The Many Applications of Hypnosis
People are always asking me whether hypnosis can help with their individual problems, and my answer is usually yes. Now, that doesn’t mean that hypnosis is a cure-all that can solve any problem, but it can *help* with almost anything. For instance, if you’ve broken your leg, you should call an ambulance before you call a hypnotist. However, once the paramedics are on their way, you can use hypnosis to manage your pain, release your stress, and enhance your body’s natural ability to heal.
So what can hypnosis help with? Anything that involves your unconscious mind. So let’s explore what that means.
- Bad Habits and Harmful Patterns
- Sleep Patterns and Nightmares
- Weight Control
- Memory and Learning
- Study Skills and Test Anxiety
- Irrational Fears
- Stress Management
- Confidence, Charisma, and Self-Esteem
- Sports Enhancement
- Pain Management and Natural Childbirth
Habits are a fine example of unconscious behavior, even if they began with a conscious decision. For instance, when my cousin was in eighth-grade health class, her teacher told her that she should chew each bite of food twenty times. For the next month, my cousin forced herself to do just that. Now, some fifty years later, my cousin chews every bite twenty times without thinking about it; it has become unconscious behavior.
Similarly, I once watched a smoker pull out his cigarette pack, select a cigarette, put away the pack, get out his lighter, put the cigarette in his mouth, and prepare to light the cigarette, all without noticing what he was doing. He knew he was standing in a no-smoking area, but until I pointed it out, he didn’t know that he was about to smoke. The behavior was completely unconscious.
Because hypnosis gives us access to unconscious patterns, it is a great tool for changing habits, including smoking, procrastination, bedwetting, and nail biting. It’s a great tool for developing new habits, too. I once worked with a teenaged client who wanted to remember to do her chores. (Now if that’s not evidence of alien abduction, I don’t know what is!)
When you sleep, it’s your unconscious mind that keeps you alive, produces your dreams, and cycles you through the different levels of sleep. For that reason, hypnosis is frequently used to help people adjust their circadian rhythms. Likewise, hypnosis is a great tool for figuring out what a puzzling or recurring dream is trying to tell you; dreams are basically messages from your subconscious. Hypnosis is also extremely effective in defusing and reducing nightmares.
One of the first hypnosis sessions I performed was for a neighbor who had not slept well in over a decade. He specifically wanted to fall asleep at midnight and wake up feeling energetic at eight in the morning. Well, even though I was not far into my training and didn’t even have an office, we sat down on my porch, and I did my very best to implant the right suggestions. That night, at precisely midnight, I became incredibly drowsy, even though I was used to staying up until around two in the morning. I crawled into bed and slept solidly until eight a.m., when I popped out of bed, wide awake, full of energy, and feeling better than I’d ever felt. Mind you, I’m not a morning person and consider the crack of ten to be a bit early to wake up. So not only did I help my neighbor with his sleep problems, I reset my own sleep patterns as well!
Weight control is a complicated matter that can be addressed from many angles by hypnosis. Now, it would be wonderful if I could just snap my fingers and tell clients to be thin, but even hypnotic weight control does involve some lifestyle changes. Hypnosis can help with weight control by changing a person’s eating habits, adjusting their metabolism, encouraging exercise, and altering attitudes about health.
I myself am in the process of changing my lifestyle for weight control. (I’d show you my before and after pictures, but I’m still a work in progress!) The first step for me was cutting back on my portion sizes, so I recorded a session for myself and used it everyday. Before long, I quit going back for seconds. Much smaller portions made me feel “buffet-stuffed.” I even turned down a slice of avocado!
Long-term memory is stored in the unconscious mind, and forensic hypnotists use age-regression techniques to help crime scene witnesses recall details. Professional hypnotists use similar techniques to help people remember where they left their car keys.
Improved memory is a side-effect of any hypnosis, but trance can be used specifically to enhance learning and memorization.
Not only can hypnosis help with memorization, but it can improve focus, a vital study skill. Likewise, hypnosis is excellent for eliminating test anxiety. Many a struggling student has achieved great things through the use of hypnosis.
All of our emotions reside in the unconscious mind, which does not respond to reason. Most folks who suffer from irrational fears try telling themselves that there’s nothing to be afraid of, which is kind of like barking at a cat. Trying to use reason to change an irrational fear is like trying to hammer a nail with a saw.
Fortunately, hypnosis is the perfect tool for defusing irrational fears. When I was still in training, I visited a renaissance faire and noticed a friend of mine in tears. When I asked her what was wrong, she said that she had an irrational fear of spiders, and there were just way too many spiders dropping out of the trees onto her. Well, I had noticed that there were some tiny, harmless spiders present, but I knew pointing out that these spiders couldn’t hurt her would do no good at all. Instead, we found a nice spot to sit down out of the main thoroughfare, and after a few questions, I guided her into hypnosis. When we were done, the spiders there no longer bothered her. Several months later, she emailed me to say that the fear was still gone, and she’d like another session to get over her fear of roaches!
A famous hypnotist once said that anything that stress makes worse, hypnosis can make better.
One great thing about hypnosis is that it’s very relaxing. I’ve had people who came to me for reasons totally unrelated to stress tell me that they stopped worrying and became happier people while undergoing a program of hypnosis.
Of course, hypnosis specifically for stress management is doubly effective. Post-hypnotic triggers can be implanted to help you cope with ongoing stress. The great thing is that your mind remains sharp and aware of the challenges you face, but your body doesn’t go into panic mode every time you think about those challenges. This combination makes you far more effective in challenging situations.
Your unconscious mind is in charge of maintaining your self-image, keeping track of your identity, and knowing what you can and cannot do. Sometimes, though, we develop false ideas, usually underestimating ourselves. Hypnosis is great for building up self-confidence, which is key to success in a wide variety of activities.
People who work in sales can especially benefit from the increased charisma hypnosis can bring. As a seasoned stage performer, I know that musicians and entertainers of all kinds find hypnosis useful for overcoming stage fright and developing a powerful stage presence. Anyone can benefit from more charisma. I’ve helped several young men to “recover their mojo” when they found themselves inexplicably afraid to talk to women.
Muscle memory also resides in the unconscious, so hypnosis is a fantastic aid to success in any physical arena. There are some famous psychological experiments in which a group of volunteers pictured themselves shooting baskets, while another group actually practiced. At the end of the experiment, the people who had just visualized improved almost as much as those who had actually practiced, and they hadn’t gotten sweaty doing it. Now, I’m not advocating that a serious athlete should quite practicing and working out; but any athlete can achieve a better game by using hypnosis. After all, sometimes it’s just not feasible to get to the gym or the training field, but it’s usually easy to find a few quiet moments to close your eyes and enjoy hypnosis. What better way to spend the long trip to the big game or match than by listening to a custom hypnosis CD that helps you be the winner?
Pain is a signal that comes from our body, through our unconscious and then to our conscious mind. It’s an important signal that can warn us when something dangerous is happening, but sometimes the signal gets stuck in the “on” position, doing no one any good. At times like that, hypnosis provides the means to reduce and even eliminate pain. Hypnotic pain management is so effective that it is even used for surgery, dental work, and natural childbirth.
A client once came to me explaining that she had used so much vicodin in her attempts to manage her pain that the drug no longer had any effect on her. Methadone helped some, but the huge bills were destroying her finances. To make matters worse, even the methadone wore off before she could finish a shift at work. Before we began our hypnosis session, she rated her pain at a six out of ten (and this was with prescription pain medication). When we were done, she rated her pain at a one out of ten. It’s truly amazing what the mind can do.