Hypnosis is a naturally occurring state of mind in which we experience deep or light relaxation together with a state of heightened awareness and suggestibility. While in this state, positive ideas, values, and images may be impressed upon the subconscious to elicit beneficial changes in behavior and thinking pattern. Change is often difficult to achieve while working on it only on a conscious level (i.e., using will power or positive affirmations), because most habits, beliefs, and attitudes that are maintained and stored in the subconscious mind, still remain unchanged and very powerful. Thus, there is still a discrepancy between the information held in the subconscious and conscious mind. That is why people frequently experience setbacks and frustrations when trying to change, despite great effort. Hypnosis addresses this issue by allowing direct access into the subconscious and instructing the subconscious mind about the changes you would like to make in your body, mind and behavior. In my clinical practice I often use hypnosis to help access my client's subconscious in order to facilitate a quick and effective change in behavior, thought pattern, and emotional state. To dispel any misconceptions about hypnosis and to demonstrate how it works, I would like to share with you the following case example.
Case of a stay-at-home mom
A 32-year-old married stay-at-home mother with two young children, came to me complaining of constantly feeling anxious and stressed out, increased irritability, having difficulty coping with the demands of child rearing, all of which were affecting her marriage. She expressed great hopes for hypnosis to help improve her emotional state and develop a positive attitude about life. After we explored her issues in more depth, I explained to my client proven benefits and common misconceptions about hypnosis. I emphasized that contrary to common fears, in hypnosis one is in control and capable of making decisions at all times. One will not follow a suggestion that goes against one's moral standards. Moreover, one cannot be hypnotized against one's will, and most people can be hypnotized as long as they want to be. Considering that all hypnosis is self-hypnosis, a client's motivation and desire to be helped are critical to the success of the treatment process. A therapist's role is to guide one through this comfortable, inspiring and empowering experience. Following our discussion, I conducted a few tests to determine my client's level of suggestibility to my instructions. She was pleasantly surprised to find out that she demonstrated high level of suggestibility. However, this is not unusual because of established trust between us and her strong motivation to improve her condition. I then asked the client to find a comfortable position in a recliner and began the process of induction, which fosters both physical and mental relaxation and at the same time elicits a heightened state of awareness. Once I established that the client had reached a hypnotic state, I began Parts Therapy, which in my opinion, is one of the most effective hypnotherapy techniques designed to deal with unwanted behaviors, thought patterns, and emotional problems.
Parts Therapy is based on the idea that we are all made up of many sub-personalities or "parts." For example, there is a happy fun loving part, a sad part, a thoughtful part, a shy part, and many other parts. Frequently the cause of the problem or symptom presented by the client lies in the earlier trauma experienced by that individual. And because the subconscious mind is protective, it sets up parts to deal with the trauma or special needs the individual may require. By discovering and contacting the part that is causing the unwanted behavior and regressing to the original traumatic event, the root of the problem is uncovered and neutralized. It is worth mentioning that there are no "bad" parts despite the role that they play, because the intention of each part is to protect the individual. In case of my client, I addressed the part of her subconscious which was causing her to feel anxious and stressed out. During the regression, she recalled a number of events that were related to her current symptoms. But the earliest one, which would be considered the event that had caused her problem, was when she was about 4 years old, left alone in the house, feeling scared and lonely. Following the regression, I conducted the "inner child work" to facilitate forgiveness and emotional clearing. Finally, the part that was causing my client to feel anxious and stressed out was retrained to perform new positive behaviors and undertake new positive roles. These included making this part of the client's subconscious responsible for the client:
• To feel calm and relaxed • To instantly achieve the state of calm and relaxation when taking 2 deep breaths • To deal with problems in a positive and constructive way • To feel happy and optimistic about life
Once we completed Parts Therapy, I taught my client self-hypnosis, which with practice would allow her to achieve a relaxed state on her own in the comfort of her own home. At this point, I brought the client out of hypnosis, and we discussed her impressions about the process. She was surprised that she was hypnotized because she heard and was aware of everything going on with her while being comfortable and relaxed. This is a common reaction because people often expect to be asleep. Moreover, my client shared that she did not remember being left alone as a child prior to this session. This is because frequently traumatic events are not recallable by the conscious mind. I gave my client a recording of this session and instructed her to listen to it at least once a day. Listening to the recordings is strongly recommended for reinforcement purposes. Parts Therapy is done only during the initial session. For each additional problem it needs to be repeated. The following sessions are intended to reinforce recently learned information and might include various hypnotherapy styles, such as Suggestive, Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) and/or Ericksonian Hypnotherapy. When we met a week later my client reported noticeable improvement in her condition, and three sessions later all her symptoms were completely gone. I hope that the above described case has illustrated how effective hypnotherapy can be given the proper use of hypnotherapy methods and the client's cooperation and motivation for change. If you find that you are struggling with similar problems or maybe even something entirely different, don't hesitate and give hypnosis a chance to help you achieve a better and more satisfying life.
Elina Polyakov, Board certified psychotherapist, licensed in NY and NJ Office: 150 Airport Executive Park, Suite 152, Nanuet, NY 10901