The Transformational Nature of Hypnotherapy - part 2 - Hypnogenesis - Hypnosis & Hypnotherapy Journal

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The Transformational Nature of Hypnotherapy - PART TWO

There are many therapy or healing practices that include forms of hypnosis. Biofeedback techniques, for instance, are used in conjunction with hypnosis. Jose Silva, in developing Silva Mind Control methods, borrowed liberally from Dave Elman's hypnotic inductions. Christian Scientists use hypnotic methods for pain control. Guided imagery, guided fantasy, visualization, selective awareness, autogenic training, progressive relaxation and relaxology are examples of hypnotic methods. Sometimes the practitioner, teacher, nurse, psychotherapist, etc., who uses such methods will not associate the methods with hypnosis. If these methods are recognized as hypnotic and that is communicated to the client, time needs to be taken to alleviate possible misconceptions. Any practitioner who sometimes uses hypnotic methods but has not previously recognized them as such, would find hypnotic skills magnified greatly by a thorough training in hypnosis.

The various forms of meditation (Zen, Vipassana, TM, etc.) are also forms of hypnosis. A group at U.C.L.A. in 1969 set out to prove that their particular form of meditation was different from hypnosis. Their study compared the meditation experience of persons who had been practicing meditation every day for many months and getting excellent results, with the initial hypnosis experience of persons that had never practiced hypnosis or meditation. The hypnotist was a member of the meditation group. The two groups naturally had different results and a claim was then made that this meditation practice causes more profound physiological differences than hypnosis. But just as with meditation, increased hypnotic depth (and the dramatically different physiological changes that entails) is a skill that develops with practice.

The therapeutic value of hypnosis is gradually becoming much more widely recognized. As the myths and misconceptions are exposed and word continues to spread about the values of hypnosis, growing acceptance and interest has increased in academic and scientific communities as well. Many doctors and other professionals are being trained themselves or referring patients to hypnotherapists for work in conjunction with conventional treatments. While there is still residual misunderstanding in some people's minds, the misconceptions of many have lessened over the years.  

The Experience of Hypnosis  

Following a preliminary discussion and alleviation of any misconceptions, three things are needed for hypnosis in a therapeutic setting: concentration, imagination, and a motivation to be hypnotized.

Hetero-hypnosis, in which a therapist works with an individual or a group, is in a sense self-hypnosis because each individual goes into hypnosis by choice. If a person doesn't feel rapport with the operator or doesn't desire to, that person will resist entering hypnosis. The more you practice hypnosis the deeper you tend to go, but it isn't necessary to reach deep levels to be therapeutic. Excellent esults in therapy can be achieved in light and medium states. Practicing hypnotherapists can train many of their clients in self-hypnosis for added benefits. With experience and confidence that a relaxed and open state of hypnosis can be reached, tools are soon developed that an individual can use for a lifetime to access the power of his or her own subconscious mind.

There are many levels of hypnosis and various subjective states can be experienced at any particular depth. During lighter levels of hypnosis feelings of relaxation and passivity are commonly experienced. Additionally, there may be slightly altered perceptions or physical changes such as eye fluttering or a tingling sensation in the extremities or a light or heavy sensation in some part of the body. Persons who don't get much of a response at first will continue to learn and develop significant skills within a few weeks of practice. In the beginning it is common to underestimate the length of time in hypnosis. When asked after an initial hypnosis, many will guess the time as shorter than it actually was. A person who has had a few more hypnotic experiences will usually have a better estimate of time.

The flip side to the occurrence of an initial subjective distortion of time is that the subconscious mind has a kind of built-in clock. When you enter self-hypnosis or when you go to bed at night, your subconscious mind can be trained to bring you back or wake you up at a particular time. One student related giving herself a suggestion when going to sleep at night to wake up at a particularly early hour. She was awakened at exactly the right time by her husband's voice saying, "It's five o'clock." She turned over to thank him but he was sound asleep. The call had come from her own creative subconscious.

In medium depths of hypnosis, the altered state becomes more enhanced. There may be more pronounced physical sensations of heaviness or lightness, or a floating or sinking feeling in part or all of the body. A loss of conscious awareness may occur, or a major change of pain threshold, such as with the experience of "glove anesthesia" in the area of the hands. Various illusions may be perceived through any of the senses. Ability to visualize or imagine suggestions tends to increase with depth.  

Somnambulistic levels of hypnosis create more extreme physical and mental responses, such as loss of awareness of most or all of the body. Physiologic responses may include the same kind of rapid eye movements that are associated with dream stages of sleep. Exceptional suggestibility often includes a profound literalness in response to suggestions. Some will have the ability to produce hallucinations, even with the eyes open or post-hypnotically. Complete conscious amnesia may occur.

