Our complex minds have two parts – the conscious and unconscious minds.
The conscious mind is the active mind that can think different thoughts. It is the mind that holds our current and immediate experience and awareness. The unconscious mind is the storehouse of all our past, present and future experiences of which we are presently unaware. The unconscious also holds our automatic behaviours as a set of stimulus response ‘programmes’, if you like, which have been derived from our instincts and learned experiences.
Milton Erikson believed that the innate intelligence that keeps our heart beating, our body breathing and all other automated functions in place resides in the unconscious mind. In terms of neurological processing abilities, the unconscious mind is a million times more powerful than the conscious mind. If the desires of the conscious mind conflict with the unconscious, the unconscious mind will dominate (Lipton, 2005, p. 128).
Hypnosis is an effective state for creating change on an unconscious level, using visualisations, suggestions and other cognitive, behavioural and analytical tools. Hypnotherapy is the tool used to facilitate this natural state. Hypnosis is a natural state that you go in and out of every day. Each night, as you are falling asleep, when your body starts to feel relaxed and your mind begins to drift deeper into your own inner world, you are entering the hypnogogic state. You are not fully awake nor are you asleep since you are aware of things around you and yet you are giving all your attention to your own inner thoughts and feelings.
This natural trance state, which you also experience when you become absorbed in any activity, is a very good state for absorbing new learning. When you enter this trance state for therapeutic benefit, your heart rate and breathing slow down as you access what is known as the relaxation response. The relaxation response produces a state that helps counteract the negative effects of stress on the body. So simply being in this state of deep relaxation is very beneficial.
Hypnosis is a peaceful, creative and productive state of inner absorption. It is a natural learning state that occurs from within. Hypnosis is a natural human ability, and a powerful tool for change Stephen Gilligan (Gilligan, 1997). In this hypnotic state your conscious mind is less ‘active’ allowing you to have greater access to your own unconscious resources and innate wisdom.
The Therapeutic Applications of Hypnosis
The therapeutic applications of hypnosis are only limited by our imaginations. Some benefits include:
- When we enter a state of hypnosis the parasympathetic nervous system is activated, giving rise to the relaxation response. Simply being in this state will create physiological changes that reduce stress and its negative effects on health and wellbeing.
- It reduces emotional arousal such as anger or fear. During a state of high emotional arousal the brain’s cortical functions become limited and we lose our ability to reason. Relaxation reduces the arousal giving us access to our higher rational abilities. It is for this reason that we are more likely to gain perspective and reach new insight and understanding while in a hypnotic state.
- This state allows us to access our unconscious mind to recall past experiences, access our inner wisdom and tap into our personal resources. This ability means that we can draw on each client’s unique history and help them receive more of what it is they need in current and future situations. For example, to help them build confidence and increase motivation.
- All of our habitual and automatic behaviours are stored in the unconscious. Hypnotherapy can be used to decondition habits and to create new automatic behaviours and responses. For example, this could be particularly useful to reduce the anxiety response in the case of a phobia.
- The beliefs we hold are like the device that helps run the ‘programmes’ containing our automatic responses. By integrating successful cognitive therapy approaches, we can use hypnotherapy to challenge unhealthy beliefs and find new beliefs that will create healthier automatic responses to situations and events.
- Our imagination and creative abilities are enhanced. Using hypnosis for positive Mental Rehearsal can create a healthy mental and physiological response when that situation is encountered again in real life. Positive Mental Rehearsal will improve our future responses as well as reduce anxiety caused when we think about the event.
- Past disturbing or traumatic events that continue to carry an emotional charge for us can be resolved using hypnotherapy. These experiences can be integrated so that the necessary learning remains, but the emotional and energetic arousal is reduced. Resolving and integrating these past experiences allows us to live without the negative impact of that event affecting our personal life.
- In a state of hypnosis, our inner senses become heightened and allow us to become more sensitive to our own subtle experiences. We can use this sensitivity to become more aware of our physical body and its messages to us. Guided visualisation is a well known approach which uses the mind, and specifically the imagination, as a means of creating physical change. And so, in the above‐mentioned ways, we can use hypnosis to alleviate any physical conditions, illness or pain.
- One of the great strengths of hypnotherapy is that hypnosis is a tool that can be learnt. Once the client has learnt to induce a state of hypnosis on their own, they can use this tool to benefit themselves on an ongoing basis. They can learn a variety of ways in which they can use hypnosis to reinforce changes and continue to facilitate new and positive learning.
Improving Fertility through using Hypnosis
Fertility Hypnosis assists couples to achieve their dream of conceiving a child naturally or as a great support to medically assisted methods such as IVF. It uses gentle mind‐body focus to enhance the body’s natural state of fertility.
Modern hypnosis techniques are able to bring about many physical changes through what is often called the Mind‐Body Connection or neuroendocrine system. Mind‐body medicine is an approach to health that recognises the effect that our mind has on our body, and vice versa. This model views the various aspects of ourselves and the different systems of our body, as a part of the greater whole.
