The most important thing I have learned about hypnosis is that it cannot be done against your will. We hypnotize ourselves. We can do this with or without another person. It is the person under hypnosis that matters; the person’s receptivity and other factors. The hypnotist is really just a coach for the person being hypnotized. The relationship is similar to that of midwife and expectant mother. The midwife does not give birth, that credit belongs to the mother. But the midwife with her expertise and training in understanding the birth process can support and guide the mother who is deeply involved in the actual birthing experience. Could the mother give birth by herself? Of course, and many women have done so effectively. But having a midwife can improve the experience dramatically and in some case can be the difference between life and death or success and failure.
What is hypnosis?
Of course we are all familiar with the stereotype of the stage hypnotist who seems having complete power over a group of people causing them to perform all sorts of ridiculous acts. Entertainment hypnosis.
Medical hypnosis according the American Psychological Association has a different definition: hypnosis is a cooperative interaction in which a participant responds to suggestions by the hypnotist.
My own definition is thus: Hypnosis is an altered state of consciousness that allows a person a greater degree of openness and suggestibility. Some people refer to this state as a trance. I believe that I can control my experience in the trance state. I may allow trusted friends or associates to support and guide me but ultimately it is my experience and my trance.
History of hypnosis
Trances and altered states have been around for about as long as humans have been around. It is found in stories of Greek gods and in sacred Hindu texts but it was considered a part of the occult and was in no way scientific or had any foundations in research until the modern age. Hypnosis has been associated with healing both physically and emotionally for hundreds of years and was often seen in shamanic rituals, prayer rites, and other religious and spiritual activities. Hypnosis then, seems to be a part of our humanity, the way in which we view the world and affect change on ourselves and our perceptions. Read more about the history of hypnosis here.
Self hypnosis or hypnotherapy has a great many benefits. Even simple daydreaming is a kind of self hypnosis. Daydreaming allows a free flow of imaginative thought that often results in inspiration or the answer to a puzzling mystery. But entering an intensely relaxed state to examine our beliefs, our conditioning or our subconscious ideas about ourselves and the world around us can bring new awareness and paradigms that we had not considered possible before. I approach self hypnosis like like intentional dreaming. At night when we sleep we dream. We awaken and often times against our rationale we sense there is some purpose or meaning to our dreams. Self hypnosis is like putting yourself into a sleep state and providing the screenplay for the dream all the while maintaining a certain degree of control over the experience. The experience is similar to lucid dreaming. I have used this method for clearing up confusion and for understanding my most puzzling behaviors.
How to do it yourself
You need to have a quiet place to relax and be focused on what you would like to do in your hypnotic state. For example, during a period in my healing when I found myself intensely angry at a certain person I wanted to go and find this person symbolically while in a trance like state. After deep breathing and becoming very relaxed I allowed my mind, (guided by my intention to find the symbolic person), to take over.
I entered a dark cave. In this cave I discovered at the very back of it a door made of prison bars. When I looked into this cell I saw the person with whom I was so deeply angry. I suddenly became aware of a guide standing next to me. This person was unfamiliar to me but I seemed to have trust in the guide. The person inside the cell was chained up and silent, unaware that I was there. I asked the guide why this person was in the cell and the guide told me that I was holding that person hostage inside of myself and that the chains of bondage represented my secret desire for revenge. I knew this was true. My very being resonated with the truth of it. I opened the doors and let this person go free realizing that my secret lust for revenge was a double edged sword: as long as I wanted revenge I kept the source of my suffering inside of me.
This awareness allowed me to take the final step in freeing myself from the pain the person had caused me. Not only did I accomplish this task in the hypnotic state but I also practiced it when I found myself in the company of the person. It was critical for me to understand my role in my own suffering.
Self-hypnosis has been a vital part of my healing. You can find many programs that offer hypnotherapy but I have found that learning to trust and heal yourself is part of healing itself. That is not to say that there aren’t times when you need support and guidance from others, just don’t discount your own intrinsic wisdom in so doing. Experiment and have fun learning about yourself through self hypnosis.