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Hypnosis: Focused Healing – Thinkwellness360

by Rajgopal Nidamboor(more info)

listed in hypnosis, originally published in issue 291 - January 2024

Originally published in thinkwellness360.com

https://thinkwellness360.com/hypnosis-focused-healing/

 

The quintessential discovery of hypnosis is attributed to Dr Franz Anton Mesmer MD, the ‘non-conformist’ 18th-century Viennese physician. Dr Mesmer, it is now evidenced, used a method similar to modern hypnosis, or hypnotherapy, with the sole intention of removing neurotic symptoms.

 

Hypnosis – Focused Healing

https://thinkwellness360.com/hypnosis-focused-healing/

 

Dr Mesmer discovered that when he applied magnets on some of his patients, their psychological symptoms vanished. He realized later that magnets were not required and that merely passing of hands over his subjects and initiating suitable suggestions were adequate. He claimed that the amazing success of his treatment emanated from a sort of ‘animal magnetism’ which channelled  from him to his patients. Interestingly, Dr Mesmer thought of this mechanism of releasing energy as essentially immaterial and also spiritual.

While Dr James Braid, a surgeon, put Dr Mesmer’s ideas on a sound platform, it was left to the genius of Dr Jean-Martin Charcot, the renowned neurologist, to perfect the system, under whose influence Dr Sigmund Freud MD, ironically a not-so-efficient hypnotist, came to develop the study of neurosis in his own mode. Hypnosis has, as a result, now advanced a long way – also, far from the crude, bizarre and, sometimes, violent settings of its early ‘Mesmeric’ days.

Hypnosis, in its totality and essence, is a state of super-suggestibility, where the mind accepts suggestions given by the therapist. It may also, likewise, be defined as a state of amplified suggestibility – a condition that can be prompted by a combination of features, viz., a fixation of a point, most frequently a ceiling fan, rhythmic repetitive instructions and/or the use of a graduated sequence of suggestions – for e.g., the left arm will rise from the subject’s side – including relaxation and decelerated respiration, through which they are instructed to focus on the object the therapist would reckon is appropriate.

Hypnotic Trance 

As the subject relaxes, they ‘let go’ control of themselves in several ways. They enter, although gradually, a trance-like state, where they feel, or act, in the precise manner as suggested by the therapist. For example – alcohol consumption is sickeningly dangerous; smoking is ‘killing;’ and that they will not feel pain at the dentist’s, or during labour; or, that they will do better in their academic and professional careers.

Such ‘suggestive’ effects are, all the same, experienced without the subject being aware as to why they feel, or act as they do. This condition has been referred to erroneously as ‘sleep,’ which isn’t correct – because the subject is able to comprehend just about everything they would have in the wakeful state. That such a condition is in no way connected with sleep has also been demonstrably established by electronic brain wave pattern studies and research.

Hypnotic Feedback 

The following reactions are distinctive of the hypnotic state, viz., —

  • Age regression, where the person returns to a world of an earlier period and acts accordingly;
  • Amnesia, where the subject is not able to recall what transpired during the trance;
  • Time distortion, where a brief period feels like a long period of time;
  • Analgesia, where the subject may not be sensitive to normally painful stimuli.

This is not all. Some of the classical indications of a deeper hypnotic state are: stillness, changed breathing, pale or waxen complexion, postural slumping, REM [Rapid-Eye-Movement]-type of fluttering of eyelids, increased lachrymation [flow of tears], with redness around the eyes, the urge to swallow, or gulp, saliva and so on.

You guessed it right – hypnosis is a subjective experience. And, although there are several common elements to it, there is something that is unique to each individual. This explains why hypnosis may be used, with benefit, as an aid in deep muscle relaxation – more so, in the treatment of anxiety. The modus operandi: after the subject has closed their eyes and is completely relaxed, the therapist instructs them to visualize various anxiety-producing situations, starting from the mildest, and moving onto the most distressing of states. 

