For example, we experience the phenomenon of hypnosis when we watch a good movie. We are so absorbed by the plot we are able to physically experience fear, joy, sadness or other emotions that the movie elicits. Even though we are always somewhat aware that we are sitting in a movie theater with other people around us, we temporarily put their existence into the background.
If you have day dreamed, you know how hypnosis feels like – a highly inwardly focused experience with heightened imagination.
Perhaps some times you are enjoying so much what you are doing (in the flow) that you don’t notice how time has passed? You have just experienced time-distortion, a well known hypnotic phenomenon.
In the state of hypnosis, we can hear everything, we are aware of what is going on around us all the time. We have heightened imagination and are inwardly focused.
In fact there are 4 possible mental attitudes we can have when we hear a suggestion
- I am not comfortable with it
- I am indifferent to it
- I like it and I hope it will work
- I like it, I am going to do it, and I know it will work
- In the first 3 cases, the suggestion will be rejected and only in the last case the suggestion will be accepted. So it is extremely important that during a session, we adopt the right mental attitude at the conscious level for the suggestions we want. The mental attitude “I like it and I hope it will work” trips up a lot of people. The word hope is like the word try, it implies failure already. Hope never leads to success, effort does.
If we know that we are going into hypnosis, which is the case for every session conducted at a hypnotherapist’s office, our conscious mind will be alert and protect us. We will reveal only what we feel comfortable with. Any suggestion that makes us slightly uncomfortable, we will reject. There is no danger of revealing anything we don’t want. The worst things that can happen during a session is the client could fall asleep or not go into hypnosis.
We also have a much more powerful part of our mind – the subconscious mind. Our subconscious mind is where our habits, emotions, and long term memory live. It also protects us against danger, imagined or real. The subconscious mind is like a computer, whatever programming we put in it, it executes faithfully. If our programming says “I am fat” then it will make sure that we eat and live in a way to become fat; if our programming says “I am a great public speaker” then it will make sure that we are one.
Do you know why it is so hard to stop smoking, lose weight or as a matter of fact change any of your habits? Because first we make the decision at the conscious level, we decide to make some change. However as long as that decision is not accepted at the subconscious level, we rely on will power alone for change, which is not enough for the change to last.
The reason our decision for change is not accepted at the subconscious level is because it’s blocked by our own critical factor. For example if we have problem with cats and being around cats makes us nervous and uncomfortable. We try to change it by repeatedly affirming “I love cats”; this won’t work because our critical factor receives the message and checks with our subconscious mind. Our subconscious mind says “That’s not true. He hates cats” and therefore the affirmation is rejected.
Hypnosis is a process that bypasses our critical factor and accesses directly the subconscious mind. When change is made at the subconscious level directly, our programming is changed. When that happens, our behaviors will follow. For example If our subconscious is re-programmed to “I am a non-smoker” then we are a non-smoker. We will behave as a non-smoker.
In summary, what happens in hypnosis is that a hypnotherapist will guide you into a special mental state where she accesses your subconscious mind and reprograms it for positive change. The changes will be transformational and lasting. There are many ways to do the reprogramming that we can discuss.
In fact, all hypnosis is self-hypnosis. We don’t need a hypnotherapist to reach and stay in the state of hypnosis and we don’t need a hypnotherapist to give us suggestions. We can do all that with self-hypnosis. If we do not know self-hypnosis then a hypnotherapist can be our guide and show us how. What a hypnotherapist can ever be is a guide because the slightest thought on our part of not wanting to be there, then it is over. For the reason we already discussed, a hypnotherapist can not force a suggestion into our mind. We have to take the right mental attitude and allow it. We and we alone are responsible for the success of the session.
Hypnosis is not lying down with eyes closed and staying motionless. The client can move – it’s better to scratch his nose if it’s bothering him than to hold still. He can talk and answer the hypnotherapist’s questions (in certain techniques the client will be having an active conversation with the hypnotherapist). The client can even be in hypnosis with eyes open. None of these by themselves will “break the state of hypnosis”.