Lets take a deeper look at the origins and history of hypnosis to give you a better understanding of the subject. The word hypnosis comes from the ancient Greek word meaning “sleep” and was coined by Dr James Braid around 1840. Hypnosis was first accepted by the American Medical association in 1958 and is used widely as a useful tool for psychologists and psychiatrists worldwide.
There are currently a few basic definitions of the word hypnosis, ranging from: “Extreme relaxation” to “An altered state of consciousness”. Even though the word derives from the ancient word sleep, hypnosis is not a state of deep sleep. It is rather a process that moves the conscious mind out the way and allowing a person to enter a trance-like hypnotic state. In this state the persons awareness is heightened is solely focused on the hypnotists voice commands. From this state, the hypnosis practitioner is able to suggest re-enforcing statements and plant seeds of positive suggestions that the client can later use to enhance their lifestyle.
Hypnotherapy therefore aims to promote re-program patterns of behaviour. From such behaviour change it is possible to help people to stop smoking, eradicate phobias, ease stress & anxiety, deal effectively with depression & trauma, help with confidence & self-esteem issues, allow sports & business people to focus on success and the list goes on.
Hypnotherapy relies on helping a person to become extremely relaxed so they can experience an altered state of consciousness. A relaxed mind & body will automatically lower blood pressure and brain waves. In such a relaxed state the body and mind are more willing to let go of its defences and allow itself to become vulnerable enough for positive healing states to occur. The same states can be seen with deep meditation and prayer. However, hypnotherapy goes a step further to then allow positive and appropriate suggestions to be made by the therapist, which is heard by the client, which will then be placed in the subconscious mind to create positive behaviour and belief change. Although trust is a big factor in achieving success between client and therapist, the client is always in control and will not be made to do anything that they don’t want to do. It is not used as mind control and does not cause injury. However, the hypnosis is to be respected and administered by trained professionals who are considerate and compassionate toward their clients.
Hypnosis is nothing like the movies and someone under hypnosis will never get stuck in hypnosis. Neither is it the same as sleep, however, they do share similarities. Hypnosis, meditation and day-dreaming are closely related in that they require relaxation of body & mind; concentration; and access to the workings of the subconscious mind. The subconscious mind is at a much deeper level of awareness and functions without us even knowing about it. The power of the subconscious mind can be felt during moments creative problem-solving, wisdom and intuition. However, where meditation and day-dreaming are self-driven, hypnosis is guided by the practitioner, using a simple set of instructions to achieve a pre-planned outcome. If hypnosis can be used for stage theatrics, is it possible to imagine what positive uses it may contain to implement positive behaviour change? If the mind is so powerful that a stage hypnotist can convince a participant that a sour lemon is a juicy orange, then imagine how limiting beliefs and unconstructive behaviour can be re-programmed toward achieving a successful mindset.
The mind is our greatest asset and we are only at the tip of the ice berg on our quest to figuring out its potential. Hypnosis is a great and highly effective tool to assist us on that journey of self-discovery.
So how does it actually work?
Hypnosis creates an altered state of consciousness by using methods that create a sense of boredom for the conscious mind. The conscious mind wants to be always engaged, rationalizing, analysing and making sense of the world around it. When this fails to happen, it tends to disengage and shut down momentarily. When this happens it allows a space to open up for the subconscious mind to be exposed. This is the area that has more deep-seated behaviour patterns and belief systems. It is this area that the hypnotherapist is interested in and it is here that re-programming can take place. For example, if a person has a fear of worms and has consciously tried everything to overcome their fear with little to no success, then it is worth digging into the part of the subconscious mind that is holding onto this fear and help release it so the debilitating effects can dissipate for good. Progress and successful integration is only possible when deep-seated instincts and beliefs can be abolished or altered.
Now it is worth take a deeper look into our conscious and subconscious minds. The conscious mind is the one that helps us function in our day-to-day lives. It is primarily responsible for our ability to rationalize & analyse information. It allows us to have a sense of will power and contains our temporary memory. Although we spend most of our waking hours in this section of the mind, it is unfortunately only the very tip of a giant iceberg. As functional people it is imperative to our survival that we are able to think, judge and reason. However, it is also very prone to many limitations such as irrational & reactive behaviour, poor assumptions and beliefs & value systems prevent forward momentum in human achievement.
