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Hypnosis: Mind's Magic Pill?

Feb 17, 2008
There is a problem with hypnosis. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Here's how I know....

One day a good client asks me out of the blue: "What do I tell people you do?"

"You don't know what I do?" I ask her.

She explains that she has decided it's time to start referring friends because her objective has been fully realized, and she really knows "it works."

"Tell them I'm a hypnotherapist," I say.

"Hmm," she says.

"Or hypnotist, if it's more familiar."

"Even scarier, maybe," she says softly.

"Scary? They use hypnosis in medicine, and before chemical anesthesia, it was THE WAY to do surgery without pain," I say. "Remember how the Mayo brothers, who started the Mayo Clinic, used it?" I remind her of our discussion before her first experience of hypnosis.

She sits up straighter: "No. They'll want to know what you can do for them, the benefit. Short and sweet."

Then I recall she has just returned from a marketing workshop. I ask what benefit she herself received from our work together.

"Well," she says thoughtfully, "I stopped smoking. Gone--forever! So I guess you helped my health. And I also smell better."

"Great!" I say, "Tell them that."

"Yeah," she says, "but I can also run faster because I can breathe deeper, comfortably."


"But my husband is a lot happier that I don't smoke, so you may have saved my marriage." She pauses and I figure she's finished.

"And you helped me feel more confident in front of an audience. And when I feel more confident.... Oh! And you taught me self hypnosis and I use that for...." She stops, "Wow, it's hard to say in a few words."

The problem with hypnosis is that with a client who describes her issue to the hypnotist honestly and fully, follows directions, and truly wants what she says she wants--along with a well-trained and flexible practitioner, and a bit of time--what can happen is something that looks like magic.

Some of it can't be talked about because it would sound like we were practicing medicine or, worse, voodoo. For instance, when our clients say their dermatitis disappeared. Though many dermatologists acknowledge mental stress can cause skin ailments.

Relaxation, and particularly teaching clients to de-stress themselves at will, may indeed heal dermatitis, but it may be best not to say so.

Because sometimes it seems like hypnosis can conquer everything. It can't. People still need to see medical doctors and psychotherapists.

And, though to some clients we seem like spell casters, I think of myself primarily as a "mind coach."

Some practitioners of hypnotherapy will tell you that many of their clients became pregnant against all odds when fertility hypnosis was used. I've worked with a few myself.

And there are reports of irritable bowels healing and nervous stomachs being relieved, of course. Most practitioners have been there and helped our clients do that.

Yet it could seem suspicious that one treatment, or therapy if you prefer, hypnotism, can help or alleviate so many ailments. Is it a panacea? Magic pill? What?

But if many of these ailments are stress related, which is often acknowledged by traditional medicine, it makes sense. Breathe easy. We're not magical.

The client, the "hypnotic subject," is a crucial element in the situation. Is she willing to change what she says she wants to change? Or is she placating someone in her family or circle of friends as in "I tried to quit overeating, honestly, I even tried a hypnotist!" Ditto for smoking.

Is that client genuinely following instructions (specifically designed to build a session that produces the desired results)?

Or is he holding back something, misunderstanding the questions asked, or too uncomfortable talking about himself and his life that he leaves out useful, even crucial, details?

The truth about hypnosis is that when it leads to the desired result, it can look, sound, and feel very much like magic. That happens often in the case of a good hypnotist who vets clients well and trains them to become good users of hypnosis (and ultimately, self-hypnosis practitioners, because it is accurate to say that "All hypnosis is truly self hypnosis").

Yet it isn't magic at all. Merely a combination of skill and technique, rapport, a practitioner who listens and responds well to what she has heard--and knows how to entice a client into doing, being and having what that client wants to do, be and have.

Perhaps most important is a client who is emotionally honest about what is wanted and needed, and can follow instructions. And the last ingredient, willingness.

But should you try hypnosis and find that you come out a nonsmoker, non-overeater, with new sports skills, attraction-ability, or success on your job, and you want to call it magic, well, go right ahead. 2008 by Wendy Lapidus-Saltz. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Wendy Lapidus-Saltz is a mind coach who uses hypnosis and other techniques to help people break unproductive habits of thought and action, and create productive new ones. Based in Chicago and an expert at phone sessions, she specializes in smoking-cessation and issues of love and relationship. For more info on her programs visit http://www.nonsmoker4life.com and http://www.hypno-attraction.com or call 312-640-1584 for a brief consultation during business hours, Central time.
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