We try out the controversial practice and report back
Hypnotherapy can alter your mindset to help you kick a nasty habit, but that’s not where the benefits end. Caitlyn Davey tries it out.
With the rise of celebrity ‘hypnotists’ including TV star Derren Brown and self-help guru and author Paul McKenna, (previously a BBC Radio 1 DJ), hypnotism is increasingly becoming the go-to treatment to tackle everything from comfort eating to phobias. Last year, a British boy was stranded in the UAE for 16 months after his paralysing anxiety prevented him from boarding the plane home. But after visits to various specialists and psychiatrists, it was a qualified hypnotist who finally helped him make the trip back to the UK. So how does this often controversial form of treatment work?
‘Hypnosis is one of the most fascinating phenomena of the human mind. It’s a natural state of selective, focused attention,’ says local hypnotherapist Lisa Laws. ‘It’s a state of consciousness where your mind is open and receptive.’
‘Our ability to enter this unique state of consciousness opens the door to countless possibilities for healing, self-exploration and change. Hypnosis creates a bridge to the subconscious mind – our subconscious is the seat of the emotions, imagination, memories, habits, intuition and the regulator of our autonomic nervous system,’ she adds.
Lisa goes on to state this seemingly novel approach is about going much deeper than merely changing an action, which is why people often try to change their lifestyle then end up relapsing due to the subconscious failing to catch up. ‘For long-lasting healing and change to occur, it is essential that the subconscious mind is reached. For example, we might consciously make a decision to quit smoking, be more confident, less stressed or nicer to someone – and yet we fail. This is because our subconscious and conscious are not in alignment.’
Worried the practice isn’t safe? Lisa claims it is. ‘Hypnosis is 100 percent natural and normal. We enter hypnotic states naturally – like when you drive somewhere and feel you’ve arrived at your destination without really being ‘here’ or recalling the drive. You were driving quite safely on autopilot while your mind was elsewhere.’
Anyone can be hypnotised, as long as the participant is willing. ‘If you want to be hypnotised, then you will allow yourself to be. To increase your responsiveness, you need to really believe you can be and keep an open mind. Research has suggested that individuals who view hypnosis in a positive light tend to respond better.’ With a clear mind, and open heart, we decided to try it out for ourselves.
The experience Prior to our appointment, Lisa discusses our goals in a phone chat. We tell her we want to change our relationship with food; eat to live, not live to eat. We feel sceptical when we arrive for our appointment, given our only exposure has been to stage hypnosis. But Lisa tells us there are two types of hypnotherapy, one which is used for therapeutic benefit and stage hypnosis used purely for entertainment.
Before we begin, Lisa talks us through the process. ‘I use hypnotherapy in two ways, depending on the needs of each client,’ she explains. ‘Firstly, I saturate the subconscious mind with positive suggestions to solve their issue. Secondly, if appropriate, I use the power of suggestion as a tool to fix and overcome blocks.’
We tell her we need to change our relationship with food as we seek out crisps and salty foods for comfort. Lisa says: ‘People who crave sweets tend to need nurturing and comforting, whereas cravings for salty food indicates an underlying frustration.’
Lisa asks us to relax so we sit back and close our eyes. As she speaks in gentle tones, we fall into a state similar to the feeling of meditation. We are slightly aware of what is happening but our mind flows in and out of the room, it’s similar to the feeling of drifting off to sleep. We feel comfortable enough that we could stop if Lisa told us anything we disagreed with.
Afterwards, we feel a little hazy but alert. Lisa gives us a recording to continue reinforcing our session. We’re told to listen to it twice a day.
For weeks afterwards, we eat smaller amounts and have no cravings for unhealthy food. A few weeks after that, our resolve is weaker (that’s likely because we only took one session, rather than the recommended three) but there is still something stopping us from overindulging, and we’re reaching for healthy snacks. We even feel our attitude towards food has shifted. If it’s a quick-fix solution you’re looking for, hypnotherapy may not be for you. But if you’re willing to commit to sessions as needed, it just might be. From Dhs320 an hour. www.lisalawscoaching.com (055 771 2857).
Busting the myths
You can’t remember anything that happens after waking up following a hypnosis session. People generally remember everything. Post-hypnotic amnesia, when people forget what happened during hypnosis, is temporary.
You can be hypnotised without your consent. Hypnosis requires the patient’s voluntary participation.
The hypnotist has complete control of your actions while you’re under. A hypnotist can’t make you perform actions that are against your values or morals. You remain in control.
Hypnosis can make you stronger. Hypnosis can’t make people more athletic than their existing physical capabilities.