sacred dreamwork

I’m on a train. Several extended family members (all deceased relatives who have died during different periods of my life) enter through doors, but not all at once. Some are already seated, while others enter through different train doors on the same long train car. We quietly acknowledge each other. The train is moving again. Some prepare to exit as the train approaches its next stop. Then, they begin to leave, some together, some solo, getting off at different stops, exiting through different doors. I am not going with them. I do not protest. After all, I know they are dead. I have my own stop, my own door. I have some awareness that I am dreaming.

In both November 2016 and 2017, conscious chimera turned attention toward some aspect of visitation dreams, shrine/altar-making, or contact with the deceased. This makes sense given the time of year. So now, as the month of the dead wraps up for 2018, attention returns to these phenomena. Above, is one of a handful of easily recalled visitation dreams that contain several of my deceased relatives all together, in the same dream space.

From my research, I learned that visitation dreams most often arise in the context of major life transitions and loss (e.g. bereaved individuals as well as those in the dying process). Jeanne Van Bronkhorst’s book Dreams at the threshold: Guidance, comfort and healing at the end of life (2015) is a notable example, providing rich information about visitations reported among these groups. The Canadian author, who worked as a hospice social worker and bereavement counselor, describes how visitation dreams bring comfort to the bereaved as well as confidence to those who are moving toward death.

In 2011, Patrick McNamara authored a Psychology Today article titled Visitation dreams: Can dreams carry messages from loved-ones who have died? McNamara shares his own experiences with visitation dreams of his parents. Each dream occurred about 6 months after each death. Even with his strong Western scientific background, he “could not shake the conviction” that true communication between he and his dead mother and father took place. Like many researchers and scholars of dreams, McNamara is aware of how little research has been carried out on this topic, all the while knowing that these types of dreams can be very helpful. He states that experiencing a visitation dream can carry a bereaved person to “successful resolution of the grieving process.”

What can one make of a visitation dream outside of bereavement or end-of-life concerns? One commonality among the visitation dreams reported by those grieving, near death, and others (who are not experiencing grief or loss) is the appearance of, along with some form of communication with, the deceased. In such cases, the deceased individual often appears more youthful and in good health. After a neighbor-acquaintance had died, he greeted me in a dream. Effortlessly moving toward me, his body was in better shape than it had been the last time I saw him alive. His essence felt light and jovial.

Another commonality among the visitation dreams of those grieving, near death, and others is that the dream structure is organized and clear. This was the case for my neighborly visitation dream, along with other visitation dreams I have experienced. None have been outlandish, disorganized, or outrageous.

While these sorts of experiences may imply a broad spiritual perspective and a conviction of after-life realities for many bereaved individuals, they may also offer the same for those not experiencing any kind of grief or loss, or those outside of deprived conditions. My neighbors dream visit served as a reminder that there is much more to see (and sense) than our physical eyes can show us. A vivid dream visitation has the potential to impact anyone! As conscious, soulful beings, these visitations can open doors and change lives.

What can be done so that meaningful dreams become more than a distant, fading memory? Having over a dozen books (perhaps even over two dozen) published on various aspects, traditions, and perspectives on dreams and dreaming, Robert Moss is known to assert, “dreams require action” – A motto by which he lives. Having learned img_2801much from his time with Iroquois, Moss writes that tending to dreams was the first order of the day for the community. Whether grief is resolved or unresolved, visitation dreams, like all big dreams, require action. We can honor our dreams and those that visit us in many ways.

A most basic, yet important way, is to document our dreams and title them. This can be done in a fancy journal or on a simple notepad, or even with a smart phone voice memo app. In addition, we may even decide to share them with others.

As an artist, I really enjoy getting creative with actions prompted by a dream. Making small altars or shrines (or adding to an already existing one) is a favorite. It is a popular as well as traditional action throughout November, especially. Altar-making allows for photos of our dream visitors to be displayed and embellished. Altars and shrines also provide a space to hold objects that may have once belonged to the deceased, as well as items the deceased favors. This space can act as a place to pray, remember, or meditate.

