Is hypnosis real?
Most people in today’s society are filled to the brim with misconceptions about what is hypnosis. It’s not really their fault. We’ve all seen the stereotypical creepy hypnotist armed with a top hat and pendulum who ZAPS people into a trance, making them do anything he wants in the process. We’ve all seen the vampires from the movies who compel people to do their bidding. More importantly, we’ve all heard stories of friends, friends we thought to be normal, who went to a stage hypnosis show only to go on stage and be made to act like a monkey, scratching their own butts and looking for non-existent bananas on stage. The misconceptions are numerous and hypnosis remains shrouded in mystery. That’s changing today because thousands of people are turning to hypnotherapy to change more quickly than they ever thought possible!
In this article, I want to cover the basics so as to debunk the myths, set the record straight and get you EXCITED about the potential hypnosis / hypnotherapy has to increase your understanding of your mind and how to use it for positive change! The main questions to be answered are:
- Is hypnosis Real?
- How is the mind structured? What is this ‘subconscious mind’ you keep hearing about?
- What is hypnosis? Does hypnosis work?
- What is hypnotherapy?
Consider this article on what is hypnosis an introduction, I’ll provide links to articles where I expand on these concepts and pepper in some hypnosis videos as well.
So is hypnosis real? Yes, and the average person goes into hypnosis on a daily basis without recognizing it. Every time you become lost in thought or fantasy of a day dream, that’s hypnotic state (or trance). Every time you become totally absorbed in a movie, that’s a hypnotic trance. Literally every advertisement you see has as its purpose to bypass your conscious mind and directly influence your subconscious mind. I’ll return and elaborate on these examples later on, as your understanding of what is hypnosis increases, but the point is that hypnosis is part of our daily lives and to understand how does hypnosis work, we need to understand a few basics of the human mind!
The Power of the Subconscious Mind
At present, humanity knows that the human mind is separated into three distinct structures with different, interacting functions: the conscious mind, the subconscious (also called preconscious mind) and the unconscious mind. I’ll introduce the conscious and subconscious minds in this article and you can expand your knowledge by reading my article on ‘The Power of the Subconscious Mind‘.
The conscious mind
The conscious mind is unique to humans. This is your conscious awareness, your focus, your ability to concentrate. With this part of your mind you are able to reason through ideas and make deliberate decisions. Although the conscious mind is very powerful, you need to be aware of its limitations.
The conscious mind contains your working memory or temporary memory which allows you to hold few pieces of information and work with it, like remembering telephone numbers or making mathematical calculations, but if this information is not transferred to long term memory (in the subconscious mind), it will easily be forgotten.
Your conscious mind also contains your will power, which is mental adrenaline. You CANNOT make lasting changes using will power alone, we’ve all tried and we’ve all failed. It’s the equivalent of drinking only Red Bull and expecting to have lasting energy. It doesn’t work. Changes have to be made the level of identity, emotion and belief which is the domain of the subconscious mind.
Lastly, you use your conscious mind to make critical, rational judgements, deciding whether something is good or bad, desirable or undesirable, do I keep it or do I reject it? In hypnosis, we call this the critical factor and it is the metaphorical barrier between the conscious and subconscious mind.
The subconscious mind
Unlike your conscious mind, your subconscious mind has no ability to make judgements. It doesn’t distinguish between what’s internal and external, between what’s real and what’s imagined. This part of your mind is emotional, creative and loves to play. Whereas the conscious mind works with coherent and structured ideas in the form of language, the subconscious mind communicates and understands imagination.
Remember this: Imagination is more powerful than will power!
The subconscious mind is the seat of your emotions, your long term memory, your identity and self image and your belief system. It mainly governs who you are, contains how you view the world and your beliefs about everything. The subconscious mind also contains your habits, everything from which leg you put into your pants first, to your handedness to the more complex behaviorial patterns like driving and riding a bike. This is why I say that will power is horrible for lasting change because it’s like having a leak in the basement and sending the plumber to the roof! You have to deal with the problem at the correct level, usually at the level of the subconscious mind, which hypnosis or hypnotherapy let’s you access easily.
