It is my experience that patients want to inform themselves before they consider a hypnosis treatment of their ailment. Below are some frequently asked questions and my replies.
1. Does a hypnotic condition really exist?
Yes, despite the scepticism of some patients which probably developed from a misconception. Experiences with hypnosis go chronological way back into the past. Scientists don't question the existence of hypnosis. Besides the possibility to hypnotice people, there are also clinical parameters such as EEG-findings and changed laboratory values of the blood which are altered in a trance condition.
It is assumed that not only a systematic induced induction leads to a hypnotic condition. We encounter frequently that our counterpart does not pay attention to us and his eyes sway far away. This everyday example also represents a hypnotic condition.
2. What is hypnosis?
What experiences will I encounter and how will I feel in hypnosis? Hypnosis is a condition in which our attention is focused on inner pictures and subjects by reduced but not abolished perception of our environment. It is like if one wakes up in the morning, yet eventually still dealing with dream contents and "not being fully alert". That's approximately how one feels in hypnosis. We are very relaxed and most people perceive the condition as very pleasant. It is not like sleep because we can hear external sounds.
3. Do I loose my will in hypnosis?
It is generally assumed that we retain our will. One retains control and does not do or say in hypnosis what one would not do or say in the condition of being "awake". Many patients fear they could give the hypnotist information which they regard as secret. This is - as mentioned above - not possible. If for example the therapist would ask the patient, how much money he earns, the patient would not reply if he did not want to do so. However it must be added that a confidential and open relationship between patient and therapist is desirable as generally in all psychotherapies.
In general the patient should prepare to reveal his secrets. This he can do without fear because the therapist is by law forbidden to disclose any information given to him by the patient.
4. Is it possible that I don't wake up from hypnosis?
In my many years of practice this never has happened. Let us suppose for the sake of illustration the patient is in trance and the therapist can not terminate the hypnosis because he suffered a stroke. In such a case the hypnosis will pass over into a sleep. After this the patient wakes up in a regular manner.
For hypnotherapy are suggestibility, the ability to regress into childhood conditions, as well as rapport, important parameters. Modern hypnosis is very much influenced by the already deceased American psychiatrist Dr. Erickson. In contrast to the classic hypnosis he formulated interventions in a non authoritarian fashion and indirectly.
In trance he used various prepared techniques to achieve therapeutic goals. Here are two such techniques of the " new hypnosis" presented:
In the "emotional bridge" the patient is called upon in hypnosis to regress in time to similar emotional occurrences like the current.
The technique "safe place " anchors a safe situation during hypnosis. When anxiety appears, the patient recalls the trance situation by repeating the anchored instructions. For example could he make a fist in order to put himself into this “safe place”.
The rapport is very important in hypnotherapy. It is defined as a positive feeling of assent that facilitates the condition of open-mindedness.
Hypnosis as the gateway to the subconsciousness has fascinated scientists for ages. For the psychiatrist Erickson it was a possibility to stop habitual attitudes and activate unconscious searches and processes. Already for Freud the unconscious was very important. He discovered the hypnosis as a means of reaching it and utilised it. He was disappointed with hypnosis because he achieved only a change of symptoms and not a healing process. When he hypnoticed one of his hysteroid women - so frequently encountered in the victorian era -, he noticed that when he succeeded to heal a paralysed leg, the next day the arm was paralysed. I do not know his modus operandi (today the concepts and methods of hypnosis are entirely different) and I suspect that he rejected hypnosis prematurely. His succeeding method of "free association" is still in use today. It is a good method .The necessary time and expenses limit the general use of this procedure and its general availability.
Later psychoanalysts quoted the explanation of Anna Freund (1938) that in hypnosis resistances are bypassed. Freud employed dreams as the gateway to the unconscious - this is still used today. Freud didn't have the knowledge of hypnosis as we have it today. It is certainly astonishing that - considering the complexity of psychoanalytical treatments - psychoanalysis did not pay more attention to this known gateway to the unconscious.