of course much debate as to whether hypnosis is a specific state or if it is simply a deep meditative reflective process that enables the individual to focus on subconscious patterns of thoughts and behaviours to promote change. I will leave this debate to the hypno purists, but as far as science is concerned the brain wave patterns during relaxing hypnosis are very similar to those of REM sleep and this may indicate that the subconscious mind is more open during treatment.

There is extensive evidence that your thoughts can influence and control your body, placebo effect being the most obvious of these. Placebo works when a positive (or negative, nocebo) result is gained through belief or expectation rather than chemical or physical intervention. So often I hear people say ‘well that’s just placebo’ but what if you can capture the power of this amazing phenomenon and control it to your advantage to produce cure without medicines? It is not clearly understood how the process works exactly but it appears that the mind and body communicate best through subtle intervention and metaphors rather than simply demanding that you get better. Hypnotherapy tunes into this dialogue and through the treatment and self practice you can begin to understand your own inner communications and therefore make the desired changes.

Hypnotherapy can also provide relief from anxiety and reduce the occurrence of panic attacks through both mental and physical change. It has been widely recognised that hypnosis can produce something known as false memory but when this is used to release you from the effect of strong negative experiences the benefits can be profound. Negative emotions can become trapped inside and remain unprocessed which means that any current experience that touches on that trapped feeling will be experienced at a level which is way too high.  Of course you cannot actually change your past, but you can change the effect it has on your present so by carefully and sensitively looking at the memories that trigger attacks, the trapped emotions and automatic reactions can be understood and released.

Hypnotherapy can allow your body to relax which reduces the levels of stress hormones. You cannot be anxious and relaxed at the same time, so mastering the art of hypnotic relaxation will help you to reduce any anxiety related symptoms such as racing heart, lack of breath, hot flushes etc.

So what can you expect to feel when you are hypnotised? This is a very hard question to answer because it is such an individual experience. I am a hypnotherapist, not a stage hypnotist, therefore I have no desire or need to encourage you to dance like a chicken. Each person has there own level of comfort with the treatment, some people being very relaxed and able to go deeply into a reflective state and some people simply close their eyes and go through the exercise; it really doesn’t matter with regards to the effect of the therapy. You will gain a clearer understanding of your issue, whatever that may be and through the whole treatment process you will be given all the tools to make the necessary changes.

All you need is the desire to change, the belief that it is possible and an open mind for therapy to be successful for you so I encourage you to go for it!

Bunny Besley BSc (Hons) Clinical Hypnosis

Hypnotherapy for Phobias

A phobia is an irrational and illogical intense fear response to an object or situation which causes panic and anxiety in the sufferer. They occur due to something known as conditioned response and there is much research, including a rather unethical experiment on a human baby, Albert . Little-albert

When an innate object is paired with fear, the fear can be transfer to the object which results in an irrational fear. It is easier to create a phobia of certain things, such as spiders or snakes, but you can create this reaction with simple things such as buttons.

Your reaction to fear is obviously protective and you need to react to danger without delay or question, so the body forces an immediate response to any trigger which relates to fear conditioning. Obviously in some cases this is good, you shouldn’t be questioning whether or not a lion is actually a danger when it is standing in front of you licking it’s lips, but in today’s  society we have few predators and this immediate danger response is not often required.

A phobic response creates the feeling in the sufferer that they are in mortal danger so they react to that feeling without question. The person moves away from that feeling of panic and fear to perceived safety, escaping the potential threat to life. The person may well logically understand that the object of their fear is no actual danger, but they feel unable to go against that feeling. So you have an emotive illogical reaction on one side and the preferred logical response on the other, how do you change it?

I like to see the body as rather simple. Once your brain has learnt a pattern, such as walking, talking, writing etc., it then performs these functions for you automatically. Patterns learnt during times of stress and fear are learnt quicker and are much stronger and deeper than others. This is because your body thinks that responding in the same way as you did at the time of increased stress must have been beneficial to you since you survived! This is rather simplistic of the body and this logic often leads to such problems as stuttering or shaking. The body experiences stress and responds by repeating the same state as it did before

Children act according to how they feel but as we mature, hopefully, logic and rationale increase so our responses change. When you are a child you may believe there is a monster under the bed or in the cupboard, so you launch yourself onto the bed or run past the cupboard to avoid being grabbed. As you grow older you stop believing in monsters so one day you walk slowly and don’t jump. The first time you test the reality you will still feel scared and uncomfortable, but by holding on to what you believe, rather than how you feel, you change the pattern of behaviour and eventually this becomes natural.

When treating a phobic reaction with hypnosis we examine the events which created the response and look to reprocess this memory in order to allow the body to change the emotional content within it. This enables the person to break the conditioning and to begin to absorb a more rational reaction. Rehearsal of this new response in hypnosis and then exposure to the threatening object to prove to the body that it is actually safe, will break the phobia. It may be uncomfortable at first, but the more the new reaction is practiced and the new thought processes used, the more natural the new behaviour will become. It is not necessary to love the object of the phobia, just to react to it without the fear and panic.

Bunny Besley BSc (Hons)