The good thing about labels is they help us identify what is being discussed. The bad thing about labels is they immediately (read that as stigmatize) identify what is being discussed. Hypnosis carries baggage as a label. Labels, as most would agree, can stigmatize an individual faster than than the letter “A” did to Hester Prynne in The Scarlett Letter. Hypnosis is a label that carries baggage, which is why I spend time educating people about it.
Solution Oriented Hypnosis (SOH) is also known as Ericksonian hypnosis. SOH is goal directed (by the client) and best used for problems the client has no conscious control over, such as anxiety, panic attacks, insomnia and the cravings associated with habits. Our minds are a kluge (a clumsy or inelegant solution to a problem) of evolution that mean we are often trapped in habits that require enormous and often unavailable will power to override them. For example, I cannot ask you to create a migraine on demand, just as a client prone to panic attacks when walking into a crowded store cannot predict when they will occur. And you will often trade off the long term gain of weight control for the short term pleasure of your favorite dessert. Indeed, all addictions are a result of our klugey brains.
Hypnosis requires not only a belief in the method, but trust in your therapist. Both therapist and client have to believe it will work, although the client initially only has to believe it is worth a try. Many times, due to the stereotypical meme of control over the “subject”, clients require some education on this type of approach. Let’s some debunk a few popular myths.
1. It is about being controlled.
Nonsense. No one likes to be controlled. This particular myth resulted from the “old style” approach popularized by cruise ship and college stage shows plus old, kitschy movies. Those are where where some charismatic operator commands you to “Look into my eyes…” Those old styles are more authoritative, more directive, and do not allow the client to readily find their own inner resources.
You actually have more control and are more intentionally focused on your goal when doing inner work. SOH is the “new style” which means it is collaborative, forgiving, and open, and never pushes you to places you don’t want to go. And it is not the same as guided imagery or progressive relaxation, and although both can be helpful techniques, they don’t lead to solutions.
2. I’m not hypnotizable.
Again, this is nonsense. Hypnosis is a totally natural state that most people go in and out of several times a day.
Almost anyone can enter the hypnotic state easily, with the exceptions of the truly mentally subnormal, very young children, and of course those under the influence of alcohol or drugs. You are in trance when you drive a familiar route and get to your destination without even realizing it, or when you get lost in a good book and completely forget about the passage of time (which is a hallmark of trance), or when engaged in a hobby Or activity that truly absorbs you. Hypnosis is why sponsors place all those expensive ads in the middle of the Super Bowl. You are already in trance, and easily receive the message to love a certain beer because the horses are so cool.
3. People who can enter this altered state are weak and easy to manipulate.
Actually, it requires substantial intelligence and awareness to move into an altered state. It creates a heightened state of focus that allows non-conscious solutions to surface. Many people arrive at hypnosis as a last ditch effort to change, and then wish they had discovered it much, much sooner.
SOH, or focused inner work, is a reliable and safe therapeutic option which is centuries old and is recognised by many branches of orthodox medicine as a valuable alternative to drugs, to accelerate healing, and to help combat pain. It is often effectively combined with cognitive and behavioral therapy. While it is not a panacea for all issues, and is simply one tool among many, clinical hypnosis with a licensed mental health provider may help you find the solution that is already within you.