In a ‘working’ altar, these objects and items can be fresh flowers, water, and food, for example. Some even leave alcohol and cigarettes at the altar. In caring for any ‘working’ IMG_1883shrine or altar, it is necessary to keep the space clean and to replace foods, water, and flowers daily-to-weekly. By honoring deceased loved ones in this way, it is like we are making the statement that the relationship is important no matter on what side of the veil we exist, and that we appreciate such dream visits. Furthermore, such action and attention may prompt additional, similar dreams.

Whether we are actively grieving, aware that we are near the end of our own life, or in neither of those places at the present moment, a space exists to turn our attention toward the journey of the soul. I consider this kind of dreamwork as sacred. Truly, it is a way of life.

 

I hope your November dream-life was meaningful and memorable.

Kim

dream theory

 

For the month of November, Conscious Chimera is featuring a recent article written by Roshan Fernandez and Sarah Young of Monte Vista High School. This article appears in El Estoque, a publication of Monte Vista High School (Cupertino, CA), and includes interviews of IASD board members, myself included. I hope you enjoy the article – I think they did a fantastic job.

 

Dream Theory

Experts interpret the meaning and importance of dreams

Roshan Fernandez and Sarah Young
October 24, 2018

When she found herself wondering whether her relationship was healthy, whether there would be a future, she turned to an unlikely source for guidance: her dreams.

“I asked [myself] when I was asleep, ‘Dreaming mind, show me what I need to know about this situation.’ And then in the dream, my boyfriend at the time was driving unsafely in the car, and [he] brought us to our home, which was a barren shack. And there was a little more detail, but that helped me think, ‘Ok I’m being cared for or driven in an unsafe manner to a place with nothing.’ And that’s all I needed to know.”

Dr. Kimberly Mascaro, a board member for the International Association for the Study of Dreams (IASD), cited this anecdote from her personal life as a way of explaining how dreams can be helpful. In addition to the scenario above, she explains that dreams have helped her make important decisions about her career.

But beyond the helpful aspect of dreams, Mascaro’s interest has shifted towards the field of extraordinary dreams, a category which includes the more unusual types of dreaming. Among these are precognitive dreams, which is when one dreams of an event that may happen in the future. Though there is anecdotal evidence that people may foresee extreme catastrophes in their dreams, she says precognitive dreams are usually more mellow.

“[Some] people saw 9/11 in their dreams before it happened and they couldn’t make sense of the event, they just did not understand what they were seeing,” Mascaro said. “[But] what we find is in precognitive dreams is usually … basic stuff like … the wrong package being delivered to your door. It’s really benign stuff like that.”

The science behind precognitive dreams is still unclear, but Mascaro believes the answers lie within theoretical physics. Research in this field can help explain how a dream can predict a future event.

“We contemporary Westerners really only have one understanding of time, which is very linear,” Mascaro said. “Other cultures have a different understanding of time which is not linear — it may be a sort of circle or something like that.”

Although precognitive dreams have not been clearly defined, Mascaro explains that it’s still important to pursue research in these types of fields and emphasizes the the importance of paying attention to one’s dreams. Her IASD colleague, Athena Kolinski, expands on this, explaining that one dreams about the things that are important to them.

“Your intuition speaks to you from whatever you know and whatever you understand,” Kolinski said. “So as you gain more information on these subjects, it can speak to you, sending you symbols [through your dreams].”

In order to put those pieces together, the IASD holds conferences that attract people from all over the world. Through both an annual conference as well as numerous regional conferences, people have the opportunity to delve deeper into the different areas of dreams through seminars, workshops and presentations. These conferences are held across the world, including past events in Anaheim, Calif., Scottsdale, Ariz. and the 2019 conference will be held in the Netherlands.

Personally, Kolinski enjoys workshops where people share their dreams and the entire group discusses them. She emphasizes, however, that nobody else has the right to definitively tell someone what their dream means –– they can only offer their opinion.

“The dreamer is always the ultimate authority of their dream, so nobody has the right to say ‘this is what your dream means absolutely,’ that’s not how it works,” Kolinski said.

