by Del Hunter Morrill
I appreciate your questions about hypnosis, and your fears about its use, especially in the light of your particular religious background. In my work as a clinical hypnotist and counselor I must assist all kinds of people from all types of religious persuasions and philosophies. From my perspective, there is no reason for hypnosis and one’s religion or life philosophy to come into conflict. Generally, any concern is because of misunderstanding what hypnosis is and what it is not.
When I use the term hypnosis, I will be referring to any methods that reach the unconscious mind, that subconscious part of us where the real urges and decisions and long-time habits lie. “Hypnosisy” is the use of techniques for hypnotic purposes. (This differentiates it from stage or entertainment hypnosis.) The word “hypnosis” is a result of a term given by Scottish doctor who, in the middle of the 1800’s, saw a shepherd boy in trance, and thought he was asleep. He named the phenomena after the Greek god of sleep, Hypnos.
What does hypnosis work with?
Hypnosis and the use of it for hypnotic purposes, works at the unconscious level of the mind. The unconscious (or subconscious) mind is responsible not only for running our automatic body systems, but for containing our beliefs about life, love, people, the world, religion, etc. Also, that deeper self takes care of everything we ever first learned consciously, such as walking, talking or brushing our teeth, which now has become automatic. If we had to think through every little action required to do every little thing we have learned, we no doubt would go crazy. So the deeper mind, that subconscious self, is a most important part of who we are.
The unconscious/subconscious mind houses everything that has ever happened to us, everything that was ever said to us, everything we ever learned, and everything that was done (or not done) to us, whether real or imagined. It houses our emotions, all of the various parts of our personality, and the various roles we play depending upon the persons we meet or the actions we take. The deeper mind is like a big stew pot filled with carrots, celery, potatoes, peas, and meat. In my counseling practice, I find that using hypnosis methods makes it possible for me to help people more permanently, than just with “talk work.” That is because these types of methods (or processes) are able to reach that “stew-pot” filled with all our memory and beliefs, and change the flavor of the stew – that is, how we perceive and do things.
Many people are confused, some even fearful about hypnosis. This is only because they misunderstand it. Certain churches think it means “mesmerism”, that is, controlling someone’s mind. However, their negative attitude about hypnosis comes from the same place as everyone else’s – it is simply because it is misunderstood.
So what is hypnosis, anyway? At the simplest level, hypnosis might be described as any “state of being” that lies between being totally awake and alert, and that of being completely asleep. Just before you fall asleep and just before you come awake are deep hypnotic states, or trances. You might feel as if you were in a sort of “dream-time” – not quite awake and not quite asleep. At this level, you would be in what we hypnotists call a “hypnogogic” state. In this state of being, you are the most receptive to suggestions. So every person is “hypnotized” every day, whether aware of it or not, and whether or not it is named as such.
You can go into hypnotic states from various incidences – being caught up in a moment where you are unaware of what is around you; being so relaxed that your mind and body let go of your “to do” list; visualizing yourself in some beautiful place; letting the sun warm you when on the patio or beach; and so many other times in which your conscious awareness slows down and allows access to your deeper self.
When you try to fight from dozing off from the lights at night while driving on a straight-of-way, you are trying to fight off a “trance,” or being “hypnotized.”
Hypnosis is also a level of being in which you so trust a person or situation that you willingly take into yourself what they say to you. A doctor who tells you whether you will live or die is a great hypnotizer. Persons who create the advertisements that tell us we will be happier if we buy their products are highly effective hypnotizers. In choosing what one wants in life, those who tend to rely on persons of authority for what they believe are more apt to make their choices based upon that of the authority figure. Any person you put your belief in has a greater chance of affecting your life than someone of whom you are unsure. Therefore, in hypnotic work, belief in the hypnotist is important.
There are times in everyone’s life, in which one falls into a hypnotic or trance-like state. You are driving a car and suddenly realize that you have missed your turn. Your mind was driving in “neutral”— it had “gone” somewhere else; yet you didn’t get in an accident, and you were able to correct the situation. You are wrapped up in a book or caught up in a movie. Someone speaks to you, and you don’t hear them, because you are in a “trance,” or a hypnotic state. When you “day-dream” you are in a trance-state or “in hypnosis”.
We don’t generally refer to such incidences as “hypnosis”. Yet they are natural and normal experiences in which one’s mind has, momentarily, set aside its conscious “chatter”, putting one into a deeper level of awareness. Therefore, such experiences could be considered as hypnotic, or “being” in hypnosis or a trance.