When we use the example of smoking, we can clearly see the conscious mind at work trying to defend the reason why the person continues to smoke inspite of the insurmountable data and research that proves how deadly & destructive such a habit is for not only the smoker, but those around them. The conscious mind does not like to admit defeat and hates being wrong so it will analyse, rationalize and try put a logical reason forward so that it can maintains its integrity. Will power is grouped with the conscious mind because it is highly temperamental, only works in short bursts and is a temporary solution. Will power is however highly effective when things need to get done and provides bursts of energy and enthusiasm to assist us along the way. But it is a poor choice when it comes to areas that influence behaviour and beliefs. As mentioned above, temporary memory is also located in the conscious mind because it is another important aspect of functioning as a person. Temporary memory allows us to remember where we park our car at the shopping mall and assists in remembering list items like groceries. However, as many will know, memory is not accurate and it is easy to forget where the car was parked and what was on the grocery list. It is also therefore, not going to help behaviour change.
When we delve into the belly of the so-called iceberg, we find the subconscious mind. Like a submarine, it is unseen but always at hard at work. This is the part of the mind that is actually in control of your life and the part that helps or hinders real change in someone’s life. This is where hypnosis comes to life. We will find our creative centres like the imagination, intuition, wisdom & insight. Also located here is our permanent memory, habits, emotions, beliefs and the autonomic nervous system. Our world begins with the imagination. Every invention, system, idea, process and ingenious creation that exists today was once birthed out of someone’s subconscious mind. If you correctly combine the infinite potential of the imagination, a highly supportive belief system and a driven emotional response, you will be one of a few people who have ever been able to access and use the most powerful tool in the world… the subconscious mind.
What lies before us that is yet to be created and/or thought of? What is the mind capable of? Where will our minds take us if allow it to flow? Only limited thinking and beliefs are currently preventing a human mental revolution. The subconscious mind takes in every bit of detail throughout our lives. Can you imagine how big an internet server room would have to be if it had to hold on to as much as data as just one single person accumulates throughout their lives? The subconscious mind is a feeling mind, so it strongly connects emotions, feelings, beliefs and habits to circumstance that bring it toward pleasure and away from pain. Even if such circumstances are actually destructive to the person. To understand the power of the subconscious mind, try remember to blink or breathe all the time. The subconscious mind is responsible for these and our heart beat, blood circulation. It also reminds us when we are tired or hungry. The average person wouldn’t last a day if all these tasks were left to the conscious mind.
Now that you have a basic understanding of the mind, lets now look at the different brain wave states. This will give some idea as to why it is possible for a person to be hypnotised. The human brain is produces electrical activity that are measured as brain waves. Something called an electroencephalogram (EEG) has the ability to measure these waves. The waves are measured in hertz, which is essentially how many cycles a wave can be completed per second. Brain waves are categorized by hertz. The common brain waves are Beta, Alpha, Theta & Delta. Beta brain waves are active during our day-to-day habits and assist us with alertness for our surroundings. When you close your eyes and relax your body, your brain waves will cycle down to an Alpha level. At this level the conscious mind is less active and can start to allow creativity and imagination to start coming through. This state is where most hypnosis occurs and it is here that many people become open to hypnotic suggestion.
Just like a day- dream, a hypnotherapist can use the power of imagination to implant positive suggestions to the client. When the subconscious is active, the mind cannot distinguish between imagined reality and physical reality. Since hypnotherapy is used to empower people and creative positive habits, many changes in behaviour can take place that are more aligned to the clients higher needs. The brain can cycle further down into Theta waves. This is the area of the mind that stimulates dreams and happens during deep hypnosis. If the brain waves cycle further down the client will fall into a natural sleep state. Delta is the typical brain wave cycle that is responsible for unconscious sleep. Most clients will not fall asleep though because being in a hypnotic state requires the clients mind to be focused even though they are very relaxed.
