This post is based on an interview Shannon Fischer conducted with Laurence Sugarman that was titled “I can tell you how to heal yourself with hypnosis,” and published in the March 12, 2016 edition of the New Scientist. Laurence Sugarman directs the Center for Applied Psychophysiology and Self-regulation at the Rochester Institute of Technology. He is a former president of the American Board of Medical Hypnosis and is on the faculty of the National Pediatric Hypnosis Training Institute.
Dr. Sugarman worked for 20 years as a sole primary care pediatrician but found that his training was inadequate for the behavioral and psychophysiological issues he encountered. He now believes that hypnosis can take healthcare to a new level. As readers should know, employing the mind in healthcare is a continuing theme in the healthymemoy blog (enter “Cure” and “The Relaxation Revolution” in the search block of the healthy memory blog for examples).
When asked why is hypnosis not widely used, he responded “In Part, because nobody knows what it is. We first need to be able to say, this is what hypnosis is, and this is all that it is. Then we can say how we think it works.” Dr. Sugarman and his colleagues “propose that hypnosis is simply a skill set for influencing people. It involves facial expression, language, body movement, tone of voice, intensity, metaphor, understanding how people interpret and represent things. It isn’t something that you’re in, or that you do: hypnosis is something you use. That means that it is not a therapy; it’s a means to a therapy.”
When asked “Where does the hypnotic trance fit? he responded “Trance is a process of intense learning. It happens when we change our minds in significant ways, when we become neuroplastic; we are thoughtful, we pause, change our breathing. There is a shift in the parasympathetic part of the autonomic nervous system—an intensified focus of attention and narrow peripheral awareness. Trance happens when we are traumatized and when we are in love. There’s no such thing as “hypnotic trance” as distinct from the trance of yoga or prayer, for example. But part of the skill set of hypnosis is recognizing and facilitating trance, because it makes whatever you’re learning more effective.”
He states that the ultimate power to change lies within each of us. An earlier healtymemory blog post on hypnotism was titled “Self Hypnotism” because ultimately it is the individual who either is letting herself be hypnotized or doing the hypnosis. Dr Sugarman responded, “People can be influenced into cults and violent religious movements, be depersonalized and become the victims of abuse. If I have poor self-esteem and self-efficacy, I may let people use hypnosis to “overpower” me. But ultimately the power to change lies with the person who, as we say, Owns the trance.”
Dr. Sugarman says that hypnosis is a medium for delivering placebos. He also says that mindfulness meditation is an example of hypnosis. In other words it is one of many ways of doing mindfulness meditation. Hypnotism provides a means for directing change.
He notes that we unknowingly use hypnosis on ourselves, and that most of our self-hypnosis is not very nice. Most of it is: “I suck at that, I’m not a very nice person, I’m lazy, I deserve this abuse, every time I do that I am going to get a headache.” If trance is this intense learning process, we use a lot of that plasticity to reinforce our ruts.”
He goes on to say, “Clinical hypnosis is a way of helping somebody change their self hypnosis, to understand what trance-formation looks and feels like, and use both the novelty and intensity of conversation to teach them to do their own trance.”