Hypnosis has long been used as a way of reversing unhelpful habits such as smoking (a University of Iowa study found hypnosis was three times more effective than nicotine replacement). In fact, both clinical and non-clinical studies have found the benefits of hypnotherapy to be wide-ranging, from relieving a range of psychological, emotional and physical issues – including anxiety, depression, insomnia and panic attacks – to easing the symptoms of physical conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and eczema, and as a form of pain relief, such as hypnobirthing.
So how does hypnotherapy work? “Hypnotherapy underpins a branch of psychotherapy which promotes healing and personal development through positive association,” explains Jivan Dempsey, a hypnotherapist, life coach and occupational psychologist. “It uses hypnosis, a trance-like state, where breathing becomes slower and deeper, the pulse rate drops and the metabolic rate falls. The healing and personal development changes are made deep in the unconscious mind.”
Hypnotherapy helps us to “re-program” our behaviour patterns, says Jivan. Hypnosis bypasses the “logical, critical and analytical” conscious mind and instead speaks directly to the “unconditionally accepting” unconscious mind in the language it understands: pattern, association and metaphor. This is what makes it so effective in overcoming fears and phobias, as well as self-limiting and self-destructive thoughts, habits and suppressed emotions.
“I had such low self-esteem it was genuinely sad for other people to watch,” says Dr Krystyna Wilczynski, a dentist and aesthetics practitioner, and one of Jivan’s clients. Krystyna had tried a host of therapies to help her overcome her anxiety before turning to hypnotherapy. Her sessions involved discussing life situations that were causing her stress or anxiety. “I felt very safe and that I could truly be honest with my emotions and problems without judgement,” she says. “As the stories unfolded, it became clear my ability to control my emotions and tackle situations was changing, that it had matured and developed.
“I was so happy to finally be able to see what other people see in me. I was able to understand that more about myself was positive, that it wasn’t all negative.”
Krystyna says that she was unsure about trying hypnotherapy at first. “I had tried CBT [Cognitive Behavioural Therapy] and other therapies in the past, but I know now that hypnotherapy came into my life at the right time so I was receptive to the treatment – it helped me without me even realising.”
“The surprising thing is that the medical profession has taken so long to accept the effectiveness of hypnosis and hypnotherapy in treating many ailments. The medical profession may set and mend broken bodies and give pills, but it is the unconscious mind that heals the body.
Hypnotherapy for negative thinking
Jivan says that anxiety, low confidence and low self-esteem are often at the core of many of her clients’ issues. “Psychologists suggest that many of our behaviour patterns and identity beliefs are developed in our early years as children. These run mostly at the unconscious level and colour most of our actions and responses. These beliefs act as a ‘filter’ to how we deal with situations and, over time, these are believed as true and become deeply ingrained in our unconscious minds.
“There is always work to be done around self-love and self-acceptance. Self-esteem can be easily and efficiently managed and many exercises can rewire the brain to focus on qualities and not flaws. Someone with low self-esteem will give you lots of flaws but will struggle to talk about their qualities. The brain is trained to find flaws and we need to train it to do the opposite.”
While hypnotherapy can offer transformative changes, the power of the therapy is in your desire to make a change.
“Hypnotherapy is hard work as you really need to put your whole self into it,” says Jessica Shand, Director of Glossy Consulting. “If you’re not prepared to dig deep and let go, and want to get better, it can be very challenging.” Jessica turned to hypnotherapy as a last resort to cure her anxiety and ease her severe imposter syndrome.
She explains, “After going through the motions of 12 CBT sessions in a bid to help me combat my anxiety, I didn’t have much success. I was feeling a bit helpless and deflated and wasn’t sure where to turn to next as my anxiety was at an all-time high. I felt like if CBT couldn’t help me, I wasn’t sure what else would.”
Jessica was recommended hypnotherapy and says the result is that she feels emotionally freed. “While anxiety still creeps up on occasion, I’ve leant how to be strong within myself,” she says. Hypnotherapy is a long-term solution, confirms Jivan: “It provides long-lasting changes because when the unconscious mind is in charge, it very quickly unlearns unhelpful behaviours and beliefs, replacing these with new and more helpful information which allows us to develop positive identity beliefs, reshaping our perception of reality.”
3 daily hypnotherapy exercises
Try Jivan’s tips for introducing hypnotherapy principles into your life.
Always use positive language as it puts you in a positive frame, while negative language is limiting. For example, stop talking yourself down by saying “I can’t do…” or “I’m not sure…” Instead, change the language to a positive frame by saying “I could if…” or “I can if…”.
This is a very simple and effective way of achieving exactly what you want. Picture what you want in your mind – this sets an image that you see as a goal. If you really place yourself into that image – seeing the colours around you, feeling the temperature, noticing the scents, hearing the sounds – it will help you associate the image with feeling confident and positive. You can anchor this visualisation with a time when you were really happy or confident and make the association even stronger.
Relaxation techniques and meditation allow you to induce a self hypnosis. Inhale for four seconds and exhale for seven seconds. This will relax you and slow your heartbeat and your pulse. This reduces your stress levels and anxiety and will help you to sleep.
Main image: Unsplash/Kreated Media.