Hypnosis and Regression
HYPNOSIS IS THE MAIN TECHNIQUE WE ARE USING TO HELP PATIENTS TO access past life memories. Many people have questions about what hypnosis is and about what happens when a person is in a hypnotic state, but there is really no mystery. Hypnosis is a state of focused concentration, of the sort many of us experience every day.
When you are relaxed and your concentration is so intense that you are not distracted by outside noises or other stimuli, you are in a light state of hypnosis. All hypnosis is really self-hypnosis in that you, the patient, control the process. The therapist is merely a guide. Most of us enter hypnotic states every day—when we are absorbed in a good book or movie, when we have driven our car the last few blocks home without realizing how we got there, whenever we have been on “automatic pilot.”
One goal of hypnosis, as well as meditation, is to access the subconscious. This is the part of our mind that lies beneath ordinary consciousness, beneath the constant bombardment of thoughts, feelings, outside stimuli, and other assaults on our awareness. The subconscious mind functions at a level deeper than our usual level of awareness. In the subconscious mind mental processes occur without our conscious perception of them. We experience moments of intuition, wisdom, and creativity when these subconscious processes flash into our conscious awareness.
The subconscious is not limited by our imposed boundaries of logic, space, and time. It can remember everything, from any time. It can transmit creative solutions to our problems. It can transcend the ordinary to touch upon a wisdom far beyond our everyday capabilities. Hypnosis accesses the wisdom of the subconscious in a focused way in order to achieve healing. We are in hypnosis whenever the usual relationship between the conscious and subconscious mind is reconfigured so that the subconscious plays a more dominant role. There is a broad spectrum of hypnotic techniques. They are designed to tap into a broad spectrum of hypnotic states, from light to deep levels.
In a way, hypnosis is a continuum in which we are aware of the conscious and subconscious mind to a greater or lesser degree. I have found that many people can be hypnotized to a degree suitable for therapy if they are educated about hypnosis and if their fears are discussed and allayed. The majority of the public has misconceptions about hypnosis because of the way television, movies, and stage shows have depicted it.
When you are hypnotized, you are not asleep. Your conscious mind is always aware of what you are experiencing while you are hypnotized. Despite the deep subconscious contact, your mind can comment, criticize, and censor. You are always in control of what you say. Hypnosis is not a “truth serum.” You do not enter a time machine and suddenly find yourself transported to another time and place with no awareness of the present. Some people in hypnosis watch the past as if they are observing a movie. Others are more vividly involved, with more emotional reactions. Still others “feel” things more than they “see” them. Sometimes the predominant reaction is that of hearing or even smelling. Afterwards, the person remembers everything experienced during the hypnosis session.
It may sound as though it requires a great deal of skill to reach these deeper levels of hypnosis. However, each of us experiences them with ease every day as we pass through the state between wakefulness and sleeping known as the hypnagogic state. We are in a type of hypnagogic state when we are just waking up and can still remember our dreams vividly, but we are not yet fully awake. It is the period before everyday memories and concerns reenter our minds. Like hypnosis, the hypnagogic state is a deeply creative one. When we pass through it, the mind is completely turned inward and can access the inspiration of the subconscious. The hypnagogic state is considered by many to be a “genius” state, without any boundaries or any limitations. When we are hypnagogic, we have access to all our resources and none of our self-imposed restrictions.
Thomas Edison valued this hypnagogic state so highly that he developed his own technique to maintain it while he worked on his inventions. While sitting in a certain chair, Edison used relaxation and meditation techniques to reach the state of consciousness that is between sleep and wakefulness. He would hold some ball bearings in his closed hand, palm down, while resting this hand on the arm of his chair. Beneath his hand he kept a metal bowl. If Edison fell asleep, his hand would open. The ball bearings would fall into the metal bowl and the noise would awaken him. Then he would repeat the process over and over again.
This hypnagogic state is very much like hypnosis and actually deeper than many levels of hypnosis. By helping the patient to reach a deeper level of his or her mind, a therapist who is skilled in the techniques of hypnosis can dramatically accelerate the healing process. And when creative ideas and solutions extend beyond personal problems, large segments of society can benefit, as all of us have benefited from Thomas Edison’s invention of the light bulb. The process can touch the world.
Listening to someone’s guiding voice aids in focusing concentration and helps a patient to reach a deeper level of hypnosis and relaxation. There is no danger in hypnosis. Not one person I have ever hypnotized has become “stuck” in the hypnotic state. You can emerge from a state of hypnosis whenever you want. No one has ever violated his or her moral and ethical principles. No one has involuntarily acted like a chicken or a duck. No one can control you. You are in complete control.
The History of Hypnosis
The earliest references to hypnosis date back to ancient Egypt and Greece. Indeed, ‘hypnos’ is the Greek word for sleep, though actual state of hypnosis is very different from that of sleep. Both cultures had religious centres where people came for help with their problems. Hypnosis was used to induce dreams, which were then analysed to get to the root of the trouble. The modern father of hypnosis was an Austrian physician, Franz Mesmer (1734 – 1815), from whose name the word ‘mesmerism‘ is derived.
Though much maligned by the medical world of his day, Mesmer was nevertheless a brilliant man. He developed the theory of ‘animal magnetism’ – the idea that diseases are the result of blockages in the flow of magnetic forces in the body. He believed he could store his animal magnetism in baths of iron filings and transfer it to patients with rods or by ‘mesmeric passes’. The mesmeric pass must surely go down in history as one of the most interesting, and undoubtedly the most long-winded, ways of putting someone into a trance. Mesmer would stand his subjects quite still while he swept his arms across their body, sometimes for hours on end. This probably had the effect of boring patients into a trance, but it was certainly quite effective!
There were also several other significant figures exploring Hypnosis in the 18th century, but one of the most famous being Sigmund Freud (1856 – 1939) and Milton H Erickson, MD (1901 1980). Milton in particular was a remarkable man, and a highly effective psychotherapist. As a teenager he was stricken with polio and paralysed, but he remobilised himself. It was while paralysed that he had an unusual opportunity to observe people, and he noticed that what people said and what they did were often very different. He became fascinated by human psychology and devised countless innovative and creative ways to help people. He healed through metaphor, surprise, confusion and humour, as well as hypnosis. A master of ‘indirect hypnosis’, he was able to put a person into a trance without even mentioning the word hypnosis.
It is becoming more and more accepted that an understanding of hypnosis is essential for the efficient practice of every type of psychotherapy. Erickson’s approach and its derivatives are without question one of the most effective techniques. Over the years hypnosis has gained ground and respectability within the medical profession. Although hypnosis and medicine are not the same, they are now acknowledged as being related, and it is only a matter of time before hypnosis becomes a mainstream practice, as acceptable to the general public as a visit to the dentist.