Hypnosis - what is it? I could answer by saying there is no such thing as hypnosis. Equally, I could say everything is hypnosis!

Most people have a distorted view of Hypnosis; the distortion is invariably based on what they might have seen or heard of stage hypnotism where seemingly people cannot prevent themselves from doing foolish or embarrassing things. The truth is they are not under the complete control of the hypnotist for, if they were to be asked to do something dangerous or indecent, then their eyes would surely open to bring the event to an abrupt end. Stage hypnosis is essentially about people participating in willing fun. Hypnosis, when used in Hypnotherapy is not about having fun but about seeking the resolution of a problem,finding an answer and moving forward towards a happier and more fulfilled state.

The human mind processes information at 4 frequencies called Beta, Alpha, Theta, Delta. Beta is wide awake whilst Delta is sleep. Hypnosis is neither of these two states but can be anywhere in between i.e. Alpha or Theta. When we wish to achieve certain functions, different brain levels are more conducive to making it happen e.g. relaxation,inner calmness, and accelerated learning are more possible in the Alpha brain state whilst creativity and vivid imagery are more capably achieved in Theta.

So by accessing our Alpha or Theta brain states we enhance our capability to harness natural skills; hypnosis is a vehicle to realising those empowered brain states that's why hypnosis is a valuable tool to learn. These brain states are regularly accessed in the normal course of events e.g. when heading into sleep - or when awakening from it, or when day dreaming, or you are absorbed in a book or film and lost to what is going on around you. These are all common "hypnotic" states - we would just use other words to describe them. But in these circumstances there is an element of randomness in what the brain is doing. However,when hypnosis is being engendered in the hypnotherapy environment, it is with distinct purposes in mind - a force is being harnessed and focussed with a view to making change happen.

Hypnosis is as old as human beings; overtime it has been called other things most particularly Mesmerism after the Austrian physician Anton Mesmer (1734-1815). Then the Scottish eye surgeon James Braid (1796-1860) renamed it Hypnosis after the Greek word for sleep because he thought his patients fell asleep when he shone a light in their eyes. When he later discovered they were not asleep but in a deeper level of consciousness he tried to change the name - but it was too late. Braid did much to give a scientific rationale to hypnosis and there is a social club for hypnotherapists in London bearing his name.

Other significant medical users of hypnosis were, like Braid, two more Edinburgh University graduates, namely John Elliotson (1791-1868) a distinguished physician of his time and responsible for the introduction of the stethoscope and James Esdaile (1845-1859) who regularly used hypnosis as an anaesthetic in the hospital he set up in India for the East India Company. Esdaile was amputating limbs and removing tumours without anaesthetic - using only the power of his patients' minds - i.e. hypnosis! Around the same time in France hypnosis was widely developed through physicians such as Liebeault, Charcot and Breuer. Sigmund Freud came into contact with the latter two and also became a user of hypnosis. He later gave it up in favour of his own pet therapy - Psychoanalysis.

So the formation of 'modern' hypnosis was firmly established through the medical profession but then the developing world of chemistry offered chemical solutions and the medical establishment saw hypnosis as something too inferior for the modern doctor. But what goes around comes around because more and more doctors are beginning to rediscover the power of hypnosis with its natural and safe properties and of course offering a healthier alternative to what many see as the over prescribing of drugs.

There are doctors and dentists today who use hypnosis as the anaesthetic in an operating environment - it is at least as effective as the chemical alternative (some say it is more effective) and of course is completely safe. James Esdaile would have been impressed were he alive today - and a little piqued - because his exceptional work received no praise from the conservative medical authorities of the time - he was in fact ostracised! Bigotry is such a sad human trait however I was encouraged to read in my local newspaper that a local G.P. has learned hypnotherapy to offer better solutions for her patients. Well done doctor.

So the ancient art of hypnosis is now enjoying a modern renaissance because the scientific world can explain more about what is actually happening when the subject is in the hypnotic state and MRI scanning has revealed that the right brain becomes more active. The lef themisphere tends (amongst other things) towards logical reasoning whilst the right is more involved in feelings and instinctive responses and therefore will react to a situation differently. That is why when a person is in hypnosis they are likely to see things differently and become more able to resolve a long term problem. In essence, in hypnosis the person is using both hemispheres not just the habitual left. (Note: it is vice versa for left handed people)

But as a modern Hypnotherapist I wouldn't rely only on hypnosis, I would combine other therapeutic techniques and they are described on this page.