Kevan Owen

Counselling, Hypnotherapy and Psychotherapy
The Bell Surgery, Chorlton, Manchester, M21 8AU & Trinity House Practice, 150 Cumberland Street, Macclesfield, SK10 1BP.
Tel:07717 289373


Hypnosis: The Elephant in the room

Posted by kevanowen on September 23, 2013 at 5:50 AM

There is an ancient teaching tale about an elephant that is exhibited in a dark room. Six men touch and feel the elephant in the dark and each one comes to a different conclusion regarding the true nature of the elephant.

The man who touches the trunk says that the elephant is like a snake; the one who touches the tusk likens it to a spear; the one who touches the side of the elephant’s body says no, it is like a wall; the one who touches the ear insists that it is like a fan, the one who touches the leg says it is more like a tree, and the one who feels the tail says it is a rope.

This is a good metaphor for the confusions that arise in the field of hypnosis. Most people are in the dark where hypnosis is concerned and only perceive a part of the picture: the association with sleep, the concept of a trance state, the perceived magical “power” of the hypnotist, the weird effects such as dissociation, hallucination, amnesia, time distortion and age-regression.

All of these are the individual parts of the elephant; they are not the whole animal. It is impossible to understand an elephant by examining only the trunk, the tusk, the flank, the ear, the legs or the tail. Focusing on just one part leads to misunderstanding.

To see the whole animal we have to take a step back and shine some light on the subject. Rather than getting confused by that word “hypnosis” it helps to turn the word back from an abstract noun to a verb or an adjective.

So we can talk about someone being “hypnotised” by a very engaging movie or by a charismatic speaker. Or we can describe a piece of music as being very “hypnotic”. We all know what we mean by this: something or someone has captured our attention so that our focus of attention has been narrowed right down to that one thing and we might temporarily become unaware of everything else that is taking place at that moment.

Hypnosis is a word or label that we use for the deliberate utilisation of innate mental faculties: the ability to focus on our internal experience, to engage with a particular idea, feeling or sensation (or conversely to dis-engage from an idea, feeling or sensation), to imaginatively paint a picture in our mind, to recall a past event or fanaticize about situation in the future. These are natural abilities that we all possess.

Hypnotherapy is the utilisation of these innate abilities in the context of therapeutic conversations. What distinguishes a hypno-therapeutic conversation from an ordinary conversation is the deliberate use of these innate abilities in a way that is designed to enhance therapeutic change.

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