All things bright and beautiful – an alternative take on hypnotherapy
Updated: Aug 16, 2022
It was during hypnotherapy training that a certain resemblance between the traditional Anglican service and hypnotherapy occurred to me. That’s not to say that your local vicar is covertly trying out hypnosis on his willing flock. Consider this, though. On Sunday morning a number of people put on their Sunday best, leave the house and go to a quiet place. Quiet, apart from the sound of rhythmic bells, that is. Like a breath, like a heartbeat. The congregation arrives and each member carries out a ritual which begins with obtaining a hymn book and order of service and settling into a pew quietly. No-one (hopefully) has their mobile switched on; no-one chats loudly, and as the appointed hour approaches people settle down and…relax. Some may close their eyes. Some may think of those things they have no time for during the hurry and bustle of everyday life. During the service, there may be candles or shiny objects with their mesmerizing quality on which to fix one’s eye. Relaxation deepens. The world is far away (usually no sights of the outside or sounds of it through thick stone walls). Thoughts turn inwards. We all stand together, we all sit together. We all sing together – well-known hymns learned at home or school, things that may have travelled with us as part of our culture, carrying a memory of all the other times and other places at which we’ve sung them. This is familiar territory. Some of us don’t need to look at the book to sing the words. So now that we are thoroughly relaxed in this quiet place, we are open to suggestion. The vicar or priest begins a sermon or story, often including biblical parables – the lost sheep, the prodigal son – something where initial disaster is transformed by the power of thought, deed or prayer – a change, one might argue, in a state of mind. Sometimes we look back on past mistakes or negative stories but always return to the possibility that through our sense of will, of doing good, of becoming better, we can change and improve. As if to underline the point, we queue to approach the altar and experience the curiously reassuring suggestion that we are blessed and kept. At the end of the service we are aware that we are moving towards the real world, moving out of our church persona into our everyday selves. We may be exhorted to ‘go in peace’, bringing us back to the reality of returning (refreshed and alert?) to whatever our earthly Sunday may hold – the papers, the roast, the family, the DIY.