Acceptability 

A clear inclination to follow unconventional instructions is called hypnotic susceptibility. While children between seven and fourteen are the most susceptible, most people can be hypnotized to some extent. While subjects report that they knew they had been hypnotized, and were aware of their surroundings, some often talk of a special, almost mystical state.

Special Effects 

Two of the most distinct, or notable, effects of hypnosis are stage hypnosis, and hypermnesia. In stage hypnosis, long considered a form of showbiz, a volunteer is brought forward, hypnotized, and asked to perform some ‘amazing’ feats. The formation of a ‘human plank,’ for example, where the subject is supported by two chairs placed beneath the calves, the head and the shoulders. As they lie down rigidly in the position for several minutes, the hypnotist instructs someone to stand on the subject’s chest, or stomach. It is sheer wonder for the audience. But, the knowledgeable observer will know that even ‘not-hypnotized’ people can remain relatively rigid, likewise, for a few minutes – under weights of up to 120kg.

Hypermnesia is heightened, or unusually vivid, or precise memory for recall, or retentiveness. It is unlike stage susceptibility. It may be used to facilitate recall of information from memory. Well, hypnosis may not be needed for the purpose, but the technique has been used in several ways as a memory aid to solving crime. Not all states, and courts, however, allow for such testimonies.

Hypnotic Induction 

There is more than a mere prospect to collecting direct info about the progression of hypnosis and the gravity of trance by using what is called as fractionation type of induction. With the fractionation method of inducing hypnosis, the process of hypnosis itself is demarcated into stages and the subject is quizzed at each point for a verbal account of their specific experience.

There is also another important idea behind hypnosis. This is called as distillation method – or, Vogt’s fractionation – or, prompting hypnosis for unearthing the personal experience of the subject as they begin to go into trance.  Subjects are often led into the early stages of trance, and then roused and interrogated for their particular experience of hypnosis. This information is, consequently, used to help the subject to go into deeper trance. This type of induction, however, may not be as instantaneous as other methods of hypnosis, but its interactive nature seems to lead to far deeper states of trance.

There are also physical tests that give the hypnotherapist valuable information about the on-going state of hypnosis. The most common test, for example, is for catalepsy [a condition characterized by waxy rigidity] – usually of the eyelids. The subject is asked to relax the muscles of the eyelids deeply – so deeply “that the eyelids will not open.” This is a useful test for relaxation, susceptibility and willingness to co-operate in the hypnotic process.

It is conceivable too to ask the subject, or patient, to look upwards with their eyes, the head remaining still, as if at a point at the top of the head. Once the subject has gone through such a ‘game plan,’ the therapist can inform them that they cannot open their eyelids. It is typically difficult for one to open ones eyelids, especially with the eyes looking upwards. This might help one to convince the subject of the efficacy of a given hypnotic technique.

The best mode to gauge the level of relaxation – with the added benefit of allowing better results – is measuring a tangible increase in body temperature. This indicates a medium-to-deep trance state. It is called as the hand-lift technique. After having informed the subject, whose eyes will no doubt be closed, that they are going to lift their hand, the therapist asks them to gently raise it up and ‘let go.’ The hand of a relaxed person will quiver flaccidly back. It will feel limp, warm and pliant. A few suggestions are again added to this testing technique: “As your hand falls limply down, you go deeper and deeper into hypnosis,” or “As your hand falls on your lap, you will go twice as deeply into relaxation.”

There is yet another technique to test the depth of one’s trance – this need not necessarily rely on observation, or physical testing. In the method, the hypnotist tests for amnesia by asking the subject to begin counting backwards from a number, say 200 or 400, and suggesting that a point will soon be achieved when the figure will not be recalled. If a suitable trance state exists, the suggestion will be accepted, and the subject will forget the numeric sequence of thought, only because the ‘pattern’ is large enough. This method has an additional benefit – more so, when the subject does not have the right depth of trance at that moment, because the counting process would ‘lead’ them, sort of, to arrive at it.

