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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.

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What if things come up in hypnosis that I don’t want to know about or I’m not ready to deal with?

Question:

I had a really bad childhood and I don’t remember it all. What if stuff comes up during hypnotherapy that I don’t want to know about or I’m not ready to deal with?

Answer:

One of the advantages of hypnotherapy is that you and your hypnotherapist are always in control of the situation.  A difficult or painful memory will not come up until you are absolutely ready to — and want to — work with it.

Hypnotherapy’s object is to change behavior.  To do that we are changing habits by “retraining the brain.”  It doesn’t matter what caused the habit to change it.  Events like panic attacks can be removed without ever bringing up what caused them.  In any case, we always ask the subconscious first if it is ready to handle any memories and scary memories will never surface until you are ready for them.  When you are, we’ll examine the memory while keeping you completely blocked from the emotions.  You’ll know what you felt, but without feeling scared, pained, fearful, or any sort of negative emotion.  Then the emotions themselves are removed.  The memories remain, but not the emotions that used to be connected to them.