What is Hypnosis?
Hypnosis as a therapeutic intervention is becoming more and more prevalent and commonplace. This article is explaining what the actual phenomena is and dispelling a few myths along the way.
Hypnosis, Self-Hypnosis, Hypnotherapy, Hypnotic, Trance
Before anyone experiences hypnosis and starts using it to make wonderful, beneficial changes in their life, this article is designed to perhaps to answer a few questions you may have and also to dispel a few myths and misconceptions about hypnosis.
You know, I still meet people that believe that experiencing hypnosis is like being unconscious. I always reply, 'What would be the point of that? Spending money and time to be unconscious in someone else's company?? If I wanted you to be unconscious we would simply bash you over the head!' So it is important that you also know that hypnosis is not about being unconscious and that you have the correct expectations about the hypnotic experience that you are going to have, should you choose to invest in one of our products or experience hypnosis for yourself with a hypnotist.
In order to understand hypnosis, it is important to understand and differentiate between our minds. By that I am referring to our conscious mind, where we are now and just below that level of awareness is our unconscious mind (also known as the subconscious mind, for the purpose of easy understanding they are the same thing).
The conscious mind is where we usually spend most of our waking time, you know that internal dialogue we have that thinks 'hmmm, what shoes shall I wear today' that is your conscious mind. Your conscious mind basically does four things;
Firstly, your conscious mind analyses. What is that? Well that is the part of us that looks at problems, analyses them and tries to create solutions to those problems. It is that part of us that makes decisions all day every day 'shall I open the door?', 'Shall I have something to eat', even though they are automatic behaviours, we make a conscious decision about whether or not to do these things.
The second part of our conscious mind is our rationale, the part of us that, especially in western cultures, always has to know 'Why' things happen and 'Why' we behave in particular ways. This can cause us so many problems as we give any problems more and more credence and power. More conventional and traditional methods of counselling or psychotherapy are often very much concerned with looking at causes of our problems and it is my opinion that all this does is teaches us 'why' they happen as opposed to giving us the skills required to changing unwanted habits and behaviours. The more we think about 'why' we do things the more we seem to embed the unwanted behaviour into our psyches!
The third part of our conscious mind is will power, that teeth-gritted determination that so many of us are proud to demonstrate. How many times have we used our will power alone to make changes and found that our will power weakens and that change is temporary or non-existent.
The final part of our conscious mind is your short-term memory. By that I am referring to the things that you need to remember to function on a day-to-day basis, so that when your phone rings you know to answer it rather than stare at it wondering it is, or ensuring that you cross the road without being run over.
That is the conscious part of your mind, it is logical, rational and analytical, a bit like Mr Spock from the Start Trek series and as much as it pains me to say it, our conscious mind is frequently wrong about things.
Your conscious mind is wherever you happen to be pointing it at any given time. I am sure you have been in a busy, noisy environment, such as a restaurant or a bar and have been engaged in a conversation with another individual, and all the sounds going on around you just seem to blend into the background. Then someone else ten metres away can punctuate their sentence with your name and you pick it out as if it was being spoken to you. This illustrates that unconsciously, you are aware of many, many pieces of information every second of your life, sounds, colours, thoughts etc, yet your conscious mind allows you to focus upon what is pertinent or relevant to you at that moment.
If you take that conscious awareness and point it inside of yourself instead of outside into the world, you begin to become aware of your inner self, your unconscious self, which is the part of you that we work with in hypnosis.
Your unconscious mind is tremendously powerful and automates as much behaviour as it possibly can so that we do not have to think about it. For example, there was a time in your life when you had to be shown how to tie your shoelaces, and you concentrated on doing this. I suspect that by this stage in your life you know how tie your shoelaces very well and you don't even think about doing it, you just do it. I have a lonely Auntie who as a boy, my mother would ask me to phone on a weekly basis as she thought this would make her happy and I vividly remember hearing her lighting up a cigarette and heavily exhaling the smoke while on the phone, she didn't even think about what she was doing, she just associated smoking with being on the phone.
We are amazing learning machines and we learn behaviours and habits and then our unconscious mind automates them and does them on auto pilot so that we do not have to think about doing them.
Your unconscious mind has within it all your long-term memory. Just about every blade of grass that you have seen in your entire lifetime is stored away in your long-term memory that serves as an amazing storage centre. These memories affect us in varying ways, some more than others. Sometimes our ability to remember them is not as fluid as we need, as it is often not necessary to have all our memory in the forefront of our minds. For example, right now you are unlikely to be thinking about everything that happened to you on your last birthday, however, me just mentioning it, you can dig into your unconscious, long-term memory and remember.
Another example is if you have ever seen a live stand up comedy show. You watch the comedian and laugh (or not as the case may be!) heartily as you listen to lots and lots of jokes. Then when you leave the venue, you can remember none of them, or one or two at best! Then, a week later, a friend that you were with can say to you 'do you remember such and such a joke from last weeks comedian' and you think 'oh yeeeaaah!' as you bring that information out from your long-term memory. You know that you know the joke, it was just not at the forefront of your conscious mind, it was tucked away in the deeper unconscious.
