One term that has a general reputation that you don’t associate with hypnosis training is the term “hallucination”. You may associate it with the more crude versions of “mindcontrol” or covert control over someone else. But, generally, people do not want to be known to be hallucinating, or inducing hallucinatory experiences in others, since the term has elements of delusion or even mental instability associated with it. Hypnosis training, however, uses a form of “hallucination” to affect changes on the level of the mind body that is both harmless and quite pleasant to experience, and clinically very useful and practical.
“Positive Hallucinations” refer to your experiencing something that is “not there” in the real objective sense. This will often occur in your everyday reality but these experiences can be “supercharged” during a guided session. Conventionally, a positive hallucination can be especially prevalent if you are expecting something or anticipating something occurring.
For example, if a friend says he’ll be over at 8pm, you may begin to hear things as the hour approaches. If you are expecting a parcel delivered to your door, you may imagine footsteps or human activity around your door that isn’t actually there. You may run to the door a few times feeling certain that a car has pulled up outside or that you heard footsteps in your walkway or hallway. If you feel you are coming down with some kind of cold, you may imagine seeing spots or changes in skin tone that are objectively not there.
The condition of body dysmorphia, has elements of hallucination associated with it, but this is a separate and much more complicated psychological condition than what I am describing here.
These are all examples of “positive hallucinations”, and gives clear evidence of the powerof our imagination to stimulate our desires or wishes, or in the case of dysmorphia, our worse fears. If it is not a psychological condition that will or can escalate, then often it is harmless; there is nothing here that would concern a doctor. If a meeting seems important or significant, if it’s a passionately awaited lover or a child whose welfare concerns you, the “hallucinations” may grow stronger as time actually passes. So intense is your expectation or anticipation that you may hear a knock at the door or a bell ring. You may appear to see headlights flashing on the wall or detect a whiff of your lovers perfume or sense their pheromones in your environment.
However, the power of hallucinations can also be negatively experienced. A negative hallucination occurs when you are NOT sensing or experiencing something that is there in the objective or material world. You can induce these experiences hypnotically, or experience them in your everyday reality. They will commonly occur when you’re deeply involved in something. A person, such as a parent may speak to you repeatedly, and if you wish they were not there, you may tune out every word and literally not hear them. Students will sometimes not hear a teacher’s prompting if they resent being in the class of that teacher or wish they were somewhere else than in the classroom.
These are examples of negative audio hallucinations. Or you may look everywhere for a fountain pen or a set of keys that is front of you, that you unwittingly can’t see. Or you may walk past your car in the parking lot, perhaps wishing your car was a different one, or wanting subconsciously to delay the experience of driving home in the dark or in the cold or to extend an evening with someone who’s company you are enjoying. You may simply be distracted for no reason, or just tired.
So for something like pain control or pain management using hypnosis, you would want to encourage someone to NOT feel a tactile sensation that actually does exist or to minimize its sensory input. You would imagine that the pain of an afflicted area is not actually there or is lessening, shifting, waning, etc. One way to explain this techniqueis to reference positive or negative hallucinations in the conventional sense as I have already described. For pain control, the power of the imagination is as much about what we tell ourselves about the pain, how we think of it, how much power or influence, or attention we give it in contrast to other stimuli as the sensation itself: So there is much more than simply stating to oneself “My leg hurts” or “I have a toothache” in how we respond to pain. There is a complex “narrative” going on with any pain which is often below the conscious level of the person’s awareness.
A hypnotherapist would prompt the subject with an array of highly specific questions about the pain sensation to have the subject gain more control over it and to make then arrative more conscious and better understood. As well, the hypnosis approach does not reduce the sensation to one “sense”: involving one type of pain only. The subject is asked to describe the pain, give it a location, a temporal spatial description, a colour, a sound, a specific image and to regard the pain as something that lives and breathes and like a jellyfish or an insect has motility and intentionality. So a stubbed toe is not just a dull blunt pain but something that is moving, morphing, living and breathing on the end of your foot. I also encourage subjects to describe the “no pain” sensation in a similar way, to help identify that the pain is not the only awareness going on at any given time that there are vast spaces in and on the body where “no pain” exists and that those areas can be focused on and intensified.
In hypnosis training, the images are often “stacked”, using – “VAKOG” - which is input in all the sensory apparatus simultaneously: visual, auditory, kinaesthetic, olfactory and gustatory sensory modes. Other influences including caressing or soothing a body part, deep breathing, the shift of body positions, temperature around the skin, the input of cold or heat all influence the condition over time. With practice, the notion of “hallucinating” transforms from something that is regarded suspiciously, to something that can be embraced as an aspect of one’s innate creativity and creative intelligence - allowing us to overcome and triumph over situational difficulties and adversity.
Rick Vassallo is a metaphysical 'change agent', using deep tissue massage, reflexology, energy and sound therapy, hypno/psychotherapy, brain wave technologies, contemplative spirituality teachings as 'modules’ for change. Rick is trained in theater, has a 4 year degree from York University. He is a transpersonal psychotherapist, since 2005 from the Transpersonal Therapy Center in Toronto, and is a certified Hypnotherapist through the Ontario Hypnosis Center.