People have been pondering and arguing over hypnosis for more than 200 years, but science has yet to fully explain how it actually happens. We see what a person does under hypnosis, but it isn’t clear why he or she does it. This puzzle is really a small piece in a much bigger puzzle: how the human mind works. It’s unlikely that scientists will arrive at a definitive explanation of the mind in the foreseeable future, so it’s a good bet hypnosis will remain something of a mystery as well.
How Does Hypnosis Work?
Psychiatrists do understand the general characteristics of hypnosis, and they have some model of how it works. It is a trance state characterized by extreme suggestibility, relaxation and heightened imagination. It’s not really like sleep, because the subject is alert the whole time. It is most often compared to daydreaming, or the feeling of “losing yourself” in a book or movie. You are fully conscious, but you tune out most of the stimuli around you. You focus intently on the subject at hand, to the near exclusion of any other thought.
In the everyday trance of a daydream or movie, an imaginary world seems somewhat real to you, in the sense that it fully engages your emotions. Imaginary events can cause real fear, sadness or happiness, and you may even jolt in your seat if you are surprised by something (a monster leaping from the shadows, for example). Some researchers categorize all such trances as forms of self-hypnosis. Milton Erickson, the premier hypnotism expert of the 20th century, contended that people hypnotize themselves on a daily basis. But most psychiatrists focus on the trance state brought on by intentional relaxation and focusing exercises. This deep hypnosis is often compared to the relaxed mental state between wakefulness and sleep.
In conventional hypnosis, you approach the suggestions of the hypnotist, or your own ideas, as if they were reality.. and relaxed. Presumably, this is because they tune out the worries and doubts that normally keep their actions in check. You might experience the same feeling while watching a movie: As you get engrossed in the plot, worries about your job, family, etc. fade away, until all you’re thinking about is what’s up on the screen.
In this state, you are also highly suggestible. That is, when the hypnotist tells you do something, you’ll probably embrace the idea completely. The subject’s sense of safety and morality remain entrenched throughout the experience, however. A hypnotist can’t get you to do anything you don’t want to do.
What Lies Beneath
Condensed from an article by Tom Harris
The predominant school of thought on hypnosis is that it is a way to access a person’s subconscious mind directly. Normally, you are only aware of the thought processes in your conscious mind. You consciously think over the problems that are right in front of you, consciously choose words as you speak, consciously try to remember where you left your keys.
But in doing all these things, your conscious mind is working hand-in-hand with your subconscious mind, the unconscious part of your mind that does your “behind the scenes” thinking. Your subconscious mind accesses the vast reservoir of information that lets you solve problems, construct sentences or locate your keys. It puts together plans and ideas and runs them by your conscious mind. When a new idea comes to you out of the blue, it’s because you already thought through the process unconsciously.
Your subconscious also takes care of all the stuff you do automatically. You don’t actively work through the steps of breathing minute to minute — your subconscious mind does that. You don’t think through every little thing you do while driving a car — a lot of the small stuff is thought out in your subconscious mind. Your subconscious also processes the physical information your body receives.
In short, your subconscious mind is the real brains behind the operation — it does most of your thinking, and it decides a lot of what you do. When you’re awake, your conscious mind works to evaluate a lot of these thoughts, make decisions and put certain ideas into action. It also processes new information and relays it to the subconscious mind. But when you’re asleep, the conscious mind gets out of the way, and your subconscious has free reign.
Psychiatrists theorize that the deep relaxation and focusing exercises of hypnotism work to calm and subdue the conscious mind so that it takes a less active role in your thinking process. In this state, you’re still aware of what’s going on, but your conscious mind takes a backseat to your subconscious mind. Effectively, this allows you and the hypnotist to work directly with the subconscious. It’s as if the hypnotism process pops open a control panel inside your brain.
How Do I Know I Can Be Hypnotized?
Studies confirm that there are only two categories of people who cannot be hypnotized: those who have an IQ under 70 and those who are psychotic. However, in my experience there is a third category: those who don’t think they can be hypnotized and set up resistance because they are afraid they will lose control. Usually after one session their fears are relieved and they can allow themselves the benefits of hypnosis.
How Many Sessions Are Needed?
In general, a rule of thumb is 3 sessions. However, sometimes only one session is needed, sometimes more, depending both on the severity of the issue and the level of motivation. Although I will give my suggestion at the end of a session, it is always up to the client.
How Do I Get Started?
Give me a call (603-277-2955) or email me and we’ll set up a time for a complimentary call to determine if we are a good match. If so, we’ll set up an appointment.
Contact me and I’ll do my best to answer them for you. Hypnosis is a wonderful experience for most people. I think you’ll be pleased.