Blog Archives

How hypnosis changes emotional responses

Question:

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)

Answer:

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.

The Subconscious Mind

Question:

What do people really mean by the subconscious mind?

Answer:

In the 1880s hypnosis revealed that we were more than just our consciousness because something had to be guiding people’s behavior while they were hypnotized and not aware of the world around them.  It was called the unconscious mind or, as we now more commonly refer to it, the subconscious.  It had always been believed that the conscious mind made the decisions that directed our actions; but, in the past 35 years, research from cognitive neuroscience to social psychology, is demonstrating that the subconscious plays the dominant role.

Evolution-based studies show that we rely primarily on our subconscious mind to develop successful ways of surviving in an unpredictable world.  We learn in the form of habits, such as behaviors, values, and beliefs, from infancy on by copying how the people around us respond to specific stimuli in our environment.  Then we develop our own personal habits based on the unique events in our lives.  We usually don’t know that we are learning these responses.  As we grow older, we begin to learn other tasks consciously that are then completely taken over by the subconscious like reading or riding a bicycle.  While our knowledge grows, we develop an imagination to help us survive unanticipated situations.

When things in the outside world trigger specific reactions from our subconscious, the conscious mind thinks it has chosen to act or think certain thoughts, but they are actually initiated by the subconscious.  Though as a person matures, the conscious mind can control some actions stimulated by the subconscious, it has no power over the thoughts or emotions that have been triggered.  Deeply connected habits can be almost impossible to change despite logic, reason, or will power.  However, hypnosis is a method of directly contacting the subconscious and modifying the triggering process.

One way to take control of the subconscious mind is through hypnosis.  Hypnotic suggestions substitute the original habit for another, more desirable one, such as in smoking when being exposed to a cigarette no longer elicits a sense of attraction but makes the person feel disgusted.  The conscious mind is only aware of the change in its feelings, not the change in the subconscious mind that has created the new response.

Phobias — Can hypnosis help me get rid of my fear of spiders and what’s it like?

Question:

I’m scared of spiders.  It used to be that if I saw one, I’d have a panic attack but now even a picture of a spider causes me to panic.  Can hypnosis help me?

Answer:

What you have is a phobia, specifically arachnophobia, the fear of spiders.  While fears and phobias are very similar, a fear is when you get panic attack symptoms that are triggered by something realistic while a phobia is when the panic attack is triggered by irrational and sometimes unknown factors.  Usually, as in your case, the phobia will become more and more easily triggered until it becomes a significant problem in everyday life.  However, for all the discomfort, a phobia is essentially a habit and very easy to handle in hypnosis.  At no point do we bring up the actual feeling of the panic so that the person feels completely safe and comfortable throughout the experience.

Phobias are usually created when someone experiences feeling panicked, terrified, physical pain, or the fear of impending danger and then associates it with something around them, whether or not what they’ve associated the feeling with caused or played a part in creating the negative feeling.  Very often the trigger is only marginally related to the original emotion.  Since you’ve been scared of spiders since childhood, chances are that it’s based on a psychological experience.  But phobias based on truly traumatic experiences, such as abuse or physical trauma are much rarer than people think.  You may have been scared by something other than the spider, saw a spider, and “pinned” the blame on it.  Maybe someone bullied you with a toy spider and you became scared of the toy and not the person.

However, phobias that develop in adulthood are quite often due not to something psychological, but physiological, i. e., due to hypoglycemia or a lack of sugar in one’s system.  This mimics a panic attack and the person associates that shakiness and panicky feeling with something around them.  People skip breakfast or eat poorly, get that panicky feeling later, and suddenly they begin to develop a phobia around whatever they were doing or where they were when the feeling hit them — driving, eating a specific food, or taking tests (when a person is already pretty nervous to begin with).

Ironically, for such a potentially life-disrupting condition, a phobia is fairly simple to manage.  The technique of systematic desensitization allows for the person to feel absolutely calm and then imagine that when they wake up they’ll no longer have any irrational responses to anything.  From then on when the trigger is referred to or seen they associate it with comfort and relaxation and the negative symptoms disappear.  The client is able to think about the phobia trigger and the fear is gone.

It will often take one to three sessions for a phobia to resolve.  A phobia that was produced by a significant trauma is very different since we need to diffuse the incident and all the additional damage it has caused.  This requires more time and may require working in partnership with a psychotherapist.