Just recently, the German magazine ‘Spiegel’ printed a small ad previously published in the local newspaper ‘Rheinische Post’: “Patient, female, is looking for like-minded persons previously hypnotized lousily by an alternative practitioner, without any success.” And didn’t we participate already in plenty of shows where a professional hypnotist put a victim from his audience into a will-less state of trance – at least on TV. Completely surrendered, the victim let the hypnotist do the weirdest things before he snaps his fingers to finish the demonstration. It seems to be so easy.
Real pictures from the inside
Sweden, Denmark and Israel are the only countries worldwide where only specially trained physicians and psychologists are permitted to hypnotize their patients. Beyond abracadabra we also have a completely different side of the treatment method here, the one where patients break free from pain and anxieties and where the metabolism can be controlled. High blood pressure, hormone level and even activating his or her immune system – all this a person can influence under hypnosis. About 10,000 physicians and therapists apply this method for treatment of mentally influenced physical diseases which is recognized in psychotherapy by now. The diseases include insomnia or nicotine addiction and others.
If you believe that hypnosis is just an induced unconsciousness you are wrong.
Under the guidance of the therapist, the patient finds a state of deep relaxation. He or she opens herself for his/her inner pictures and emotions sensing them much more intensive than when awake. He or she recognizes opportunities and ways he/she does not see in every day’s life because there his/her constraints but sometimes also “logic thinking” blocks them. They appear real to the relaxed concentrated person.
Not only an increasing demand but also about 200 clinical studies prove that hypnosis is effective. The majority of the studies shows that the method is not just based on a placebo-effect as many other alternative healing methods are considered working. As early as 2002, a meta-analysis of Walter Bongartz, professor for psychology in Konstanz/Germany, with more than 40 studies proved that the success rate of hypnotherapy for diseases lays at about 60 percent, without it at only about 40 percent. A Swiss study shows a measurable success in cases of hay fever and another German study indicates fewer premature births if women train necessary tension- and relaxation during pre-birth training courses by hypnosis. More fields of application with measurable good results: Change of habits and life style in cases of obesity and smoking, insomnia, fear of flying or exams or children with enuresis. If you are afraid of the pain during treatment of your teeth and – worst case – avoided the dreaded chair for years, you will find help from more than one thousand hypnosis dentists helping their patients to a treatment without fear of the dental drill. Another advantage of the state of trance with very little or no local anesthetics: The blood circulation of the gums starts much earlier after treatment, healing is considerably faster and no “furry” sensation.
Undock and reprogram
Where does the power come from that’s behind hypnosis? The state of trance is – despite all the relaxation – a state of highest possible attention. But this concentration is not focused on the environment but targeted on the inside. So-called dissociative processes are typical for patients under hypnosis: Movements are made independently from the conscious external perception. Anxiety patients for example learned to carry out a particular behavior pattern as a reaction to a certain stimulus. Hypnosis allows separating cause and process. Therapist and patient are able to “reprogram”. It’s quite similar with pain. The prick of a needle then won’t hurt any more.
PET and fMRI make those processes visible in the brain. During hypnosis, connectivity of various areas in the brain is considerably reduced and the “decision area” in the frontal cortex is inhibited. The state of trance undocks the “attention center” in the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) from the lateral frontal cortex. Thus the center for sensory perception and realization into the according reaction does not obey to the logic of the hypnotized person but rather the logic of the hypnotist and the produced inner pictures. In a study, Stephen Kosslyn at Harvard University showed his test persons a number of colored pictures and their black/white version. When seeing the later, the according centers in the visual center reacted significantly less. Under hypnosis – when he persuaded his test persons that the shades of gray were colored now – he thus activated the visual center just like in reality. The wake control group did not react at all.
The whole thing does not work for everyone. About 10 percent of the population cannot be hypnotized. According to the latest findings, the genes play a role as well. Last but not least it requires complete trust in the therapist to allow full surrender in the state of trance. For people suffering from a psychosis or chronic pain due to neuropathy, hypnosis does not work at all or might even become a risk. And sometimes, expectations are higher than what the method is capable of. A Cochrane review for example did not show any explicit advantage for smoking cessation compared to other strategies. Also regarding the treatment of irritable colon and many other states, Cochrane reviewers see an enormous demand for studies in order to come to watertight conclusions pro or con the trance-healing.
After all, many black sheep are still active in Germany. They are the greatest worry of the various professional associations and societies (the most relevant are DGH, DGZH, MEG and DGÄHAT). If you want to use hypnosis in your practice and not on the show stage, you have to do more than 200 hours of training. A significant time-and also financial aspect honored only very reluctantly by the health insurers. But once you have admitted to this age-old healing method, you will rather turn to deep relaxation than to tranquillizers or pain killers.