Posted by: Stephen Rigby at 10:30, July 2 2014.
It is said that there are fifty Eskimo words for snow. In English we do not have the need for so many words for snow but it may be helpful to have a few more to describe being relaxed. We might say we are mentally relaxed, physically relaxed – maybe even morally relaxed. Most hypnotherapists tell their clients, when explaining hypnosis, that they will feel relaxed. This is generally gives the expectation of “physical” relaxation and this may be reinforced by the hypnotherapist using a progressive relaxation induction where they encourage their client to relax each part of their body in turn.
All of us frequently use the hypnotic state without knowing it. Hypnosis is just a very efficient and focused way that the brain can process. It has been said that we drift in and out of hypnosis four to eight times an hour. I can identify my first conscious creation of the hypnotic state (self hypnosis) to somewhere between the ages of 12 and 15 years. At the time I was not aware that it was hypnosis but that is certainly what it was. I was not physically relaxed when using the hypnotic state back then and I was definitely not physically relaxed when I experienced my deepest trance recently during one of my regular Spinning classes.
When James Braid chose Hypnos the Greek God of sleep, it was not with the intention of implying the mental state he was naming (hypnosis) was sleep or even physical relaxation. Braid was trying to explain a state of “sleep” or calm of the neural processes. This calm is accessible through physical relaxation but if that were the only way it could be accessed, it would severely restrict the usefulness of hypnosis.
The stock explanation for the action of hypnosis is that it allows bypass of the conscious mind and communication directly to the sub-conscious. This is, however, just a metaphor and implies the mind of the person being hypnotised is nothing more than a passive receptacle for the hypnotherapist’s words.
In truth the hypnotised mind is not passive but extremely active. In hypnosis the brain works more efficiently in a more focussed way, freed from the normal “background chatter”; this is what gives the overall sense of calm and what makes hypnosis so powerful.
Hypnotherapy can be regarded as the process of training a person to apply new mental processing and physical behaviour to a problem state. Implementing this new processing and behaviour can be done most efficiently using a very powerful frame of mind – the same frame of mind that was use to create it – hypnosis! Hypnosis is the way to train it and the way to implement it (it is the frame of mind for peak performance).
When I was called upon to help a professional rugby player to become more aggressive on the rugby pitch (something important if one wants to avoid injury when tackling), I had to train him to enter an optimal mental state for tackling – that mental state was hypnosis. During this state he was certainly not physically relaxed (although his body was devoid of any unnecessary physical tension). If physical relaxation had been a prerequisite for hypnosis then hypnotherapy would have been useless in helping him.
In summary, physical relaxation may be the most common way that hypnotherapists use to hypnotise and when in hypnosis, one can sometimes experience the most delightful depth of physical relaxation but physical relaxation is not a prerequisite for entering hypnosis. So, tell me that I may feel focussed or empowered or calm or insightful or at peace or powerful or any one of a thousand other positive ways of feeling. Please do not just tell me that I will feel relaxed!