Even when someone else is sharing their dream, Kolinski says that she is still gaining something from it. Because we all have different ideas about the way the world works, she says hearing someone else’s point of view is beneficial.

“When we’re hearing a dream, we’re interpreting it from what we know in our own mind,” Kolinski said. “When I or anybody gives an example of what the dream means, we have to own our projection, so we have to say ‘If this were my dream, I think it means ‘blank.’”

Dr. Angel Morgan, another member of the IASD, is a firm believer in what she calls ‘dream circles.’ With a group of people listening, the dreamer explains their dream and the others listen, reflecting on what they believe it means. According to Morgan, these can be powerful interactions that really help the dreamer gain understanding. She recalls a particular example, where the group was re-enacting the scene of a girl’s nightmare.

“She had a dream that a troll and a dragon were chasing her around a coffee table … so she cast a boy in the group as the dragon and a girl in the group as a troll. I asked her how she felt, and she said I feel scared, I feel helpless, I feel silly,” Morgan said. “And I said why don’t you turn around and chase them, and she said OK. And [after that] they all started laughing because it was funny, and it just made her feel so much better about the dream.”

This kind of ‘therapy’ seems to be helpful, but one thing the IASD discourages is dream dictionaries. These are books that people may reference to find the meaning of particular symbols that appear in their dreams. Morgan and Kolinski encourage group discussion, as opposed to referencing a dream dictionary, because every person’s mind works in a different way.

“Say for instance, you dream of a rose. And then the dream book says its about love and fertility, so you’re already set in that that’s what it means. But the reality is, what if I’m dreaming about a rose, and the rose reminds me of my grandmother named Rose,” Kolinski said. “So we always need to look at the personal meaning, not just what happens in our dream but deeper, what is that symbol connecting us to, what is it saying. That’s something only you know.”

Dr. Steven Nouriani agrees with this as a practicing psychotherapist. He believes that dreams have multiple layers to them, originating from an individual’s life and relationships and stemming from the state of unconsciousness.

“There’s this whole theoretical model that we have [an] unconscious and [a] conscious,” Nouriani said. “We believe dreams come from … the unconscious — the psyche is [constantly] trying to balance our consciousness with our unconsciousness.”

Nouriani follows the Jungian belief, a way of thinking that emphasizes the individual psyche and personal quest for wholeness. Following this, dreams reflect the unconscious and internal conflicts. When he hears a client’s dream, Nouriani takes a deeper look at the symbols from a Jungian perspective.

“Jungians have an amplification method in which we go beyond the symbols and try to apply what we know about mythology and fairytales and culture,” Nouriani said. “So, for example, the dog [symbol] can have different stories in fairy tales or mythology, and then we bring these other kind of associations at the cultural level to understand what other meanings these symbols might have.”

Similar to Kolinski, Nouriani looks for symbols in dreams and what these symbols mean to the individual.

“No two dreams are alike; they are always different,” Nouriani said. “The same way that your thumbprint is different from someone else’s — you have the same thumb as other people but the thumb print is still different, and so you have to have a certain level of expertise to decipher the meaning.”

One thing all of these experts share in common is they all encourage individuals to record their dreams and think about their meaning. With dreams being so intrinsically connected to the unique individual, Kolinski, Mascaro, Morgan and Nouriani are there to provide guidance, but never insert meaning.

“We all believe dreams are just there and we can understand them — we have to work with the person to understand,” Nouriani said. “It’s good for people to be interested in dreams because they constantly try to help us be more conscious; I encourage everyone to pay attention to their dreams and wonder what they mean. They help us grow and they help us develop.”

