Hypnosis has a sensational reputation. Most people have seen a hypnotist perform, convincing people to forget their own names, bark like dogs, or believe they’re characters in a horror movie. Hypnotic powers have been greatly exaggerated in movies and TV shows. In reality, hypnosis has many practical uses from quitting smoking to pain management. Many therapists also use hypnosis to augment regular treatment for conditions like depression and anxiety. Here’s how hypnosis can help.
Hypnosis helps you relax. People with depression and anxiety are often extremely tense. Depression and anxiety typically increase stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, as the mind is preoccupied with negative and threatening possibilities. Many people with depression or anxiety don’t even remember what it feels like to relax deeply. Hypnosis can help reacquaint them with the feeling of deep relaxation so they can relax more completely on their own.
Hypnosis makes you less defensive. Deep relaxation also has the benefit of reducing defensiveness. Therapy often requires facing uncomfortable situations. It may require examining painful memories, or coming to terms with your own behavior. Being deeply relaxed can bypass those defenses that are meant to protect you but end up holding you back. It can also be extremely difficult for for people to consider alternate ways of looking things. For example, for many people, pessimism is a way of protecting themselves from disappointment. To let go of pessimism may feel like playing football without a helmet. Hypnosis can help people be more open to seeing the world differently.
Hypnosis can change your focus. It’s often said that depressed people are stuck in the past and anxious people are stuck in the future. While it’s slightly more complicated than that, there is some truth to this. Whether you’re depressed or anxious, your thoughts likely dwell on topics that evoke negative emotions. The longer this goes on, the more deeply ingrained these habits of thought become and the harder it is to change them. Hypnosis can help you get out of that rut by helping you switch your focus to more positive things. When you focus on happier thoughts, happier feelings naturally follow.
Hypnosis isn’t a kind of therapy in itself, but rather a way of enhancing therapeutic methods like cognitive behavioral therapy. The most important aspect of therapy is to have a skilled therapist, but if that therapists skills happen to include hypnosis, it can make your treatment more effective. The caveat is that not everyone is susceptible to hypnosis. About five to 10 percent of people are highly susceptible, about 25 to 30 percent are hardly susceptible at all, and everyone else is somewhere in between. That means some people will benefit a lot from hypnotherapy, while others will benefit very little, but that’s true of any treatment modality.