01 Oct What is Hypnosis
“How I explain Hypnosis to my clients…”
Consider there are two parts to the mind:
The conscious part of the mind, and
The unconscious part of the mind.
In much of the literature, the unconscious mind is also referred to as the subconscious mind or the inner mind. For the purpose of this blog, I will be using the term “subconscious mind”.
Hypnosis works with the subconscious part of the mind.
The Subconscious and the Conscious minds, have different functions:
THE CONSCIOUS MIND
This is where we spend most of our time.
The conscious mind concerns itself with:
Will-power: For example, you can say “I quit smoking”, or “I’m not going to eat sugar”. The strength of your will-power determines how long it will be before your old habit returns.
Temporary memory: This is your working memory that you use every day. For example, finding your way to work, remembering your pets names, etc.
Analytical thought process: Here you analyse a problem and look for a solution. It makes hundreds of decisions every day. These decisions seem automatic but are infact conscious and deliberate. This is where you decide whether to do something or not.
Rational thinking: This part gives us the reasoning as to why we do the things we do. We need to be able to rationalise our behaviour even if it only makes sense to us. For example, I smoke because it relaxes me (even though cigarettes are a stimulant, and don’t infact relax you). We believe /rationalise it to be true – and so it is.
The language of the conscious mind is “Logic”.
However the real “you” lives below the conscious mind, in the subconscious mind.
THE SUBCONSCIOUS MIND
The subconscious mind concerns itself with:
Habits: These include good, bad and practical habits such as brushing teeth.
Emotions: Such as fear, anger, sadness, joy, disgust, surprise, trust, love, hate.
Perceptions: Our perceptions of what is going on, interact with our beliefs of how things should be, thus generating emotions. For example, if we perceive a dangerous situation, we generate fear. If we perceive we have been treated unfairly, we may generate anger.
Beliefs: Things we think are true even if we do not have definite proof.
Permanent memory: Everything that has happened to your life is recorded here. This includes sights, sounds, smells, and feelings.
Automatic body functions: Digestion, breathing, etc.
Security /Protection: This is the primary job of the subconscious mind…to protect you from what you “ know” or “believe” to be dangerous.
The language of the subconscious mind is “Imagination”.
The only communication between the logical conscious mind and the imaginative subconscious mind is that we use will-power to suppress emotions and will-power to control habits.
Unfortunately will-power is temporary and suppressed emotions get redirected in a negative manner that causes stress and illness. And in most cases, habits return sooner or later. The conscious mind is logical, a great protector and problem solver, but it is also very limited.
When the language of the logical conscious mind conflicts with the imaginative subconscious mind, imagination wins every time.
THE SUBCONSCIOUS IS IN CONTROL
The subconscious mind is very powerful, hence the importance of using hypnosis to create more power for positive change. The subconscious mind is very intelligent and capable of new learnings.
Our belief systems and behaviours reside in the subconscious mind, but the conscious mind is responsible for guarding them, so it may reject ideas or suggestions that are made. This makes it difficult for positive change to occur. So hypnosis is used to communicate directly with the subconscious mind.
The subconscious mind also tends to resist change. This enables us to maintain a consistent personality throughout our lives, but can cause problems when we decide that a change in how we think, feel or behave is necessary. This is where hypnosis is beneficial. Hypnosis allows us to rapidly make changes in how we think, feel and behave.
Because the language of the subconscious is imagination, it cannot distinguish between what is real /true and what isn’t. And because everything is real /true to the subconscious mind, if it believes it to be true then it is! Hence the power of hypnotic suggestions to create positive change.
SO TO EXPLAIN HYPNOSIS…
The conscious mind is at the front of the brain. The subconscious mind is at the back of the brain. And in between both parts is the critical factor.
THE CRITICAL FACTOR is the part of the mind that holds critical information before we let it enter our powerful subconscious mind /belief system /permanent memory.
The critical factor is the function of the mind that decides that new information is either “true” or “not true”. Or at least worthy of significant doubt.
The critical factor keeps what is in the subconscious mind consistent. So the critical factor is also part of the conscious mind.
Unless the critical factor is provided with convincing information, so strong that it is able to overcome existing beliefs and habits, new information is simply recorded, but not integrated into the personality and consistent behaviours.
If you were to be told something “crazy”, your conscious mind would filter it out so that your subconscious mind does not receive it, and thus cannot not enter your belief system /programming memory.
