What is hypnosis?
Hypnosis can most appropriately be described as a trance. We all know trances, they are normal states in which we all fall several times a day. Trances are created by monotonous tasks (assembly line work) or by road traffic (highway trance). If you are engrossed in a movie or a book, you are in a trance. In this context, we speak of a spontaneous trance. While you usually initiate and quit such a trance yourself, in hypnosis this trance state is initiated by the therapist. While we can all go into a trance ourselves, not all people have the ability for hypnosis. It depends on the suggestibility of the patient and his motivation.
What is hypnotherapy?
Hypnotherapy is therapeutic hypnosis (trance). Here the patient, supported by a trained therapist, works responsibly on problems or diseases. Unlike some patients’ ideas, the therapist does not act as a "healer". The therapist merely applies a technique that shows the client a possibility how he can find solutions for himself. The solutions do not come from the therapist, but from the unconscious of the patient or client.
Process of hypnotherapy:
Once the client’s problem has been clarified, I will in the first session discuss his issues and possible concerns about hypnosis and hypnotherapy. On request, I will perform some suggestibility tests or offer a first trance experience. Afterward we will discuss the expectations and possible objectives. In subsequent meetings, depending on the personal suggestibility, the therapeutic trance will be deepened and trained, and step-by-step the hypnotherapy will start.
After the first session, many patients respond with doubtful questions whether they have really been in hypnosis, because they can remember everything and have noticed everything. At this point it is important to know that in therapeutic hypnosis we are not aiming at deep hypnotic stages with amnesia, as many patients know from the staged hypnosis.
Applications of hypnotherapy:
Hypnosis allows us to communicate directly with the unconscious. If the reason for a problem is only known by our unconscious, then only our unconscious can also know the solution – not the doctor, not our mind. Often we know the reasons, but do not know the solution of this conflict.
According to Revenstorf, hypnosis has scientifically proven results in:
Somatic disorders: pain (e.g. during childbirth, during surgery, headache, migraine)
Psychosomatic disorders: These include many, often longstanding chronic diseases such as asthma, allergies, intestinal diseases, eczema, pain disorders, etc.
Psychotic Disorders: fears, compulsions, depression, post-traumatic disorders, sleep disorders, addictions
Behavioral problems: eating disorders, nail biting, smoking, etc.
Vocational and athletic performance enhancement: Clarification of personal success or failure and their causes.
From the above list you can see that in almost all chronic illnesses and personal problems, hypnotherapy can be of advantage for the patient. In many cases, a cure will be possible, in some cases a significant relief of symptoms.
Is hypnosis suitable for young people and children?
Young people and children have a lot of fears and conflicts. They often respond to this with physical ailments. Children usually respond very well to treatment under hypnosis. For example, nocturnal enuresis in children is frequently treatable through hypnosis and hypnotherapy. In adolescents, hypnotherapy can become difficult. At this age the type of hypnotherapy will also differ significantly from the hypnotherapy of an adult. It is often very important to include the nuclear family, i.e. parents and possibly siblings, in the therapy.
Symptoms in children can be clearly different from those of adult. For example, about 50% of primary pupils currently suffer recurrent abdominal pain, and in most cases it is not based on an organic disease. It is a stress symptom. In medicine, we also speak of psychosomatic symptoms. This means that physical ailments arise due to psychologically exceptional situations. Sometimes a disease is caused merely by a psychological conflict situation and sometimes there exists a physical cause next to the psychological cause. Why do some children suffer from abdominal pain and some adults from stomach ulcers, others from headaches or migraines, while others might get tensions and chronic back pain? Where does the so-called "irritable bowel syndrome" come from? If a person’s organ or organ system responds with a disease, this may be due to an actual organic weakness, but the root cause of symptoms lies in emotional or psychological conflicts.
How can parents recognize whether there is a psychological cause behind the clinical picture of their child. First, they should talk openly about such a suspicion with their pediatrician. Nowadays it is not uncommon to say that there are no healthy people, only badly diagnosed people. In other words, modern medical technology enables such a precise structural diagnostics that you can actually discover a pathology in every person. Interestingly, many people have a similar result and a similar way of life, but are completely symptom-free. So the question is whether a pathology is really the cause of a symptom, or just a hint why a child responds with these symptoms and no other. The root causes may be hidden deeper in emotional conflicts or exceptional situations.
Possible indications are, for example, diseases which despite treatment show no improvement and frequently return (relapse) – diseases that do not appear curable and have become chronic. Another indication would be if after healing a disease, relatively quickly "new diseases" appear. For many parents it is an obvious fact that the symptoms only occur in certain situations, for example at school.
Common indications in hypnotherapy for children and adolescents are nocturnal enuresis (bedwetting), chronic pain in the gastrointestinal tract (often diagnosed incorrectly as allergy or intolerance), chronic pain, stuttering, heart problems, skin diseases etc.
General information about hypnosis and hypnotherapy:
More than a century ago, Freud discovered that the question of success in life and the issue of health and disease are often decided by the conflict between reality and your own wishes.
Whatever happens in life and whatever the cause of a problem or the cause of a disease is, the unconscious of a man is always there and consequently knows in which contexts the problems have arisen and why they have not been solved. We may want to argue that we actually know what is good for ourselves. But it has to be understood, that in spite of this knowledge, we often behave differently. Doesn’t every smoker know that smoking is harmful to health? Don’t we know when we eat poorly? Nevertheless, we cannot change our behavior. But why? Is this a problem of the will?
