Altered States – Virtual Hypnosis
Altered states of consciousness have been used in traditional medicine cross-culturally for thousands of years. Unfortunately, when most westerners think of hypnosis, they think of watches in front of eyes and people doing ridiculous things despite themselves. This could not be further from the truth.
Hypnosis is used successfully in clinical situations to alleviate pain, anxiety and addictions, among other things. And now hypnosis has virtually taken its brightest step yet – into the future.
Joe has been suffering from anxiety for the last few weeks so has decided to visit Dr Colin Carbis from Virtual Medicine.
Like any other clinical hypnosist, Dr Carbis thoroughly discusses and diagnoses the problem before administering the solution. Once he is satisfied he knows the nature and cause of Joe’s anxiety, he asks Joe to lie back and relax. Dr Carbis won’t be administering the hypnotic script himself. Joe is instead going to experience hypnosis through the virtual reality medium.
Dr Carbis explains: “Well, virtual reality hypnosis is essentially hypnosis in a virtual reality environment, so we would use a lot of traditional techniques of hypnosis and we use a number of other techniques which will enhance the hypnotic therapy. So for example, if we show a person a picture of road accidents it might make them feel depressed, whereas if you show them pictures of smiley faces then, of course, that makes them feel a bit happier. That’s one of the ways we can begin to get a person into a relaxed state.”
Joe dons a headpiece through which he will view certain images, including colours, landscapes and hypnotic spirals. At the same time, he will be hearing a script from a disembodied voice belonging to the program.
But not just any image will do. The visuals in the program have been specifically designed to have the desired physiological and psychological impact on the patient. Colours and images can trigger different, specific reactions in the mind and body.
So why replace a practitioner with a program? Dr Carbis says the program removes the undesirable variables from the clinic situation, leaving the patient freer to derive the benefits of an altered state of consciousness.
“For hypnosis to be effective, then you are trying to evade a person’s conscious evaluation of what you are saying. So by having subliminals – like colours, like landscapes, like music-like, binaural beat signals – we can evade everything that is being said and the person can go into a relaxed state without really knowing that they are going into a relaxed state.”
So how many virtual reality hypnosis sessions will you need? According to Dr Carbis, probably not as many as you think. It took a mere two sessions to alleviate the anxiety of a Bali bomb victim who had suffered substantial physical injuries in the blast.
At the end of Joe’s session, Dr Carbis asks him to take off the mask and wriggle his toes and fingers. He questions Joe on his experience during the session and how he feels now. Joe definitely feels more relaxed now than he did when he came in.
Virtual reality hypnosis is currently being used in some Australian hospitals and at specialist clinics, to great effect. As Dr Carbis points out, the applications are broad for this technology-hypnosis fusion.
“It could be used for drug withdrawal, it could be used for people who have experienced trauma, pain – complex pain issues particularly. There’s quite a number of areas where it can be used.”