Children from 0-7 years of age are in their subconscious mind almost 100% of the time. This is why a child’s mind is considered fertile ground. Whatever seed you plant in the child’s mind, will grow. Children do not yet have the critical factor.
Hypnosis is where the conscious mind moves aside and lets the critical factor be by-passed allowing your subconscious mind to be susceptible to positive suggestions for change. The hypnotherapist leads you through a “trance” state of deep relaxation in order to effectively do this.
Hypnosis is a natural state that you encounter daily.
For example, when watching a movie, your conscious mind knows its not real, yet you still may feel sad and even cry during dramatic scenes. This is because your conscious mind has moved aside, and is taking a rest. You are not thinking about work, family, or kids. The critical factor has been bypassed, and you are watching the movie with your subconscious mind.
In therapy we aim for the same effect: To relax the conscious mind, move it to the side, by-pass the critical factor, and make positive suggestions for change directly into the subconscious mind.
Hypnosis can help you grow and cause incredible changes in your beliefs, thoughts, behaviours and even your health. Hypnosis can be used for healing, self-improvement, pain management, habit control, anxiety, depression, phobias, and much more.
We are all in a trance many times each day.
You can go into a trance sitting down, standing up, lying down, eyes open, and even eyes closed. People describe hypnosis as very pleasurable. Some listen to the words of the hypnotist and some drift away to some pleasant memory or imagined scene. Hypnosis is simply a state of increased awareness. You are aware and very alert; you may have sharper hearing, your imagination and memory may also be enhanced.
Hypnosis as seen on TV is often inaccurate. The hypnotist does not control you. Hypnosis cannot make you do anything against your will. Your morals and ethics remain intact. You can accept or reject suggestions. You can also deny truth during hypnosis if you choose.
Hypnosis taps the power of the unconscious mind, but you are not unconscious.
Examples of hypnosis in the natural state:
People have been in hypnosis many times. For example, haven’t you been in your car and lost track of time and wondered if you passed the street, or suburb or highway exit. This is a naturally occurring state of hypnosis.
Another example is naturally occurring analgesia or anaesthesia. Ever noticed a bruise, cut or graze, and wondered where it came from? You may have been so focused on some task (which induced a naturally occurring state of trance), and injured yourself, but because you may have been in hypnosis, you experienced the blockage of the sensation of pain. If you experience the same injury without being in natural hypnosis it may indeed be rather painful.
Consider for example eating a meal with your family. You may say to yourself “oh there is no juice” and then getting up to go to the refrigerator looking at the top shelf and again think to yourself “there is no juice,” and looking to the door of the refrigerator not finding any juice, again saying “there is no juice.” And you turn to your partner and say “there is no juice” and then, you hear their reply “it is in the refrigerator.”
You look for it again. Then your partner comes to assist you. They point their magic finger and suddenly the bottle of juice magically appears. Most people can relate to this kind of thing happening to them. For example, losing keys or a wallet. What has actually happened is you have been saying “there is no juice” and you keep repeating this statement over and over. The subconscious mind, then accepts the statement as true. You hallucinated that there was no juice. It is very easy to go into this deep level of hypnosis and not even know it. It feels quite normal because it is.
Any one of normal intelligence, who is willing to make changes and follow suggestions, can be hypnotised and benefit from hypnosis.
As I have explained, there is a part of you which is separate from your conscious mind. We call this your unconscious mind. And this part of you knows how to produce dreams at night, it knows how to relax you deeply, it knows how to grow your hair, digest your food and blink… All of this is beyond your conscious awareness. It knows more than you do about many things that happen in your body and your mind. It is this part of you that I talk to when you go into hypnosis.
In hypnosis you just start to feel very relaxed, perhaps a little dreamy. Sometimes you start to focus on sensations in the body like comfort and warmth, or you begin to notice your breathing, and the way it slows down a little. Often your eyelids start to feel a little heavier, like they are feeling sleepy, or they may flicker whilst closed. Sometimes images flow into your mind, of pleasant places, like the way the sky looks so blue on a warm day. You may be aware, yet pay less attention to what surrounds you, and drift your awareness inwards.
When people ask me what they need to do…,
To go into trance, I usually reply…,
Nothing at all except…,
Listen to my voice…,
Focus on my words…,
And whether you listen to them…,
Consciously or unconsciously…,
It does not really matter…,
Just relax, and enjoy the process.
B.Sc (Psyc), B.Coun, B.Teach(0-5),
Dip.Prof Coun, Dip.Child Psyc, Dip.CHSP