Of two minds

The subconscious and hypnotherapy

Written by Karen Long

When you hear the word “hypnosis,” it may bring up images of swinging watches, psychedelic cartoon tunnels and people squawking like chickens to the direction of a stage hypnotist. But hypnotherapy as a healing modality has gone mainstream and is being used to help people halt addictive behaviors, overcome fears and phobias, release limiting beliefs, resolve PTSD, and build self empowerment, wellness and peak performance.

The supercomputer

Wichita hypnotherapist Debi Johnson has a degree in social work and, prior to opening her current practice in 2004, was a certified addictions counselor. She has an interesting analogy to help people understand what is actually going on in the brain during hypnosis.

“The subconscious is like a supercomputer. That’s where all your beliefs, habits, patterns, core concepts about the world are — all in the subconscious mind. Basically hypnosis is just a tool to tap into that.” When people launch a new personal initiative they’ll “rustle up their willpower,” but that sputters out after hours, days or weeks, because it comes from the conscious, or thinking mind.

“It’s rather small compared to the subconscious,” she said.

In her practice, “Lightworks Transformational Hypnotherapy,” Johnson recommends about four sessions for someone, say, who wants to quit smoking or lose weight. She’s helped all kinds of clients to quit drinking, stop gambling, overcome a fear of public speaking or a fear of flying, and more. “It does work relatively well for phobias like that.”

One satisfied customer was a bull rider and “he wanted to be able to stay in the zone, because they have to stay on the bull for 8 seconds. He had such a good outcome he started a school and he sent me all of his students.”

In a typical first session Johnson will have the client create their desired outcome in their mind’s eye, like they’re watching a movie.

“There’s something about the imagination: The more you imagine something, It’s kind of like giving a command to the subconscious mind and then it’ll go, ‘Oh this is important,’ and then the subconscious will highlight opportunities or things that you would have missed before.”

“Dissolving inner trauma”

“Traditional talk therapies don’t typically address the regions of the brain that we need to work with for true healing, the deeper levels,” said Christina Granados, a licensed clinical social worker, EMDR certified therapist, and advanced clinical hypnotherapist.

The work she does with hypnotherapy and EMDR, “is not considered a top-down therapy; it is more of a bottom-up therapy, meaning we’re going right to the source where all of the trauma is held.” Although she sees a range of clients, Granados specializes in helping people with PTSD or complex PTSD “resolve inner conflicts and dissolve inner trauma.”

“It’s basically doing therapy in a very relaxed state,” she said. “It is a very experiential type of therapy. You are almost moving through a 3D version of it. You’re living it. Meaning it’s interactive and giving them a felt experience.” For example, if an adult is feeling very sad about a childhood memory, Granados might have them wrap up in a blanket to feel something they missed out on.

“Which is very healing, because the brain doesn’t care if it’s real, or not — it’s that felt sense.”

After working through this process, clients find themselves becoming less reactive, angry or upset, with a much shorter time investment than typical talk therapy. They can listen to their body, feel more in control of their lives and enjoy improved relationships.

“Emotions aren’t hijacking their body and their memories every time they come up,” Granados said.

Dancing with the trance

What does hypnosis feel like? I had the chance to find out when Drew Amend offered a session so I could describe it for SPLURGE! readers.

Amend is currently working towards a Masters of Social Work, is a certified member of the International Association of Counselors & Therapist (IACT) and has a combined 500 hours of supervised training in hypnosis and hypnotherapy. In his West Wichita office he explained that in a typical two-hour session he spends roughly the first hour discussing the client’s concerns and the second hour on the actual hypnosis. Those concerns run a wide gamut from sports performance and smoking cessation to relief of pain or stress to simply wanting to feel more joy and levity in life.

I shared with Amend an issue I became aware of after writing an article about sleep for SPLURGE! two months ago: I have a hard time putting my phone down at bedtime, and often end up scrolling late into the night, even though I know it will wreak havoc on my quality of sleep. He listened, and then said the agenda that people bring into his office isn’t always the real issue. Hypnosis has a way of uncovering things.

“I’ll get you to a point and then ask what you notice. And that’s the thing that pops up — the subconscious is very clever, and it will bring the thing up that you really need to address and look at.”

The session started off with Amend walking me through some deep breathing, while imagining a relaxing light progressing through my body. This was the induction phase, and felt similar to a guided meditation. Then he asked me to imagine a few different settings in vivid and sensory detail, until finally I was floating on a cloud.

"The subconscious is very clever, and it will bring the thing up that you really need to address and look at." — Drew Amend

At this point it started to feel like a cross between a lucid dream and a conversation, being present to whatever imagery came up. At one point I was in a boutique trying on some jewelry, and Amend asked me to look in the mirror and tell him what I saw. At another point I was swimming with glowing deep sea creatures, and found myself talking about my marriage, which ended 13 years ago and which I thought I’d mostly processed. In that safe and relaxed visualization I was open to fresh insights and healing.

After the session, Drew explained, “Hypnosis is a state of higher consciousness where we are extremely focused and alert to the exclusion of other thoughts, allowing us the ability to look inward and accept new suggestions. It does have a sort of pervasive healing effect on people.”

Even though we’d barely touched on my compulsive scrolling during the session, after that encounter with my subconscious, I find myself able to pause, reach down into that calm space, and step away from the phone.

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