An Introduction to Hypnosis & Hypnotherapy by Damian Hamill
Reviewed by Chris Allen
What if I’m in deep trance and the hypnotist has a heart attack and is unable to awaken me? Will I be stuck there? And if so, what will become of me?
What if the hypnotist tries to take control of my consciousness? Will I be strong enough to resist him? Can he force me to do something against my will? Like rob a bank or murder my wife?
What if I’m in a trance; can the hypnotherapist get me to reveal my innermost secrets?
Myths … How do they come about? Well, in the case of hypnosis, one can point the finger in a number of directions. Count Dracula as portrayed by Bela Lugosi and Christopher Lee is a good place to start. Their stirring performances—particularly in taking control of the minds of their hapless victims—have done a wonderful job in blurring the public perception of hypnosis and propagating widely held misconceptions, forming the basis upon which the questions above in italics are just a representative sample. But then again, some of the most famous names in the colourful history of hypnosis—especially notorious dabblers such as Mesmer—have also contributed to the immense confusion. Which is a shame really when one considers that the BMA endorsed hypnosis as a powerful therapeutic tool—with no known harmful side effects—as long ago as 1958. And it may come as a surprise to discover that the Royal Society of Medicine has a hypnosis and psychosomatic medicine section. Yet recent data indicates that psychiatric drugs such as tranquillizers and anti-depressants made up 8.6% of all NHS prescription items in 2010. And rising, causing concern not only because of the enormous cost but also because of well publicized side effects.
So what’s going on? And can anything be done to promote the value of a natural alternative to over reliance of mood altering pharmaceuticals? And to debunk the myths that seem to shackle the more widespread use of therapeutic hypnosis? If these questions are of interest, then you could do worse than to investigate what Damian Hamill has to say in this book, first published in 2012. In the opinion of the reviewer, it is one of the very best ever written on the subject. But don’t just take my word for it; if you go on the Amazon website, you will find that it has picked up 8 reviews—all of them with five stars.
‘An Introduction to Hypnosis and Hypnotherapy’ starts with a hard hitting introduction, likely to ruffle a few feathers in the psychotherapy community; continues with twelve chapters which cover a wide range of interesting topics; and ends with a short but inspiring conclusion.
Chapter 1 gives a brief history of hypnosis. Of particular note here is the section on the contribution of physician Milton H. Erickson (1901-1980) who is generally regarded as the most influential hypnotherapist of the 20th century.
Chapter 2 explores what hypnosis is all about. The author attempts to dispel many of the misconceptions surrounding the subject. He proceeds to set the record straight, dealing with each of the most oft quoted myths in turn. He does however concede that it is little wonder that people have so many incorrect preconceived ideas and notions given the fact that there is no consensus even amongst practitioners as to what hypnosis actually is. He offers the following working definition to get the reader thinking: “An altered state of awareness effected by total concentration on the voice of the therapist. It will result in measurable physical, neurophysiological and psychological changes in which may be produced distortion of emotion, sensation, image and time”. The author admits that whereas this may not be the whole story—an understandable position given that even consciousness researchers struggle to define human awareness in the first place—it is at least somewhere at which to start.
Chapter 3 deals in detail with common hypnotic phenomena that seem to occur within trance with great frequency. These include but are not restricted to: Catalepsy—inhibition of motor movement … Ideo-motor activity—physical manifestations of mental perceptions … Amnesia … Dissociation … Regression … Hallucinations … Time Distortion.
Chapter 4 concerns different types of hypnosis which one might not recognize as such. These include: Daydreaming … Highway hypnosis—drifting off whilst driving … Hypnogogic—the intermediate state just before falling asleep … Hypnopompic—the condition after being sleep but just before one becomes fully awake … Traditional or authoritarian hypnosis in which the subject responds to clear instructions … Non-traditional, permissive or naturalistic hypnosis—based primarily on the work of Milton Erickson, in which the subject responds to open or indirect suggestions.
Chapter 5 contains a detailed discussion of individual responses and susceptibility.
Chapter 6 evaluates the best known theories which attempt to explain the remarkable range of hypnotic phenomena. These include: Atavistic Immobilisation … Modified Sleep … Suggestion. Chapters 7 to 12 concern such matters as trance induction, communication, case history, client management and an overview of major therapeutic approaches. They are all well written and informative but probably of most interest to professionals in the field.
In the one page conclusion, the author suggests that hypnosis has a great deal to offer if used from an ethical position of guidance and encouragement and not one of domination and self–aggrandisement. He expresses the hope that he has succeeded in sweeping aside much of the mysticism and mystery that surrounds the subject. And make no mistake about it … He has. Whether you’re a newcomer to this field seeking to become less confused or an experienced practitioner wishing to build up your Continuous Professional Development, this book is a gem, a very useful read indeed.
Finally in answer to those questions:
If it were to happen, you’ll come out of trance naturally at your own pace as if you’d just fallen asleep. You may then have to apply emergency first aid.
Mind control under these circumstances simply isn’t possible and is confusing hypnosis with an occult power or siddhi which—according to the esoteric literature—is said to be achievable after years of austere spiritual discipline and dedicated practice at the feet of a master in some remote location like a monastery in the Himalayas … And not currently available through any of the recognized training organisations for Hypnotherapy in the UK.
No, definitely not; you can keep them to yourself; you retain an inner censor even in deep trance.
About the Reviewer
Chris Allen is a retired Technical Author with a degree in Physics and many years of experience working as a contractor in such industries as Avionics, Defence and Transport. He is a crime writer specialising in unusual and well researched fiction. He is also a practising hypnotherapist and a full member of the British Society of Clinical Hypnosis. He has a lifelong interest in military history, jurisprudence, criminology and Advaita Vedanta philosophy.
Web site: www.cach.co.uk