Hypnosis has been around since at least the 1700s. Back then, Franz Mesmer, an Austrian physician, referred to it as “animal magnetism” or “mesmerism.” More than 300 years later, hypnosis has evolved and remains in use today. In fact, its popularity still keeps growing steadily.
But before hypnosis was accepted as a form of therapy it was widely used as a form of entertainment. Gradually it gained attention as a highly effective, non-invasive and respected form of therapy.
Now more than ever hypnosis is a highly relevant practice.
As a rule, hypnosis won’t suddenly switch course because of new trends in the way that, say, technology does.
It’s more likely to have slow-burning issues which eventually expand in popularity and the hypnosis community adapts techniques and strategies to address new needs.
Over the past decade the perception of mental illness has improved and people are starting to let go of the shame previously associated with it.
Thanks to this, mental health is now often given the same importance as physical health.
In the UK, you can already see a shift in mainstream media. For example, some TV commercials openly advise to treat people with mental health issues as they would treat any other person, and suggest listening to them.
What’s more, the government announced it will bring mental health funding on par with physical healthcare funding.
However, some figures suggest mental health trusts in the UK are still suffering. In 2015-2016, 40% of the 58 trusts had budget cuts according to analysis by the King’s Fund Think Tank, and 6 of the trusts had budget cuts for 3 consecutive years.
As a result of cuts to mental health services, reports of failure to protect patients with serious mental health issues have increased.
It naturally follows that without adequate services for patients in desperate need, it will be increasingly difficult to prevent escalation of mental health issues.
Even though public campaigns encourage people to seek help before their illness gets worse, when they do follow the advice, the needed services are often lacking or unavailable.
Non-governmental groups are also stepping up to address the growing demand for mental health services. The Samaritans, a UK volunteer based suicide prevention organization have outlined a need for a suicide prevention plans in every area of the country where more than 6,000 people commit by suicide each year.
In recent years, mental health services have accepted Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) as a cost effective means of relieving some of the burden placed on them.
As the gap between hypnosis and conventional medicine continues to shrink, it’s likely there will be an increased demand for hypnosis to treat anxiety related issues and to prevent more serious mental health issues.
Closing The Gap Between The 4 Streams of Hypnotists
Hypnosis has gradually moved away from its “mystical” image of the past. When it came to hypnosis, many people used to automatically picture swinging watches or more recently crystals, incense and past lives. Now hypnosis is increasingly mainstream and is more readily accepted within the medical profession.
The gap is closing between laymen hypnotists (those without any formal medical training), and hypnotists within the medical profession (for example doctors or psychologists).
To this end, laymen are becoming more familiar with various medical conditions and undertaking appropriate training. More courses are available these days that offer a good grounding for hypnotists who are keen to expand their knowledge within the field of medicine.
As an example, hypnosis has been used effectively in childbirth and recently, there’s been a surge in this respect as hypno-birthing has become a specialism among practitioners, even to the point of being offered exclusively by some hypnotherapists.
Typically, hypnosis for entertainment was far removed from hypnotherapy. Now the gap is closing as the two streams of hypnotists forge a mutual respect for each other’s work.
For example, hypnotic “mind-reading” has always fit naturally into the entertainment world. Now however, it’s also a technique used with subjects at the start of a hypnotherapy session as a way to build rapport and ease the transition into trance.
There’s also been a continued trend where entertainment hypnotists have decided to branch out by using their skills for therapeutic reasons.
A prime example is Paul McKenna, widely known as an entertainer but who has also published a number of books and CDs to help people to lose weight and stop smoking.
6. Advances In Research Related To Changes In The Brain
It’s encouraging to see hypnosis taken more seriously by the scientific community and the extensive research put forth to prove it’s not just a passing fad because it produces truly powerful results.
For example, it has now been shown that brain activity during the altered state of hypnosis is actually different from that of the normal waking state.
Scientific studies carried out by David Spiegel, a psychiatrist at Stanford University School of Medicine, have shown that hypnosis makes a lasting impression on the brain.
Out of 545 healthy students, 57 were invited to take part in the experiment. Finally, 36 of the original 57 who were deemed most susceptible to hypnosis and were selected to participate.
Using an MRI scanner, the subjects’ brain activity was measured by detecting changes in blood flow. Three different states were observed: while they were resting, while they recalled a memory and while they were received a hypnotic-inducing message.
The subjects experienced three distinct changes in brain activity during the hypnotic state, changes that were not present when there were out of hypnosis.
First off, subjects showed decreased activity in the brain region which helps us compare context to decide what’s worth worrying about.
On the other hand, they found increased activity between parts of the brain that connect the mind with the body and the brain activity was similar to a daydream state rather than focused on the outside world. Dr. Spiegel believes this likely represents a disconnect between actions and the awareness of actions.
A disassociation of this sort allows the hypnotic subject to engage in activities suggested by a hypnotist without becoming self-conscious of the activity.
Dr. Spiegel explains that, “In hypnosis, we know you can alter things like gastric acid secretion, heart rate, blood pressure and skin conductance. Your brain is very good at controlling what’s going on in your body.”
Dr. Alan Manevitz, a clinical psychiatrist with Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City adds:
“Hypnosis has been around for a long time, but people have looked upon it as quackery. This demonstrates it’s a legitimate neurobiological phenomenon, by revealing the brain activity that underlies the hypnotic state.” tweet
This research provides valuable insights into the physiological aspects of hypnotherapy. It has far-reaching implications for the future as it continues to be acknowledged as a legitimate and highly valuable practice.
7. Change Of Emphasis From Power To Empower
There is a growing trend towards empowering hypnosis subjects and away from a more authoritarian approach where the hypnotist was perceived to have control over the subject.
In fact, in the past it was normal for skeptics to assume that only “weak” people could be hypnotized. Now, it’s far more likely for a subject to look forward to the experience even if they’ve never been hypnotized before because they know they’ll be actively involved in the process.
The emphasis is far less on the ego of the hypnotist, seen as exerting power over the subject, and more on a genuine desire to help and empower the person seeking their help.
In any case, a successful outcome is far more likely to occur if the subject is committed to making a change and willing to give hypnosis an honest try.