 

Many blessings this Samhain, Day of the Dead, All Soul’s Day & All Saint’s Day,

Kim

my IASD conference experience

Last week, I returned from the 35th annual conference of the IASD, that is, the International Association for the Study of Dreams, which was held in Arizona this year. img_1928IASD conferences hold a special place in my heart, not only for the cutting-edge workshops and research presentations (such as Dr. Krippner’s shown here), but also for the soulful attendees as well. To spend 5 days with a large group of professionals, who hold such love for dreams and dreaming, is precious indeed. The interdisciplinary inclusion really makes these events special. Discussing dream research and holding space for dreamwork processes with so many psychologists, anthropologists, students, physicians, authors, psychiatrists, artists, psychotherapists and other healers is a true learning experience. It was img_1918also exciting to deliver a workshop and share my recently published book, Extraordinary Dreams, with people from all over the world – those I only get to see once a year. And while I have been attending IASD conferences since 2012, this year I became a Board member. There will be much to learn in this new position.

Something I habitually do before departing for an IASD conference is to chose a recent ‘big’ dream that I will focus on or work with during dreamwork process workshops. One year, for example, I chose a memorable tornado dream, and this year, I chose my most recent, which has turned out to be the most potent, mountain lion dream. While I gain a great deal of intellectual stimulation from the research presentations, it is the dreamwork sessions that leave me relating to my ‘big’ dreams much more deeply than before I arrived. They help me to keep the evolving relationship with the dream characters alive and come to deeper levels of meaning.

Many art-centered dream workshops I have attended, and loved, include two dimensional creations, such as, creative writing, drawing, painting, collage. This year, there was one workshop I attended that incorporated a three dimensional quality. The workshop leader brought 3-D pieces (woodscraps, beads, pipecleaners, sticks, tissue paper), and with these, the attendees were asked to create the dream or reflect dream characters three-dimensionally. This made a real difference for me because I could show others aspects of my mountain lion dream in ways that were difficult two-dimensionally. What’s more, I could move the pieces around when needed. This allowed me to ‘communicate’ in ways I had not been able to before and helped me to understand the greater ‘constellation’ of the dream in a new way.

Sometimes, we may not be able to find the time to create 3-D objects of all dream characters from scratch, but we may be able to use other 3-D objects already at hand, such as children’s toys lying around the house (or the therapy office for those of us that work with children). Small dolls, stuffed animals, Lego figurines, etc. can take the place of hand-made objects. This can be beneficial to the dreamer, who may not have access to other means of exploring dreams in 3-D space, such as in group work. In groups, each member can play the roll of a dream character for the dreamer. That, too, is a luxury, because dream groups are not held in every city, every week or month, let allow ones with a Gestalt orientation. Without willing participant bodies consistently available or personalized hand-made dream representations, easily available objects could suffice. Do any of you relate to your dreams in this way? I’m glad I had the opportunity to try it out because it left a strong impression.

In addition to workshops, other creative activities abound at IASD conferences. There is img_2033a dream telepathy contest modeled off of New York’s Maimonides Medical Center telepathy experiments from decades ago under Dr. Ullman and Dr. Krippner (here I am with Maureen, “the sender” for this years contest), a dream art exhibition featuring fine art in various media from artists worldwide, and on the final evening, a dream ball where attendees dress in a costume from a dream and are invited to share the dream if desired. If you missed us this year, you can find us –and the fun- next year. IASD’s 2019 conference will be held in Kerkrade, Netherlands. For more information, go to www.asdreams.org

 

Hope to see you there,

Kim

reflections on working with the living & the dead

The year has flown by and here we are, again, at that time when so many of the world’s people turn their attention to the dead. Samhain, Dia de los Muertos, All Soul’s Day, All Saint’s Day, Festival of Hungry Ghosts (recently passed) – each one is different, but they each share some similar elements, and sometimes similar activities, such an making offerings or prayer.