Hypnosis is a far different state than sleep, but it has been called a sleep of the nervous system. Respiration and circulation slow down, but not as much as during normal sleep states. The brain waves also slow down, though not as slow as the brain waves of delta that are reached during the deepest levels of sleep. The levels of brain waves begin with beta, the fastest, then slow to alpha, theta and delta. Under most conditions of normal waking consciousness, brain waves are primarily beta. In light to medium states of hypnosis, a significant decrease to predominately alpha level brain waves will occur. In deeper levels of hypnosis a person's brain waves may actually go down into theta.  

Remember, however, that hypnotic skills develop with practice, so the rules of the above paragraph can be broken under truly extraordinary conditions. An Indian Swami who had been meditating several hours a day for many years was documented on film as having gone into delta brain waves while sitting, his eyes half open. (As a general rule, unless you're focusing on a major trauma issue, the deeper you go into hypnosis the more pleasant the state is, until at deeper levels it can be quite euphoric. This Swami was certainly in a state of bliss.)  

There is a rare state of hypnosis far deeper than somnambulism called the plenary trance, that could be likened to almost being a state of suspended animation. The British physician, James Esdaile, produced this state in some surgical patients in India in the 1840's, using a few hours of mesmeric passes as the induction. The patient was kept in the plenary trance sometimes for 24 hours, since this was before chemo-anesthesia had been accepted and hypnosis was the only anesthetic agent. But more importantly, he soon discovered his mortality rate after surgery dropped from 50% to 5%. This was before Lister's campaign against infection, when surgeons washed their hands after surgery, not before. During hypnotic anesthesia the subconscious mind aids the body in developing greater resistance to infection.

In the 1890's a Swedish physician named Wetterstrand reported keeping some patients in the plenary trance for over a week for healing purposes. Leslie LeCron produced this state in more recent times, recording a pulse of 50 beats per minute and a barely discernible breathing rate of only three breaths per minute.

This chapter is designed to be a brief introduction to the value of hypnosis and hypnotherapy and cannot be a comprehensive description of the many phenomena and uses of hypnosis. This overview and the following three examples are a sampling, to explain some of the special qualities of hypnosis, which prepares us to better understand the tremendous potential of Hypnotic DreamworkTM.

Karen's Story  

When I first met Karen she was experiencing a recurrence of symptoms of multiple sclerosis. She had been diagnosed ten years earlier, in 1977. At the time of diagnosis she was blind in one eye and had partial sight in the other. She was informed that within six months she would be a vegetable. Her doctors advised her to go home and get her affairs in order. Karen, who had been raised as a devout Catholic, was in the middle of difficult divorce proceedings. She was particularly worried about her three young children, and prayed that she be allowed to live long enough to see them
through school. Amazingly, instead of deteriorating, her symptoms gradually disappeared. Her doctors had no explanation for this turn of events.  

Ten years later Karen's husband, a student in one of my hypnotherapy classes, asked if he could bring Karen in as the subject in a class demonstration. Her symptoms of MS were recurring and had advanced, in some ways, even further than before. Her vision and coordination were seriously deteriorating, she was losing dexterity in her hands, and she was about to give up. During our interview she told me that the youngest of her children would be graduating from school in a few months. When I asked if she had been having any other major changes or stress in her life, she said that she and her husband, Kenn, had had to close their business. All three of her children were still at home, she was working more than full time as a bookkeeper, and though she would like some time to herself, she saw no hope of that in the future.

After doing a hypnotic induction we set up ideomotor signals, which is a way of bypassing the conscious mind to communicate directly with the subconscious. Different fingers on one hand can be chosen to rise if the answer to a question is "yes" or "no." Alternative fingers can be used for a subconscious signal that it doesn't know or refuses to answer. Through the use of this type of questioning we were able to determine that Karen's subconscious mind interpreted the cessation of her symptoms ten years earlier as a pact with God that she now had to honor. At the same time
there was a part of Karen that had lost faith in God because of her resentment at having developed the sudden blindness. We were also able to ascertain that the onset of her earlier blindness, as well as her current symptoms, had in part to do with the stress in her life. Further questioning revealed that Karen felt a measure of guilt about becoming healthy again.  

The session became very long and complex, with conflicting ideomotor signals and subconscious confusion. As the process continued I used Gestalt dialogue between Karen and God to try to break through her guilt and subconscious resistance to getting well again, as well as her resentment of God.

There was even some question of whether she still believed in God. Well into the session, I reminded her that if there was no God, then there was no one to keep a pact with. If there was a God, I asked her, wouldn't God be compassionate enough to see that Karen had suffered more than enough already?  

