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The New Age Science of Hypnotherapy

Blame it on pop culture. Blame it on the movies, television and comic books. But the art (or science) of hypnosis has been trivialised more often than not, with people associating it with magic and super powers used by the likes of Count Dracula and Mandrake the Magician.

Modern day practitioners are slightly different though. To begin with, hypnotherapy has got nothing to do with swinging pendulums and deep baritones that induce sleep.

While the basis is mind control, hypnotherapy has evolved into a therapeutic practice. A different form of psychological counselling, there are people all over the globe that believe in its effectiveness. It is used widely to combat issues related to stress, anxieties and behavioural disorders.

We delved a little deeper into the dynamics of the science behind it and spoke to city-based hypnotherapist, Prof Jacob Raju. He shared some interesting details about this unique form of therapy, its value, effect and significance.

How does Hypnotherapy work?

Hypnosis is a state of mind. A hypnotic state is a physically relaxed, mentally alert, extremely aware and intensely focused state of mind where the subject is completely in control. In hypnotherapy this state of mind is purposely induced and utilised in a purely therapeutic context.

Will hypnotherapy help people with OCD? How many sessions are required? How cooperative does the patient have to be?

I had a client with an OCD problem. His issue was that he felt he was not clean. In the toilet he would spend 30 to 45 minutes washing himself clean. Under hypnosis I asked him: ‘Do you feel clean after 45 minutes of washing?’ He said no.  ‘Then how do you stop yourself after 45 minutes of washing?’ He said, ‘after 30 to 45 minutes I say to myself, “That’s enough,” and then I stop.’

‘What would happen if you say, “That’s enough” after 3 or 4 times of washing?’ I asked.  He considered my question for a while and then said, ‘If I say, “That’s enough,” after 3 or 4 washes, I can still stop.’

I understood the thought process in his mind. The one that created the disorder. If he kept saying in his mind, “I am not clean,” he kept washing. The moment he said, “That’s enough.” he stopped.

This is how we work with hypnotherapy. What is important is to expose the strategy of the mind; the way the mind processes the information that creates the problem. Then the solution will follow.

The patient was taught the new strategy (suggestion: ‘I need to wash only a few times to feel clean and comfortable’ – supported by relevant images and good feeling). Under hypnosis the suggestion was reinforced several times by repeating it during the same session. A single session was enough.

His effort was to repeat the suggestion till the new pattern was formed. That was his responsibility. If didn’t repeat the message to himself, he would have had to come back to the therapist for a few reinforcement sessions.

What is the subconscious mind?

According to modern psychology mind is what the brain does. In other words, the functioning of the brain is what we call the mind. In IT terms, brain is the hardware and mind is the software.

The conscious mind is any function that we are consciously aware of and paying attention to. It reasons, analyses, criticises and makes decisions.

The subconscious mind records and stores everything for future reference. It is where all the learning takes place, where all the bodily functions are controlled, where all the habits are formed, and where all the changes are initiated and sustained.

What misconceptions do people have about hypnotism?

First of all, a hypnotic state is neither a sleepy nor an unconscious state of mind. Hypnotherapists do not have any access to the subconscious mind of their clients. They know only what is revealed to them by the subject. They are not like surgeons who can ‘cut open’ the subconscious mind, make some necessary changes, close it up, and tell the clients that everything is taken care of.  What the therapists do is to guide the clients to access their own subconscious mind and make necessary changes. Every hypnotic session is training in self-hypnosis. That means the therapists do not hypnotise the clients. They hypnotise themselves under the guidance of the therapist.

Why is it not a very popular form of therapy?

Hypnotherapy is not very popular because there are many misconceptions, mysteries and fear of misuse built around hypnosis in the mind of the public. In reality, if the therapists say anything that is against their beliefs and values, the subconscious mind of the client will resist it and they will quickly come out of the hypnotic state. Whenever I talk about hypnosis my first priority is to remove or reduce these misconceptions.

How is it different from regular counselling sessions with a psychiatrist?

The most important part of hypnotherapy is the hypnotic suggestion. It is not merely a verbal affirmation. It is the art of installing, in the subconscious mind of the clients, a complete thought with mental images, inner dialogues and accompanying feelings. A hypnotic suggestion will initiate a change. If you want to sustain the change, the suggestion has to be repeated.

What kind of cases do you usually get?

I treat only mind created problems and they are all imaginary or psychosomatic, like fear & phobia, anxiety, depression, overweight, sexual dysfunction, etc. There is a saying in hypnotic circles: ‘For imaginary problems the solutions are also imaginary.’ And we say ‘imagination is the language of the mind.’ I always check their medical history and if the problem is medical or physiological I advice them to treat it accordingly.

How does one become a Hypnotherapist?

Foremost, he needs to be trained under an able guru. Hypnosis is only one of the tools. A therapist to be successful may need many other tools. Psychotherapy, NLP, meditation, yoga, etc. also may be useful.  Personal skills like awareness of the present moment, listening and observation, rapport building, etc are also very important.

How can hypnotherapy backfire?

Hypnotherapy practised by an expert cannot backfire. It will have no side effects. It is a drugless therapy and the therapists use only words.