Hypnotism is such an amorphous concept, that when I asked a couple practitioners what it is, they spent a good portion of the discussion telling me what it is not. Many of us are familiar with the process of hypnosis from the popular brand of hypnotist entertainers, where guests are plucked from nightclub audiences to go embarrass themselves on stage. Or, if not that, then from fictional depictions of a Freudian type smugly waving a stopwatch in front of a patient’s face. Those are both big misconceptions, Hall explained while prepping his crowd for the descent into a state of enhanced relaxation. Quit Smoking Through Hypnosis
“My hypnosis is a therapeutical tool, not entertainment,” he said, beginning to put us at ease. But, he joked, “If you told someone you’ll be here tonight I encourage you to go home and start clucking like a chicken.” Quit Smoking Through Hypnosis
The practice as it’s followed today generally traces its origins back to the 1840s, when Scottish surgeon James Braid built upon the idea of what he called “nervous sleep,” or, more specifically, “the induction of a habit of abstraction or mental concentration, in which, as in reverie or spontaneous abstraction, the powers of the mind are so much engrossed with a single idea or train of thought, as, for the nonce, to render the individual unconscious of, or indifferently conscious to, all other ideas, impressions, or trains of thought.” Quit Smoking Through Hypnosis
But conflating hypnosis with sleep (the word is derived from the Greek for sleep), is inaccurate, according to the hypnotist and author Charles Tebbetts, as relayed by his student C. Roy Hunter in his book The Art of Hypnosis: Mastering Basic Techniques. Hypnotism “is actually a natural state of mind and induced normally in everyday living much more often than it is induced artificially. Every time we become engrossed in a novel or a motion picture, we are in a natural hypnotic trance,” Tebetts wrote. Hunter writes that it’s more accurate to say that all hypnosis is actually self-hypnosis. The hypnotherapist, much like a physical trainer then, is merely helping the subject convince themselves to do something they were already capable of doing, nudging them in the right direction. Quit Smoking Through Hypnosis
While there are a wide variety of approaches and styles of hypnotism employed today—something that further confounds our ability to understand it objectively, or to study it scientifically—one thing that they tend to have in common is an emphasis on relaxation, focus, harnessing a desire to change within the individual, and building linguistic and visual relationships between emotions. As the American Association of Professional Hypnotherapists explains: “Hypnosis is simply a state of relaxed focus. It is a natural state. In fact, each of us enters such a state—sometimes called a trance state—at least twice a day: once when we are falling asleep, and once when we are waking up.” Quit Smoking Through Hypnosis
Hypnotherapists say they facilitate this process, just without the sleep part. More or less. Again, for every positive study you read about hypnosis, there are be numerous, often conflicting other accounts. In a 2000 study for the International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, Joseph P. Green and Steven Jay Lynn reviewed 56 studies on the results of hypnosis on smoking cessation. While it was shown to generally be a better option than no treatment at all, many of the studies combined hypnosis with other therapeutic methods, making it difficult to isolate its effects. Quit Smoking Through Hypnosis
Likely few people try to quit smoking through hypnosis alone, and no two practices are exactly the same, which is part of what makes it so difficult to know if it works. Quit Smoking Through Hypnosis
Moshe Torem, a professor of psychiatry at Northeast Ohio Medical University and the president of the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis, one of many such professional groups around the country, explained to me the components of typical hypnotherapist’s process. Quit Smoking Through Hypnosis
“Hypnosis is a different state of mind associated with four major characteristics,” he said. First is a “highly focused attention on something.” It could be an issue you’re having, or a problem you want to address. Second is disassociating oneself from the immediate physical environment. “You focus on the beach in Florida in the middle of a Boston winter,” he said, anticipating my particular winter-addled frame of mind perfectly. “Instead of traveling there, you go there with your mind, and you’re fully focused on the beach.”
Probably a nice place to smoke a cigarette.
The third element is suggestibility. The person becomes more responsive to suggestions given to him or her. Fourth is what he calls “involuntariness.” That means when you come out of hypnosis, you feel subjectively like you haven’t done anything, but that something has been done to you. You may recognize that you’re being told to lift you arm, for example, but you feel as if it is being lifted by some external force. Which makes sense, since when I reach for a cigarette, especially when I know I don’t need it, I’m being governed by similar subconscious impulses.
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Source: The Atlantic
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