Your unconscious mind knows more about you than you consciously that you know. Sound confusing? Well, just think, you are currently breathing, your heart is beating (I do hope!) you are digesting, your body is regulating its body temperature, it is doing a range of wonderful things without you having to consciously think about it. You are not sat around thinking 'I really must remember to breathe'. We are not machines, there is an intelligence within us that knows how to do these things, and it is that intelligence that we tap into with hypnosis.
Your unconscious mind is where you get your gut feelings, your instincts and intuition that communicates with you sporadically from time to time. Like when sometimes, someone can be saying all the right words to you, but you get a different feeling about them.
Your unconscious mind is a bit like a computer. Throughout your entire lifetime it has been programmed with all your experiences, relationships, interpretations of the world, influences and all this has culminated in your computer functioning with that programming. Hypnosis is simply a way of accessing that computer and updating that programming so that it becomes instinctive and intuitive for you to make the changes that please you.
Your unconscious mind is the seat of your emotions and where your behaviours exist and it is the part of you that we work with in hypnosis. Hypnosis is a way of us stepping over your conscious mind and accessing the unconscious mind to make powerful and profound changes.
Now, I am sure that you have experienced natural trance states many times before, in fact I know it. For example, when you have been driving in a car and thought to yourself 'ooh, how did I get here?' or when you have been reading a book and you've turned the page and thought 'I have no idea what I have just read, I am going to have to read it all again'. I can remember being at school watching my history teacher teach me, yet my mind was a million miles away wishing I was doing something else. All common experiences, daydream like states that we all experience, many times a day. The only difference between these naturally occurring states and those that we use in therapeutic hypnosis, is that with the hypnosis, you intend to enter the state, you are in control of it and it is just like a slightly amplified, deeper version of the state. That is it. Sometimes it is simply like sitting in a chair with your eyes closed, not the magical mystical or unusual experience that some people are led to believe it is.
It is important here to know that you cannot be made to do anything that you don't want to do. Very important. I had a guy that a doctor referred to me, came to see me and said to me 'my doctor told me come and see you as I have emphysema and am going to die of it unless I stop smoking'. I said to him, well I presume you want to stop, he said 'oh, no, I love smoking, it is one of few remaining pleasures.' I had to send him away as I cannot make him do something that he does not want to. Can you imagine if I could do that!! Wow. I could go and see my bank manager and make him give me million pounds without returning it! You never read about 'Baddy hypnotists' making people rob banks or anything else absurd, because it cannot be done.
People usually then say to me 'ok Adam, I hear and understand what you are saying and it all makes sense'. However, I have seen stage hypnosis and seen people dancing like chickens, are you telling me that they want to do that?' I am saying that these people are not being made to do things that they don't want to do.
When someone buys tickets to a stage hypnosis show, they are being permissive to the notion that they are going to see hypnosis for entertainment; they expect certain things to happen. Secondly, when the stage hypnotist asks the audience 'who wants to come on stage' the people that agree to do so or put their hands up are saying 'yes, I want to be hypnotised', they are not being made to do anything they don't want to do. The stage hypnotist ensures that the individuals on the show are receptive and follow a large number of compliance exercises and it begins to create the illusion that these people are doing things that they don't want to do, when they are not. The hypnosis can step over the inhibitions of the conscious mind, so that the individuals behave with more openness, they just cannot be made to do things they don't want to do.
Anyone can be hypnotised. I work with insomniacs, heroin addicts, schizophrenics, people experiencing chemotherapy, these are all people that are often convinced that they cannot relax or cannot be hypnotised, and as long as they want to, they all can and they all do.
All that is required is that you have an open mind, that you expect it to work and have progressive, motivated thoughts about the processes, follow the sessions and allow them to help you help yourself to make the changes you want and deserve.
Finally, at the beginning of the recorded hypnosis sessions and/or individual NLP or hypnosis sessions with me (I cannot speak for other therapists, we all do things differently) individually, you may be asked to do a number of different things with your mind and you can be forgiven for thinking, 'well, he asked me to do this, and now something else, and now another thing, what exactly am I supposed to be listening to?' The simple answer is that you listen and follow as much or as little as you want to, remember that is your conscious mind thinking those thoughts and that is not the part of you that we are working with and making the change with. I am sure that there will also be times when you'll be thinking 'hmmm… am I in hypnosis, what am I supposed to be thinking or feeling.' Again that is your conscious mind thinking that thought and does not matter what it is thinking. It can be attempting to follow everything that I am saying or just wandering off and thinking about whatever you like, just trust that your unconscious mind is absorbing all that you want it to.
There will be times in the sessions when you may be asked to imagine things. Imagining things does not have to mean visualising. If I ask you to think of a favourite place, you can imagine what it would be like, you don't have to be seeing a picture perfect cinema version of it in your mind. You can imagine, sense, think, or just know it without seeing it or picturing it in every detail. If I asked you to imagine the sound your feet make when you walk across gravel, you know the sound I am talking about and you can imagine it, but you are not necessarily hearing it in your ears, you can imagine it. That is all you'll need.
So, hypnosis is not like being unconscious, it is almost like having heightened awareness, it requires you to want the change, have an open, positive mind, as best as you can, and allow whatever happens to happen, without trying to grasp at what you think should happen, just letting it happen.
I wish you all the very best with whichever hypnosis product, or with any consultative sessions you are considering having with any qualified therapist or any training you plan to attend and I just know that having come this far, you really can do it, and make the changes that you want to make with hypnosis.