Hypnosis is a deeply relaxing and natural state that we all experience several times during the course of a normal day, have you ever driven somewhere and not remembered the actual drive once you got there? Become engrossed in a good book, film or something on T.V? If you have it is likely you were experiencing a trance state.
Hypnosis is not sleeping it is a state of focused attention in which our conscious mind quietens so that can we become open to positive suggestion, change work has been proven to be far more effective when trance is induced. The therapist will guide you into a REM state in, you won’t lose control and will be aware of everything that is going on around you but you will be able to visualize clearly.
Why Use Hypnosis?
Sigmund Freud was an Austrian neuropathologist who developed an iceberg analogy to describe the human mind. In 1905 Freud hypothesised that the mind was split into three parts, the conscious, subconscious and superconscious. The conscious mind is the top of the iceberg and contains a very small amount of our mental activity, the subconscious is where we store our memories and knowledge, the superconscious is where sexual instincts, fears and phobias come from. Learn more about the iceberg model here.
Once we have entered the hypnotic state a hypnotherapist can communicate with the hidden parts of our mind and change any of the undesired thoughts, beliefs or behaviours we may have asked him or her to help us with. Most people associate with their thoughts, behaviours and beliefs as if they were a part of them, this is not the case at all. We pick up most of our thoughts, behaviours and beliefs from our parents or guardians when we are children. As children, we learn about our environment by mimicking (in NLP this is called modelling) the people around us so if the people we spend most of our time around as kids have fears, anxiety issues or undesirable behaviours we will pick them up.
We then create self-fulfilling prophecies to prove our beliefs correct, beliefs are very hard to change consciously, brain scans have shown how defensive parts of the brain are fired when beliefs are questioned. Hypnosis can be used to bypass the conscious parts of the mind, the critical faculty as Freud called it can be bypassed when the client is in a trance state and the therapist can communicate directly with the unconscious mind.
To be able to react to dangerous situations quickly and efficiently our minds to look for patterns in our environment and match them to previous experiences, pattern matching can cause many phobias and behavioural problems. In some countries, they have spiders that are poisonous, big and hairy so it makes sense to be scared of them but to be scared of a money spider is irrational and a sign that your pattern matching mind has gone too far. Pattern matching is a natural hypnotic state and so hypnosis is very effective at removing pattern matched behaviour, fears and phobias.
The mind cannot tell the difference between reality and imagination, brain scans have shown that new neural pathways are created just by imagining a situation or desired outcome. Becuase hypnosis is a REM state it is easy for the client to visualise the future they want to create and create the neural pathways they need to achieve it, when we feel like we have already achieved our goals we will be one step closer to actually doing so.
There are many myths and misbeliefs about hypnosis one myth is that it is a tool of manipulation, hypnosis is not something that can be done to you. You need to be a willing participant, a hypnotherapist will use your minds own natural ability to relax, it could be possible for a very skilled and experienced hypnotist like Milton Erickson to hypnotise someone who refuses to relax and there are in fact stories of Erickson doing this but even if someone who didn’t want to experience hypnosis was put into a trance state they would still have their own free will and be aware of what was happening around them.
The subconscious mind is always alert to danger even when we are asleep and it could reject any suggestions that it did not find acceptable. Our conscious minds are only aware of a very tiny fraction of what is going on around us at any moment in time, our subconscious minds are aware of everything that is happening all the time like when we wake up to our morning alarm. By relaxing our conscious and using our subconscious minds we can become more alert and aware of everything that is happening around us, early hypnosis experiments suggested that it was even possible to read minds whilst in a trance state.
Some People Cannot Be Hypnotised
Trance is a natural state that we all experience several times a day so in theory, everyone can be hypnotised but very few hypnotists will believe that they can hypnotise everyone. Nervous people will be very difficult to hypnotise and so will people who cannot concentrate. When we hypnotise someone we have a duty of care for them so we cannot always help people who are suffering from severe depression or a serious mental illness.