Two key terms should be defined before we move forward. We have already used these terms extensively, but we need to make clear some important distinctions.
The term hypnosis does not refer to a particular goal in and of itself when we discuss behavioral change. Being hypnotized is nothing more than a brief period of relaxation, unless there is some particular goal that is addressed during the act of hypnosis. Being placed under hypnosis will not overcome fear, nor will it stop a smoker from smoking. Hypnosis is a condition or state of your Middle Mind that is achieved through deep relaxation, producing a strong, narrow focus of attention combined with increased suggestibility. It is a deep relaxation, with various levels or depths. On the path we described in the previous chapter, it lives between sleep and the alert state of wakefulness, but it is distinct from both. A person in the deep state of relaxation is said to be “in a trance.” The significance of a trance is measured in levels. By one measure, there are six levels of depth, and responsiveness to hypnotic suggestions and other conditions very within each level.
We all have seen enough portrayals of Hollywood’s fictional hypnosis to see the role that hypnosis can play in relaxation. What is new, however, to one who is first exposed to hypnosis is the narrow focus of the procedure. A hypnotized subject is fully cognizant of what the hypnotist is saying. He can hear and understand the words. He can respond to questions and other stimuli around him. He is not asleep, but he is very relaxed.
The key characteristic to hypnosis, however, is suggestibility. It is this suggestibility that serves as a tool to address long-held habits and drives at their very core. Once here, a person can receive suggestions and change behaviors.
So, if hypnosis is this narrowly-focused, suggestible point of relaxation, how can a hypnotic state be achieved? How do we narrow that focus and make proper suggestions upon which to change behavior? It is through hypnotherapy that we answer these questions.
Hypnotherapy is a therapeutic endeavor using hypnosis in which a therapist and a subject create a plan to address a problem. A person seeks a hypnotherapist because he has a problem. The therapist cannot help this person without a thorough understanding of that problem, examining its causes and effects upon the subject. With the therapist’s help, the client outlines the goals he wants to reach, and the therapist then uses that information to design “suggestions” for hypnosis.
The real beauty of hypnotherapy is the speed with which success can be achieved in solving a client’s problem. Hypnotherapy allows the client to deal immediately with the problem at the specific place where the problem is stored. Using all of our self-willed acts, our self-coaching, or our other talk therapies are like our efforts to fix the engine of a car without ever opening the hood. It is only guess-work, most of the time. A hypnotherapist knows how “to open the hood.” The hood latch is popped with hypnotherapy. Once the engine, or our Middle Mind, is accessible, the right mechanic, or hypnotherapist, can guide a person to fix an array of engine (Middle Mind) issues. The wide range of access to the Middle Mind is why such an array of problems we described in Part III can be addressed and solved, often very quickly.
The bottom line is to remember that hypnosis is a tool. A hypnotherapist is one who uses hypnosis as a tool to fine tune the Middle Mind. Hypnosis may only be a tool, but it is the key tool. The whole process of using this tool and the therapist’s other skills and resources to achieve a client’s goals is hypnotherapy.