Hypnosis as therapy: esotericism or science?

Hypnosis as therapy: esotericism or science?


Formerly it was believed that hypnosis was charlatanism: esoteric people who manipulated a pendulum. Larissa Warneck wanted to experience the effect of this therapy.

Michael Teut is the medical and homeopath chief of the Department of Natural Medicine of the Charité University Clinic in Berlin. He is also a hypnotist. “Many patients come to me, because they are stressed or exhausted, they want to relax, discover other perspectives and activate their inner sources of energy with the help of hypnosis.” This therapy can be used to stop smoking, against the syndrome irritable bowel syndrome, pain, problems in nursing, to support changes in diet or “to reduce fear of operations and increase self-confidence”.

Start my experiment

Teut asked me the reason for my appointment. “I eat my nails sometimes.” Normally, a session to end problems is not usually enough, he assured me, I must concentrate on my breathing, on the noises, thoughts and feelings, as if they were clouds passing by my side. and they allow me to “let go and free me,” the voice told me. Every time I feel in a deeper trance, as if I were going to fall asleep. Everything seems very distant, although I can feel my body and hear noises.

In my brain there are some very curious processes. Researchers have shown with imaging techniques that the brain reduces its activity during hypnosis. The electroencephalogram (EEG) shows the rapid brain frequencies while we are awake, the so-called beta waves. If we close our eyes, the body relaxes and our exciting world disappears. And the EEG signals another type of waves.

“In hypnosis, neuronal activity decreases and that is reflected in the EEG through alpha and theta waves,” explained Wolfgang Miltner, Professor of Clinical Psychology at the Friedrich Schiller University in Jena: “The lower the frequency of EGG, the stronger the trance state will be “.

The trance is nothing special, added Teut: “The trance state is known by most people but it is not aware of it, for example, if we are sitting in a train, we look out the window and see how the landscape our eyes, the look clouds at some point and one begins to dream, that’s also a way to go into a trance. “

A red knot in my stomach

Step by step, the voice encourages me to relax more and more, to get rid of the things that stop me and to sit in my “favorite place”, in a large window with sunlight, in a clear room with a light breeze.

“And now I ask you to remember a situation in which what you want to change happened,” the voice says and I feel my heart start to beat and I’m cold. “When I’m stressed,” I hear myself say. “So I get rid of excess energy.” “Where does that energy come from?” The expert asks me. “From the stomach”, I respond and I notice that a knot forms just in that area.

“And what color is the knot?” The voice asks. “Red,” I say automatically. “Think what that knot would need to get rid of.” I would have to breathe a little, I breathe again and again deeply until the tension dissipates. “What color is relaxation?” “Light yellow,” I reply again, “Let yourself be carried away by that light yellow,” the voice recommends. Now I can join the big toe and the thumb to deepen and intensify the feeling of relaxation.

What will happen in our brain?

This recommendation is a suggestion. A process by which the person in a trance is receptive and their feelings, behaviors and thoughts are accompanied by a therapist.

“Suggestion actually influences the brain regions responsible for certain tasks, the brain acts during hypnosis as directed,” Miltner explained, and this researcher and his team are studying the effect of hypnosis in people with pain in Jena. The experiment was asked, through hypnosis, to people with finger pains who imagined that they put their hand in a glove with a refreshing gel.The images showed that “there was a reduction in activity in the somatosensory cortex “, that is, that” they did not perceive the pain stimulus “. Miltner added that “with the suggestion the hypothalamus is activated, this is like a director of our state of neurological activity, it is a structure that allows us to breathe more slowly and lower our blood pressure.

Unfounded fear

I feel calm and my pulse has normalized. The hypnotist recommends me to repeat this exercise and join the big toe and forefinger as a relaxation exercise, because “the body automatically remembers and relaxes more deeply.” When I wake up, everything seems noisier and brighter My vision is still blurred “What an incredible experience”, I say.

The uneasiness I had before the session has disappeared. The fear of losing control I did not feel. Teut explained to me that in “the trance state is for the patient and the therapist to work together”, that is, “there is no loss of control in medical hypnosis”.

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