I recently met someone who thought that he could not be hypnotized because he could not let go of control.
I told him that one of my clients, we’ll call him Fred, had said exactly the same thing. So I told Fred to remain completely in control as he went into hypnosis. As a matter of fact, I pointed out, if he were actually “in control” he would be able to let go of control at will. So, if he were unable to let go, it actually meant that he was definably not in control.
I pointed out to Fred that it is ironic that my clients come to me because they have been unable to consciously control themselves out of their problems. So, they turn to hypnosis in the hope of gaining control of them selves. They find it impossible to use will power to stop a phobia, stop smoking or let go of emotional eating.
Apparently Fred shared the common notion, based on the portrayal of hypnosis in movies (I asked Fred, “If you wanted to learn about astronomy would you watch Aliens?”) or hypnosis stage shows, that a hypnotist “controls” the minds of the hypnotized. The truth is more complex.
I went on to explain that one way of thinking about how hypnosis works is to consider that the conscious mind operates on a set of assumptions and beliefs about what is and what is not possible. Hypnosis allows a person to step outside of those assumptions and beliefs temporarily so that he or she can do what is possible, unrestricted by her or his unnecessarily limiting beliefs.
For example, one of my clients was told by her doctors that it would take her four to six weeks before she could go back to work after her abdominal surgery. While in hypnosis, she was given suggestions for rapid healing. The result was that went back to work in nine days with her doctor’s blessings.
What I did with with that client was more than simply guide her into hypnosis and just command her to heal quickly. I offered her direct and indirect suggestions as well as metaphors and stories about healing, and pain control. The suggestions for pain control worked beautifully. She never needed any pain medications either immediately after her surgery or afterward at home.
So, there was a question for Fred to consider. Was that client “out of control” when she accepted those suggestions?
Fred’s reactions to all that information were interesting.
He easily “controlled” himself into hypnosis. Then he “controlled” himself out of his issues and into some new choices and productive behaviors during his session.
Everything that I said was designed to help Fred to go into hypnosis in ways that suited his personality. In the very beginning, I accepted Fred’s statement that he was reluctant to let go of control, by asking him to stay in control. That began creating rapport and agreement. Then I offered Fred some ideas about what it means to be in “control” that he had to agree with. Someone in control of his hand can let go of or hold onto an object. If he were unable open his hand to let go of the object he would certainly not be in control.
That created the possibility for Fred to accept the idea that letting go was part of being in control. And, being in control was so important to Fred that he found a way to be more in control by letting go into hypnosis.