Home         Symptoms          Treatments          Reviews          About Seb          Fees          Location          Contact

The Bristol Psychotherapy

& Hypnotherapy Clinic

the wacky world of hypnosis

 

 

As someone who occasionally uses hypnosis in clinical work I’m often asked if I do past-life regression, or if I channel spirits, or even make my clients dance about like chickens. The answer is of course: no, no, no (although there I go channeling the spirit of Amy Winehouse again)!

 

 

Let’s put ‘dancing like a chicken’ to one side for now. Any therapist who would attempt to make a client dance about like a chicken for personal enjoyment a) doesn’t understand the implications of context in the difference between stage hypnosis and clinical hypnosis and b) would of course be acting highly irresponsibly and unethically – even if it would be a hilarious stunt to pull off. I joke of course as to pull off such a stunt in a clinical setting would probably require some form of intimidation tactics. We will return to that matter later because the fear of being manipulated is a genuine and understandable concern for many people seeking hypnotherapy. For now though we’ll focus our attention on past-life regression and channelling.

 

 

Granted, only a fringe minority of so-called ‘hypnotherapists’ engage in these kinds of ‘alternative’ practices. I’d imagine that the vast majority of these individuals also do so out of a genuine belief in what they are doing. Sadly however they fail to appreciate the complex nature of human psychology, the unconscious mind, and the power of suggestion. Therefore, if you are in treatment with any such practitioner my advice would be to scarper, sharpish. Take it from me that whatever symptoms or emotional difficulties you’re having right now, the cause is very much in this lifetime, and in this dimension! There’s literally no need to go looking anywhere else for the causes of current problems, and doing so could indeed be very dangerous. Not because the effects of these practices are real, but because the effects can seem very compelling to the casual observer. Life can be a challenging experience. We humans are emotionally and psychologically complex beings and for this reason it’s actually very easy, and quite normal to develop occasional symptoms and to face emotional difficulties as a direct result of stuff happening, or that has happened, in this life.

 

 

Our brain can record a vast amount of information, and it records and stores more details than you are consciously aware of. While it may seem bizarre that some individuals appear to be able to speak a different language while under hypnosis, a phenomenon known as xenoglossy, it is by no means unusual or paranormal, given that the human brain is capable of profound and mind-boggling computational processes. It is little surprise to find that an apparent ‘alien’ language spoken under hypnosis matches perfectly, upon investigation, the dialogue of some extra-terrestrial characters from an early Star Trek episode.

 

 

In a similar way the effects of past-life regression are a form of cryptomnesia, which, in simple terms means unconscious or unintentional plagiarism. It is a form of memory bias – the recall of knowledge that you don’t remember originally experiencing or learning. Basically what this means is that a person can hear a story about a historical figure for example, and subsequently forget about the moment in which they heard the story. At a later date, while under hypnosis, they are then able to recall the details of the story without remembering the circumstances in which they heard it. This phenomenon is not exclusive to hypnosis, it happens all the time in daily life with thoughts, ideas, jokes, and so on. Musicians, for instance, frequently write songs only to be frustrated to discover that the song already exists. Interestingly in past-life regression, subjects tend to recall stories that mirror aspects of their real life. For those with a pre-existing spiritual or magical bent this appears compelling evidence that memory traces are past on through the soul as it reincarnates. To the critical thinker however it is simply evidence of how our brains, or more specifically our minds actually work – by association.

 

 

Memory is a very interesting and complex topic, and researchers are only just scratching the surface of how our memory functions. Technological developments have helped neuroscientists to take a closer look at the biological processes involved in memory storage and processing. The traditional memory model was that of the filing system. Memory was thought to function like a huge library in the brain. In the library were thought to be vast amounts of files that could be accessed if necessary, some being more difficult to retrieve than others. In this regard memory was thought to be stored somewhere in a fixed location. We now understand that memory retrieval is more of a generative process involving lots of different areas of the brain. Rather than retrieving a file from a single location, different aspects of the memory are drawn from different parts of the brain. The visual aspect of a memory comes from the visual cortex, the auditory aspect of memory comes from the auditory cortex and so on, with each part being draw from its corresponding location in order to assimilate a homogenous experience. For those wanting to explore the latest neuroscience of memory the excellent Brain Science Podcast has an episode you can find here. I caution that it is quite technical however but still worth a listen.