Levels Of Trance 

Hypnosis is primarily intended to induce relaxation – the basic requirement being the subject should be willing to be hypnotized and also convinced that hypnosis will ensue. This process may occasionally establish a special kind of rapport between the subject and the therapist – sometimes with intense emotional overtones, so much so, highly susceptible subjects could be made suggestible without direct hypnotic suggestions – e.g., via telephone. New studies contend that hypnosis and heavy smartphone usage are characterized by engrossed states in which one loses track of time and responds spontaneously to stimuli.

Hypnosis may be used in many forms – especially in psychotherapy. It usually leaves the subject, or patient, with more control over their actions. The procedure, in certain cases, requires only a light trance – in the form of relaxation. The second which requires a deeper trance is directed at fostering suggestibility to relieving symptoms – as in the case of schizophrenia. The third is hypnotic induction – to help recall repressed [often childhood] memories – made famous in popular films and TV serials. The therapist uses the hypnotic trance to implant direct suggestions – to enhance the recall of repressed memories, where the person may do something they did, or experienced when younger. The foray often gives clues about the probable age during which critical events may have occurred.

Hypnosis, on its own, cannot, however, be used to treat all psychosomatic disorders. It has its limitations and advantages – like any other system of healing. In fact, most authorities do not recommend the use of hypnosis in clinical psychiatry. Some suggest that hypnosis only removes the symptom – it does not cure the illness. Yet, the fact remains that the role of hypnosis as a supportive form of therapy, in organic diseases, has been much valued and appreciated.

Most organic disorders require medication and other conventional, or traditional, treatments. Hypnosis may be useful in such disorders because the anxiety factor, so common in such conditions, could be reduced, and the rate of recovery speeded up. This has been proved in operative procedures where remarkable healing of the surgical wound is observed under hypnotic treatment. It may also be highlighted that in cancer, especially in its terminal stages, the excruciating pain, so commonplace in the deadly disease, can be blocked by proper hypnotic suggestions too. All the same, one ought to take extra care, because the pain per se may mask the most important symptom, or symptom-complex.

Hypnosis, on its own, can, however, be used to treat most functional disorders. The important thing is the patient should be able to attain the proper level of trance, so as to be receptive to treatment. A clarification: most mental disorders cannot be treated under hypnosis, because the patient cannot concentrate and/or follow suggestions. It may also be mentioned that persons who can be easily hypnotized are the ones most likely to get the maximum benefit. One yardstick used for the purpose is the intelligence quotient [IQ]; the greater the IQ, the better the possibility of a good response.

Hypnosis has proved to be a successful method in the treatment of medical disorders, such as asthma, depression, arthritis, atopic dermatitis [eczema], psoriasis, warts and vaginismus – not to speak of obesity. Yet, sceptics of the traditional form of hypnosis contend that certain ‘newly-distilled’ concepts of hypnosis and hypnotic trance are meaningless and misleading. According to proponents of the alternative view, hypnotic behaviours are no different from the behaviours of subjects willing to think about, or imagine, themes suggested to them. If subjects’ attitudes towards the situation can lead them to expect certain effects, they contend, they may most likely occur. This kind of approach is called cognitive-behavioural therapy [CBT].

Dual Therapy Approach

This relatively new approach is called hypno-acupuncture. The technique targets the mind and body simultaneously. While acupuncture kindles self-healing by focusing on explicit points in the body, therapeutic hypnosis focuses on measured investiture into the subconscious and by triggering positive transformation. When the two therapies are amalgamated into one, it helps to distillate and deepen treatment outcomes much better than using them as standalone options. Yet another advantage is the combined therapy activates deep relaxation with no loss of the subject’s, or patient’s control.

