"The world is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper."  Bertrand Russell, Nobel Prize winner

This page will provide you with answers to many of the questions you might have about hypnosis. Scroll down the page and watch the videos on what hypnosis is, an explanation of the REM state and dreaming.

Whether you realise it or not, we all experience hypnotic trance states every day of our lives. You might, like many people, have driven along the motorway and reached your destination with little, if any, recollection of the journey itself. You might have experienced becoming engrossed in a good book or film, totally oblivious to other things going on around you. You might have spent what seemed like twenty minutes playing a computer game only to find out that two whole hours had passed. What about the time during a meeting or with friends when someone called your name and you replied, "Oh, sorry. I was miles away there."

Spending time on the computer can be trance inducing, such as when you become engrossed in a great website or chat-room. Chanting or singing is trance inducing as is dancing, playing a musical instrument, painting, drawing or making love. Staring into an open fire or up at the clouds or simply off into space suggests that you have slipped into a natural state of trance. Indeed, trance phenomena occurs so frequently that we often don't realise it is happening.

So what exactly is hypnosis?

Here is a video of Ivan Tyrrell from the Human Givens Institute explaining what hypnosis is.


Healing by hypnosis (or trance) has been acknowledged for centuries and has been observed, in one form or another, in virtually every culture throughout the world. In the 1700's Franz Anton Mesmer (from which the word 'mesmerized' originates) used a form of hypnosis to successfully treat many ailments (see http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franz_Mesmer). However, the term 'hypnosis' (from the Greek 'hypnos', meaning 'sleep') wasn't coined until 1842 and is, in itself, entirely misleading because hypnosis is not sleep. The similarity it has to sleep is that hypnosis accesses the REM state that we all experience every night when we dream. At the present time there is no agreed-upon definition of hypnosis. Perhaps one way to describe it is as: "A state of mind, enhanced by mental and physical relaxation in which our subconscious mind is able to communicate with our conscious mind." However, I prefer Ivan Tyrrell's definition in the above video, defining hypnosis as, "any artificial means of accessing the REM state."

As also stated in the video, relaxation is not essential for hypnosis to occur and it can happen at any time, usually at those moments when we become absorbed in what we are doing or when we get 'lost' in our thoughts or feelings or when we are shocked, such as hearing a loud and unexpected noise. Indeed, any time we go 'within' we can be said to be in a state of trance and the depth of the experience is determined by how absorbed we become.

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How does hypnosis work?

The hypnotic trance state is virtually identical to the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) state that we all experience every night when we dream. The only difference is that in hypnosis you are still awake. The REM state is our most powerful learning state where instinctive patterns were established in the womb (babies spend 80% of the last three months before birth in REM sleep) and where unresolved emotional arousals are de-activated during dreaming at night.

During the hypnotic REM state you are able to communicate with your unconscious mind so that you can either identify the cause of any problems you have or re-educate the unconscious into new ways of responding. In effect, this changes patterns in the brain so that you can function from a more empowering, positive template.

It is widely accepted that much of how we think, feel and behave is learned early on in our lives from our parents, from schooling and from society as a whole. Unfortunately, much of this learning is negative in that it conditions or programs us to believe that we are incapable of achieving our goals. We now carry around with us old, out-dated, limiting beliefs that affirm, 'I can't do this' or 'I could never do that' based on past negative experiences. (A negative, unhelpful template is running the show). It is as if we are locked into a self-denigrating trance. Indeed, mystics throughout the ages have long told us that humanity is sleep-walking through life.

Be aware that the unconscious mind always works towards that which we focus on, meaning that it will keep us locked into a 'negative program', providing us with 'negative' experiences as long as we hold negative beliefs. Through hypnosis and the ensuing REM state we are able to directly influence the unconscious mind and remove such negative, erroneous beliefs and access resources within (that often become forgotten or overlooked when we are in the depths of depression, anxiety, anger or low self-esteem, for example) or develop totally new resources. Once the subconscious mind accepts that there is a better and faster way to achieving your goals it will do everything it can to help you.  

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Can I be hypnotised?

Yes, everyone of normal brain functioning can be hypnotised. However, previously it was believed that only 20% of people could be hypnotised. The studies that produced these results used the same type of hypnotic induction for every person. This is like preparing the same meal for a group of people and concluding that those that didn't like it are incapable of enjoying food! People are unique and varied and different people go into trance in different ways. We all go in and out of trance many times throughout the day but don't often realise it because it is a normal, everyday state of consciousness. Indeed, we slip into trance states every ninety minutes or so as part of the body's ultradian rhythm. This is the same type of rhythm that governs our patterns of dreaming when we sleep. We now know that this pattern continues whilst we are awake. At such times we may find our minds wandering; we may slip into reverie or a daydream; we may feel the need to close our eyes and have a break from what we are doing. This is because the brain switches to right hemisphere dominance for a period of about twenty minutes and is nature's way of providing us with an opportunity to rest and re-energise ourselves. So rest assured - you can be hypnotised - and, as pointed out above, you have been slipping naturally into trance everyday, possibly whilst reading this!