It has to be pointed out that it is our unconscious that decides what will become conscious. Things that we should not become aware of, for whatever reasons, will remain in the dark, we cannot know them. Our mind, our consciousness cannot help us understand them. And will is a product of the mind, a product of our consciousness. Therefore our will has to yield if unconscious problems influence our behavior or our health. It's just not always a question of will.
Why should our unconscious do this? Why should we become ill or remain ill and thus harm ourselves? Exactly at this point I, as a doctor, had to learn and redefine disease. Disease is not just a problem that can be dealt with by naturopathy or conventional medicine. Disease cannot always be cured, because the disease is sometimes not the problem but the solution to another problem. This sounds provocative, but whenever a disease is the solution of a problem, the doctor cannot cure the disease; he can at the most alleviate it. He will also not be able to prevent misconduct of diet or smoking because this approach works only with diseases. Why, for example, is a person chronically unsuccessful? Is there really an unconscious reason to be unsuccessful? (Note: there is. It would go too far to explain this here.)
But when and why should illness or misconduct benefit us? When do we benefit from sickness and does this "pattern" work in all of us? It works in all of us!
For example, each of us knows stress. Take, for example, exam anxiety. How do we respond? With headache, stomach pain, frequent urination, diarrhea, hypertension, tremors, etc. Why? This is an example of an inner conflict. We know we need to go to this examination, but we don’t want to undergo the pressure for fear of failure. A disease would be an excusable "solution" of this conflict. This is just one example where the disease is a "friend". It is a solution which makes us suffer, but it represents a smaller problem, because to fail the exam or stay away without an apology are bigger problems. A background like this can be found in almost all chronic diseases. In almost all chronic diseases our unconscious mind, our soul is involved; sometimes it is even the main actor.
Consciousness, unconsciousness and the will
In sleep we lose the awareness that safely navigates us through the day. Why else would it be possible in a dream to slip into other roles, experiencing other times and be in other places and come back again. We even dream things that we do not want to dream, for example, anxiety dreams. Such a dream is only possible because our consciousness and our will do not control us. During sleep, the will has no power over the system of the person. This proves that the will must be a product of consciousness. But not only in sleep, even in the waking state, the unconscious decides what we will be aware of. Even in the waking state, many of our actions are unconscious; we do not have to think about how to do them. The unconscious can make us even "spontaneously" do things that we would rather not do (e.g. to put oneself in danger for something or someone).
On the other hand, our mind can make decisions in the waking state, which are against the well-being or wishes of your own personality. We have to constantly live with this ambivalence, and we are used to this ambivalence in everyday life. For example, every human being has to reconcile personal needs with the needs and objectives of his fellow men and the society. If because of this, one’s own needs are neglected or if the person comes to decisions that are contrary to his real welfare, diseases can appear.
A short history of hypnosis:
In Europe, much has been discovered twice. Firstly, in classical antiquity and secondly in the Renaissance or modern times. This applies, for example, to philosophy, to theater or democracy.
With hypnosis, it was not much different, although in a way it was, because more than 7000 years ago Sumerians and over 5000 years ago Egyptian priests already worked with hypnotic methods. In all cultures, trance and hypnosis was used for religious contemplation. The ability to trance is obviously an inborn human quality. Under the Aesculapian cult, 400 BC, Greek priests worked using hypnosis to induce a healing sleep.
Hypnosis underwent a second birth through the theologian and physician Franz Anton Mesmer (1734-1815), who referred to it as an "animalistic magnetism" although he used it as hypnosis in our sense.
The Portuguese priest Abbé Faria (1755-1819) was the first to realize that a trance is produced by concentration and understood that the ability of hypnosis thus was a property of the patient and not the hypnotist.
James Braid (1795-1860) discovered that hypnosis must be based on neurophysiological changes. He recognized it as a sleep-like state, and gave it the name of the Greek god of sleep: Hypnos. Hypnos is the twin brother of the Death God Thanatos. Death in Greek mythology is the brother of sleep. Braid was the first doctor to carry out operations with hypnotic analgesia (absence of pain). This caused a great sensation and several doctors performed operations in hypnosis, which significantly lowered the mortality of the operation. Years later, when anesthetics were discovered, hypnosis moved into the background again.
In the School of Nancy, Bernheim (1840-1919) developed the naturalistic view of hypnosis. Hypnosis and trance were considered natural human phenomena. Bernheim demonstrated that hypnosis is based on the effect of suggestion.
In the School of Paris, Charcot (1825-1893) considered hypnosis a physiological variant of hysteria, and stood with his views in competition with the School of Nancy.
Emile Coue (1857-1926) was the first to understand hypnosis as a guided self-hypnosis. He postulated that imagination and not will is the decisive drive of action.
Sigmund Freud studied hypnosis in Paris. He initially supported hypnosis passionately and treated under hypnosis. Later on he turned against hypnosis accusing it to work only symptomatically and "blanketing" an issue while his psychoanalysis "uncovered". The influence of Freud was so strong that for many decades hypnosis was assessed negatively.
Milton Erickson (1901-1980) was the first to recognize the self-healing and self-organization of the psyche. His methods resulted in the worldwide renaissance of hypnosis. Unlike traditional hypnosis, in which the therapist suggested changes, Milton Erickson developed indirect hypnosis, where a path of healing is created together with the unconscious. The therapist, in contrast to classical hypnosis, returns the responsibility for healing back to the patient (self-organized hypnosis).