When you are in deep prayer, or meditation, this is a form of “trance.” It is very similar to being in a hypnotic state. In the prayer state, you may become more aware, receive new insights and directions for your life, and be receptive to the Lord’s suggestions. When in a “trance” or a “hypnotic” state, one is relaxed and receptive, therefore more open at a deeper level (the subconscious self). Most important is that, just like in prayer or meditation, you are as fully in control of how deep you wish to go, and open to only what you are willing to receive.
Mass healers, such as those on television, can captivate a whole room of people to the point that healing of individuals takes place. What happens, to a large part, is that the congregation has become open to the suggestion that healing is possible. They are reminded of past miracles of Jesus, his disciples and others. An entire group of people believing in something is powerful, in itself. The person suggesting this possibility to them is someone they trust, and upon whom they have endowed “authority”. This person has the ability to send out powerful signals of confidence in healing being able to take place. The combination of focused attention, history, belief and trust creates a “curing” atmosphere
Since most of our ills are caused from our mind, that is, what we believe or think or feel, then, it is important that our mind be changed—either by believing in the healer-evangelist, or by believing in yourself when with a hypnotist.
Clearing up “myths”
Now, let me clear up some frequent misconceptions:
The idea that a hypnotist can control you can make you do what you don’t to do
Stage hypnotists, movies and TV often give false impressions about hypnosis. Yes, they do remind us of the power of our own minds. However, often they give the impression that a person has some special power over others, making them do something against their will. Nothing could be further from the truth.
In a sense, hypnosis is “self“- hypnosis. The hypnotist is merely a “guide” into your own interior and deep resources (the greater part of one’s mind). It is a 100% consent state. The hypnotist can only do half of the job; the other half is the responsibility of the one being hypnotized. No hypnotist can make you do anything you do not want to do, or that you feel is unethical.
Let’s face it, if we hypnotists could make people do what they don’t want to do, we would be running the world and have all the money we wanted. In over 25 years of working with these methods, I have never yet convinced any client to lay their savings account at my feet!
Regardless of how powerful a stage hypnotist might be in getting very receptive people to do the most ridiculous things, if he requested, “Now, take off all your clothes”, they simply would not do it (unless an extreme exhibitionist). The hypnotist would have crossed the line. Each participant on the stage, regardless of the request and how much in charge the hypnotist seems to be, is able to stop at any time—to accept or reject any suggestion. This is just as true in a hypnotist’s office.
The idea that your mind becomes “vacant” and therefore open to anything that comes along (including the devil)
When you are hypnotized, all that is happening is that you are becoming more focused—putting all your mental ability at work. You are shutting out some or all of the usual chatter that comes into your conscious mind. Contrary to being vacant, then, the mind is actually “filling up”, bringing its full ability into the moment, in order to participate in making changes. Because you are the one who is “in charge” – not the hypnotist, you will accept only that which is right and helpful for you.
The idea that all your secrets will come tumbling out
Hypnosis is not a “truth” serum or other drug that lets Pandora’s box lid fly open. You will not reveal all your secrets. When you are hypnotized, nothing more is revealed than what you need to get the particular problem resolved. More often than not, nothing spoken is required of you. Anything you wish to remain “hidden”, stays hidden. When hypnotized, if I were to I ask a question that you did not wish to answer, you would be as free to not answer it as you are when you are not hypnotized.
The idea that hypnosis is a form of “brain-washing”
To be brain-washed, one would have to be involved in things like being confined to small spaces for long periods of time, bright lights night or day, or no lights at all, going without sleep or being pulled out of sleep irregularly, having little to no food, being drugged, and possibly physical torture. Obviously, such activity would not keep me in business very long!
I believe that each person possesses within himself or herself knowledge of what their problems are, and how to solve them. I use methods that help people go into that deeper part of themselves, finding out what causes their problems and discovering ways to use more of their mind and capabilities to solve their problems or change their habits. Sometimes I do it with just positive suggestions that can change how they perceive something. Sometimes I help them discover the original cause of their basic attitude or belief that is keeping that problem in their life. Then I help them find a way to release the holds that cause has had over them.
I feel that, in using hypnosis, especially with counseling techniques added where needed, I am helping individuals to be released from the past, and, in their life’s journey, to move into an open and unknown future without fear. I hope this has been helpful in clarifying why I do what I do and why the methods I have chosen to do that work continue to be effective for my clients and for myself.