HypnoBirthing: Some Thoughts on Hypnosis

It seems that when a lot of Christians hear about hypnobirthing, they immediately write it off because of hypnosis. I had felt the same way myself, but also had never been able to articulate scripturally what was wrong with the kind of self-hypnosis put forth by hypnobirthing, before or after reading the book. So we did some research.

The most common arguments against hypnosis:
-The Bible condemns hypnosis directly (I have yet to find a verse condemning hypnosis itself as much as hypnosis-like things that are condemned because of their use in pagan worship)
-Hypnosis opens a person up to demonic influences (If it a self-hypnosis that is controlled by the person being hypnotized, and is not pagan or “mind emptying” this argument may not be valid, but is still a big concern).
-Hypnosis is a step away from the alertness and self-control that Christians are supposed to operate under (However with self-hypnosis you are in control and aware of what is going on, thus less likely to be influenced by bad teaching or thought. But in a state where you are withdrawn from reality and have altered perception, there is still need for great caution).
– The way it has been viewed historically. (Often associated with the occult, why is it only now becoming fine for the church? Or has it always been linked to new age/occult, or is that the new thing?)
– It closely parallels mysticism, which is also a tough subject for Christians. We don’t believe that mystical experiences are wrong (if defined as simply supernatural experiences), but we do believe that the kinds of mystical experiences in oriental and catholic mysticism, not to mention the occult, etc. are evil. Paul was a mystic; he reaches places in his epistles where the logic goes away and gives way to doxology. The conviction of the Holy Spirit is a mystic experience in a sense; it is supernatural. Having a deeper sight of the glory of God or the love of God can lead to a mystic experience. But these are truth-driven spiritual reality-drive experiences, not simply good-feeling experiences or vague spiritual experiences that we then later define as having been a gift from God. And we are not seeking these experiences so much as we are seeking God, and sometimes it may cause such an experience.

Arguments Christians make defending hypnosis:
-The bible contains positive examples of hypnosis (often referenced is Paul’s vision in Acts 10, where he falls into a trance, but there is no indication that this was any form of self-hypnosis – the only physical indication we have is that it may have been hunger-induced)
– Jesus wants you to have an abundant life, and we have studies showing that this helps, so we should use it. (This is used more in reference to using hypnosis for weight loss, etc. But that’s not what Jesus meant when he was talking about an abundant life, nor is it the most biblical way to change your life).

Some critique of self-hypnosis applies less to birth than to other things it is used for (like weight loss, breaking habits, etc). In those cases, hypnotherapy does not match up with the biblical system of sanctification and mental/spiritual healing. It would seem to “short circuit” the process of the renewing of the mind, which involves submitting the whole person to the truth in prayer, reading the word, and meditating on truth, so we would urge Christians to step away from using hypnosis beyond an analgesic.

For HypnoBirthing, I’m totally on board with deep relaxation and reminding yourself of truth to speed and ease labor (while remembering it’s not a magic bullet!). The shady area is when it gets into altered consciousness (discussed more in my previous post) and repetitions that aren’t entirely true and become the mind-emptying mantra-like meditations related to eastern religions. It also becomes dangerous when it is used as escapism (a pitfall I see more outside birth/pain) – our first resort and our escape should be crying out to God and looking to Jesus, not self-hypnotizing. I think that if the focus within the hypnotized state is God (ie, the “affirmations” are biblical truth) then the two can become intertwined.
But if you aren’t comfortable with the self-hypnosis part, there is still much that can be learned from HypnoBirthing, not just the information in the book, but even the method itself.
The idea that our minds affect what our bodies are doing, especially with regard to fear/stress/tension making birth more difficult and painful (something that is common throughout Ina May’s book, Bradley Method, HypnoBirthing, Childbirth Without Fear, and Redeeming Childbirth) so reminding yourself of truth is going to help, like it would calm any anxiety or stress (“My body is designed to do this,” – however one disagreement I have with most crunchy birthing method stuff is that it doesn’t take into account the fall, “God is in control,” etc).
However, to me this falls more into the prayer and renewing your mind category so I feel like it’s something that while it may have the same effect is entirely different at root. Our goal shouldn’t be a result of pain-free childbirth, but the truth. For the Christian, truth brings peace, whether it brings relief of suffering or not, and any discomfort in pregnancy, birth, and postpartum can be met with worship if we have prepared ourselves to do so (I’ll give some ideas in my next post).

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