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.
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.
My question is tied to my desire to understand how it is that my mind no longer responds to the pressure I was feeling before which I thought was an emotional response based on past situations where I felt attacked and helpless. But it seems that my mind is now able to be rational under pressure and that sort of button can no longer be pushed? Can you explain how it works? (I had one session with this client. SF)
In your life, your subconscious mind was trained so that certain things in your environment would trigger specific feelings, like how you used to respond to feeling attacked by feeling hurt and helpless. What we did in hypnosis was to change your response, first by establishing a constant and consistent sense of peace and calm. Then, instead of having your subconscious immediately jump from “I feel attacked” to “I feel hurt and helpless,” my suggestions re-directed it so that it acknowledged the attack, but you remained calm and focused. We call that “retraining the brain.” I also gave you other suggestions that supported this including ones to start, continue, and end the day being focused, and to block you from all negativity.
I’ve been reading your site and was wondering exactly how hypnosis works.
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.
When you posted earlier that hypnotherapy was only like the theatrical hypnosis shows in that people are hypnotized, I got curious. When you see those shows it’s always a big joke about that person who claims they “can’t be hypnotized” and always is (at least in the show). But really how often does this happen? Are there people who can’t be hypnotized, even if they are coming to you for therapy?
I’ve been doing this since I was 12, a very long time now, and in my experience nearly everyone can be hypnotized. The few exceptions have been those people who really did not want to be hypnotized because they, mistakenly, thought they would lose control. And, I get those people partially under before they are too uncomfortable to continue. The fact is, you are ALWAYS in control. You hear everything that is going on, we talk while you’re in hypnosis, and you can stop the session at any time.
The fact is everyone is in hypnosis everyday. Hypnosis is that 30 minute period before you naturally fall asleep when your imagination becomes more active and your conscious mind is turning inward. Another familiar example is when you’re reading and completely wrapped up in the book. The biggest difference between that type of hypnosis and what we do in my office is that you are focusing on my voice.
When I put you in hypnosis, it feels like a daydream only I’m guiding you through it. At the beginning of the session, we discuss what your goals are or what behaviors you want to change. From this, I learn the language of your subconscious mind which thinks in images. Some people are more visual or kinetic, so I can figure out how to phrase things and what sort of imagery to use. And then, after I put you under, everything I say is what you’ve told me that you want to hear. You’ll hear every word I say although you might drift off once or twice. When I see that, I’ll bring your attention back to me. Everything in hypnotherapy is based on being comfortable and safe.