At stow-hypno I utilise your natural ability to go into trance easily, using what is known as Ericksonian Hypnosis. (Milton Erickson, widely considered to be the best hypnotherapist of the last century proved that everyone could be hypnotised; it was simply a matter of matching the right technique to the right individual at the right time and in the right way. For more on Erickson have a look here http://www.erickson-foundation.org/ or http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milton_Erickson 

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Four types of trance that all involve the REM state:

There are basically four types of hypnotic trance:

  • dreaming - the deepest trance state that we know of. When we are dreaming we are totally absorbed in the experience and believe it to be true. (It is only after awakening that we realise, sometimes with relief, that it was only a dream). 
  • high emotional arousal - where we become locked into a very narrow focus of attention, such as anger, anxiety, jealousy, depression.
  • when we ourselves focus our attention by becoming absorbed in whatever we are doing, such as watching a good film, drawing, playing computer games, listening to music etc.
  • when our attention is focused by someone else - a good salesperson, a good speaker or story-teller, a good stage hypnotist (more on this below)...and a good hypnotherapist!

In the video below Joe Griffin (co-founder of the Human Givens Institute) tells us about REM sleep and the purpose of dreaming.

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So, what is hypnotherapy?

Hypnotherapy utilises the hypnotic REM state to communicate with and 're-program' your unconscious mind through a variety of therapeutic techniques in order to help you resolve your problems and achieve your goals. Simply stated, hypnotherapy is a form of counselling or psychotherapy but the hypnotherapist artificially induces the REM state and uses this as the main agent of change because hypnosis is the most powerful learning state we know of. Indeed, all the learning we ever do is when we are in a hypnotic state of focus and concentration. However, hypnosis itself doesn't produce the desired change. It is the work we do with the unconscious mind while you are in trance that creates the change. This can involve the use of positive suggestions, imagination and visualisation (to rehearse success), the use of metaphor and stories, and the gathering of innate resources as well as the development of new resources and skills.  

Hypnotherapy is distinctive from other types of psychotherapy and counselling in that it deals directly with the unconscious mind, which often houses the problem or symptom. As a healing modality it is becoming more widely accepted by medical establishments throughout the world. Indeed, it has been recognised as such by both the British and American Medical Associations since the 1950's. It is only recently that we have begun to fully realise its amazing potential for positive change. It is now routinely used in hospitals in Europe as an alternative to general anaesthetic (The UK lags behind again!) and as people decide to take responsibility for their own health rather than rely on unnecessary medication or operations, increasing numbers are turning to hypnosis and other alternative or complementary therapies. Hypnotherapy can work alongside conventional medicine and often helps when medical treatment fails because it deals with you as a person, not a set of symptoms.

Dr Alfred A. Barrios, writing in 'Psychotherapy' - the journal of the American Psychiatric Association - reported the following typical success rates:

Hypnotherapy - 93% recovery after 6 sessions

Behaviour Therapy - 72% recovery after 22 sessions

Psychoanalysis - 38% recovery after 600 sessions. (Yes, 600!)

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What is EFT?

Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT for short) is a meridian/energy therapy and has its roots in Chinese medicine and acupuncture. It is based on the idea that energy meridians run through the body and that whenever we suffer from physical, emotional or psychological distress it is caused by a blockage somewhere in this energy system. By tapping with the finger tips on certain points the energy blockage is removed and with it the distressing symptoms. (We will teach you this tapping technique so that you can use it yourself between sessions if necessary). This may seem too simple to be effective but we have successfully used EFT to help people overcome fears/ phobias, recover from PTSD, remove cravings and deal with long-standing negative emotions.

I believe that EFT is a form of hypnosis in that, when performing the tapping sequence you are in a focused state of awareness (and being focused means that you are in a trance-like state, open and receptive to new suggestions). In my opinion, it is the combination of trance and the shifting of the energy blockage through tapping the meridian points that produce the best results. For this reason, whenever I use EFT I very often combine it with a powerful hypnosis session to embed positive suggestions and expectations into the energy/ neural circuits of your mind-body system. 

For more on EFT visit http://www.eftuniverse.com

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What will happen during a typical hypnotherapy session?

Before you experience hypnosis I will tell you all you need to know about it and any questions you have will be answered. Sessions typically involve some counselling/ psychotherapy and goal-setting before any trance-work is done. All hypnosis sessions should have an intention. You will then be gently guided into that naturally occurring 'daydream' state, where I am then more able to communicate directly with your unconscious mind. In the hypnotic REM state the unconscious is much more open and receptive to new ideas and suggestions. Some sessions will involve EFT (if it is deemed helpful to your particular issue) along with programming your mind with positive expectations of change. Other sessions are more interactive, where we communicate together with your unconscious mind when you are in trance. At the end of the hypnotic experience you will emerge feeling refreshed, wide awake and fully alert, and ready to carry out the rest of your day.  

