by Zainal Abidin Rahman
What is Hypnosis?
Here we are in the 21st Century, and the word “hypnosis”
still evokes a sense of intrigue and fear in people’s
mind. When I tell people that I use hypnosis to help
clients improve their performance whether in academic
studies, daily work or in sports, I invariably receive a
cold stare. Even a medical doctor asked me whether I can
make a person bark like a dog or twaddle like a duck. My
answer has always been a firm “No, not UNLESS the person
really WANTS to do it”. So let us first address the
question what is hypnosis and what it is not?
Milton Erickson, the father of modern hypnotherapy, said
that hypnosis is a state of mind in which a person pays
attention to what is really, immediately important, and
disregards information that is not immediately
important. In that state, the person can access memories
and resources that have long since been forgotten. In
that state too, the person enjoys deep mental and
Hypnosis is a bridge
Hypnosis is actually the bridge between our conscious
and subconscious minds. Our conscious mind works in a
logical, linear, sequential way and can only hold a very
limited amount of information (5 to 9 pieces of
information according to George Miller). On the other
hand, the subconscious mind is intuitive, expansive and
is the storehouse of all our knowledge, beliefs and
abilities and controls the autonomous bodily functions.
John Overdurf and Julie Silverthorn, both master
hypnotherapists, liken the conscious mind to a ship
captain and the unconscious mind to both the ship and
the crew. The captain sets the direction while the ship
and crew take care of the details in order to stay
afloat and reach the destination. When the ship captain
does not understand the ship nor communicate well with
the crew, problems will arise. This is essentially what
happens when people get stuck in life or engages in
self-sabotaging activities (like smoking, overeating,
etc). Their conscious minds are not in alignment with
their subconscious minds. When engaged, the task of the
skilled hypnotist’s is to “convene a meeting and talk”
to both the conscious and the subconscious minds to
bring about the alignment. When there is alignment, the
person’s life and work begin to flow, what
Csikzentmihalyi calls the state of optimal experience.
This flow state is best illustrated by a master
aikidoist in action. He is alert yet relaxed, flexing
just the right amount of effort to overcome his
opponents and get his goals.
Hypnosis is naturally occurring
All of us go through the hypnotic (or trance) state
daily, for example, when we are about to wake up from
sleep or about to go to sleep, while driving, being
absorbed talking to our loved ones. Awareness of these
hypnotic states helps us to consciously amplify these
experiences. To those who claim that they are
un-hypnotizable, the truth is we are all great hypnotic
subjects. Overdurf and Silverthorn state that it is not
a question of whether we can go into hypnosis. It is
more a question of how easily will we recognize that we
are in a hypnotic state when we are in it.
Hypnosis increase our control within ourselves
Contrary to common misconception, we do not lose control
of our faculties when we are under hypnosis. The
subconscious protects our physical and emotional
integrity. It rejects suggestions that are not in line
with our protective values and beliefs. The subconscious
will reject the hypnotist’s suggestion, say, to swallow
burning coals or to commit murder. Instead our
subconscious allows us to increase control, for example,
to consciously slow down our heartbeat, or control blood
pressure or alleviate bodily pain or many other bodily
functions. Even when guided by a trained hypnotist, all
hypnosis is essentially self-hypnosis. Our subconscious
will choose what is ultimately good for us from a menu
of suggestions offered by the guide. Having said that,
if a hypnotherapist is engaged, there should be an
obvious preference for a skilled guide over an unskilled
What are the benefits of self-hypnosis?
People who use hypnosis have reported various benefits.
Ø Improve memory and concentration for academic studies
Ø Relieve exam anxiety
Ø Relieve insomnia
Ø Stop smoking
Ø Relieve insomnia
Ø Reduce weight
Ø Improve athletic and sports performance (such as golf)
Ø Improve sex life
Ø Relieve anxiety and panic
Ø Overcome fear of public speaking and other fears
Ø Improve self-esteem
Ø Relieve pain
Ø Speed up body healing
Ø Reduce stress
Ø End writer’s block
How do I do Self-Hypnosis?
All of us can do hypnosis on ourselves to make effective
changes. Below I describe one way called the Ericksonian
Ø Find a quiet place where you will not be disturbed for
about 30 minutes. Place yourself in a comfortable
position, uncrossing your legs and arms. Take 2 or 3
deep breaths with slow and gradual exhalation.
Ø State your pre-hypnotic instruction/suggestion. This
should be positively stated, simple, with one main
outcome. (E.g. “I’ve an excellent memory. I can recall
all relevant details of my coming business
presentation”.). Imagine (see, hear, feel) yourself
giving that flawless presentation without using notes.
Ø Next induce trance by engaging in soft inner dialogue.
Ask “Unconscious mind, in what ways would you assist me
in (say) delivering my coming business presentation with
full presence, in a way that would allow me to be
pleasantly surprised?” Fixate attention to a spot high
on the wall. Say again: “Unconscious mind, allow my eyes
to close when you’re ready to begin to work through this
and allow my eyes to re-open after you’ve completed your
work for this session.”
Ø Once you feel the session is done, re-orient. Get up
comfortably and quickly do something else.
How Do I Know I am in Hypnosis?
During hypnosis, you are aware of what is going on
You are not unconscious. These are the usual feelings
associated with a hypnotic state.
Ø Feeling so relaxed that you don’t want to move any
muscle at all.
Ø Feeling of heaviness, or lightness, especially along
the whole arms or legs.
Ø A sensation of numbness or tingling in your feet or
Ø Feeling as if you are floating.
Ø Feeling as a “ball of consciousness” on the issue that
is being attended to.
Are there any dangers or precautions I need to be
Hypnosis is by no means a panacea for all ailments. If
you have physical symptoms for an ailments take the
precaution to seek medical advice before you undertake
treatment with hypnosis. If you have, say, a toothache,
you may alleviate the pain through hypnosis. But if the
ache is due to an abscess, you may end up losing the
tooth, if you do not seek timely and proper dental
Use formal self-hypnosis only if you are able to relax
at home; do not use it while driving or operating any
type of machinery. See a professional therapist for
issues that are beyond self-hypnosis or for issues,
which you are not able to resolve on your own.
Zainal is a
business trainer and coach specializing in
personal and organizational change. He has
worked with thousands of clients, individuals
and corporate, and brings with him expertise in
OD, HR, NLP, ericksonian hypnosis, Solutions
Focus, Appreciative Inquiry, The Enneagram,
energy psychology and various other effective
modalities that create change at the personal
and corporate levels. Contact:
For reprint permission, please email
[ top ]