What is Depth Hypnosis?
By Isa Gucciardi, Ph.D.
Depth Hypnosis is a synthesis of Transpersonal Psychology, Shamanism and Hypnotherapy, and Buddhism. The following description is especially helpful for those who might be considering entering the advanced training course in Depth Hypnosis.
The philosophy underlying transpersonal psychology - that true healing can only take place when one recognizes one's place within a much larger context of the shared experience of the soul - is the underpinning of my practice. The techniques of shamanism and hypnotherapy provide the catalysts for healing within that context. The differences between the disciplines of shamanism and hypnotherapy are much fewer than the similarities. Both seek to relieve dis-ease arising from the mental, emotional or spiritual body and affecting the physical body. Both see physical disease as an outgrowth of an imbalance in any one of the other bodies. Both seek to relieve this dis-ease by interacting, in an altered state, directly with the mental, emotional or spiritual bodies, often using the physical body as an entrance into the more subtle bodies.
Although many schools of hypnotherapy seek to place the hypnotherapist in a position where the patient's will is surrendered to the hypnotherapist, this is not the way I work, nor the way I believe a hypnotherapist with integrity should work. In schools of shamanism, which are not involved in the "black arts" such as casting curses or affliction, the idea of aligning with the one's own and the patient's helping spirits is a given. In the type of hypnotherapy I practice, and in the type of shamanic work I do, I seek to align my will with the higher self (in the parlance of hypnotherapy) and/or with the helping spirits (in the parlance of shamanism) of the patient.
Both schools of healing recognize that the patient has access to the answers behind his malady, but may not have keys to that access. In traditional shamanism, it is the shaman who seeks to find the key to the illness and unlock the healing potential. In hypnotherapy, a good hypnotherapist leads the patient to these keys through careful questioning and helps the patient insert the keys into the lock, which will release healing. In my opinion, this is the principal difference between traditional shamanism and hypnotherapy. But this even this difference is bridged in my practice because I see myself as a teacher whether I am working as a hypnotherapist or shamanic practitioner. In either case, I as I see myself as a teacher, learning about the patient as I work, and using what I learn to help the patient know himself. To be effective in this work, I have to be sensitive enough to know when and where my patient is ready to pick up the keys (and have me function as hypnotherapist) and when and where I need to hold him until he is ready (and so have me function as a shaman).
The main tools of shamanism which I personally use to enhance my skills as hypnotherapist are the shamanic journey and the merging with and/or channeling of helping spirits. Through the journey I gain access to higher wisdom and fountains of life energy which enliven me and help me continue clearing my own issues. This helps me constantly expand the amount of power I can bring to any hypnotherapy session. In a way, the spirits work with me directly in the same way I work my hypnotherapy clients. At the same time, it could be said that I am a translator for my patients who have not yet learned to work directly with spirits. I let spirit work through me so they can have a solid, material-world interface with the knowledge coming through spirit. As they get more and more comfortable with the honesty this communication affords, I can pull back more and more and help them create their own connections to spirit. It could be said I am like a transformer which steps down the energy of spirit into words, while at the same time helping my patient to become open enough to step up to receiving the information from spirit directly. If I do my job right, I become only a step on the journey the patient takes on the journey to the self.
My job involves helping them clear blocks to the core self by pointing out to them what the spirits are pointing out to me about them. By merging with helping spirits while the client is an altered state I hear questions I pose my clients while they are in an altered state. Thus, we are both in an altered state when we are working. The altered state provides a field of access to information that is normally blocked in conscious state. At the beginning of my work with any patient, I enter into that state through the shamanic techniques of merging and I help my clients enter into it through hypnotic induction.
Nonetheless, it is always my goal to help my patients take as much ownership as possible of the negotiation of communication pathways to spirit. This is not a skill that is taught to people through any of the traditional educational means of our society. It takes some people longer than others to own this process. I will often start a person out using hypnotic techniques exclusively in order to clear some of the more persistent or developed blocks to the core energy centers. People who are lost in viscous circles or stuck in destructive patterns (which, ironically, were almost always developed to keep them 'safe') do not have the ability to sustain a clear pathway to spirit. As they clear these blocks through hypnosis and dream work (another fountain of information arising from altered states), they begin to get a clearer idea of the nature of their core energy. This helps them sustain the focus needed to begin to establish and deepen their own links to the higher self and helping spirits. Once I see they are able to maintain focus, I will teach them to journey and to meditate.
I will help them learn what I call the "language of the soul" by teaching them to unlock the images through which the higher self and helping spirits communicate. My knowledge of this language comes directly from my own merging with spirit and through journeying. It is my goal to help everyone become a shamanic practitioner for their own healing. But I have to start with hypnotherapeutic techniques because they are almost like a bridge between the flat, linear world of the conscious mind and the full-blown, multi-dimensional world of spirit in which shamans dwell a good deal of the time. More and more, I turn over the process to them, so that they continue their healing without me and so that they can have the great and humbling experience of working directly with spirit.
Journeying is the very best technology I know for returning personal power to the core self. This loss of power, is my opinion, at the heart of every imbalance I work with: depression, addiction, compulsive behavior, "bipolar" or "multiple personality"1 states, phobias and physical imbalances. Through hypnotherapeutic techniques, I can help a person create a platform through which they can begin to commit to taking responsibility for the care and maintenance of their core energy. The journey then becomes the vehicle through which they can refine and deepen that commitment through the gathering of power and the submission to the initiations the spirits expose them to. Not everyone is able to sustain this commitment on his or her own, so I often wind up acting as an anchor for this practice.
To be truthful, I always ask to work with people who not only are willing to take this journey for themselves, but who are interested in dedicating their healing to the service of others. Not everyone is able to take the journey to the core self all the way to the point where they can become conduits of healing energy for others. In this case, I work with them only hypnotherapeutically; they generally clear the imbalance they came to work on, and then move on with their lives. It is always a privilege for me to work with someone is willing to try and sustain the path to spirit on his or her own. It is always a privilege for me to bring someone to the doorway where they take the step into communion with the higher self or helping spirits who will then guide them in the healing of others.
The path to that doorway is through hypnotherapy, dream work drawn from transpersonal psychology, and the teaching of the shamanic journey. I act as a guide along that path until my patients are ready to trust enough in their helping spirits and higher self to become their own light on that path. And ideally, until they are ready to become a light for others on that path, serving in whatever way their gifts allow. In a way, I see myself as a servant of spirit who helps others prepare to become servants of spirit themselves. I do this by using the tools of hypnotherapy to clear the unconscious blocks to the core self. I do this by teaching my patients the language of dreams so they can begin to identify the information they are being given regarding their own evolution. And I do this finally, by teaching my patients how to journey.
I see hypnotherapeutic techniques, dream work drawn from transpersonal psychology and shamanic techniques as lying along a spectrum of healing which is entered into through the altered state. The way I work with this spectrum in helping others heal themselves is guided and informed by the information I get through my own dreams, my own journeys, my own merging and channeling of spirit. I would be unable to sustain the focus I need to use these powers the way that I do if I had not undergone (and continue to undergo) the clearing provided by hypnotherapy. I see the use of hypnotherapy and shamanic techniques as a vital partnership with transpersonal psychology techniques and Buddhism in the healing of deep wounds that remain untouched by traditional forms of therapy.