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Will I be aware of what is happening during hypnosis?

Yes, you will be aware of what is happening throughout the  experience (because you are fully conscious and not asleep) though it's quite normal that your mind will wander off somewhere else and you may forget some of what was said to you whilst you were in trance. This is entirely normal, in that we don't ever remember all that was said to us when in conversation with someone, do we? Remember, hypnosis is a naturally occurring state, similar to a daydream. Hypnosis is not sleep, but a state of increased concentration, focus and awareness. You will be able to hear everything said to you if you choose to listen to my voice and all other sounds, indoors and outside. Usually however, your awareness is directed inward as opposed to the outside world. Much of the time you don't even have to listen to what I say to you and you can let your conscious mind drift anywhere it wants.

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Will I lose control during hypnosis?

This is a misconception fueled by ridiculous stage and TV shows and Hollywood movies. Hypnosis is not mind control but it is a means of persuasion where your unconscious is 'persuaded' with therapeutic suggestions to make healthy changes in your life. This is, of course, based on your intentions for the therapy.  Although you are completely capable of moving whilst in the lighter states of trance - such as scratching your nose or re-arranging your position to get more comfortable if you need to - the feelings of deep relaxation often experienced during hypnotherapy usually result in not wanting to bother to move. You are also in total control of what you say during hypnosis, so there is no way you will 'spill the beans' and tell your secrets. You will only say what you want to say.

Yes, but I have seen people on TV programs doing outrageous things. Have they lost control?

No, these people are aware of what they are doing. You have to remember that people who go to see a stage hypnosis show go with the expectation of being hypnotised. Expectation plays a huge part in stage hypnosis and hypnotherapy. People then volunteer to be hypnotised. Most of these people are what we would call 'extroverts' and they don't mind being the centre of attention or making a fool of themselves. It is their '15 minutes of fame'. 'Introverts' on the other hand are unlikely to volunteer. (You wouldn't get me up there on stage!) The hypnotist then carries out 'suggestibility tests' on these volunteers (before the TV cameras roll) and selects only those people that passed the tests, i.e. those who were highly responsive to his suggestions. (About 20% of the population easily accept direct suggestions - these are the type of people the stage hypnotist will work with and the type of people who passed old 'hypnotisability' tests in the past.) Once he has them up there on stage he knows they will respond to his suggestions, however bizarre those suggestions might be. A highly suggestible volunteer will become so deeply absorbed in the REM state that the sound of the hypnotist's voice guides the 'waking dream' he is experiencing, directing his actions. 

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So, could I get stuck in hypnosis?

This is another common misconception. Because you are in control throughout the whole session you can come out of hypnosis at any time you like. Remember, we all go in and out of trance every day, often without knowing. It is naturally occurring and it naturally goes away. Should I do anything as bizarre as leaving for a holiday in the Caribbean before you emerge from trance (don't worry - I won't!), you would simply emerge from the trance in your own time or drift into a short sleep before waking up when you were ready. Nobody gets stuck in daydreaming. Nobody gets stuck in hypnosis. However, plenty of the human race are sleep-walking through life. We could argue that most of us are already hypnotised.

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Will hypnosis really help my problem?

Because hypnosis uses natures own learning state (the REM state) it is the most powerful tool for change. As our understanding of it increases, the deliberate use of hypnotic processes continues to make a major impact in the health professions and is truly revolutionising the field of counselling and psychotherapy. It is not a magic wand as some people would like to believe, but I have yet to find a situation that could not be improved in some way. Given that hypnotherapy can be utilised to access one's inner potential, and assuming that most of us are not performing to our actual potential, virtually everyone will benefit from it. Innate healing capacities are stimulated by hypnosis and, when combined the very latest therapy techniques, success rates are as high as 80-90% in most cases.

Indeed, many scientific studies show the efficacy of hypnosis in treating a wide range of physical problems, such as: pain control (including phantom limb pain) • high blood pressure • IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) • skin conditions (warts, dermatitis, eczema, acne) • immune system responses • speeding up recovery from surgery • breast enlargement • PMS (Pre-Menstrual Syndrome) • migraines • allergies • asthma.

Hypnosis also helps us gain control of responses that are normally controlled by unconscious mechanisms. These responses can help increase motivation or decrease the power of addictions, such as smoking or alcoholism. Hypnosis is becoming more widely used in the treatment of stress disorders and depression. It can also help you: conquer fears, phobias and panic attacks • boost your confidence and self-esteem • help you lose weight • overcome eating disorders and cravings • break bad habits • deal with anger and frustration • alleviate feelings of guilt • overcome loss and bereavement • manage OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) • remove the effects of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) • cure insomnia and other sleep disorders • overcome travel sickness • increase your motivation and desire to succeed • improve sports or business performance • speak better in public • deal with anxiety about exams/ driving tests etc. • overcome the effects of bullying and abuse • cure impotence and other sexual dysfunctions • improve your relationships • and lots more.

Call me now on 0845 450 2326 if you have any other questions

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