Connecting with a deceased loved one is possible, no matter whether you engage in hypnosis, dreaming, deep prayer, imaginal journeying, altar-making, or use a black mirror, the fire place, quartz crystals, or what-have-you. Regardless of the object used or state induced, even a brief connection can hold tremendous meaning for those grieving or for those simply wanting to remember. My most preferred methods are dreaming and hypnosis, as both have offered positive experiences along with profound and memorable results. Any method, tool, or nonordinary conscious state can be accessed individually, but group work also holds promise, especially with an experienced therapist, medicine person, or guide.Il tavolo

One potent ritual involves constructing an altar. While I currently offer altar-making in individual psychotherapy sessions, many years ago, I co-led an altar-making and process group with another therapist. The attendees comprised of teenagers and pre-adolescents with unresolved grief/loss issues from loosing a parent or family member to ‘the life’ – a term referring to street life, addiction, overdose. Even though some of the participant’s parents died during the participant’s early childhood years, there was no shortage of memorabilia, stories, or recollections. The act of constructing the altar itself elicited spontaneous memories of shared experiences that were previously believed to be forgotten. By this, I mean that when asked directly to share a story from long ago, many children could not produce one, however, that all changed when they entered this collective ‘sacred’ container, or space, where the memory of the deceased was very much alive. Near the end of the weeks-long process, the attendees reported that the experience left them feeling closer to the deceased loved one, and this turned tears into smiles. Gratitude and peace were married in this new way of remembering.

Large-scale community altar-making has also left an impression. I participated in these activities in Arizona. I discovered that community bonds strengthen in meaningful ways when people join together to make offerings, blessings, or witness one another in prayer to deceased loved ones. These sizable collective altars were modifiable and continued to expand for days. They were multi-cultural in the truest sense. While I am no longer an Arizona resident, I still know the ritual continues, and I sit here in California today, Nonnityping this, shifting through recollections.

At this time, as I turn my attention to the dead, seven female elders immediately come to mind: Mary, Anne, Eva, Florinda, ‘Nonni’/Netta, Maria, and Censina. I feel so fortunate to hold a clear memory of each one, even though most of them (and their spouses) transitioned when I was still a child. Also at this time, I add extra flowers, fresh water, and dust off the prayer cards on the family altar that stands year-round in my home. If I am extra lucky, I will get a visit…who knows, maybe even in tonight’s dream.

 

May the veil be thin,

Kim

beyond five senses

Not all dreams are mundane or ordinary. Sometimes our dreams can be quite extraordinary. Extraordinary dreaming may include perceptions that occur outside of the five senses. Dreams in which one is clairvoyant, telepathic, precognitive, lucid, miraculously healed, or shown details of a past existence are just some examples of extraordinary dreams. For clarity, let’s define some terms. According to Dean Radin, Clairvoyance is “receiving information from a distance, beyond the reach of the ordinary senses.” Telepathy can be understood as two minds exchanging information, or the transmission of thought to another or knowing the thoughts of another. Precognition includes foreknowledge of an event, and is sometimes called a premonition. Lucidity in a dream state takes place when the dreamer knows that he/she is dreaming.

Extraordinary dreams may also be highly creative and the dreamer may be shown solutions to challenging problems. In contemporary Western societies, it is commonplace that, when one shares these types of dreams, they are not often believed or well received. After all, contemporary Westerners, typically, have been taught that these experiences are not real or rational, yet, extraordinary dreams have been reported across time and place. These episodes may startle or shake some people; however, extraordinary dream occurrences, especially precognitive (or premonition) dreams, have so much to offer humanity. They can prepare us for difficult times ahead and possibly prevent accidents, illnesses, or disasters. For example, precognitive dreams about 9/11 and the twin tower attacks were shared and some reported them to authorities, yet the dreamers were often laughed at. Instead of prompting action, they were dismissed. For those who want to understand more about premonitions, in general, I recommend Premonitions in Daily Life by Jeanne Van Bronkhorst. Van Bronkhorst (2012) dedicates a section to learning to become more aware of premonitions in daily life along with techniques for “finding premonitions” – one of the four techniques is with dreaming. I introduced this book in September 2016, so it may be already familiar to you.

Some precognitive or premonitions dreams may repeat themselves leaving the dreamer to ponder its meaning. Rebecca had such an experience. It has been unforgettable! With regard to her recurring dream, she told me,

“When I was seven or eight, I had a reoccurring dream. I do not remember much of the dream. I know that it was a little different each time, but the ending was always the same. I was in the middle of the desert sitting on cement steps with nothing else around but the desert. I was sitting on the steps and my leg was on the shoulder of a very large man.”

