There's no pocket watch involved. Hypnosis is simply a state of
concentration and focused attention -- focused on a mental image. It's a skill
that must be learned from a trained therapist. With practice, hypnotizing
yourself comes easily. Self-hypnosis is the path to training both mind and body
to make a desired change.
Your best-selling book The Year of Magical Thinking chronicles your grief
following the loss of your husband, John. What surprised you most about
I did not expect the degree of derangement-both physiological and mental. An
example of the latter: Two weeks after John died, when I filled out a hospital
form for the autopsy report, I gave not my own address but that of an apartment
in which we had lived for the first four or five months of our marriage, in
"People who are able to do self-hypnosis can use that focus for a
variety of purposes," Stan Chapman, PhD, a psychologist in the Center for
Pain Medicine at Emory Healthcare in Atlanta, tells WebMD. "For example,
someone who is very depressed may realize on one level that life is not
hopeless and pointless. But if he focuses on a thought contrary to that, the
idea becomes deeply embedded in his subconscious."
Here's what happens: Guided by a therapist's words, you slip deeper and
deeper into a very relaxed, very focused state -- into your subconscious.
That's when a suggestion, a thought that will help you solve a problem, is
introduced by the therapist. When the mind is intensely focused, these
so-called post-hypnotic suggestions have a powerful impact, Chapman says.
Don't worry, you won't lose consciousness. You won't do anything against
your will. Afterward, you are very much aware of what happened while you were
"under." You will recognize and remember the post-hypnotic suggestion.
And, with practice, you can learn to hypnotize yourself to reinforce the
Pain Control Through Hypnosis
Marc Oster, PsyD, a Chicago psychologist, relies on self-hypnosis when he
gets dental work done. "I get Novocain just like other patients, but I
don't need as much of it because I'm under hypnosis. Afterward, I can go back
to work for a full day. When the Novocain wears off, I don't have the pain, the
jaw ache, or the headache that other people have," he told WebMD, in a
No one knows exactly how hypnosis works, but scientists have theories.
Hypnosis helps change our expectations. When a suggestion is made during
hypnosis, the mind gains control over the body. Focus your attention on an
image that blocks the perception of pain, for instance, and you feel less pain.
Your subconscious has grabbed hold of that message, replaying it time and
Research from Harvard Medical School and other institutions is showing
evidence that hypnosis is indeed a process of mind over body. Studies are
documenting the physiological changes that occur under hypnosis -- activating
certain parts of the brain, including the portion that focuses attention.
In fact, studies have shown pain related to cancer, surgery, back injuries,
and migraines mayÂ respond well to hypnosis.
Hypnosis has been blessed by many mainstream medical institutions, says
Oster, who heads the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis. In 1958, the
AmericanÂ Medical Association officially recognized hypnosis as a form of
treatment. The American Psychological Association has endorsed hypnosis for a
number of years. In 1995, the NIH announced its support of hypnosis for cancer
pain and other pain conditions.