Hypno-acupuncture has been used with good success in easing addiction, viz., smoking, drinking, among others. It has also been found to be useful in helping individuals with weight loss, insomnia, anxiety disorders, phobias, gut disorders and prolonged pain disorders.

Put simply, hypno-acupuncture is sometimes used along with homeopathy and vice versa. Practitioners suggest that this helps to augment treatment outcomes, especially in alopecia areata [hair loss] and skin disorders, such as leukoderma [vitiligo], psoriasis, arthritis and other conditions.

The needles are dipped in a liquid homeopathic remedy. The acupuncturist uses normal needling, or non-retention needling, on the affected area. Non-retention needling uses acupuncture needles to puncture the skin and removing it, instead of letting the needle stay in the skin as is the normal practice. This is sustained until the affected area has been fully pricked with the needle. After every one, or two, pricks, the homeopath lubricates the needle tip before piercing the skin again. This might appear painful, but with an experienced acupuncturist you will feel no pain at all. Or, there may, at best, be negligible discomfort, subject to the location being needled.

Hypnosis In Daily Life 

Hypnotic suggestions, from sittings, or after repeated hearings from a recorded clip, or video, may be of immense help in one’s daily life. It can benumb the pain complex for one having a tooth extracted; or, the expectant mother during labour. It could help one get over a bad habit – e.g., smoking, alcohol, and drug addiction – or, make an extremely nervous student relax. It could help one overcome the problem of stammering too.

Hypnosis is suggested to be a handy tool to ally the fear psychosis of COVID-19 and also its unpleasant consequences for getting back on track, mentally and emotionally, post-infection.

In addition, it may be used to improve learning skills and ‘propel’ everyone, whatever their profession, including sportspersons, to conquering a mental block, the bugbear in their tough world of extreme competition, where only winning counts – and, nothing else. For just one uncomplicated reason – relaxation is something that brings out the best in us all.

All the same, if you have thought of hypnosis as a method of treatment you’d like to try, it is recommended that you speak to a professionally qualified hypnotherapist in your area – and, not with someone who only advertises and/or makes tall claims.

Conclusion 

Every healing discipline has to undergo a process of continual evolution and change. Hypnosis is no exception to the rule. Why? Because, in every methodical pursuit, the most rigorously conducted experiments can yield only provisional findings, which, in turn, could lead to new avenues and assays that refute, or confirm, such hypotheses.

Hypnosis has sure undergone several constructive changes in its dynamic compass and radar in the recent past, which would enable us to interpret its doctrine from the standpoint of modern science, psychology and medical explanation of diseases – including their origins and concepts, as also its ‘on the ball’ therapeutic benefits.

Acknowledgement Citation

Originally published in thinkwellness360.com

https://thinkwellness360.com/hypnosis-focused-healing/

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About Rajgopal Nidamboor

Rajgopal Nidamboor PhD FCCP M-CAM is a Board-Certified wellness physician, Fellow of the College of Chest Physicians (FCCP), Member of the Center of Applied Medicine (M-CAM), writer-editor, commentator, critic, columnist, author, and publisher. His special interests include natural health and wellness, mind-body/integrative medicine, nutritional medicine, psychology, philosophy, and spirituality. His focus areas also encompass contemporary research and dissemination of dependable information for people concerned about their health. He feels that it is increasingly gratifying to see most individuals, including physicians, thinking outside the box – especially in areas such as natural health, where the body knows best to heal itself from the inside out. His published work includes hundreds of newspaper, magazine, Web articles, four books on natural health, two coffee-table books, a handful of E-books, a primer on therapeutics, and, most recently, Cricket Odyssey. He’s Chief Wellness Officer, Docco360, a mobile health application/platform, connecting patients with Ayurveda, homeopathic, Unani physicians, and nutrition therapists, among others, from the comfort of their home — and, Editor-in-Chief, ThinkWellness360.  Rajgopal Nidamboor lives in Navi Mumbai, India. He may be contacted via raj@rajnidamboor.com 

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