Updated: Jan 10, 2022
People often associate hypnosis with sleep because of the name. Yet clients are fully participating in the process when it is done well. In one demonstration, the famous and brilliant hypnotherapist Milton Erickson asked a novice subject a question. He asked if she knew that he would sit back and enjoy her doing all the work. This confused her and she went quickly into a trance. Perhaps she expected to be a passive recipient of a message that he would implant in her mind.
Instead, The hypnotherapist’s job is to help evoke resources, memories, and associations from the client. These will help the client overcome the challenge she or he has. Very rarely do my hypnotic clients report that they remember exactly what I say to them. This is because they drift off and make their own associations from their life experiences. I am happy that they do this; it is what I want to happen because that is personal information that has meaning to them. If I just tell the person to think about what I want them to and to have the exact experience that I think they should have, they miss the chance to personalize it for themselves. This cheats them out of a richer, more meaningful hypnotic session.
Hypnosis is a Relational Experience
As a hypnotherapist, I am co-creating a relational experience with the client that will hopefully help the person achieve his or her goals. As my client, you are actively involved in making the hypnosis special to your needs, but you may not realize it because you’re so usually comfortable and peaceful. However, your unconscious mind is working very actively as you participate in hypnosis. It is amazing what you can accomplish while in trance, but your conscious mind is often unaware of all the changes that your unconscious mind is making. And that’s part of the point. Your best conscious thinking got you where you are today. Time for your unconscious mind to step in and help you move beyond the limitations and fear that might be holding your conscious mind back.
Creating Dots for You to Connect (Unconsciously)
One of the teachers I’ve had, Dr. Jeff Zeig, talks about creating the dots for the clients to connect. This is something that I strive to do. What I believe he means is that the hypnotist provides a set of suggestions that bring forth in the person associations from their own histories and experiences. If I have never met the person before and know very little about them, it would be difficult for me to find the exact right story or metaphor that would have the most meaning for them.
Instead, I can try to suggest things that will elicit responses based on their unique personalities, preferences, talents, and needs. I try to tailor the experience to what I sense in them, but they co-create with me the specialness of the experience because they know what they’re experiencing and what they have gone through in their own lives much better than I ever could.
In that way, the learning that they glean from the hypnosis is theirs and theirs alone. Erickson emphasized talking to the client in his or her own language and creating the therapy to fit their individual needs, rather than expecting them to respond well to a standard approach that is applied to all clients mechanistically. In this way, hypnosis has the potential to be much more creative and individualized than a medical model approach.
Ericksonian Hypnosis is not the Same Old Same Old!
In this age of managed care and manualized therapy, there is a big emphasis on providing evidence-based therapy. I am not putting that down, but to some extent, people know when they’re being shoe-horned into a treatment approach. It often doesn’t feel like their own therapy. Instead, it feels forced and formalized. There is little room for them to join in healing themselves. I prefer an approach that allows both the therapist and the client to participate equally in the solution or healing.
If I use a cookie-cutter approach with everyone who has anxiety or depression, I miss the person’s uniqueness. Each person has his or her own way of being in the world, and that is important to honor. Just to survive on this earth as long as you have, you had to learn to adapt in your own way. To do that you had to develop skills and resources that suit you specifically. Those skills can sometimes be helpful if we learn how to apply them flexibly in different situations.
Co-creation can also be important for motivation in changing behavior. If a person comes to me to stop a habit and says, “I need to quit because my doctor tells me,” this as a poor prognosticator for success. Why? Because that person has extrinsic motivation. This means the motivation is not within him or her. They are feeling pressured to change, and I am just another person prodding and pushing them from the outside. I can tell the person what to do just as much as their doctor, mother, husband, friend, or boss.
Similarly, I can lay the pathway out with every step they should take. I can even give them damn good reasons to change. If they are not participating in making the changes for themselves, they’re wasting their time and mine as well. Hypnosis is not something that you passively receive. It is not a magic cure.
I cannot snap my fingers and make you do anything that you do not want to do yourself. Finding your “why” for changing and doing the homework, including listening to the recordings of the sessions, is your responsibility.
Does that sound exciting to you, or does it sound burdensome? How much participation and investment are you willing to have in your own well being? What will it take to make the changes? Is it something you’re willing to do at this time? These are the hard questions you need to ask yourself. Without your participation, you will not succeed in hypnosis or even regular psychotherapy. In fact, co-creation is necessary for all areas of life.
If you're ready to co-create positive change in your life through hypnosis, please call me at 661-233-6771.