 

 

Memory is a prickly issue in the field of psychotherapy and hypnotherapy and it’s hugely important for practitioners to keep abreast of the latest scientific research being carried out. Debate rages on about the possibility of the human mind to repress experiences or whether all such experiences are false memories artificially created in therapy. What is clear is that while some irresponsible therapists are accountable when it comes to false memory creation, there are conversely a great number of practitioners who have considerable success working in the field of unconscious memory. The recently developed clinical process known as Coherence Therapy, formally Depth Oriented Brief Therapy, for example draws on the scientific research regarding implicit memory, otherwise referred to as unconscious emotional memory. It’s theoretical framework centres on neuroscientific research into a neurological activity known as memory reconsolidation – a process through which unconscious emotional learning schemas can be ‘rewired’ so as to cease having a negative effect.

 

 

An excellent, unbiased resource for researching the memory debate is the book Recovered Memories and False Memories edited by Martin A. Conway. The book consists of a collection of essays by scientists, psychologists, and psychotherapists exploring both sides of the debate in depth. It is by no means a casual read but I would think it makes for essential reading for anyone working in the field of psychotherapy. What the book demonstrates is that there is evidence to support both hypotheses. On the one hand it is indeed possible to create false memories in a test subject. On the other hand there have been documented cases in which corroborating evidence supports various instances of recovered memory. Like most academic arguments such as the ‘nature or nurture’ debate, this too will likely culminate in the accepted belief that both phenomena are in fact real and not mutually exclusive. What is however clear is that we need science, rather than speculation, to lead the way here and that clinical models constantly need to be reassessed and restructured in light of new evidence in order to provided ethical and safe treatment modalities for the general public.

 

 

Historically hypnosis has been difficult to define, principally because no one knows what exactly ‘it’ is. Is it a unique and special phenomenon, or is it a fairly mundane aspect of normal psychological and physiological functioning? Personally I believe that it is the latter and I would define hypnosis as any activity that leads to a switching over from sympathetic to parasympathetic nervous system functioning. Could it be that simple? I believe so, but then, maybe I’m just simple! Could it be a case of not being able to see the wood for the trees? People naturally assume that things have to be more complicated than they actually are. Perhaps the difficulty we have in defining hypnosis is due to the fact that it is such an ordinary and integral part of normal psychological functioning.

 

 

This brings us nicely to our explanation of why, other than for ethical reasons, most hypnotherapists aren’t going to manipulate clients into doing things that they don’t want to do, such as dance about like a chicken. Simply put, they can’t. If you wouldn’t do it in ordinary circumstances if asked, or even told, then you won’t do it in hypnosis. If two people are hungry and one suggests pizza, it is only if the other person agrees with the suggestion of pizza that he will then act on it. The fact of the matter is that if you could actually make people perform against their will, the chances are that everyone everywhere would be using hypnosis all the time to get what they want out of other people. While it’s true that some advertising practices attempt this, not everyone rushes out to buy everything that is ever advertised. This fact alone should serve as strong evidence that hypnosis is by no means an effective form of ‘mind control’, but can be used to facilitate change where change is already desired.

 

 

When looking at the subject of hypnosis and indeed the curious phenomena of so-called past-life regression and channelling, we would do well to remember the words of Occam’s razor. It states that the simplest of competing theories is preferable to the more complex, and that explanations of unknown phenomena be sought first in terms of known quantities. It’s a shame that there is so much hocus-pocus and absurd magical belief that surrounds hypnosis even in today’s world, as both hypnosis and guided imagery - even simple relaxation exercises - can be incredibly useful and effective therapeutic tools.

 

 

The problem with both past-life regression and channeling is that rather than tending to the original problem they add another element to it, and unnecessarily lead the client away from clarity and towards confusion. There is simply no therapeutic benefit to imagining that you were a famous historical figure or that you belong to some superior alien race. Any reported therapeutic benefit of such practices is more sensibly attributed to the mild ego-boost that comes from thinking that you were once famous and important, and the sense of control that comes from being able to ‘explain’ your current malaise. Any credible therapist knows full well that helping your client to improve their sense of self and increase their perception of control are two key pillars of successful psychotherapy, and that they can be achieved relatively easily and without the need for an irrational belief system.

 

 

Back to Blog Contents

Sebastian Eastwood is a psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, and counsellor in full-time private practice in Bristol, UK.

Submitting Form...

The server encountered an error.

Thanks! I'll get back to you as soon as I can...

© SEBASTIAN T. EASTWOOD-BLOOM 2018

The Bristol Psychotherapy

& Hypnotherapy Clinic

Home          Symptoms         Treatments         Reviews          About Seb          Fees          Location          Contact 

Sebastian Eastwood is a psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, and counsellor in full-time private practice in Bristol, UK.

