Whenever I speak before a large corporation or perhaps a smaller group of 10-20, I begin with the same “gotcha” question. I start by asking the audience to raise their hands if they’ve experienced hypnosis.
Invariably, a few hands go up. Some people explain that they were hypnotized for smoking or weight loss. I then proceed to point out that in fact, everyone in the audience has been hypnotized many times in their lives, maybe tens of thousands of times in actuality. We have all experienced hypnosis.
Quizzical expressions follow, as the audience attempts to understand. And that is my perfect opportunity to start the dialogue about this most misunderstood of mental and physical health subjects. Most people don’t realize that hypnosis is a naturally occurring state, and that all of us by necessity enter into a level of what I call organic trance at different times of the day. It is necessary for us because thinking tires our minds. It is a part of who we are. We need to take a break and conserve energy.
Every time you daydream or immerse yourself in the story line of a good book or movie to the exclusion of everything around you, you are in light hypnosis. Or, perhaps you’re driving and get to your regular exit — but have no idea how you got there. There you were, flawlessly operating a heavy piece of machinery but unaware of your time in that vehicle. Familiar?
Hypnosis. The very word conjures up misconceptions; the average person may believe that hypnosis lies somewhere between Vegas and Voodoo.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
First recognized by the American Medical Association in the 1950s, hypnosis is the most under appreciated and misunderstood mental and physical health modality, yet it offers amazing hope for extremely powerful physical and emotional transformations for adults and kids alike. It’s not just for weight loss and smoking. It can help your kids concentrate, remove fears, be better athletes, and improve social skills, to name a few.
The definition of hypnosis I use most often is ”a state of deep relaxation coupled with intense focus and concentration.” Sounds oxymoronic, right? How can one be relaxed and focused at the same time? It seems as if one must display deep concentration to do certain things well. But think of the times you played tennis as perfectly as you ever had, or were at that party and were in that wonderful charismatic state of “being on”. Everything came together. You were in the “zone”, a place of simultaneous relaxation and concentration — a light site of hypnosis.
Hypnosis results from a process that relaxes the conscious, analytical rational part of our thinking, and that allows the subconscious or the “hard drive” of the bio-computer to absorb positive suggestions that can alter our behavior and attitudes — if those suggestions are in agreement with our belief system. The subconscious accepts all that it sees, hears, feels and experiences without any critical filtering. In other words, it simply records and never sorts through what it records to see if those recordings make sense for our happiness or health. Emotions often get intertwined with these “tapes” — and voila! Irrational behaviors that may be antithetical to our self-interest show up. We then explain or “rationalize” them away with our rational thinking part.
How hypnosis can help kids
Hypnosis works wonderfully for kids. Because children have less subconscious clutter on their “hard drives” by virtue of being younger, they can derive major benefits that can be long lasting. Kids are frequently in a hypnosis-like state of free association as they pretend play and have stream of consciousness fun. They all love the experience. Here are some examples of kid subjects I’ve worked with recently:
A couple who read of my work with kids came to me with their 6-year-old son, Ryan (all names have been changed), who was having serious difficulties at school. Ryan was fighting and biting other kids in his kindergarten class. The teachers at his private school were so frustrated with his behavior, they were close to removing him from school.
Upon meeting Ryan, I saw a delightful child who needed some strong and positive self-imagery to alter this pattern. Ted, Ryan’s dad, described the change. Simply put, Ryan’s behavior turned around almost immediately. A year of other therapy didn’t put a dent in his aggression. Hypnosis worked amazingly well.”
How did I do it? After finding out that his favorite superheroes were the Power Rangers, I easily placed Ryan in hypnosis, and within a few minutes I had him in the fantasy of a Power Rangers conference in which they were discussing the addition of a new team member. The Rangers, I told him, wanted a new member who had to be well behaved and play nicely with all. This obviously lit Ryan up, and I had him hypnotically repeat that he would play nicely with everybody. The fantasy worked. Ryan’s teachers (unaware of the hypnosis) immediately reported a dramatic change in his attitude, and he’s been great ever since. He’s cooperating because he knows the Rangers want him in the group.
Then there’s Richard who, though bright, was flunking out of his senior year in high school. His mother said he was at the lowest emotional point that she had ever seen him. He had been diagnosed with ADD and was on Concerta. After a few empowering sessions that helped him see himself as a powerful individual, he immediately went on to finish his schoolwork. On his own he asked to stop taking Concerta, and now he feels focused, in charge and relaxed. According to his mom, Maria, “He’s not the same kid I saw before hypnosis. Now he’s happier, more self-confident and much less argumentative. He’s working with himself, not against himself.”
This case and others give rise to the question of whether certain kids may experience improvements in focus and concentration by seeking alternative means. The great thing about hypnosis is that it can help a kid improve without a drop of medicine. I often wonder if a young Leonardo da Vinci were alive today, would he be labeled with ADD and put on Ritalin? Bright multi-level thinkers are often confused with those who cannot think “properly” and we may be doing a disservice to them and their physical health. I do not believe that all ADD diagnoses are wrong, but many may be. Take the case of 8-year-old Kali. Kali was biting her nails and also gaining weight from eating too much junk food. After hypnotizing her to see herself as a beautiful princess, she stopped the nail biting and has lost all of the weight she needed to. She now eats healthy meals, and feels great about herself.
Hypnosis also helped a 16-year-old boy, who had become dependent upon pain medication prescribed following painful surgery. Ben is a very bright young man, headed to an Ivy League school after skipping two grades. He suffers from post-chemo discomfort in his thigh. Ben’s mom, a registered nurse, wanted to help her son free himself from the need for pain medication, and he was able to achieve that goal through hypnosis. Ben now walks with ease these days, without the need for that pain medication.
Finally, there’s the story of Olivia. This 9-year-old had been engaging in compulsive and repetitive behavior — banging her head on the family’s dinner table, flicking light switches on and off, hurting herself, and driving her parents to distraction. As I did with Ryan “the Power Ranger”, and Kali “the princess,” after putting Olivia into a hypnotic state, I engaged her imagination and asked her to associate herself with her favorite superhero, Supergirl. I helped enable Olivia to see that Supergirl had complete and total control of herself, and helped her believe that she, too, can have the same level of control.
It’s tempting to think that serious problems, especially those that affect the happiness of the children we love, must by necessity have complicated solutions. Contrary to that idea, however, my work in the field of hypnosis has convinced me that many of these challenges can be overcome easily and in a long lasting way by this very simple approach, tapping into a power that resides in each one of us — even the youngest boys and girls. On a personal level, as a proud father myself, I find it enormously fulfilling to be able to help these wonderful children overcome daunting problems and to achieve the happiness they deserve in life.
ROBERT PARGAMENT is a Certified Hypnotist and a member of The National Guild of Hypnotists and the New England Institute of Hypnosis. He is the resident Hypnotist at the Saw Mill Athletic Club in Mount Kisco, and lectures on the benefits of hypnosis and self-hypnosis at Aer Yoga in Cross River, NY. His life coaching skills were honed as a Forum graduate of Landmark Education in New York City. Call 914-232-9606 or visit www.hypnosiswestchester.com.