It wasn’t until Rebecca’s adolescence that the dream made sense to her, but it also left some big questions unanswered. She said:

“When I was 16, my parents sent me on a wilderness survival program, one of those tough love things for ‘bad kids.’ I was in Big Ben National Park in Texas, in the desert. I fell within my first few days there. They would not pull me out of the program to take me to see a doctor. I had to hike around for another couple weeks all day, every day. My ankles were the size of grapefruits. I was in a lot of pain. They told me I was a wimp and to quit whining. Finally after nearly 3 weeks, they brought me into base camp. It was just a trailer in the middle of the desert with some cement stairs leading up to the trailer door. There was nothing else around, just desert. There was not even a road. I sat on the cement steps with my leg on the shoulder of one of the workers while he wrapped my ankles in ace bandages. He was a very large man. This experience was just like my dream. The dream I had had about 8 years prior. That really got me thinking. Here I was at a tough love wilderness program for bad kids at 16, I dreamt this around the ago of eight… Was I destined to be a bad kid? ”

To this day, Rebecca asks herself that question – was she destined to be sent away on that program…to be a bad kid? What might these types of dreams imply about destiny, self-determination, one’s fate, and Western concepts of time and space? Could this dream have helped to serve Rebecca as a kind of mental and emotional preparation for what was to come?

Some of these particular types of extraordinary dreams can obviously overlap; thus, they are not easily compartmentalized. In the Dream Laboratory of the Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, years of experimental research into dream telepathy was conducted in the 1960s and ‘70s. From those studies, certain telepathic dreams also appeared as precognitive. For details, read Dream Telepathy by Ullman, Krippner & Vaughan (2002). A single dream may contain img_2361elements of telepathy, clairvoyance, or more. Bernard Gittelson reported a case by a woman on a farm in Oregon:

At 3:40 A.M., the woman suddenly awoke by the sound of people screaming. The sound quickly vanished, but she felt a smoky, unpleasant taste in her mouth. She woke her husband, and together they scoured the farm but found nothing irregular. That evening on a television newscast, they heard about a plant explosion that started a huge chemical fire which killed six people. The explosion
had occurred at 3:40 A.M. (as cited on page 92 of The conscious universe: The scientific truth of psychic phenomena by Dean Radin, 1997).

I don’t come across such profound dreams as these often, but when I do, they are not quickly forgotten. When one has an experience like this, I imagine that trust in dream wisdom rises to another level entirely.

 

Until next time,

Kim

 

 

the application of self-hypnosis

Self-hypnosis is another valuable tool. As the name implies, you do it yourself – no need to make an appointment, buy a CD, or download an app! I often utilize self-hypnosis before any event or experience that provokes some nervousness, such as an interview, teaching a large class, public speaking, or giving a presentation at a conference with unfamiliar faces. Self-hypnosis has also assisted me at home, when I am not sleeping well, or want to encourage a particular mood, attitude, or inspiration. There are many ways to use self-hypnosis – there is not just one “right” way. It is important to do what feels safe and comforting.

To prepare, I do as I would when preparing for a client or patient. I may “spritz” the space and my body with a lavender water concoction (other essential oils such as wild orange, clary sage, grapefruit, or rosemary are just fine, of course), gaze at a beautiful image of something from nature (a flower, mountains, etc.), set an intention, light a candle of a particular color (orange for grounding and focus; blue or violet for the higher realms), play chimes, use my voice (vowel mantras are a personal favorite), place a special crystal in my hand or pocket, and/or burn a little IMG_1883sage. Before beginning, I like to say words of gratitude for what is happening, such as, “Thank you for such deep, restful sleep,” or “I’m grateful for this sense of peace and belonging.”

Next, since I am working with myself here, I find a comfortable place to sit or lie down and notice how my body feels against the respective surface (back against chair, feet planted on floor). Once situated, I begin an induction by counting down from 20 to 1. In between some numbers, I add phrases, such as “12, 11, doubling my relaxation with 10, 9, 8, going deeper now with 7, 6, 5, 4, feeling so relaxed and peaceful, 3, 2, 1.” After counting down, I speak aloud some phrases that are meant to assist me in what I need. For example, “This relaxed and peaceful state remains with me as I walk into the classroom.” Another example, “As I sit in front of my laptop and begin typing, creation flows from within. Peace and joy expand, and I find that it is easy to access all the right words and ideas.”

