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So What is a Suggestion, Anyway?

Question:

Every time I hear people talking about how effective hypnosis is, they mention the power of suggestion.  You mention it in your articles, but have never really defined it.

Answer:

In a normal day, everyone gets suggestions all the time such as when someone tells you what route to drive or which shirt to buy.  It’s an idea given to you by someone else that you receive and consider consciously.  Usually their effectiveness depends on the knowledgeability of the other person.  If they know the area better, you’re more likely to travel as per their suggestion.  But, even if they are only as familiar with the place as you are, just hearing a suggestion gives it power.  It goes to the forefront of your mind and overshadows your other ideas.  However, if that suggestion is different from what your subconscious is comfortable with, then when someone tells you to take a route that involves going through a neighborhood you have negative associations with, your subconscious isn’t going to let you take it no matter how much faster it is or more logical.

But there is one time when the subconscious mind is very open to absorbing suggestions — during hypnosis.  Hypnosis occurs during the thirty minutes before a person falls asleep.  You may have heard in school that what you study just before you go to sleep is what you’ll remember best.  This is because during hypnosis, the critical facilities in your conscious mind, such as logic and reasoning, are already only half aware of what’s going on and are no longer filtering out new, potentially uncomfortable, thoughts and ideas.

A hypnotherapist is skilled at coming up with words and images that “speak” to their client.  The idea that a person’s hand can become so light that it will defy gravity and float up into the air seems impossible consciously, but to the subconscious anything is possible.  If a person is not in hypnosis, logic and reason will tell them that their hand is not getting lighter; however, when under hypnosis, the subconscious mind pays more attention to the voice of the hypnotherapist than the physical reality. Therefore, they will believe that their arm is becoming lighter.  If a person is visual, one might concentrate on the image of the hand rising or playing in the breeze.  Auditory people are encouraged to hear the air lift their hand.  Kinesthetically oriented people are told to feel the air lift their hand.  In nearly every case, the hand will rise.

It’s never just the power of suggestion that affects people, it’s how a suggestion is given and when.  When created by a skilled hypnotherapist, the results can be profound and life changing.