Article from Hong Kong Ecomonic Times
Feature, English Street. 7th September, 2004
What is hypnotherapy? You might recall
Tony Leung working undercover and psychologist Kelly Chan in the movie
infernal Affairs III? Yes, hypnosis-related films are getting more
and more popular thee days in Hong Kong. However, the trend doesn't
help people to understand hypnosis and hypnotherapy. As a matter of
fact, there are still many misconceptions and mixed messages sent
out by the media. For example, do people still associate hypnosis
with a pocket watch swaying on a chain? Or how many think that a hypnotized
person cannot remember what they have said or done during their hypnotic
state? Well, these common myths sound familiar. Last Tuesday, ES visited
an authorized hypnotherapist, Lien Zun, who is also chairman of Hong
Kong Guild of Hypnotherapists and Psychotherapists. Let's learn more
about the power of a mysterious profession.
Open your mind to hypnotherapy
Before we go too far, let's first
try to understand what hypnosis is. According to the Cambridge Advanced
Learner's Dictionary, hypnosis is defined as“a sleep-like mental state
in which a person's thoughts can be easily influenced by someone else.”
Yes, in other words, every one of us has actually experienced the
state of hypnosis to a greater or lesser degree. Have you ever paid
close attention to that period before you fall into a deep sleep?
You know exactly what is on your mind at the time, but it seems you
cannot control what you are thinking. The thoughts in your mind are
not so logical as they are basically just fragmented bits of information.
This is exactly what hypnosis is. So, what has hypnosis got to do
with the subconscious? While our conscious minds“take a rest”, our
subconscious minds assume the leading role. In such circumstance,
we can remember things that we have long forgotten or failed to take
For example: do you remember whether or not the 10th person you saw
this morning was a male or female? You may not be able to answer the
question now because you don't remember; You might, however, come
up with the answer while hypnotized. Is this a memory of something
that really happened or is it just a recreation staged by your imagination
(as some theories suggest)? Whatever the case might be, something
come out of your subconscious. How does hypnosis work? Here is another
example from Lien Zun:“it is actually like listening to music; you
don’t attend to remember the lyrics but you can remember them after
repeatedly listening to the song.” So, now, we pretty well understand
how hypnosis works; let's move on to hypnotherapy. What is it and
what does it do to or for whom?
Hypnotherapy is a type of psychotherapy
used to help patients overcome difficulties or obstacles through a
state of hypnosis. Hypnosis has been found to be effective in treating
a variety of problems that hinge on emotional disturbances, unbreakable
habits and even the body's involuntary responses. It is aid that the
therapy is also helpful in combating anxiety, tension, depression,
phobias and obsessive compulsions. Now, many studies have found that
the therapy can contribute to helping people who wish to break an
addition to smoking, alcohol or drugs. For example, if a peron is
suffering from, say, post trauma distress syndrome (PTDS) the therapist
till try to help the patient to travel back to a particular incident
in the past and “change” it.
“Of course, what is meant here is
not virtual change. In fact, we only help them (the patient) to accept
the truth, to look at the particular incident from an alternative
perspective,”says Lien. Yes, hypnotherapy certainly seems magical
but, according to all the professional evidence, treatment by hypnotherapy
cannot cure underlying physical disorders such as cancer, heart disease,
or a physical infection of some sort.
case study—quitting smoking
Lien offers us a case study on“quitting smoking”. What is the prognosis
for a smoker intent on stopping his tobacco habit via hypnotherapy?
Lien says the therapist's job should first define the motivation of
a particular individual. What was their motivation for taking up smoking
in the first place? Was it peer pressure or did the smoking habit
run in the family? And why do they want it quit now? Is their motivation
due to health worries or social concerns for the people around them?
Is it because of a ban in the workplace or office?
Motivation is the key that helps therapists
study and “cure” their patients, because it is important for the hypnotized
person to understand why they have chosen such treatment. Then, the
therapists will ask them to picture what us going on after they quit
smoking. The patients will be placed in a relaxing hypnosis and the
therapist will start telling a story and ask them to follow it. Normally,
it takes about 10-20 minutes for the patient to reach a state of relaxed
hypnosis. At that stage, most hypnotized people can accept words from
the therapist, more easily, though Lien said that not everyone can
be hypnotized. About five per cent of people are unable to focus.
“They just can't focus. Their conscious mind is too weak,”he says.
“Some people cannot understand or
accept that a person with a strong conscious mind will find it hard
to become hypnotized because they cannot easily enter their subconscious
state,” says Lien, “This is not true. People with a weak conscious
mind find it hard to become hypnotized because some of them don't
even know what they want; when their motivation is blurred, it is
hard for us to conduct the treatment.”
Misled by the media
The media has definitely created a narrow-minded view of hypnosis.
Lien says we still think of the chain, watch and eye contact as being
wholly associated with hypnosis. In fact, they are only tools that
help us to focus on the subconscious state. As stated, more movies
thee days depict hypnosis as being like the swinging watch movement.
However, these are just fantasies more than reality, despite the fact
that a real hypnotic theory exists. “It is good that more people know
about hypnosis; however, it often means more people are just going
to receive misinformation,” he says. When we hear the word hypnosis,
we probably think the person just seems to be unconscious, just answering
what the therapist question.”
This is also another myth. If you
have ever watched the Hollywood movie, The Butterfly Effect, you may
wonder if Evan, a problem child with short-term memory, really totally
forgot what he had done after being hypnotized by a therapist. In
fact, a person who is hypnotized knows exactly what they are doing.
They consciously understand what the therapist is asking them. They
can even ask questions during the process.
A past-life hypothesis is mysterious indeed. Lien says that some people
believe that their existing problem is due to an unresolved problem
in a past life. He says all hypnotherapists have different religions,
some believe in it and some don't; however, all in all, therapists
will base their data on information offered by the patient and try
to track the problem back, regardless of whether they tend to believe
that their patient's problem came from this life or another. The treatment
is all basically the same.