The Bristol Psychotherapy

& Hypnotherapy Clinic

Sebastian Eastwood is a psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, and counsellor in full-time private practice in Bristol, UK.

Sebastian Eastwood is a psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, and counsellor in full-time private practice in Bristol, UK.

© SEBASTIAN T. EASTWOOD-BLOOM 2018

Sebastian Eastwood is a psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, and counsellor in full-time private practice in Bristol, UK.

the wacky world of hypnosis

 

 

As someone who occasionally uses hypnosis in clinical work I’m often asked if I do past-life regression, or if I channel spirits, or even make my clients dance about like chickens. The answer is of course: no, no, no (although there I go channeling the spirit of Amy Winehouse again)!

 

 

Let’s put ‘dancing like a chicken’ to one side for now. Any therapist who would attempt to make a client dance about like a chicken for personal enjoyment a) doesn’t understand the implications of context in the difference between stage hypnosis and clinical hypnosis and b) would of course be acting highly irresponsibly and unethically – even if it would be a hilarious stunt to pull off. I joke of course as to pull off such a stunt in a clinical setting would probably require some form of intimidation tactics. We will return to that matter later because the fear of being manipulated is a genuine and understandable concern for many people seeking hypnotherapy. For now though we’ll focus our attention on past-life regression and channelling.

 

 

Granted, only a fringe minority of so-called ‘hypnotherapists’ engage in these kinds of ‘alternative’ practices. I’d imagine that the vast majority of these individuals also do so out of a genuine belief in what they are doing. Sadly however they fail to appreciate the complex nature of human psychology, the unconscious mind, and the power of suggestion. Therefore, if you are in treatment with any such practitioner my advice would be to scarper, sharpish. Take it from me that whatever symptoms or emotional difficulties you’re having right now, the cause is very much in this lifetime, and in this dimension! There’s literally no need to go looking anywhere else for the causes of current problems, and doing so could indeed be very dangerous. Not because the effects of these practices are real, but because the effects can seem very compelling to the casual observer. Life can be a challenging experience. We humans are emotionally and psychologically complex beings and for this reason it’s actually very easy, and quite normal to develop occasional symptoms and to face emotional difficulties as a direct result of stuff happening, or that has happened, in this life.

 

 

Our brain can record a vast amount of information, and it records and stores more details than you are consciously aware of. While it may seem bizarre that some individuals appear to be able to speak a different language while under hypnosis, a phenomenon known as xenoglossy, it is by no means unusual or paranormal, given that the human brain is capable of profound and mind-boggling computational processes. It is little surprise to find that an apparent ‘alien’ language spoken under hypnosis matches perfectly, upon investigation, the dialogue of some extra-terrestrial characters from an early Star Trek episode.

 

 

In a similar way the effects of past-life regression are a form of cryptomnesia, which, in simple terms means unconscious or unintentional plagiarism. It is a form of memory bias – the recall of knowledge that you don’t remember originally experiencing or learning. Basically what this means is that a person can hear a story about a historical figure for example, and subsequently forget about the moment in which they heard the story. At a later date, while under hypnosis, they are then able to recall the details of the story without remembering the circumstances in which they heard it. This phenomenon is not exclusive to hypnosis, it happens all the time in daily life with thoughts, ideas, jokes, and so on. Musicians, for instance, frequently write songs only to be frustrated to discover that the song already exists. Interestingly in past-life regression, subjects tend to recall stories that mirror aspects of their real life. For those with a pre-existing spiritual or magical bent this appears compelling evidence that memory traces are past on through the soul as it reincarnates. To the critical thinker however it is simply evidence of how our brains, or more specifically our minds actually work – by association.

 

 

Memory is a very interesting and complex topic, and researchers are only just scratching the surface of how our memory functions. Technological developments have helped neuroscientists to take a closer look at the biological processes involved in memory storage and processing. The traditional memory model was that of the filing system. Memory was thought to function like a huge library in the brain. In the library were thought to be vast amounts of files that could be accessed if necessary, some being more difficult to retrieve than others. In this regard memory was thought to be stored somewhere in a fixed location. We now understand that memory retrieval is more of a generative process involving lots of different areas of the brain. Rather than retrieving a file from a single location, different aspects of the memory are drawn from different parts of the brain. The visual aspect of a memory comes from the visual cortex, the auditory aspect of memory comes from the auditory cortex and so on, with each part being draw from its corresponding location in order to assimilate a homogenous experience. For those wanting to explore the latest neuroscience of memory the excellent Brain Science Podcast has an episode you can find here. I caution that it is quite technical however but still worth a listen.