After giving Karen some explanation about the sometimes deductive way the subconscious mind works, and that it isn't always rational, I had her do some hypno-analysis to figure out if there was some kind of misconception she had developed as a result of those traumatic experiences. She was eventually able to realize that she had developed the misconception that in wanting to see her kids grow up and getting her eyesight back, she needed to be punished. She continued to assert, however, that "My dues are up. I have to pay." Over and over again we hit dead ends as I kept trying to find ways to help Karen through subconscious blocks. At one point I asked her subconscious mind if she had asked, "Please let me live to see my kids grow up and get through school," or "Please let me die or get worse when my kids grow up." When Karen was able to acknowledge the former, I encouraged her subconscious mind to accept that she was therefore not required to now deteriorate. But she continued to resist, saying she still had to pay.  

Eventually I was able to help her accept that she could have a pact to live and be reasonably healthy, without repercussions. While she was still subconsciously open and suggestible I ended the session with many positive affirmations of the success she had already had in overcoming the condition previously, the new lasting success she would now begin to have, and the ways in which she could find creative ways to take better care of herself.  

Karen began to experience major improvement within the first week, and in the two subsequent sessions I continued to encourage and support Karen on the ways she was now taking better care of herself and the progress she was making. Within six weeks she was free of symptoms, having improved much more rapidly this time. A subsequent Cat Scan years later showed no evidence of M.S. Our sessions were ten years ago and she continues to be healthy today.  

This story is a dramatic example of the potential of a variety of creative techniques with hypnosis to affect the subconscious mind. Gestalt dialogue, such as that used with Karen, is employed in almost all of the transcripts of this book, and brief ideomotor methods appear in some cases.

Kenn's Story  

Kenn, Karen's husband from the previous story, used his experiences in the hypnotherapy classes and his self-hypnosis to make tremendous changes in many areas of his life during the year he was getting his training.  

He came back to see me in 1991 because of a serious injury that caused an anterior curve in the cervical arch of the neck, and had been treated with surgery a year earlier. Instead of getting better, the condition immediately deteriorated further after the surgery. He was so weak that he could not carry a quart of milk one block. He was currently working with a talented hypnotherapist in his town, Charlie Simon, a graduate that I had recommended. One of the effective strategies was to visualize removing the cervical vertebrae area and replace it with stacked tinker toys on wheels that would cause the neck to bend properly. They had made significant progress, but Kenn needed further improvement.

His surgeon had seen him recently and recommended immediate surgery, as weakness in the injured areas had caused his head to bend in a way that was pinching nerves affecting his hands and going down into his legs. The surgeon wanted to open up his back and put a brace from the seventh cervical vertebrae to the first, leaving him in a rigid permanent position facing slightly upwards. "I won't be able to nod yes, so I'll just have to say no," Kenn joked wryly.

Kenn's belief was that he had been damaged by the first surgery. But he also wondered whether his sense of deep shame was hindering his body's ability to heal more fully. In his words, "Before I started (hypnotherapy) in 1986 I was a compulsive gambler, excessive drinker, and a three pack a day smoker. I came up with every compulsive, addictive behavior, even eating disorders, and because of all this I feel a lot of shame. I've started recovery and I feel like what might be a stumbling block are my feelings of shame and guilt that go way back." He was waiting to get a second opinion before making a decision about getting more surgery, which terrified him. The original doctor's concern was that without treatment he could become a quadriplegic.  

Before doing a hypnotic induction I checked with Kenn about whether or not he could move his fingers to do ideomotor signals, and he showed me the two fingers on his left hand that he could move slightly. Before the hypnotherapy work with Charlie he had been unable to move those fingers at all. He had also been able to get off drugs he had been taking for pain and was no longer chronically constipated, so he had already made dramatic progress in the six weeks since he had started sessions.

After an induction I used the affect bridge (which is also used for Tom's regression in Chapter 19), a technique that taps a person into a particular emotion and then moves rapidly to an earlier memory which is associated with a similar feeling. Kenn recalled being in his bedroom at three years of age and feeling very ashamed. He was being scolded by his mother for wetting the bed. She told him he was a very naughty boy. It was something that had happened many times. He continued to sporadically wet the bed until he was thirteen. It was very embarrassing and he was consequently very shy and self-conscious.  

After going to other scenes where young Kenn had been scolded and felt ashamed, I brought adult Kenn back to the earlier scene with his mother and had them engage in Gestalt dialogue. I then asked young Kenny how he felt listening to adult Kenn and had them dialogue. Adult Kenn assured young Kenny he had never done anything wrong, that wetting the bed was a common experience for many young boys and out of their control - there was sometimes even a genetic factor. Young Kenny responded that he would try not to feel the shame. We kept working until young Kenny had more clarity that he was not at fault and adult Kenn was able to realize that he was a good person and could let go of those feelings and the affects they had had on him. Toward the end of the process he said he felt that his mother had done a good job overall and he loved her deeply. She had made a mistake because she was naive. She just didn't know it was something he couldn't help.
During hypno-analysis Kenn described not having been able to forgive himself and he now did so wholeheartedly. I gave Kenn positive reinforcements and suggestions for further healing in his neck and back and then brought him out of the hypnosis.  

