Dr. Rose was recently interviewed as a hypnotherapy expert for InStyle (read the article here). As a follow-up, here we feature an extended interview with Dr. Rose on hypnosis and hypnotherapy with more details on what it is and how it works, as well as how you can become proficient in these skills.
Hypnosis and Hypnotherapy: What Is It?
Hypnosis is a state of heightened focus and concentration, when the “critical factor of the mind” – the barrier between conscious and unconscious mind – is bypassed and the subconscious is particularly open to suggestion.
The hypnotic state is a natural one, that we go in and out of about a dozen times a day but have never been taught to recognize those states – for instance, when we are doing something by rote, like driving. The experience of driving home and not consciously remembering the last few blocks or miles is a perfect example. The hypnotic state ideally is accessed through a progressive relaxation or distraction technique but it does not always signify “being relaxed.”
When we have had a traumatic experience or extraordinarily stressed, the subconscious dominant state can also occur, making us vulnerable to negative and destructive suggestions.
Hypnotherapy is the deliberate direction of the state with the intent of bringing about a desired outcome, like instilling a positive, life-affirming habit or releasing traumatic material from the past.
Essentially all hypnosis is self-hypnosis as no one can actually “make you go into hypnosis” (that’s sadly the impression from Hollywood’s misportrayals and what people see in stage hypnosis shows). Hetero-hypnosis is when a hypnotherapist guides you into the state of hypnosis.
Physiologically, most people report a heightened sense of awareness, yet relaxed. Some feel quite heavy and others as if they are floating. Some people report feeling nothing much out of the ordinary. It is definitely not being asleep or unconscious. A very small percent of people might “zone out” periodically and not hear your voice, but most will be hyper-aware.
Psychologically, hypnosis can be related to different brain wave function – in the “normal” conscious state, the brain waves most present are beta. A hypnotized person could be shifting between alpha, theta and even delta brainwaves. The subconscious mind is much more receptive to suggestion but there is always an internal protection (sometimes referred to as “The Watcher”) which means that no one can really be directed to do something against their will.
The Benefits of Hypnotherapy
The benefits are many. For instance, time can be perceived as speeding up or slowing down. One has access to other aspects or subpersonalities in the psyche, which might reveal the source of faulty belief systems, buried trauma or psychosomatic disorders.
There is less resistance by the conscious or more “judgmental” part of the psyche so that through repetition one can change negative habits and instill positive ones.
There is access to the “higher mind” or what is called the Superconscious in the hypnosis field and could relate to Jung’s Collective Unconscious.
There is also access to the Autonomic Nervous System, which controls the fight or flight response so that communication can be directed to bodily systems and functions that potentially can resolve or heal.
Hypnotherapy and the Immune System
I was fortunate to be in the field early enough to have met with some of the pioneers in the field of psychoneuroimmunology and mind/body medicine like Dr. Bernie Siegel and Joan Borysenko.
The idea of hypnosis for healing the body and boosting the immune system is what lured me over from my graduate studies to become a Jungian psychoanalyst.
The simple answer is that hypnotherapy can very well impact the immune system positively.
Because hypnosis bypasses the critical factor (aka Ego), there seems to be a communication highway directly to the bodily systems. Purportedly, the cells would respond from the directive given by the subconscious, since this is the part of the mind that governs these bodily functions.
The molecules and cells that make up each organ of our body are replaced at various time frames, like the liver regenerates in about a month, and we supposedly have brand new set of skin every 365 days. This kind of hypnosis would work to change the etheric template so that the regenerated organ or cells would be created within the enhanced image.
The work that was being done with some documented success in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s in mind-body medicine involved deep relaxation and visualization (guided imagery) exercises to strengthen to helper (aka “killer”) cells. For instance, I remember one technique that involved visualizing the macrophage cells like Pac-Men eating away the cancerous cells. I think that one should have a pretty good understanding of how the immune system works or work with a professional in this case.
But there are a few caveats to using hypnosis to benefit the immune system:
- There is such a thing as an OVER-heightened immune response. This is evidenced by some of the increasingly common auto-immune disorders, like lupus, where the system can be over-stimulated to the point that it causes “cytokine storms” where the immune system is always on high alert. The aim of any mind-body techniques designed to improve immune function would be to create balance. A well-balanced immune system means that the body rests in homeostasis predominantly, which is the optimal state.
- Excess inflammation in the body can also be the result of extreme stress. As Dr. Edward Bullmore writes in The Inflamed Mind: A Radical New Approah to Depression, “There are fascinating new insights into how high levels of social stress can increase bodily inflammation. And there is growing evidence that people who have experienced adversity or abuse in childhood are more likely to be inflamed as children and adults.” As I explained above on how the hypnotic state can be triggered by intense stress or trauma, the continuous excitation of the sympathetic nerve as part of the flight and fight syndrome keeps the body in an inflammatory state for long periods of time, causing a cascade of peptides and neurotransmitters that can cause permanent damage.
My approach to an immunocompromised individual would be more exploratory. I would want to get to the source of what may be causing the stress. I have always been more of a “root cause” therapist, intent on finding the trauma or faulty perceptions. Just treating the inflammation without understanding and clearing the cause might be more of a “band-aid” effect.
Is Self-hypnosis Effective?
I think that self-hypnosis can be far more powerful than hypnotherapy if one takes the time to educate themselves on the language of the subconscious (Laws of the Mind, Rules of Suggestion) and gives themselves proper suggestion in the first person. Because ultimately, we are the alpha and omega of our own healing process.
Self-hypnosis and meditation and other forms of mind-body wellness may help us bring our whole body – the immune system and the brain – into a more effective balance. Stress raises levels of hormones that cause inflammation, which leads to cascades of bad stuff in the body.
One should probably start with a professional therapist or an app designed for the purpose. However, the most effective suggestions are those that are personalized to the individual and that take into account all of the rules of suggestion.
For example, suggestions for overcoming stress and isolation should never include those words because the referral to the current negative state would activate the Law of Dominant Effect and might exacerbate the condition, so it’s important to point that out. Using phrases like “I am safe and protected at all times” or “I am developing an appreciation for my own company and beingness” would be preferable to “I am overcoming my stress” Or, “I don’t feel so lonely” Avoid negative words always as they can perpetuate the status quo!
Overall, the way you communicate to the subconscious is quite different than the way you would speak to yourself or another person normally. That’s why it feels odd at first giving yourself suggestions. And also why most affirmations don’t work; they are blanket statements of relative truth, but not necessarily geared toward the specific aim or need of the individual.
In summary, self-hypnosis can always help, and it would not be harmful, even if one does not have the best understanding of the process or rules of suggestion. I think that it is a powerful act to do something to improve your life.
Many thanks to Cortney Cameron and Denise Montgomery for their input and assistance in this blog.
How Can I Become a Hypnotherapist?
The Academy offers certifications in basic and advanced hypnotherapy skills, which can be used on oneself or others. Our programs teach you how to design self-therapies and suggestions for creating healthy habits, overcoming stress and negative behaviors, and enhancing lifestyle. At the advanced tier, you learn to work with the deeper levels of the subconscious mind, delving into childhood traumas, generational trauma PTSD, phobia release, Parts Therapy and Past Life Regressions. We’re also pleased to offer payment plans to make these more affordable.
You can also watch this preview from one of our hypnotherapy courses. Note: this is one 45-minute session divided into 4 “digestible” parts. Continue onto: Part 1 (above), Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4. Check out our YouTube Channel for more previews from various courses!
To request more information about our programs, use the form below or email firstname.lastname@example.org.