Problems with conception and pregnancy can occur when our basic physical and emotional needs are not being met and the mind and/or body have temporarily lost their natural state of balance and harmony. Imbalance may be caused by external environmental factors, unhealthy internal processes or the inability to get one’s basic physical and emotional needs met in a healthy way. This mind‐body approach to fertility is based on a holistic health model. It acknowledges the importance of working together with other specialists to create well co‐ordinated combinations of treatment.
Many couples are disappointed to find that they are unable to easily conceive a baby and are diagnosed with ‘unexplained infertility’. Although they may feel helpless upon hearing this, it is actually great news. Unexplained infertility means that there is no physiological reason for a woman not to become pregnant. Hypnosis is a powerful process available for conquering unexplained infertility, and research shows that it can double the success rate of IVF treatments.
Couples undergoing IVF treatments and other Assisted Reproductive Technology find great value in Fertility Hypnosis as the invasive and monitoring nature of IVF can cause stress and anxiety. Hypnotherapy assists in reducing stress and regaining more emotional and physical balance.
Increasing infertility rates and the unfortunate but common belief that it is not easy to have a baby, can have a devastating effect on women, causing emotional upset and increasing already soaring stress levels.
In recent years, much research has been done on the relationship between the mind and the body. Candace Pert, Scientist and author of Molecules of Emotions, has shown that thoughts and feelings create chemicals called neuropeptides which have receptor sites throughout the body. A good example of how beliefs affect the body can be found by looking more closely at the stress response. The beliefs that a person holds will determine whether they perceive a situation to be stressful or not. ‘Stress’, or more accurately the fight‐or‐flight response, is the body’s natural reaction to threat or danger. This response is part of our innate survival systems that helps us fightor flee a situation that we perceive to be unsafe.
Any situation that we interpret as not being okay in some way will trigger this response to a greater or lesser degree. In situations of ongoing stress, increased levels of stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol will affect the body’s natural biochemical balance. Since the hypothalamus regulates both the stress response as well as the sex hormones, any imbalance in thinking (resulting from an unhealthy belief) and feeling (such as anxiety) can directly impact on the reproductive system. This is relevant in natural conception as well as assisted reproduction since both require a healthy response from the reproductive system.
Healthy beliefs, resulting in healthy thinking and healthy emotions can bring balance back to the body’s hormonal system and enhance fertility.
Mind-body Fertility Research
Studies conducted by Alice Domar PhD, at Harvard’s Mind‐Body Institute and published in Fertility and Sterility in 1990 and 2000, found women who underwent stress reduction therapy saw dramatic increases in their ability to get pregnant – 55% of previously ‘infertile’ women conceived after regularly utilising mind‐body techniques. Interestingly, women who were already undergoing fertility treatments had more successful outcomes when their stress was kept under control.
A 2004 study conducted by Prof. Eliahu Levatis found the success rate of IVF doubled when subjects underwent hypnosis during implantation. “Couples who utilize mind/body techniques such as hypnosis have a 42‐55% conception rate, as compared to just 20% in those that use In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) alone? The Journal of the American Medical Women’s Association and Fertility & Sterility Studies. Our bodies mirror our thoughts, emotions and experiences – Dr Christine Northrup
Many couples have disappointing and traumatic birth experiences. Debriefing on your birth experience can give you a new emotional perspective, and reduce the likelihood of conditions such as post traumatic stress disorder and postnatal depression. Getting support and spending time debriefing your birthing experience allows you to move toward parenting and subsequent births in much more positive manner.
Opening the door to conception
This non‐invasive program guides couples in helping them achieve their dream of conceiving naturally, and offers invaluable support to couples undergoing Assisted Reproductive Technology.
The fertility sessions will:
- Assist couples in discovering how their beliefs and thoughts not only impact, but create each cell within their body, so that changing those beliefs and thoughts will change their body and your ability to conceive.
- Provide very real tools to help reduce stress levels, create emotional stability, balance and to build inner resources to enhance wellbeing for conception, allowing them to feel more calm and in control.
- Identify issues and resolve unconscious blocks and areas of inner conflict.Prepare couples for pregnancy, birth, parenthood and medical treatments, and provide support for their outcomes.
- Teach them how to dream about their baby and how to invite their baby into their life. Hypnosis with Fertility is so powerful that even with diagnoses ranging from physiological to unexplained fertility, treatment of a few sessions have helped women become pregnant.
Hypnotherapist Anthea Thomas
Anthea is a passionate and focused health professional who supports families in the challenges they face, by providing a range of services including her quit smoking sessions, stress reduction, weight loss, as well as support for challenging birth experiences.
She is a qualified Clinical Hypnotherapist, and is a HypnoBirthing Fertility Specialist and Childbirth Educator, certified with the HypnoBirthing Institute. Anthea is a Director and founding member of the Australian Birth and Parenting Network. Read more about Anthea here.