Hypnosis for holistic health 

Part 1

Dr Uma Devi P
First Published : 31 Dec 2010
A human life time, taking an average span of 70 years, starting from birth, takes one through different phases of growth, development, ups and downs of mental (emotional) and physical swings, until death intervenes.
The last century was one of fast growth and inventions which made life more comfortable through innovative developments in science and technology, progress in medicine which brought better methods of diagnosis and treatment of diseases, faster communication facilities, and higher living standards.
But this fast development, while leading to material benefits raising the standard of living and physical comforts to levels unknown before, has also led to several problems which were not encountered or not considered serious earlier.

The high profile jobs with huge pay packets have made life a continuous rat race, depleting the physical and mental energy of a person and increasing stress that leads to many physical and emotional problems.
Moreover, the human mind is being conditioned in such a way that in the name of modernity we are getting addicted to certain life styles, dietary habits and recreational activities that further increase the stress and related diseases.
In the modern time of rapid industrialization and global changes in life style, mental stress is contributing significantly to health problems like cardiovascular diseases, arthritis, cancers, hypertension, diabetes, kidney dysfunction, psychiatric and psychosomatic disorders.

Even though the medical science has advanced several fold and new drugs are being discovered every day, and scientists trying hard to link every disease to a gene, an effective remedy for many diseases like some cancers, certain infections, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases are still far away.

Modern medical approach to ailments is to treat the symptoms, viewing each problem as a disease of the body or of the mind. Even though the treatment may succeed in alleviating the symptoms and apparently restore normal condition, many a time it does not ensure the complete health of the person.

This is because the treatment methods and medication are generalized in terms of a disease symptom or a behavioral pattern, often ignoring the individual’s emotional, psychological and spiritual perception/ attitudes, which play a prominent role i n t h e treatment response.

Therefore, even though the patient is cured of the disease, the illness persists. A holistic health approach has to take into consideration the body-mind relationship, as every disease has a physical and emotional component. In many cases the physical disease may be a bodily reaction to some mental/ emotional problem and treating the body alone will not ensure complete removal of the disease. Moreover, many medicines produce undesirable side effects, severely compromising the quality of life.

Therefore, people have started looking for alternative ways to treat chronic/recurring diseases. Music, yoga, breathing exercises, etc., are being explored to improve health and treat some diseases. A holistic approach is hypnotherapy, which makes use of the body-mind relationship for healing.

What is hypnotherapy?

Hypnotherapy is a method of treatment which uses hypnosis for facilitating the therapeutic effect of suggestions.
Hypnosis is an altered state of consciousness or awareness, characterized by focused attention, acute sensory perception, increased concentration, physical relaxation and hyper-suggestibility.
Our subconscious mind has a record of all our past experiences, not accessible in the conscious state. The subconscious mind is accessed under hypnosis and the desired changes are brought about through suggestion given in that state.
The advantage of hypnotherapy is that , as the mindbody axis is activate d , t h e cure involves both emotional and physical states and no medication is used. Since the problem is tackled at its root, once the healing takes place, the effect is lasting.
This method is found very useful in treating many physical and physiological symptoms like pain, rashes, asthma, cancer, diabetes, hypertension, and psychological and psychiatric problems like depression, insomnia, phobias and fears, and also to stop harmful habits like alcoholism, drug addiction and smoking.


The earliest known use of hypnosis for healing is by the Shamans or tribal Medicine Men, even though the term ‘hypnosis’ was not known then. Present day hypnotherapy can be traced back to Dr Franz Anton Mesmer, an 18th century Austrian physician. He believed that many objects contained a ‘cosmic fluid’ with healing powers, which could be transferred to human body to cure diseases.

Initially he used magnets for the healing, but later considered his own body as the source of this healing force, which he called ‘animal magnetism’.

Though there was no evidence to support his theory, he treated thousands of patients using this method, which came to be known as ‘mesmerism’.

It was James Braid, a British Surgeon, who coined the word ‘hypnosis’ (from the word Greek ‘hypnos’ meaning ‘sleep’) in 1843 to describe a sleep-like state exhibited by many of his patients. Several schools in the West developed hypnosis for treatment and the method gained popularity.

Sigmund Freud, the well-known Psychiatrist also used hypnosis in his early days of practice, but later discarded it for psychotherapy. With the fast development of psychiatry in the first half of the 20th century, hypnotherapy suffered a decline in popularity.

However a revival occurred in the 1950’s, mainly due to the efforts of two American doctors, Dr. Milton Erickson and Dr. John Kappas, who contributed significantly to shape the present day hypnotherapy. The Hypnosis Motivation Institute, established by John Kappas in 1969, was the first authentic school of hypnotherapy in the USA .
(The writer is a clinical hypnotherapist. E-mail: p.umadevi68@yahoo.in)

The principle of hypnotherapy

Part 2

Dr Uma Devi P
Express News Service
First Published : 01 Jan 2011
KOCHI: The therapist induces a deep hypnosis, where the conscious mind steps aside, giving control to the subconscious mind, which has tremendous powers. Under hypnosis our sensory faculties become more alert, the hearing, understanding and creative powers becoming keener and more acute. The healing is actually done by the person himself/herself, the therapist only helping in the process by appropriate verbal suggestions.

