Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Importance of Trance Depth in Hypnosis

This blog is in response to a client I recently had. After the session, she sent me an e-mail with her concerns. She was worried that the session wouldn’t work for her because she was totally aware of what was going on. She said that she thought she needed to be in 'coma' state for the hypnosis to work.

She said:
“I must admit that all of my old doubts and disappointments surfaced and I thought for the thousandth time, "This just won't work for me. I'm not hypnotizable."

Needless to say this is an analytical type of client who is well read about hypnosis and have had several disappointing sessions over the years with different hypnotherapists!

Here is my response to her:
I think it is best for me to explain more how I see and practice hypnosis today compared to how I saw and practised in the past. Maybe this will help you when we are doing the session. In the beginning of my career, I was under the impression as well that a person needed to be in a ‘somnambulistic’ or ‘coma’ state to see some degree of success. But as time progressed, in addition to observing all of my client’s responses to trance, I learned that I didn’t need to have a person in this mode, nor asleep, or even have their eyes closed during the session. Success was still attained.

I learned this from those heavy left brain/analytical types who loved to analyze every word and the extreme right brain types (or those who had been abused as children) who had so much fear they couldn't totally relax. Between the fear, the fascination of this mystical 'thing' called hypnosis, a personal edification or just the fact that they analyze everything, these clients didn’t want to let go. No matter what I did with some of them (probably 3-5%), they would still remain ‘bright eyed and bushy tailed’. But lo and behold after a day or so or at the very next session, they would express how they saw changes in their behavior or that a family member saw a difference in them. At first, I was in disbelief even though they told me this. I thought to myself, how could they have such positive results as they had their eyes open the whole time? Or they would share with me most of what I said during the hypnotic trance part of the session.

This information went against my training or what I had read in the many books on hypnosis in the need to produce ‘somnambulism’, ‘coma state’ or ‘deep trance’ in the client for success. So today, I don’t think in those terms any more.

Of course, I always want a person to go as deep as possible in a state of trance because I know it is beneficial in many ways. But I have learned trance is all relative. One person may experience a deep trance at delta, another at theta and yet another can be deep at an alpha level. The most important here is if a person receives positive results then he or she was deep enough for his or her own consciousness whether they were in ‘somnambulism’, ‘coma’, eyes wide opened or listened to my every word.

How I think and practice today?

1. Deep breathing to ‘relax’ the conscious mind and the body. The breathing does 90% of my work. It begins the process of temporarily ‘separating’ the mind from the body.

2. The Progressive Muscle Relaxation brings more relaxation to the conscious and the body. The PMR gives me 5% more by slowing down the conscious and taking away the control it has over the body.

3. Visualization to ‘split’ the conscious. Visualization provides the other 5% in different ways. Here I use the 7+/-2 theory which states that the average person cannot hold more than 5-9 pieces of information in consciousness at any given time. Between the rate of speed (I speak faster than I would in normal conversation to outrun, overload and confuse the conscious) at which I deliver information during the hypnotic session, the scenarios and the suggestions (client’s goals), the conscious disconnects more from the body.

4. Repetition to repeat this process as much as possible! This will solidify the new changes/behavior in the subconscious.

Why do I want this disconnection between the mind and body?

If the client’s mind is temporarily 'disconnected' from the body, the energy needed that would normally control the body (extremities, facial expression and general movement) is freed up and is now processing all of my words. I have the client’s complete ‘focused attention’ whether they are in delta, theta, alpha, eyes wide open or attempting to make a conscious effort to analyze every word – which this is similar to the dream process. During the dream state, the body is temporarily ‘paralyzed’ (unless the person is a sleepwalker) yet the mind is extremely active. So I am using the same model.

After the first session, this is the client’s response:

“Thanks for all the info. That really explained things well and cleared up some of my confusion about your process and my results. It really is so elegantly simple, isn't it? I have definitely noticed a significant improvement in my allergies today, to my genuine surprise. I would say they are 95% gone. No itchy, watery eyes at all, very little stuffiness, and only a handful of sneezes throughout the day. After my nightly walk there was just the barest trace of asthma-like symptoms. This is similar to what I was experiencing for that month I was free of symptoms between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Today was Day 2 with virtually no allergy symptoms. I've had no itchy, watery eyes or asthma symptoms, but I've still been getting a little bit of that tickle in the nose and times during the day when my nasal passages get stuffy. I think we should focus on the nose next time.”
Phone session, California

John Owens
Clinical Hypnotherapist & Life Counselor