Hypnosis is one of the oldest forms of psychotherapy, and its power to manage moods can have transformative effects.
While it might bring to mind stage performances, hypnosis is actually one of the oldest forms of psychotherapy, and its power to manage moods has been studied extensively. The reason? When we experience anxiety or fear, our bodies produce a heightened level of the hormone adrenaline, sending us into fight-or-flight mode.
Hypnosis can be used to remove the emotional response to various triggers and challenging thought patterns, allowing us to act more rationally, and feel safer and more calm. As Fiona Lamb, a certified, Advanced Clinical Hypnotherapist based in Harley Street, explains: “Hypnosis allows us to access the unconscious part of the mind, which is five times more powerful than the conscious one.”
“Hypnosis allows us to access the unconscious part of the mind, which is five times more powerful than the conscious one.”
Although people often worry they won’t be in control of their bodies and minds, Fiona reassures her patients that “it’s not about anyone else controlling your mind but allowing you to control yours.” In fact, true hypnosis is, by definition, self-hypnosis because it is generally induced by focusing attention on positive mental imagery. Although patients report being in a meditative or dream-like state, in fact the brain is in a heightened state of concentration, so retains full awareness. Following a session, people often experience feeling calmer.
Kim Palmer, a CEO, experienced the benefit of hypnosis when she started having anxiety attacks at work. "My anxiety started while I was working in a senior position for a tech startup. I was pregnant and desperate to get promoted before maternity leave, but ended up neglecting my health. Then in the middle of a presentation, I had a mega panic attack. I couldn't breathe. I had no idea what was happening to me. Thankfully, a colleague could, so he took me out and talked me through it.”
She assumed that the anxiety would subside while she was off work with her newborn baby, but it got worse. “I had daily panic attacks and ended up avoiding social situations for fear it would happen again. Eventually, my husband encouraged me to seek help. Traditional speaking therapies didn't help, but hypnotherapy did. Soon, I started to feel like 'me' again. My confidence returned, I felt calmer.”
Kim’s experience is backed up by science. A study by colleagues at the department of Cognitive Neuroscience and Behaviour at Imperial College of Science found that hypnosis helped boost their mood around exam times, while other studies have shown that it is effective to help combat anxiety (researchers have commonly used the stressful example of going into medical surgery).
If our emotions are not handled properly, Fiona believes, they can manifest and become physical issues we carry around in our bodies. “Anger is particularly a very negative feeling to hold on to. By being more calm and relaxed, our bodies are able to function to the best of their abilities,” Lamb explains.
Indeed studies, including one by the Iuliu Hatieganu University of Medicine and Pharmacy in Romania, have shown that patients who suffer from IBS can have higher levels of anger, leading researchers to suggest that “anger contributes to development and evolution of IBS”. A follow-up study by University Hospital of South Manchester found that hypnosis could help treat those with bowel problems, by tackling their anger first.
It can have transformative effects on patients. “I was amazed by the power of hypnotherapy,” Kim agrees, “and it made me think: other women could benefit from this too. So I launched the free Clementine App (http://clementineapp.co.uk), which incorporates hypnotherapy recordings and mantras. It's helped women suffering with work stress, going through traumas like divorce, serious illness, insomnia, fear of public speaking, overwhelmed by motherhood. The list goes on." So if you need support with moods, be it anxiety or confidence, give hypnosis a try.