 

 

Memory is a prickly issue in the field of psychotherapy and hypnotherapy and it’s hugely important for practitioners to keep abreast of the latest scientific research being carried out. Debate rages on about the possibility of the human mind to repress experiences or whether all such experiences are false memories artificially created in therapy. What is clear is that while some irresponsible therapists are accountable when it comes to false memory creation, there are conversely a great number of practitioners who have considerable success working in the field of unconscious memory. The recently developed clinical process known as Coherence Therapy, formally Depth Oriented Brief Therapy, for example draws on the scientific research regarding implicit memory, otherwise referred to as unconscious emotional memory. It’s theoretical framework centres on neuroscientific research into a neurological activity known as memory reconsolidation – a process through which unconscious emotional learning schemas can be ‘rewired’ so as to cease having a negative effect.

 

 

An excellent, unbiased resource for researching the memory debate is the book Recovered Memories and False Memories edited by Martin A. Conway. The book consists of a collection of essays by scientists, psychologists, and psychotherapists exploring both sides of the debate in depth. It is by no means a casual read but I would think it makes for essential reading for anyone working in the field of psychotherapy. What the book demonstrates is that there is evidence to support both hypotheses. On the one hand it is indeed possible to create false memories in a test subject. On the other hand there have been documented cases in which corroborating evidence supports various instances of recovered memory. Like most academic arguments such as the ‘nature or nurture’ debate, this too will likely culminate in the accepted belief that both phenomena are in fact real and not mutually exclusive. What is however clear is that we need science, rather than speculation, to lead the way here and that clinical models constantly need to be reassessed and restructured in light of new evidence in order to provided ethical and safe treatment modalities for the general public.

 

 

Historically hypnosis has been difficult to define, principally because no one knows what exactly ‘it’ is. Is it a unique and special phenomenon, or is it a fairly mundane aspect of normal psychological and physiological functioning? Personally I believe that it is the latter and I would define hypnosis as any activity that leads to a switching over from sympathetic to parasympathetic nervous system functioning. Could it be that simple? I believe so, but then, maybe I’m just simple! Could it be a case of not being able to see the wood for the trees? People naturally assume that things have to be more complicated than they actually are. Perhaps the difficulty we have in defining hypnosis is due to the fact that it is such an ordinary and integral part of normal psychological functioning.

 

 

This brings us nicely to our explanation of why, other than for ethical reasons, most hypnotherapists aren’t going to manipulate clients into doing things that they don’t want to do, such as dance about like a chicken. Simply put, they can’t. If you wouldn’t do it in ordinary circumstances if asked, or even told, then you won’t do it in hypnosis. If two people are hungry and one suggests pizza, it is only if the other person agrees with the suggestion of pizza that he will then act on it. The fact of the matter is that if you could actually make people perform against their will, the chances are that everyone everywhere would be using hypnosis all the time to get what they want out of other people. While it’s true that some advertising practices attempt this, not everyone rushes out to buy everything that is ever advertised. This fact alone should serve as strong evidence that hypnosis is by no means an effective form of ‘mind control’, but can be used to facilitate change where change is already desired.

 

 

When looking at the subject of hypnosis and indeed the curious phenomena of so-called past-life regression and channelling, we would do well to remember the words of Occam’s razor. It states that the simplest of competing theories is preferable to the more complex, and that explanations of unknown phenomena be sought first in terms of known quantities. It’s a shame that there is so much hocus-pocus and absurd magical belief that surrounds hypnosis even in today’s world, as both hypnosis and guided imagery - even simple relaxation exercises - can be incredibly useful and effective therapeutic tools.

 

 

The problem with both past-life regression and channeling is that rather than tending to the original problem they add another element to it, and unnecessarily lead the client away from clarity and towards confusion. There is simply no therapeutic benefit to imagining that you were a famous historical figure or that you belong to some superior alien race. Any reported therapeutic benefit of such practices is more sensibly attributed to the mild ego-boost that comes from thinking that you were once famous and important, and the sense of control that comes from being able to ‘explain’ your current malaise. Any credible therapist knows full well that helping your client to improve their sense of self and increase their perception of control are two key pillars of successful psychotherapy, and that they can be achieved relatively easily and without the need for an irrational belief system.

 

 

Back to Blog Contents