After a few target sentences or phrases are spoken, I tell myself that I will count from one up to five, and that when I reach five I will open my eyes and feel energized, relaxed, peaceful, or whatever state that matches the intention. So, if I want to begin writing productively, I may use “energized.” On the other hand, if I want to fall asleep, I may use “relaxed,” or “at peace.” Once this process is complete, I always say a word of thanks.

Self-hypnosis methods can get very creative, but keep your intentions straightforward and simple. At all times, use affirmative statements – avoid negatives, and non-affirmative statements. Remember, the mind/psyche moves toward the dominant thought. For example, when we hear the words “Don’t run,” we first process the word “run.” Avoid such phrasing, in general. Instead, say aloud what you want! In this case, “walk.” We can create what we want in affirmative language, so plan out the statements to be used in self-hypnosis. For someone desiring a better nights sleep, for example, I suggest the following. Instead of “you won’t wake up in the middle of the night,” try something like, “sleeping through the night happens easily,” and/or “any noise or movement during the night helps me sleep even more deeply.” Keeping your intentions clear and your language affirmative will better the experience. Make it enjoyable and have fun with it!

May you reap the benefits,

Kim

hypnosis 101

Some readers may be unfamiliar with hypnosis and hypnotherapy, and since I recently completed an advanced hypnotherapy certification program, I’m really excited to write about it (again). It’s a topic close to my heart. In this month’s article, some definitions and key points are offered. This information is taken from one of my hypnosis lectures presented in a course I taught for 6 years at Arizona State University. Much of this was taught to me by my talented hypnotherapy instructor, Marilyn Gordon.

Hypnosis is a tool used to induce a non-ordinary state of consciousness (also known as an altered state of consciousness). It involves deep relaxation coupled with concentration. Brain waves, breathing, and heart rate slow down. The body may feel light or heavy. The eyelids may flutter and the eyes may become teary. Hypnotic states vary – one can go into a light trance or a very deep one, but being asleep is not being in hypnosis. The hypnotist may include the use of mental/visual imagery, sound (music, chimes), counting down numbers, touch, or simply their voice.

Hypnosis can be used to explore the deep inner mind, or subconscious, and make changes in one’s life. Usually, one issue becomes the focus for a session, or series of sessions. Some people work with a hypnotist or hypnotherapist to manage pain, enhance performance, support healing post-surgery, quit smoking or drinking, and even to reduce stress, release fears, contact inner peace, connect with deeper purpose and meaning in life, or explore the root of unwanted behaviors. For some, one session may result in noticeable change, while, for others, several sessions are more productive. The state of hypnosis is a tender one, and should be approached with grace and respect.

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Some hypnotists and hypnotherapists differ in style. For example, some professionals may be directive in the session, while others have a more spontaneous or non-directive, client-centered approach, serving as a “tour guide” and interacting with whatever material arises at the time. Either way, in hypnosis, you are always in control of your behavior. At no point can a hypnotist make you do something you don’t want to do.

Beyond the helping professions, this tool has been used in medical settings, dentistry, and historically, in criminal investigations. For published articles and more information, go to www.ncbi.nim.nih.gov, www.pubmed.gov, and www.ncjrs.gov, and enter the relevant search terms.

If you are a psychologist, or psychotherapist, certification in hypnotherapy can be especially valuable. For those in the SF Bay Area, I recommend certification through the Center for Hypnotherapy in Oakland, CA. Contacting the National Guild of Hypnotists (NGH) is also advised. The NGH can provide helpful legal information so all clinicians practice lawfully.

Because hypnotherapy can be valuable for a variety of reasons and to a wide population, including children, I strongly recommend looking into it. You never know what you’ll come across – remember my surprise?

With gratitude,

Kim