Another party invitation had arrived, the 3rd that week. But again, the young girl had to refuse.
Louisa was 14, happy, and carefree. In school, she had lots of friends and was a joy to be around. It was her natural curiosity about the world and her caring nature that drawn other children to her.
At 14, anyone who was anyone had a birthday party with games, cakes, and fancy dress. Fancy dress! Themed party invitations came on a weekly basis, requiring all the guests to dress up. As a popular classmate, Louisa received invitations to all the fancy dress parties.
This was the problem – the themed parties. Louisa suffered from Masklophobia – the fear of people wearing fancy dress costumes; just a glimpse of someone in a costume would terrify poor little Louisa and send her running for the hills.
The fear not only affected which parties Louisa could attend, but she was also worried that when shopping, she may bump into a shop mascot, a clown entertainer; even seeing costumes on TV would send shivers down her spine.
Enough was enough something had to be done, or the phobia would get out of hand. Louisa’s mum suggested hypnotherapy.
What does hypnotherapy work on?
Most commonly, hypnotherapy works on insomnia, stress, anxiety, chronic pain, quitting smoking, IBS, and weight loss.
Overcoming fears such as the fear of public speaking, the of heights, the fear of dying, and the fear of costumes can be cured using hypnotherapy.
How does hypnotherapy work?
Hypnotherapists use hypnosis to make a subconscious change. Let’s say you suffer from arachnophobia – the phobia of spiders. When the phonic person confronts a spider, they panic – finding it hard to breathe and often run for their lives even if the spider isn’t dangerous.
What hypnosis does is break this pattern between the stimuli and reactions – the spider and running away.
Inside the autonomic nervous system sits the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system. These two systems work in opposite ways; the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) produces the famed ‘flight or fight’ stress response,” whereas the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) is the body’s resting state (rest and digest).
The association between the stimuli (spider or fancy dress outfit, as an example) reacts automatically with SNS for phobics; they see the stimuli and, in most cases, have an urge to ‘flight.’
Using hypnosis, the association is broken, and a new pattern, feeling relaxed, is embedded through ‘suggestions’ and visualizations, resulting in stimuli being associated with the feeling calm and relaxed.
There are many different hypnotherapy approaches and techniques, but in the main, they all follow is a similar process.
A client, the person requiring a hypnotherapy session, will initially attend to have a discussion about their reasons for requiring hypnotherapy. These initial sessions help the hypnotherapist choose the most appropriate techniques for the client.
During the hypnosis process itself, the hypnotherapist will help relax the client by getting them to enter a deep state of relaxation. The deep relaxation state is similar to the one used in meditation.
In this state, the mind is more willing to accept suggestions and will visualize the words the hypnotherapist is using to guide the client. The client’s focus, at this stage, is wholly on the internal visualization without any external distractions. The same state is achieved when someone is working on a task – they concentrate so much they ignore anything else going on around them.
At the session start, a common hypnotherapy practice is to guide a client down a staircase ‘with each step helping you to become more and more relaxed.’ The client is asked to count down the steps from 10-1, and as they reach the final step, ‘you will feel totally relaxed.’ Other therapists use a concentration exercise, where the client focuses deeply on a particular spot before they drop into a deep state of relaxation. Or, they complete a breathing exercise or focus on the feeling of relaxation.
Whichever relaxation technique is used helps to access the PNS. The therapist, using suggestions, will deepen the state of relaxation, creating a trance’ experience. The deeper the trance, the easy it is to suggest ideas to the subconscious mind.
Once totally relaxed, the hypnotherapist will guide the client. An example was with Louisa, who was told to walk ‘slowly and calmly’ towards a person in the distance, that later turns out to be in fancy dress. The repeating of positive suggestions ‘you are relaxed’ as Louisa walked to what she knew would be a person in a costume, resulting in a new emotional experience the mind could use as a point of reference.
The exercise is repeated using different visualizations to help embed the new association; stimuli = feeling relaxed. Within the visualizations, the therapist will state post-hypnotic suggestions ‘whenever you come across stimuli you will feel relaxed and calm,’ allowing the client to access the same feeling of calmness in real-life as they did in the trance state.