When you think of hypnotism, you might imagine a man on a stage, twirling his mustache and swinging a pocket watch back and forth, convincing an unsuspecting audience member to cluck like a chicken.
However, according to Sharon Mullen, a consulting hypnotist who lives in Boones Mill, the reality of hypnosis isn’t quite like it’s depicted in the media, although it is far more useful in day-to-day life.
“I get really tickled at some of the things I see about hypnosis on TV,” Mullen said. “It’s not mind control, it’s not hoodoo, and it’s not witchcraft. It’s working with a process that made God available to us, and it’s in all of us.”
As a consulting hypnotist, Mullen uses hypnotic techniques to help people with a wide variety of everyday issues, such as anger management, weight loss, quitting smoking, pre-surgery anxiety, test anxiety, lack of self-esteem, insomnia and chronic pain.
Can a hypnotist make someone cluck like a chicken? According to Mullen, if you weren’t inclined to cluck outside of hypnosis, you won’t be convinced to cluck under hypnosis.
“A hypnotist cannot make you do anything that is against any of your beliefs or anything you would not normally do,” she said. “It’s not mind control; it’s a brainwave pattern.”
Essentially, Mullen said, a hypnotist helps someone relax their conscious brain so that the hypnotist can speak directly to the subconscious and offer positive advice.
“All hypnosis is self-hypnosis,” she said. “I’m kind of the guide that can lead you to the place where you can (self-hypnotize), and from there you can either use or discard the powerful positive suggestions that I put to your subconscious. If you disagree with something I say, you can pop out of hypnosis. If I ask you a question, you can lie to me under hypnosis. It’s all up to you.”
Everyone has experienced light hypnosis, Mullen said, whether they realize it or not. If you’ve ever day-dreamed or “zoned out,” you were in a light hypnotic state.
How real life hypnosis works
Mullen doesn’t have an assortment of pocket watches she uses to hypnotize people. While some hypnotists use focus items, Mullen prefers to just use words. She relaxes people, helps them to breathe deeply, counts backwards from 20, and generally tries to put people at ease.
“Hypnosis is a very personal thing,” she said. “People are different. Their approach to accepting or not accepting the suggestions you put out there is going to depend a lot on who they are to begin with and how they feel. … If you don’t want to be hypnotized, I can’t do it, anymore than I can make you do anything you don’t want to do.”
For example, she said, if someone schedules a session because they want to quit smoking, hypnosis won’t help unless the person really and truly wants to quit. If someone calls for a session because they’re trying to force a friend or a loved one to stop smoking, Mullen says, she tells them that there’s no sense in wasting the money.
“They need to really want to do it,” she said. “I can lead them to the water, but they have to drink it. It’s not a quick fix. You can’t expect to be smoking for 20 years and come in for one session and take care of that. It needs to be spaced out.”
Over-eating is one of the most difficult problems to address, Mullen said. She can tell someone’s subconscious that they need to put down the cigarettes and stop smoking, but she cannot tell someone to stop eating.
“You have to work on changing habits and outlooks,” she said. “They’ve got to want to do it. … I’m their travel guide for the journey.”
Mullen is certified with the National Guild of Hypnotists in New Hampshire, and in the 12 years she has been a consulting hypnotist, she said she has seen plenty of success stories.
How real life hypnosis works
One man she saw was nearly bedridden from chronic pain as a result of a stroke years earlier, she said. When he arrived at his first session, he said his pain was a 10 on a scale of one to 10. He came in for three sessions, and over time, he learned how to use hypnotic techniques to distract himself from the pain so that he could function.
Another patient, she said, was a woman who believed she could no longer walk. Through hypnosis, Mullen learned the woman had suffered a nasty fall and badly injured herself not long before, and that her inability to walk was psychological; she was afraid of another fall. When the woman was under hypnosis, Mullen was able to plant positive suggestions to help her cope with that fear, and the woman began walking again.
Of course, Mullen said, if someone is experiencing specific pain and they do not know the cause, they need to see a medical doctor. The same goes for psychological issues, she said.
But if doctors are not able to provide answers or help, hypnosis might be a valid option, Mullen said.
As part of her training to become a consulting hypnotist, Mullen went through hypnosis on multiple occasions.
Shortly after she became certified with the National Guild of Hypnotists, Mullen said she needed to have a fairly major surgery, and the prospect terrified her. She went to a hypnotist who managed to relax her and convince her that the surgery was going to go just fine. Throughout the surgery and her hospital stay, Mullen said, she felt relaxed and anxiety-free.
“It worked for me, and that’s how I know it can work for other people,” she said.
To speak with Sharon Mullen or schedule an appointment, call 334-2449.
End of How real life hypnosis works