A hypnotized person retains his/her control, even though his/her suggestibility increases many folds and he/she becomes more open to verbal suggestions. So he/she visualizes or imagines as guided by the therapist through suggestions and these images become real to his/her mind. As an example, a person may visualize the pain being washed away by the waves as he/she stands on a beach and this becomes real to the mind; as a result, on being awakened the person realizes that the pain has disappeared; and this feeling becomes reinforced when the same process is repeated in a couple of sessions.

But some problems like depression may need more than simple suggestions, and more number of sessions. What is done is positive changes are brought about in the perception regarding the problem in the mind of the patient. Once the mind accepts it, the change is incorporated and the old negative feeling/perception is replaced by the new positive one.

As a result, next time the person encounters the same or a similar problem, his/her reaction is changed to a more positive one under the influence of the changed perception.

Hypnosis produces deep relaxation, releases tension and stress, and promotes neuro-secretions that control the moods in a positive way. Actual measurements in laboratories have shown that certain neuro-humors like serotonin and nor-epinephrine (pleasure hormones) are enhanced during relaxation.

General procedure

A general hypnotic session can be divided into three parts:
● Induction of hypnosis: Different methods are available for inducing hypnosis. Hypnosis can be induced by progressive relaxation through suggestions or using devices like pendulum, etc. along with verbal suggestion.
● Treatment/giving suggestions: Desired change is effected through suggestions given under deep hypnosis. Guided imagery (imagining that the changes suggested by the therapist are actually happening) is also being used, for example, for improvement in performance (e.g. sports, facing interview, examination, etc.).
● Bringing out of hypnosis: Afterwards the person is brought out of hypnosis, by appropriate suggestion. Most of the time, on waking up, the person is able to remember everything that is said during the hypnotic state. Since hypnosis relaxes the body and mind, he/she will feel good and relaxed on waking up.

Areas amenable to hypnotherapy

Most problems treated under psychiatry/psychology are amenable to hypnotherapy; the results are faster and more lasting. It is used successfully in the following areas:
● Anxiety, depression, insomnia.
● Antisocial behaviour in children stealing, telling lies, fighting, creating tantrums.
● Eating disorders anorexia, bulimia, overeating, nausea, vomiting.
● Fears and phobias: fear of animals, spiders, etc.; fear of darkness, closed spaces, flying, heights, water etc.
● Pains: Migraine and other headaches, joint pains, back pain, menstrual pain, pain from cancer, arthritis, surgery, dental extraction, piles, fractures, burns and other injuries.
● Ease child birth.
● Induce anesthesia and analgesia in surgery; tooth extraction, etc.
● Pediatric problems: Bed-wetting, nail biting, stammering, timidity, etc.
● Students' problems: Increase concentration and memory, improve study habits and performance in exams, overcome examination fear, stage fear, etc.
● Build self-confidence and self-image, personality development, improve sports performance, social interaction, public speaking skills.
● De-addiction: smoking and other tobacco habits; drug abuse, alcoholism.
● Solving marital discords.
● Coping with bereavement, loss of status and position, failure in business.
● Relief from chronic diseases, e.g. asthma, diabetes, etc

Some myths and truths about hypnotherapy

Several myths about hypnotherapy are in circulation, mostly because of the stage shows, where people act funny and do ridiculous things under the magician's command. Some of the myths include:
● It is black magic and the effects are not real, but only illusions.
This is not true. Hypnotherapy is an accepted and proved form of treatment.
● It has no legal standing or formal support from medical faculty.
On the contrary, hypnotherapy was recognized and formally approved by the British Medical Association and American Medical Association in the 1950's. Recently, the National Cancer Institute, USA , has approved hypnosis as one of the methods for relieving cancer pain.
● The person may get stuck and may not wake up from hypnosis.
Not true. No one has so far been known to be stuck in hypnosis. The hypnotized person might drift off into natural sleep, but then will wake up into full consciousness, without any effect of the trance.
● The hypnotist can make a person jump like a monkey or bark like a dog or do other ridiculous things under hypnosis.
This is not true. The fact is that a person never loses control of self and he/she cannot be made to do or say things against his/her will.
● Hypnosis can damage the brain.
Not true. Hypnosis does not damage the brain or any other organ; in fact, under hypnosis, one's concentration becomes more focused and it is possible to recall events/persons that are otherwise forgotten.
● It is not safe and can disturb mental balance.
Not true. It is absolutely safe in the hands of a qualified hypnotherapist.

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