Hypnosis is a term used to describe a non-ordinary state of consciousness that allows clients to respond to suggestion with higher than normal receptivity. All hypnosis is self-hypnosis. Hypnosis is a state that can spontaneously come about for a person or it is a state that can be self-induced or induced with the help of a facilitator or hypnotherapist.
Hypnotherapy is the practice of therapy that takes place in the non-ordinary state of hypnotic consciousness. Hypnotherapy directly engages the client's conscious and subconscious mind in the process of doing therapy. The hypnotherapy process is usually interactive and involves verbal and non-verbal communications between the client and hypnotherapist while the client is in the hypnotic state. Most therapeutic work is greatly enhanced while clients are in a hypnotic state because they are able to access information, healing, creativity, memories and insight that is not normally available when in the waking conscious state. Change is facilitated from within the clients in hypnotherapy; it is inwardly generated and intrinsic to the clients themselves. The hypnotherapist is responsible for having the tools and skills to assist the clients in helping themselves, which minimizes the often incorrectly perceived "power" the therapist has over the client.
By engaging a transpersonal or spiritual focus in hypnotherapy the client's personal transformation can be supported even further. By invoking and accessing the client's higher Self or the wisest transcendent aspect of consciousness, clients are also able to access expanded states of consciousness similar to those experienced in meditation or in profound states of presence: states when the egoic or self- involved consciousness is transcended or simply out of the way. Through these transpersonal states of consciousness, healing and profound change can take place, often fairly effortlessly. Clients report that these expanded states of consciousness change them in lasting positive ways. Clients realize that, for instance, they have pain, but are not the pain. They can potentially experience themselves as spiritual in essence: as a spiritual being having a human experience of pain. From these hypnotically accessed transcendent states, clients begin to have a new sense of self and a new way of relating to the challenges of their lives. They become dis-identified from their stories and the previously perceived roles they have played in their lives. Their consciousness is expanded along with an expanded sense of Self.
Hypnotherapy as a Spiritual Practice
I became a transpersonal psychotherapist because of my interest and passion for being able to work with people's consciousness to promote change, healing, and transformation. As a client of hypnotherapy, a long-time practitioner of self-hypnosis, and as a hypnotherapist who has facilitated over 20,000 hypnotic sessions, I have years and years of experience of directly knowing the profound and lasting effects of hypnotherapeutic work. I have discovered over and over that facilitating a transpersonal form of hypnotherapy is a spiritual practice for both the client and the hypnotherapist. In hypnotherapy we can learn to access and utilize expanded states of consciousness directly, at will, and for support of a variety of personal goals and purposes. The process of being in an expanded state is just as healing and significant in supporting change as is directing the state of consciousness towards a therapeutic personal goal or outcome.
As the client being in the hypnotic state, accessing the higher Self awareness becomes a profound teacher of how our consciousness works to create our realities. These hypnotic states also become vehicles through which we can re-create our realities. As the hypnotherapist you are often in a expanded state of profound presence entrained and aligned with the client's state of consciousness. The art of guiding a client's process is to be so present that you are out of your own way and accessing your own higher Self as the hypnotic guide, The practice of hypnotherapy, both as a client and as a hypnotherapist, then, becomes another form of a spiritual practice that puts us directly in touch with our spiritual nature and how our consciousness creates the forms and structures of our lives.
In this dissertation I will show how this spiritual awareness and presence can be cultivated as a spiritual practice by working with many of the intrinsic energetic principles that are naturally there as a part of hypnotherapy. These principles and precepts are also naturally mirrored in Taoist philosophy. I will show how Taoist precepts are naturally intrinsic working with hypnotherapy as a spiritual practice.
The Higher Self and How it is Accessed and Utilized in Hypnotherapy
Throughout the history of hypnosis, and since the first psychological theories of Sigmund Freud, we have understood that there are two aspects of consciousness that come into play in the hypnotic process: the conscious and the subconscious (or unconscious, as Jung referred to it ). With the work of Roberto Assiogoli and the birth of transpersonal psychology, however, there emerged an acknowledgement of a third aspect of consciousness: the higher Self, or the transcendent aspect of consciousness.
The higher Self, a spiritual, wise, and infinite aspect of our consciousness, can be directly accessed and engaged as the inner therapist/healer in the hypnotherapy process. It is an aspect of human consciousness that goes beyond our waking, ordinary ego consciousness that embodies, presents or can access certain wisdom not experienced in normal consciousness. 1 (Alexander, 11)
Arthur Hastings, a professor of transpersonal psychology states:
...the higher Self is said to be a distinct part or function of the individual. It is an entity in itself, with consciousness or awareness like the ego, and it is assumed to be a part of everyone. It witnesses the person's experiences. It is non punitive, objective, and non-judgmental. Its orientation is towards higher values, life purpose, healthy emotional and mental development, and spiritual qualities. 2 (Hastings, 180)
Willis Harman believes that in all major religious and mystical traditions there is a parallel wisdom that a necessary component of being human is an impetus for the inner search of higher Self:
In studies of comparative religion it appears that, besides the many exoteric forms, there is within any of the major traditions an esoteric or "inner circle" form, which is essentially the same for all traditions. This "perennial wisdom" seems to recommend an inner search involving some sort of meditative or yogic discipline, and discovery and identification with, a "higher" or "true" Self3 (Harman, 34)
The Tao never does anything,
yet through it all things are done.
If powerful men and women
could center themselves in it,
The whole world would be transformed
by itself, in its natural rhythms.
People would be content
with their simple lives,
in harmony, free of desire.
When there is no desire,
all things are at peace.
Taoism and Hypnotherapy
As a student of many spiritual traditions and as a practitioner who combines spiritual practices while working with clients, I have observed that many of the tenets of Taoism are at play in the process of working with the higher Self in hypnotherapy. The proverbial Taoist concept of "going with the flow" underlies all the of the hypnotherapy process I use with clients and teach to hypnotherapists. As I discuss specific Taoist concepts and show how they support, and at times determine, the structure and evolution of hypnotherapy sessions, I will weave in quotes from the Tao de Ching that teach the concepts.
It must also be stated that writing about Taoism is difficult and paradoxical because, as
stated in the first line of book One in the Tao de Ching, "The Tao that can be told, is not the eternal Tao" 4. (Feng, English, line 1) Words are too limiting in trying to capture the essence of the Tao; rather the Tao is to be lived and experienced. I have had years of learning about and living the Tao through the practice of presence in the non-ordinary and mystical states accessed in hypnotherapy. I will show how the practice of hypnotherapy brings to life the philosophy and spiritual practice of Taoism of "going with the flow" and how accessing the higher Self brings wisdom, healing and an expansion of consciousness to both the client and the practitioner. Simply being in the state of consciousness of presence while accessing the inner wisdom of the higher self is expanding and healing and many times results in an expansion of consciousness for all involved.
1 Karen Alexander, Defining the Higher Self: A Theoretical Model and Techniques.
PhD dissertation., Rosebridge Graduate School of Integrative Psychology, 1994
2 Arthur Hastings, With the Tongues of Men and Angels, San Francisco: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1991
3 Willis Harman, A Re-examination of the Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Science, Sausalito, CA: Institute of Noetic Sciences, 1991
4 Tao de Ching. Translated by Stephen Mitchell, New York: First Harper Perennial Edition,1991.
5 Tao de Ching. Translated by Gai-Fu Feng and Jane English, New York: Random House Publisher, 1972.