One thing is very clear about the subconscious mind, it’s primary purpose it to keep you safe and protected. Think of how easily you wake up to the sound of the irregular tapping of a branch against your bedroom window. There’s always a part that’s watching everything around you, in fact, unlike the conscious mind, the subconscious mind can hold huge amounts of stimuli and information at once. We have proven this through experiment in hypnosis, where people experience hypermnesia, meaning an amplification of memory, are able to recall vastly more objects in a room than when in a normal state.
In fact, during most hypnosis sessions, because of the focused attention and concentration of the mind, sensory experience like sounds and sensations are amplified.
What is hypnosis?
Now we’re ready to tackle the question head on! What is hypnosis anyway? How does hypnosis work?
You could say that hypnosis is any form of communication (verbal and non-verbal) that communicates directly with the subconscious mind. The standard and accepted definition among hypnotists is this: The establishment of acceptable, selective thinking and the bypass of the critical factor of the conscious mind.
Allow me to translate into english. For a hypnotic trance to be induced, your mind needs to be paying attention to a single idea or stimulus such as the hypnotist’s voice (or a television screen, excellent book, daydream). The content or suggestions given while your attention is focused has to be acceptable to you, you have to consent to it because a hypnotist can’t make you do anything only influence you. As a general rule, your subconscious mind will automatically reject any suggestions against your perceived best interest and moral code, if you don’t consciously do it first.
Fun fact: Dr. James Braid (1795-1860) sought to popularize the term monoideism instead of hypnosis. Unfortunately, hypnosis is the word that stuck.
The second element, the bypass of the critical factor, is where most people get confused! The standard mythology is that hypnosis shuts down the conscious mind. Nothing could be further from the truth! In most hypnosis sessions, you remain entirely aware of everything, it’s that you simply allow the acceptable suggestions to have an effect on you. This means you aren’t judging them as good or bad, pleasant or unpleasant, instead you try them out first, then if you don’t like them, you remove them. The critical factor is only a part of the conscious mind, it’s that metaphorical barrier between the conscious and subconscious minds.
Before I get into an explanation of what is hypnotherapy, which is the use of hypnosis for personal growth, I want to make quick remark about the concept called suggestibility.
When hypnotized, the client becomes increasingly suggestible, meaning that they will have an increased tendency to accept suggestions given by the hypnotist. This is only logical given the definition of hypnosis. Suggestibility is very different from gullibility. A gullible person will accept and believe any idea. A suggestible person is very open to reasonable new ideas and will keep the good ideas and reject the bad. Hypnosis works best on people with a high IQ, they allow themselves to be hypnotized because they have the confidence to determine for themselves what is good and what is bad. Hypnosis is the opposite of the “Jedi Mind Trick” from Star Wars, where a Jedi manipulates the weak minded. Remember, even though you become increasingly suggestible in hypnosis, you can still reject any suggestion you do not like. If it wasn’t clear, a suggestion is simply the language used by the hypnotist.
In summary, suggestibility is good, gullibility is bad. That should give you a good sense of what is hypnosis, as it encompasses all the examples I gave at the beginning. I hope it’s clearer to you now that hypnosis is all around you.
What is hypnotherapy? How does hypnosis work to improve your life?
Hypnotherapy is the application of hypnosis techniques to improve your life. Remember how the subconscious mind is the seat of your habits and emotions? Remember that the subconscious mind cannot tell the difference between what is real and what is imagined?
When the critical factor is bypassed and suggestions are accepted, it has a direct influence on the subconscious mind. You gain the ability to modify any habit (including setting new ones), remove phobias, build confidence in any situation, resolve traumas from the past and even manage pain. All that is the tip of the iceberg, in fact, we have yet to find the limits of the power of hypnosis. What we do know is that when the subconscious mind truly accepts the suggestions, they become the dominant reality of the individual.
So let’s summarize quickly!
Is hypnosis real? Yes, hypnosis is all around you.
What is hypnosis? Focused, selective attention and the bypass of the critical factor (or the suspension of disbelief).
Does hypnosis work? Yes, you are hypnotized anytime you daydream or watch television.
What is hypnotherapy? The application of hypnosis towards solving a problem.
Surely, if you’ve read this far, you must be curious to experience hypnosis for yourself. It is a unique and empowering experience that can change your understanding of how the mind works. Find out how to be hypnotized by me on the hypnosis sessions page. I offer a free 30-minute consultation to answer all your questions.
You may also want to consider purchasing a self hypnosis audio that you can listen to in the comfort of your own home.