When you hear the word hypnosis what images come to mind? Do you visualize people on a stage being “made” to cluck like a chicken or perform other silly acts? If so, you are not alone. Although stage hypnotists can be fun to experience and watch, their focus is entertainment and can leave the audience with misconceptions about the true benefits of hypnosis.
In reality, all hypnosis is self-hypnosis. No one can be made to do anything that they aren’t willing to do, and they absolutely cannot be made to do anything against their own moral code. Hypnosis is also not a truth serum. You have complete awareness and can censor, withhold, and even lie about what you divulge during the experience. You always have a choice in how you respond.
Believe it or not, we are hypnotized from the time we are born. All the repetitive messages and suggestions our parents and other significant people in our lives tell us, from infanthood well into childhood and beyond, conditions our behaviors. Because our subconscious mind is the storehouse of all our memories and is the control center of our emotions, it’s also where habits are formed. Many of our habits were conditioned in us from a very young age.
Furthermore, we are hypnotized all the time in our daily lives. How many times have you driven somewhere, and can’t quite remember how you got to your destination? As you know, you are not asleep when this happens. In fact, your senses are hyperalert and you’d still be able to step on the brake quickly if needed. Your subconscious mind takes over as if you are on autopilot while your thoughts are elsewhere. This is called highway hypnosis!
Have you ever paid attention to the music being played in the grocery store? There is a science behind how the right sounds can encourage you to spend more money. This is another form of hypnosis! The same can be said with television commercials. Colors, images, words, volume, tempo, and repetitive phrases are all carefully woven together to convince you to buy into something. If the marketing is good, then you will remember the catchy tune or catchphrase because it has taken root in your subconscious.
Even daydreaming is a form of hypnosis, because while you are focused on whatever you’re imagining you are still aware of your surroundings. You can be brought back into the present moment simply by hearing your name called aloud. The same is true when you become engrossed with a book or a movie. Have you ever become so rivetted in a book that when you finally stopped reading you were shocked to realize several hours had gone by? These states of hyper-focus are essentially trance states.
So, how is purposeful hypnosis different? Well, this may sound surprising, but therapeutic hypnosis is actually a process of de-hypnotizing. It is the intentional process of guiding someone into a trance state to de-hypnotize or rewrite the scripts within the subconscious mind that are unhealthy. Many habits are formed as a means of protecting us against harm real or imagined, but they can also become self-defeating when we don’t fully understand how they formed.
According to the National Guild of Hypnotists, hypnosis is an altered state of consciousness where the subconscious level of the mind is in a state of hyper-suggestibility. Using the power of positive suggestions while in this state allows for the opportunity to change, release or modify limiting beliefs so that new healthier habits can be formed.
To help understand how the mind works, think of your brain as a car. Your conscious mind is the driver of the car. This is the part of the mind with which you reason and where you spend most of your time. As the driver, the conscious mind is aware and plays the dominant role. Your conscious mind also makes decisions, rationalizes, and includes your working memory.
Your subconscious mind is the car. The trunk of the car is where all your memories and experiences are stored. The different fluids responsible for ensuring that your car runs smoothly, are your emotions. We all know it’s imperative to routinely change or flush the fluids in your car to prevent engine wear or damage. The same can be said for your emotions. Left unchecked, your emotions can wreak havoc on your body if you don’t deal with them. The metal frame of your car is your armor, and like your subconscious mind, this armor protects you against danger. Lastly, any dents, scratches, or areas of faded paint on that armor represents the habits you have formed over the years.
During hypnosis, your conscious mind, the primary driver, moves to the backseat and allows your subconscious mind to drive. Your conscious mind is still aware and sometimes will try to back-seat drive, but ultimately your subconscious is now in control. With a destination or a goal in mind, the hypnotist provides positive suggestions to your subconscious mind. These suggestions are like road signs to your ultimate destination of a happier and healthier life.
What’s important to realize is that hypnosis is not a form of mind control. You can’t be made to do or say something against your will. In fact, you may refuse a suggestion (ignore the road signs), do the complete opposite (turn the other direction), or break the trance altogether (hand the keys back to your conscious mind). The very fact that you have all the control is why hypnosis is so effective. A trained hypnotist merely guides you along your path. Regardless of your ultimate goals, the mind is powerful and when given the opportunity, hypnosis empowers you to change unconscious thoughts that no longer serve your highest self.