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Just what is hypnosis?

I am occasionally impressed with the level of misunderstanding about just what hypnosis is and what it does. And, just who does hypnosis? If I visit a hypnotist am I going to find some weirdo dressed in a turban and swinging a pocket watch before my eyes? These stereotypes of hypnotists go back to visions of carnivals and hypnosis shows for entertainment. Today, thousands of trained people practice hypnosis as a healing modality.

Just what is hypnosis? It may be classified as an altered state of consciousness (ASC). Let's contrast that with what would be considered a normal state of consciousness (NSC). When you are awake you are in a normal state of consciousness. Next come Usual States of Consciousness (UASC) which hypnotherapist Dr. Allen Chips described as those altered states "in which individuals enter into automatically and involuntarily on a regular basis". Things like sleeping, day dreaming, playing video games or watching television, or biological shifts like fevers or drug-induced states.

Then there is a group called Applied Altered States of Conscious (AASC). This group includes such activities as meditation, prayer, creative visualization, reiki, guided imagery, and yoga, to name a few. Hypnosis is included in this group. Dr. Chips defines hypnosis as "a shift in a person's consciousness which can be subjectively and/or objectively distinguished from the mental processes that generally exist in the waking state." Hypnosis is considered one of the deepest altered states of consciousness. Really, it is a state of deep relaxation where the mind is more capable of accepting suggestions. While a person can self-hypnotize, generally working with someone else enables a person to reach a deeper state of hypnosis. The effectiveness of a hypnotic session can often be enhanced or diminished by whether or not the client believes that they can truly be helped by this method.

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