What method of hypnosis do I use?
People respond to hypnosis in different ways depending on a number of factors including their upbringing, beliefs, conditioning, cultural values, and fundamental character traits. Some individuals may respond best to the more authoritarian, classical approach to hypnosis; others may be highly resistant to the classical approach and respond better to the less direct, more permissive Ericksonian approach. Others may find the very word “hypnosis” very threatening and require one to use indirect, more organic and esoteric means to induce a therapeutic state of mind. Thus, it benefits the practitioner to be familiar with as many ways to induce a trance state as possible.
Formal therapeutic hypnosis can be broadly put into four categories.
- Classical Hypnosis – mostly seen today on stage as a form of entertainment. The hypnotist is very dominant and authoritative, making direct suggestions. This may look impressive but only works on a small number of the population – estimate 10%.
- Ericksonian Hypnosis – less direst and more permissive, using indirect suggestion and non-specific language to generate change from the unconscious mind. This is a more effective approach and works on everyone while still somewhat paternalistic and directive.
- New Hypnosis – hypnosis as a tool for self development, not just a means of repairing psychological or psychiatric problems, incorporating Erickson’s methods with the techniques of NLP.
- Humanist Hypnosis – developed by Oliver Lockert in France, humanist hypnosis addresses human suffering through techniques which create a state of expanded awareness and connectedness, very similar to certain types of meditation. Humanist hypnosis aims to reunite the persons conflicting parts in the interest of healing and greater evolution of the individual as well as humanity, which, in a way brings it back to its ancient origins in Shamanic healing as a holistic treatment on the physical, mental and spiritual levels.
As the above suggests the usefulness of trance states has been understood and used for millennia. The word hypnosis is simply the modern term coined for abilities that human beings have always had. It should also be mentioned that these abilities have also been, and continue to be, manipulated for far more nefarious purposes too. Perhaps most notoriously, in modern times, the Nazi party studied, used and very powerfully applied the techniques of hypnosis in their infamous rallies. And each time we turn on our TV’s, advertisers are using hypnotic techniques to try and ‘persuade’ us to buy stuff.
However, my own first experience of the healing power of trance states came when I started training as an energy healer. At the time I commenced the training I did not expect that I would be any kind of effective healer. I was advised to do the training by my teacher at that time who told me that it would help me to control my psychic energy. I considered myself a ‘receiver’ rather than a ‘transmitter’. However, no sooner did I start to practise what I was being taught than those of the receiving end started entering altered states of awareness in which they experienced spontaneous abreaction and catharsis of earlier traumatic events. Not a word was said on my part. This happened simply as a result of me focusing my mind in the way I had been instructed and working in the individuals energy field by stroking the aura and laying on of hands. This strikes me as very similar to the descriptions of Mesmers work.
I was told I had ‘shamanic’ abilities and found myself guided to a teacher who had both native shamanic training and western psychology/psychotherapy training. This is where I learned that it doesn’t really matter what therapy one is practising, only one thing is of fundamental importance and that is how good a healer the practitioner is.
In “Mind Over Medicine”, by Dr Lissa Rankin writes:
“In an interview on NPR, Ted Kaptchuck, director of Harvards program in Placebo Studies and the Therapeutic encounter, said, ‘A sugar pill doesn’t do anything. What does something is the context of the healing. It’s the rituals of healing. It’s being in a healing relationship . . .’ When Kaptchuck, who is trained as a Chinese medicine practitioner and acupuncturist, was asked how, as a scientist, he justified practising acupuncture when most random clinical trials failed to demonstrate its effectiveness beyond placebo, he said, ‘Because I am a damn good healer. That is the difficult truth. If you needed help and you came to me, you would get better. Thousands of people have. Because, in the end it, isn’t really about the needles. It’s about the man.” (p40-41)
I think the same thing can be said about hypnosis or any other therapeutic technique out there. A good healer, whatever their field of training, has to have the ability, one way or another, to enlist the clients own ability to heal. And the pivotal point of power for this effect is the ‘limen’, the border between the conscious and the unconscious mind which is accessed via the limbic system and the reptilian brain. And essential to ‘changing reality’ upon this threshold is the healers own ability to enter certain states of consciousness.
In the shamanic world these states of consciousness are associated with archetypal symbols drawn from nature, the very same archetypes mapped out in the work of Karl Jung and Joseph Campbell. These archetypes have their roots in the ancient world and, in their universality, seem to have accompanied the very dawn of human consciousness. Indeed, they are a map of human consciousness which modern psychology is only just beginning to catch up with.
What I learned is that the ‘shaman’, by training to become entirely conscious of this map, learns how to manipulate these fundamental forces of the psyche to initiate healing in others, and the principle way he or she does that is by putting the individual or group into a trance. In native cultures this is achieved by rituals that involve chanting, dancing, and the ingestion of mind altering plant derivatives. However, the teacher I trained with knew that the ‘show’ had to be different for the western mindset and so his chosen ‘theatre’ was the ritual of hypnosis.
So my experience is that, though a certain kind of trance state is necessary for effective healing, this state can be achieved by any number of ‘theatres of operation’, from EFT, to acupuncture, to NLP, to the laying on of hands. Key to the success of the ‘theatre of operations’ however, is the practitioners own ability to enter certain states of consciousness. This aspect of healing is explored from a contemporary mind set in, “Peak States of Consciousness: Theory and Applications Volumes 1 and 11”, by Grant McFetridge and colleagues. The Whole Hearted Healing process is the outcome of their research and has strong parallels with Oliver Lockert’s Humanist hypnosis and ancient Shamanic practises in that it seeks to “reunite” the person through a process of expanded awareness.
So although all of the things talked about in terms of rapport, pacing etc are important to be aware of, it is my experience that any therapist can only take a client as far as their own level of integration and energetic congruence. In other words, any therapeutic technique is only as effective as the individual applying it. The client’s belief in the technique and the therapist is obviously paramount in the initial stages but it will only carry you so far. For a few people some techniques appear to work like magic and they are free of their presenting problem in one or two sessions. However, for the most part, it doesn’t work like that. What works in the end is a model of human relationship that cannot be faked, that transcends all the tools and techniques, and that empowers the client to access their own internal power to heal.
So, it is my experience that both the therapist and the client need to be able to access certain states of consciousness for true transformation to occur. Formal hypnosis, using the language of suggestion to lead a person into the desired state of mind, is one very effective way of achieving this, but there are also energetic ways of inducing the required states of mind. In practise, therefore, I use the methods that I find the client to be most responsive and receptive to.