Following the session Kenn continued hypnotherapy and refocused on physical therapy and feeling better about himself. Meanwhile he got a second opinion that confirmed the first. He recognized gradual improvement, and the following month he went to his original surgeon who, with considerable surprise, now said, "Because of your vast improvement I can't justify surgery at this time." Kenn continued to improve dramatically.

Early childhood is a time when we are particularly open and vulnerable to suggestion. Early experiences may teach us that we're not good enough, that the world is a hostile place, that we can't trust people, or that we're likely to get hurt in some way. Very often when we want to make fundamental changes as adults and feel stuck, the problem is that we have been hypnotized by limiting experiences early in life. Such early subconscious conditioning can sometimes last a lifetime.  

As the story with Kenn illustrates, when doing hypnotherapy we are sometimes in part doing de-hypnosis. We are helping that person to let go of negative suggestions or misconceptions that were taken in, often at a young age, and continued to affect his or her experiences. We help that person to wake up and escape the limiting trance he or she has been in. Kenn's example is particularly dramatic because of the physical healing that accompanied the emotional healing, but combining Gestalt and hypnotherapy can routinely cause profound lasting shifts in subconscious attitudes and feelings. Getting in touch with the deeper, greater part of the mind can help in so many ways to unleash the vast potential and abilities that are there.  

Frank's Story  

When Frank came back from Vietnam he attempted to go to college but dropped out. Initially he made attempts to find work but didn't stick with it. He remained unemployed and lived with his parents. He was addicted to drugs, alcohol and cigarettes. He was overweight, depressed, and had no self-confidence. He hadn't had any relationships and hadn't even been on a date since soon after his return. He briefly tried various therapists but hadn't responded well with anyone. His parents had desperately tried to help him and when they heard of my work, encouraged him to make one more try.

It had been ten years since his return from Vietnam when I met Frank. We started by looking for ways for him to be successful and then taking one step at a time. J.D. Hadfield said, "Suggestion does not consist in making an individual believe what is not true. Suggestion consists in making something come true by making a person believe in its possibility." The first thing I helped him work on was getting into shape while losing weight. With that success, he had the confidence to quit smoking. Then we worked on his issues with drugs and alcohol.  

After making dramatic progress in these areas, we worked on building up Frank's confidence to get ready to look for work. His dream was to do delivery work. He felt he would really enjoy being out and driving a truck. He got a delivery job through an employment agency and was very satisfied. He worked hard and diligently, but three months later he was told that although he was doing a fine job, he was being laid off. Frank was angry and felt there was a deal going on between his employer and the agency. He had been retained for as long as he was still paying a large portion of his wages to the agency which had gotten him the position. A setback like this could certainly be an excuse to slip back into drinking and depression, but Frank turned his anger into action. He intensified his exercise program and got right out and started looking for work again. He was hired with forty other people by Federal Express for temporary work during the Christmas season. At the end of the season two people were kept on. Frank was one of them. He's been working for Federal Express for 14 years now.

Over time we periodically worked on various things, including relationship issues. An early example of his progress in this area is when the issue had developed from not having dates, to feelings of guilt because he did not want to continue to see a woman who was interested in him. He eventually developed a long term relationship. We have had a total of about 30 sessions over the years. Currently, like everyone, Frank has his ups and downs. But he is functioning far better than he was when I first met him.  

Many causes that bring people to seek hypnotherapy do not involve the kinds of life-changing issues of Karen, Kenn and Frank. But even hypnosis for common issues can lead to major benefits, such as sessions for smoking cessation, which may help significantly lengthen a person's life span. I view the hypnotic state with reverence and consider the role of a hypnotherapist as an honor. I am aware of no greater satisfaction than the service of helping to satisfy a client in making major, lasting changes.


Excerpted from the book, BECOME THE DREAM: The Transforming Power of Hypnotic Dreamwork by Randal Churchill. Copyright © to the author. All rights reserved. Reprinted with kind permission.
His website at has further articles and further information  about the Hypnotherapy Training Institute and about his book, Become the Dream. His upcoming book, Regression Hypnotherapy, is now available.

Hypnotherapy Training Institute, 4730 Alta Vista Ave., Santa Rosa, CA 95404.  
Email:  Phone: 707-579-9023. Fax: 707-578-1033.

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