Hypnosis isn't a 'con' – I want to improve its reputation

Lying on the sofa, I could hear my dogs sniffing at the lounge door as a stranger sat next to me.

‘What am I doing?’ I thought. ‘I’ve invited a man I don’t know into my house to hypnotise me to stop smoking!’

It was 2007 and my very first experience with hypnosis. For a while I’d wanted to stop smoking and had responded to an advert in a local newspaper from the very man who was now in my front room.

Of course, it didn’t work and when he left, I went outside for a cigarette. It cost me £250 for nothing.

My thoughts about hypnosis then were probably the same as most peoples’ I come across now. Too good to be true. A bit ‘woo woo’. A con.

Like a lot of people, I’d seen the TV shows with Paul McKenna and Derran Brown, and associated it with trickery or pretend magic. Watching people on stage clucking like a chicken, I thought they must all be in on the act.

Then, in 2014, I was offered some complimentary hypnosis on the NHS after a breast cancer diagnosis. The idea was to help process what was happening; to come to terms with and accept my cancer diagnosis. I was open minded about it, even after my previous experience. I think I was curious as to whether it would help me to get my emotions under control and whether working with a different hypnotist under different circumstances in a different environment would make a change

It did. 

Up to my cancer diagnosis, I was working as a child protection social worker and had been for almost 20 years. The job is extremely stressful and I had been self-medicating, using wine and smoking to relax. I’d had a lot of other stresses too, relationship breakdowns and bereavements, including the death of my father six months earlier. All of this I believe contributed to my cancer diagnosis.

When I went for the hypnotherapy, I arrived in a side room in the hospital. I was sat upright in a chair and again the hypnotist was male. There was no music, no soft lighting, no fluffy cushions.

He got me to close my eyes and focus on the clock ticking on the wall, he counted some numbers and got me to imagine a feather floating down from the sky. Then, he asked me to write something on the feather.

It felt surreal, I could still hear everything but it was like I was rooted to the chair. It felt like I had gone to a different place, but at the same time being totally aware of where I was. I was mesmerised and couldn’t wait to go back for our next session.

The cancer diagnosis made me realise that I needed to make some big life changes and the hypnotherapy helped me to put these into perspective.

When you’re faced with a serious illness where there is a possibility you could die, you think about things differently, your priorities change. The hypnosis helped me to think clearly, it helped me to realise that I had more power than I ever knew, that I was not a victim, and I could take some control over my life.

With the help of the hypnotherapist, I used my mind to envision healing in my body. He helped me to find a way to subconsciously control my feelings and emotions of fear, stress and anxiety. I felt calmer. I began to send love to myself and respect my body, to view it as an amazing machine controlled by a brilliant brain, which I could influence purely with my thoughts and imagination.

Realising that I’d allowed toxins to build up in my body (and mind) over the years, I made a plan – to eliminate stress from my life. This meant changing my job, and then to stop smoking and drinking.

I felt so much more in control after my sessions, determined to heal and take my life back. For years I had experienced a lot of unhappiness and trauma, now things were going to change, and I was motivated to create a new life, one where I would be happy and live on my own terms. Life is very short and you never know when it will come to an end.

The hypnosis had been so eye-opening, I wanted to share it with everyone.

So, I found a hypnotherapy school and signed up in 2015, qualifying the following year. This felt like my purpose, to help others to make positive changes to their lives, just like I had.

During my studies, I discovered the difference between hypnosis, the state of mind, and hypnotherapy, the therapy or suggestions given to the subject while they are in a state of hypnosis.

It’s time hypnotherapy is taken seriously and accepted as a legitimate form of therapy

I set myself up renting a room in a local town and began to see clients in the evenings and at weekends, around my full-time social work job.

The following year, I asked a colleague if she’d hypnotise me to stop smoking, using the method we had both learned in hypnotherapy school. She agreed and I paid her.