As you may have noticed by now that hypnotherapy is always working in alignment with the clients needs and seeks to assist positive changes in behaviour, habits and outlook of the world. People are influenced in the right and wrong ways throughout their early lives as children & teens. Even if the accepted behaviour and thinking appeared to hold relevance when they were young, they may now find that such behaviour and thinking is actually quite destructive in nature such as smoking. Kids often smoke so they can fit in or be rebellious. At this stage in their lives, they have got recognition from peers so it seemed that in order to maintain recognition, the same or similar acts should be carried out. Even though this self-destructive the child learns to rely on this. In years to come such behaviour is unnecessary, but now unfortunately the young adult is stuck with the habit, which is often difficult to break. It is important for this person to be able to separate such behaviour from the person.
People are highly dynamic and act how they think they should according to the circumstances being faced. To further complicate the issue, events & circumstances will trigger conditioned patterns, beliefs and behaviours in the person which may see them act in ways that go against their higher good. It is these conditioned issues that make people over-eat and then hate themselves for lack of self-control, or push a person into an anxiety attack when there is no threat of danger. Once the mind sees value and truth in a certain behaviour, emotion, habit etc, it will most often default to such a pattern when under stress because at the time that it was implanted in the mind, it seemed to work. However, now it creates stress and tension. This is all down to something called perception. For example, have you ever watched a brilliant movie that you know people will enjoy, only to find out that when they watched they other weren’t stimulated or didn’t even enjoy it? We all live in the center of our own so-called universe. There are many factors that influence our perception of the world. Some of them are : language, memories, values, beliefs, culture and decisions to name a few. It can be explained like this.
If the world and what goes on it is the territory, then our individual understanding of it is the map. As you may know, some maps are better than others. Some maps have better clarity are more updated. Some have pieces missing. And some are very difficult to make sense of. Every bit of information that has ever been processed by you gets filtered, distorted, deleted, analysed and/or categorized by your mind to help you make decisions, stay safe and flow with life. The conscious mind can only process a tiny amount of information that comes at it on a daily basis, so it must make quick work of making such information available for processing so the person can know what to do next. If for example a person has low self-esteem and doesn’t think highly of themselves and you tell them how great they look. Immediately their mind when throw out questions to try accept the information or protect itself from the information. This person may get shy and wonder how the person could compliment them when they are so ugly. Such irrational analysing is based in the persons history and although it is based on false assumptions and mis-understandings, it will present seemingly valid arguments to maintain its integrity. The mind prefers what it knows so if a person has maintained a life of low self-esteem, no matter how much you try to allow them to understand that such beliefs are false, their minds will quickly come to the front with arguments so it can stay alive. However, if the person is tired of such thoughts pushing them around, they can then seek the assistance of a trained hypnotherapist to help them see the way of a brighter and more confident future.
Hypnosis is not the enemy of a mysterious force that seeks to manipulate innocent and naïve people. It is a well-researched and highly effective tool that can help and has helped many people, over many generations to create positive changes in their lives. Highly respected psychologists often turn to their hypnosis training when dealing with difficult and troubled clients. Many business people and sports people, world-wide have reached tremendous success with the help of hypnosis. Hypnosis is simply a way to assist someone to get over their obstacles, attain higher degrees of success and live a life that serves their highest good. Often what is mis-understood is seen as suspicious without ever questioning and researching its validity. This has been the case with hypnosis. Ignorance and an arrogant mind-set that fails to adapt and understand new ways of seeing the world is surely to be left behind. If it not possible to embrace such change then at the very least it is in the persons best interests to remain objective and leave out assumptions of something that are based on limitations and incorrect interpretations.
Who knows what the future holds for humanity, but at the very least we have our minds. If cultivated and calibrated to accept that it can change and that it willing to be wrong in order to learn the lesson, then maybe there is not only hope for a positive outcome, but faith that our minds lead us in the right direction to a place that is more beautiful, creative and imaginative than our wildest dreams. The human mind is the next frontier.