John van Weenen C.M.H., C.Hyp., P.N.L.P. has been trained by The UK Guild of Hypnotist Examiners and became a member in 1991.

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Established in 1981, The UKGHE is an elite organisation of some 350 highly trained registered therapists in hypnosis - hypnotherapy - NLP (neuro-linguistic-programming). The UKGHE works to a very high standard of code of ethics and welcomes other therapists to join the register. Application to join is through the board of examiners.

Trance occurs naturally when we daydream, giving us the ability to become engrossed in our thoughts and fantasies. It can occur spontaneously in response to stress, allowing us to remain calm in a crisis, so we can cope with the trauma effectively. Traditionally, it was thought, hypnotised people were likely to act upon any suggestions given to them and this led to the idea that hypnotists could control their clients' actions. Suggestion plays a part in hypnosis, as it does in everyday life. We all use suggestion, if we say "let's go out for dinner; I've heard that the food at X restaurant is really good," it is suggestion. The advertising industry operates by suggesting their products are more desirable or necessary than others; political parties use it to encourage the electorate to believe their programme is better for the country than those of other parties.

These methods do not force the receiver into compliance, rather they are evaluated and, if liked, can be accepted. Suggestibility is sometimes associated with gullibility or being weak-willed, but this is far from being the truth. Inability to appreciate and judge suggestions would prevent us from trying anything new; we'd be stuck living with fixed and unchangeable ideas. Our capacity to change lifestyle to fit circumstances is due to our noticing and reacting to verbal and non-verbal suggestions in our environment around us. Suggestibility is a valuable human trait, allowing us to grow and learn, increasing our knowledge.

Opinion is divided as to whether or not hypnosis increases hypersuggestibility. Dr. Milton H. Erickson, a leading psychiatrist and hypnotherapist, reported that in his experience, "hypersuggestibility" was not noticed, although the list of individual subjects worked with, was approximately 300 and the number of trances induced in them, several thousand... Far from making them hypersuggestible, it was found necessary to deal very gingerly with them to keep from losing their co-operation,.... According to Ellenberger (1970 p.115) "Hypnotic subjects are hypersensitive, not hypersuggestible"

The hypnotised will not do anything that is unacceptable to them; censoring everything the hypnotist does or says and responding according to their own beliefs. Dr. Fred Frankel, professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and head of a clinic for therapeutic hypnosis, said, in 1976, Clinicians learn readily that they exercise control over most patients only to the extent that the patients are prepared to let them. Hypnosis involves no loss of mental control.

The skilled practitioner will help clients become more discriminating in their available choices; clearly defining the desirable changes and facilitating ready accomplishment.

Stage hypnosis gives the impression that hypnotised people will obey any command. Part of the skill of the stage performer is in setting up his subjects so this appears to happen. The famous American hypnotherapist and stage hypnotist, Ormond McGill, says that 20% of the population is able to develop a trance suitable for the stage and that the shows tend to attract a greater proportion of these people. From this group the performer selects his subjects and by the time the participants have reached the stage, they have already completed a complex selection process, designed to find the most obedient and compliant individuals in the audience. Even by volunteering to go up, they are already committing themselves to becoming part of the act.

Those who do volunteer are safeguarded from doing anything offensive, because they are able to ignore the hypnotist or come out of trance whenever they want. By accepting the "party" frame of stage hypnosis, they can let their hair down with little inhibition, always able to claim the hypnotist was responsible for their actions! In the same way a drunk blames alcohol for his behaviour, the volunteer blames the hypnotist.

Stage-hypnotists, like therapeutic practitioners, have no special "powers" and cannot force people to act against their will or code of behaviour.

If trance does not increase suggestibility, unquestionably it does reduce resistance to new ideas. It also encourages greater mental agility, creating opportunities for changes in behaviour, allowing different perspectives on problems and providing a flexibility to adapt to changing circumstances.

Hypnosis enables us to use subconscious resources for changing our behaviour. Sigmund Freud, the originator of psychoanalysis, believed that the subconscious is where all our animal instincts and needs are seated. Milton Erickson regarded the subconscious as a very powerful and constructive force for life which should be fully used. The British scientist, Daniel Dunnett, concluded after a series of experiments that quite outside our consciousness, our brain is carrying out elaborate and sophisticated activities. You're intelligent, but your subconscious is a darned sight smarter!

Many authorities believe the subconscious uses 90% of the brain capacity and from birth (possibly even while in the womb) it has been recording every thing that happens to us. We use our conscious minds to analyse events and make decisions (when they are based on logic rather than insight or feelings). The subconscious mind runs our bodies for us, making sure we breathe and maintain our body temperature, regulating our heart rate and blood pressure, taking care of balancing and dozens of biochemical processes. We simply could not cope with the extent and complexity of our physical functioning consciously. Our minds would be overflowing with all the adjustments needed to survive, leaving us no time to do anything else. The close relationship of trance to subconscious process allows hypnosis to influence the way the body works, modifying functions normally outside conscious control. In America, hundreds of thousands have been taught how to manage their blood pressure.

Perhaps you can remember how much effort was needed when you learnt to ride a bike. You had to learn to balance, to steer, to pedal etc., at the time there almost seemed to be too many things to do at once. As soon as you had mastered bike riding, all the necessary skills became stored in your subconscious making it possible to ride the bike with little conscious effort, allowing you simultaneously to ride, talk, and pay more attention to your surroundings. The patterns of skill necessary for bike riding, swimming, reading, speech, etc., once learned are all stored permanently in our sub-conscious and always readily available.