I remember driving to her house, smoking all the way there. I was anxious because I had tried to stop so many times before using conventional methods but we kept the whole thing professional.

I sat in the chair in her home office, she hypnotised me and I left her house a non-smoker. It was that simple! I’ve never wanted a cigarette since. It was different this time because I felt comfortable, I was also ready to stop, I had made the decision and as such, I was open to the suggestion that I was no longer a smoker.

After this, I quit drinking on 2 January 2019 using self-hypnosis. I pretended I was working with a client, and I wrote out on paper what I’d usually say to a client.

I read it and re-read it like you would an affirmation, then I hypnotised myself and re-read the words in my mind. I visualised myself not drinking, living my life without alcohol. Rather than pouring a glass of wine after work, I pictured myself making a cup of herbal tea.

But what happened next was completely unexpected. I found myself craving sugar. So, just as I had with the alcohol, I then hypnotised myself not to want to eat refined sugars.

My life has been completely changed by hypnosis. After giving up smoking, drinking and eating sugar, my sleep has improved, my energy levels increased and I have a new zest for life, like an increased optimism.

Even the many unpleasant side effects of the cancer treatment – including inducing a chemical and premature menopause, which in itself brought on an array of issues like anxiety, joint pains, hot flushes, lack of confidence and imposter syndrome – have been completely eliminated, or significantly reduced, through using hypnosis every day.

To manage my own pain and hot flushes, I created a place in my subconscious mind where I could turn them on and off. I use this same analogy when I go to the dentist now, and with my clients.

Once you know how to access your subconscious mind, you can use it to create the life you want.

Now, I run my own business, helping others and making positive changes to their lives. I get amazing feedback and have been told I am a miracle worker. Yesterday a client told me her life has been totally changed.

But I’m not a miracle worker, I just am a facilitator who has helped these people to make the changes themselves, using their own minds.

One of the assumptions some of my clients make when they first come to see me, is that I can get inside their head and control their thoughts. Often, they’ll think that I can make them do things they don’t want to do or that I can read their minds. Or they think that they can get stuck in a trance. None of this is true.

Firstly, any subject entering into hypnosis is doing so with their own free will. Those people on stage know they’re going to be hypnotised and know they are in a show; as a result they are highly suggestible and responsive to the hypnotist. Anyone who does not want to be hypnotised, won’t be.

The subconscious mind is primed for survival, its main job is to keep its subject safe. Therefore, the subconscious mind will not accept any suggestion that could be harmful or put it at risk in any way. Nor will a person reveal any information against their wishes. A person can only reveal what they want and are ready to.

Secondly, as the hypnotic state is similar to that of a daydream state, it is impossible to remain in a trance-like state. If anything were to happen to the hypnotist during the session, then eventually the client would naturally come out of the trance.

The biggest myth of all is that hypnotherapy is not a clinical practice and there is no scientific proof that it works.

In fact, there is an abundance of evidence of its effectiveness contained in several medical organisations including the British Medical Association and the American Medical Association. For example, hypnotherapy is well recognised for its effectiveness in controlling pain associated with cancer and other illnesses, labour and childbirth and relieving symptoms of IBS, to name just a few.

It’s time hypnotherapy is taken seriously and accepted as a legitimate form of therapy. For too long hypnosis has been used as entertainment, when in fact it is an amazing natural resource available to all of us.

We are what we think, we become what we think. It was Henry Ford who said ‘whether you think you can or you can’t, you are right’. We can all create and manifest our lives as we want them to be.

It’s about living your truth, getting clear on what you want and then visualising this in your mind, seeing it, hearing it, feeling it, using all of the senses in your mind. This is what rewires the neural pathways in your brain.

The trouble is, most people are not convinced it is this easy. A lot of people just accept their lives as they are and think they have no control and they can’t change when in fact the opposite is true. All you need is an open mind and a belief in yourself.

You can find out more about Jacqueline here

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