Monthly Archives: March 2012

Why does it look like mind control when someone is under hypnosis?

Question:

Why does it look like mind control when someone is under hypnosis?   Niall Wade

Answer:

The reason people confuse hypnosis with things like mind control is that most people only see examples of hypnotized people in movies and on TV.  But those people aren’t really hypnotized; they’re actors pretending to be hypnotized.

Many years ago, when hypnosis first became popularly known, plays and books started distorting hypnosis to use it for dramatic purposes.  The hypnotist became a villain, often a wizard or vampire, who would use his “powers” to make the other characters do evil things like murder.  The actors’ faces look almost frozen, zombie-like — just like you think they would be if they were actually under someone else’s control and their own mind and will power have been taken away.  But this is all pretend.

If you want to see someone who is actually under hypnosis, you’ll notice that at stage hypnosis shows, people are usually slumped over in their chairs and they look like they are sleeping.

But in no way can any hypnotist or hypnotherapist ever make someone do anything that they personally believe is wrong.  A person’s moral, core beliefs are sacrosanct and cannot be affected or changed.  You can also never be made to do something that would hurt you personally.  Hypnosis consists of suggestions and the subconscious mind will always reject the dangerous ones.


How does hypnosis work?

Question:

I’ve been reading your site and was wondering exactly how hypnosis works.

Answer:

There are two parts to our minds, the conscious and the subconscious.  The conscious mind is our awareness, the thoughts and feelings we experience everyday.  It experiences the world based on what comes through our five senses during the time we are awake, but it doesn’t take everything in.  While we can control most of our actions and feelings through our conscious decision-making, we can’t always — such as when our will power is too weak to stop us from eating things we shouldn’t or emotions boil up that we have no control over.

Below that is our subconscious mind which we are not directly aware of except when thoughts “jump” into our mind.  This is where our imagination lies and is the seat of our creativity.  It registers all the information we receive more quickly and completely than the conscious mind, but without a sense of time, logic, or reasoning.  In it are established all our central beliefs, conditioning, and every kind of habit from behavioral to emotional.  Its processes are closely tied to the brain itself, which is why we sometimes call hypnosis “retraining the brain.”  Unlike our conscious mind, the subconscious “thinks” in images.

When the client is in hypnosis, they are in a semi-awake state – a form of trance — where there is direct access to the subconscious, better known as suggestibility.  The hypnotherapist phrases his or her suggestions using the images and words he or she has discovered that are most meaningful to the client.  These go directly to the subconscious mind which, as long as it doesn’t violate the client’s core moral belief system and reinforces what the conscious mind wants to believe, is seen as true and accepted.   This then changes how the brain actually thinks so that it changes associations such as when cigarettes no longer seem pleasurable or comfortable, but make you feel sick.  Or instead of triggering a panic attack, a once fearful object creates feelings of calm and comfort.

What are the advantages in using hypnosis instead of medication for insomnia?

Question:

I’ve never had trouble sleeping in my life until we recently had a major shake-up where I work.  But even though things have pretty much calmed down, I still can’t seem to get more than four hours of sleep a night.  Half my friends say I should try hypnosis while the others say I should just see a doctor but I’m a little uncomfortable taking pills for what may be a long time.

Answer:

The main differences between hypnosis and medication is that hypnosis itself puts you in the state that occurs naturally starting about 30 minutes before you fall asleep.   That alone starts preparing your body for returning to your normal sleep pattern.  Your hypnotherapist will usually make suggestions and give you relaxation techniques that you will use that evening to put yourself back in hypnosis and your brain will start regaining its natural ability to quickly move from hypnosis to regular sleep with all the necessary stages of sleep.

Usually the process takes less than 4-8 sessions, especially if the problem began after something that temporarily changed a person’s routine.  Your case sounds very similar with a break in your your normal pattern and now you’re having difficulty getting back to your natural schedule.  This often occurs frequently after the holidays.

Doctors have to be very careful when prescribing sleep drugs.   No matter what other side-effect(s) they might have, all sleep medications can cause psychological dependence.

The newest type of drug imitates the actions of the brain hormone melatonin which is what normally regulates your sleep/wake cycle.  It may take as long as 10 days to become fully effective.  Side effects rarely occur, but they include the possibility of doing activities while quasi-asleep like driving, eating, and making phone calls at night and having no memory of them in the morning.  Mental changes can occur as well such as agitation, anxiety, nightmares, and other changes in your usual thoughts, mood, or behavior.

Older medications contain selective Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA).  GABA receptors work in the brain and affect levels of alertness.  These  are directed specifically at the receptor thought to affect sleep.  Side effects include memory problems and activities like sleep driving and sleepwalking.

Often people will use an over-the-counter allergy medicine.  Most contain diphenhydramine that works on the body’s histamines, which are what create cold and allergy symptoms.  Diphenhydramine also has a sedating effect, hence its use in sleep.  While it is efficacious with mild, infrequent insomnia, all histamines are known for creating morning grogginess.  Other side effects can include difficulty urinating and confusion or delirium.

While hypnosis’ greatest advantage may be that it has no side effects, because hypnosis has returned your brain to his normal sleep/wake cycle, you will continue your normal sleep schedule while, sometimes, stopping a sleep medication means that your sleeping problems may return.