“You are getting sleepier and sleepier,” says the mad hypnotist as he swings the pendulum back and forth, back and forth in front of the unsuspecting victim on the flickering screen. “You are in my power. Ha ha.”
“Ha ha” is right. This scenario is about as far removed from hypnotism as it is used therapeutically today as asafoetida bags are from antibiotics. [Asafoetida, a gum resin that has the smell of old, stinky gym socks, was put in a bag and worn around the neck to ward off evil spirits from fall until spring because our ancestors did not know that illness was caused by germs.]
Nor is hypnotism a parlor trick although a number of practitioners ply their craft in nightclubs, on television, movies, and even at local county fairs. To a lot of people, hypnotism is as mysterious as voodoo.
But if you have ever been involved in hypnotism even as show business, you know that a conscious part of you is always aware and alert and would never permit you to do anything you wouldn’t do consciously.
“I never felt I was out of control,” said an Atlanta client who used hypnotherapy first to stop smoking and later to give up alcohol. “On one level I was absolutely conscious, I could have gotten up (from the session) and stopped at any time if I had wanted to.”
The woman quoted above had smoked for years and tried to quit numerous times before turning to hypnosis. She has not had a cigarette for two and a half years now – and she doesn’t miss the habit.
“It was virtually painless; no withdrawal symptoms,” she said. “It was almost like a curtain came down and I knew this (smoking) was just not going to be part of my life any more.”
Jim B., an Atlanta businessman, turned to hypnosis to get rid of anxiety about flying. The problem was so great that he felt completely upset and wanted to avoid flying altogether. Just thinking about going to the airport and getting on a plane would bring on a fearful reaction.
“I tried everything else,” he said. “Medication could get me there, but it wasn’t comfortable.” After a few hypnotherapy sessions, Jim flew to Nicaragua with no problem.
“The trip to the airport was fine. Halfway there I said, ‘Wow this is really working. This is too easy.’ It really worked,” he said.
But hypnosis may not be effective for everyone. The worst that can happen is that the process doesn’t work for an individual. One man trying to give up smoking while undergoing other life stresses found the technique unsuccessful in the long run. He wasn’t ready to let the perceived safety net of smoking go, although it’s poison.
Covington emphasized that hypnosis and hypnotherapy shouldn’t be used to take the place of physicians, psychiatrists and psychologists.
“It’s a short term, brief therapy (typically 3 to 5 visit, some fewer than 3, some more than 5) with a commitment to help people help themselves and discover new options,” she said, adding that hypnotism can’t hurt people. The Stop Smoking program is a two visit program for most and is guaranteed for a full year.
So if Svengali and mind control is out, what’s hypnotism all about?
The process is simple – an interview and introductory session. The hypnosis sessions are conducted in a relaxing atmosphere while you sit in a Lazy Boy chair. Often hypnosis sessions are recorded to take home and listen to before going to bed at night.
Covington explained that during the day we use about 3-4% of our mind at any one time. We have a conscious mind and a subconscious mind. Most people are only in their conscious mind 20-50% of the day. This conscious or beta state is where our rational mind is: logic, analysis, choice.
The rest of the time we are operating from our subconscious. Sometimes we are in the delta state of sleep or the theta state of dreaming. During our waking day, we are in the alpha state – one that’s very familiar. It’s where we are just before sleep or first upon awakening, while being creative or feeling emotions while watching a movie. Covington went on to say we are also in that same state (alpha) when we’re driving automatically, but are able to consciously react quickly when necessary.
A working definition of hypnosis is being in a heightened state of suggestibility and/or accessibility.
Commonly 50-80% of most folks spend their waking day in the alpha state, the same state as hypnosis.
The only time a person cannot be hypnotized is if they are incapable of or resist learning or following directions, but that’s not why you go see one. Is it?
Hypnosis and now hypnotherapy have come a long way since the early days. Whether you want to quit smoking, lose weight, calm down about a particular challenge in life, be more motivated, increase sales, improve self-esteem, or dissolve unwanted habits and patterns, you’ll find hypnosis to be helpful and often a transforming experience.
Jane Ann Covington’s office is located in Buckhead, Atlanta, Georgia. Call (404) 442-8700 for a free brochure or consultation.