Before we get into the topic
of what is hypnosis and what is hypnotherapy, we need to have a close
look at the human mind and how it works.
have two minds, a conscious mind and an unconscious mind. By
definition, the conscious mind is that part of our mind that allows
us to be consciously aware at any given moment in time. The
unconscious mind is everything else. Now at this point you might be
wondering what we mean by the term "mind" in the first
place. And that's a good question that I'll answer in a moment.
that though I want to use a simple metaphor to (literally) throw some
light on the matter.
you're in a place where it's completely dark, but all around you
there are all kinds of things to see; all kinds of things going on.
But you don't know that they're there, because you can't see
anything. Except you have a small torch or flashlight. And this torch
has a very narrow beam, and as you move the torch around you can see
a tiny bit at a time. So you know there's something there, but you
have absolutely no idea of what's really out there.
you can see at each moment in time with the aid of the torch is the
conscious mind (what we're aware of), and everything else is the
unconscious mind (what we don't see).
what is the mind?
there are lots of dictionary definitions of "mind" and
quite frankly nearly all of them are rubbish! Some dictionary
definitions may describe or explain some of the functions of the
mind, e.g. to think or to reason, but these don't define what we mean
by the mind.
explanation of the mind is this:- everything going on within our
brain at any given moment in time.
brain is made up of around 100 billion brain cells, or neurons, and
each one can be connected to thousands of others. So the number of
connections in our brain is big.....really, really big. And these
connections are very active, with a combination of chemical and
electrical energy. (You may have heard of so-called neurotransmitters
such as dopamine and serotonin which are involved in the chemical
side of it).
of course the purpose of this activity in the brain is to keep you
alive; to keep your heart beating, regulate your breathing, maintain
a healthy chemistry in the body, allow you to digest your food etc.
This is what we mean by the mind. But of course you don't need to be
aware of any of these things because they happen automatically.
when you walk you don't need to think of all the muscle movements
that need to be made in the right sequence, and to the right degree,
to make it happen. So all of these things are unconscious. But
there's much more to the unconscious mind than that, and I'll get to
that shortly, because it's one of the main point of this blog. First,
though we have to answer the impossible question that is....
is the conscious mind?
as I said previously, the conscious mind relates to what we are
actually aware of at any moment in time. To understand the conscious
mind, or consciousness, on a brain level is difficult to say the
least. It's a phenomenon that neurologists have been trying to
understand for decades and we still don't know. So let's leave it at
that for now.
"prime directive" of the unconscious mind.
so-called prime directive of the unconscious mind is to keep you
safe. It's to keep you alive. So it's all about survival; and if it
wasn't about survival then we simply wouldn't be here. So hooray for
the unconscious mind! But, as you'll see in a little while, this
drive to keep us safe can sometimes cause problems.
other very important points about the unconscious mind:-
The unconscious mind stores all of our memories.
Emotions are created in the unconscious mind, e.g. anger, sadness,
fear, etc. although you experience the emotions in your conscious
It maintains habits – primarily for the reasons given above in that
it feels safe with patterns. The unconscious mind loves familiarity.
The unconscious mind is non-rational. So it doesn’t know the
difference between good habits
and bad habits.
It doesn’t recognise that smoking is a bad habit or that panic
attacks are debilitating.
It does not process negatives. So you have to tell it what you do
want and not what you don’t want. (In order to not think
of a black cat you have to think of one first). So a suggestion to
“not panic” would just cause panic, as opposed to the suggestion
to be “calm and relaxed”.
The unconscious doesn’t know the difference between imagination and
reality. This helps to explain why, amongst other things, mental
rehearsal is so powerful in sport etc.
A really important one to finish off with:- The unconscious mind
takes us in the direction of our most dominant thoughts.
all of this together we can begin to understand why people have
certain problems, e.g. -
such as over eating and smoking. The
unconscious mind is always trying to keep you safe and so hates
change. Instead it encourages you to stay with what's familiar.
In addition, as stated above, the unconscious mind doesn't know the
difference between a good or healthy habit, and a bad or unhealthy
one. In fact it doesn't care! (Your conscious mind might care but
your unconscious doesn't – it just want to keep doing what it
also that the unconscious mind doesn't process negatives. This gives
us an additional problem;- to think about not smoking
we have to think about smoking; to think about not eating
a bar of chocolate we have to think about it first. And if we think
about these things we're far more likely to do them.
and phobias. The only fears we are born
with are the fear of falling and the fear of loud noises. Every other
fear that you have has been learnt at some time in your life; most of
them in early childhood. Some of these fears are learnt with good
reason and so are rational, e.g. lions, tigers etc. Some, however,
may be irrational such as the fear of public speaking, flying, cotton
wool...yes even cotton wool!
that the unconscious mind is irrational and is always trying to keep
you safe. Put these two things together and you can understand how
phobias work. In addition, for some people, just thinking about
flying or thinking about spiders etc. can set off a phobic response
(increased heart rate, panic and so on). This is because the
unconscious mind doesn't know the difference between reality and
there's a further problem...
I've hinted already, the unconscious mind is much more powerful than
the logical conscious mind. Just to give you an idea of how much more
powerful the unconscious mind is, and to give you an idea of how it
all works, I'm going to use a simple metaphor...
elephant and the rider
you are riding an adult elephant. You, as the rider, are the
conscious mind. The elephant is the unconscious mind. The elephant
is there to take you to wherever you want to go in life. The
elephant, however, also needs to keep you safe and is, of course, so
much more powerful than you are. So the elephant has the final say.
If, for example, you want to take your elephant down a particular
path that is unfamiliar territory (e.g. you decide to go on a diet,
or try to stop smoking) it will be very reluctant to do so. It will
want to stick with what it knows because it feels safe with that.
Furthermore, if you try to take your elephant down a path where it
has been frightened in the past (e.g. speaking in public or flying on
an aeroplane) it will be even more reluctant to do so.
you need to learn to communicate effectively with the elephant to get
it to go where you want it to take you. And this is where hypnosis
and hypnotherapy come in.....
of the best descriptions of hypnosis, and a popular one amongst
state in which the critical faculty is temporarily by-passed and
selective thinking is introduced. (Dave
what do we mean by the critical faculty? Well the critical faculty is
a part of the mind that compares what we're experiencing in each and
every moment of now, with what we already know.
look at an everyday situation; you are watching a movie and you
become deeply engrossed, maybe even quite emotional. Your critical
faculty knows it's only a movie, it's fantasy. But that part of your
mind that knows that is being bypassed, and so you respond to the
movie, to some degree, as if it was real.
by definition when you're engrossed in a movie you're in a state of
hypnosis. Being engrossed in a novel or a computer game are further
main point here is that hypnosis is a natural state of mind that we
all drift in and out of several times a day.
there are many myths and misunderstandings about hypnosis, partly due
to stage hypnosis. Unfortunately this puts many people off from ever
going to see a hypnotherapist. So let's dispel the most common myths
and look at what hypnosis isn’t.
is absolutely no control on the part of the hypnotist (or therapist)
person in hypnosis cannot be made to do anything they don’t want
person in hypnosis cannot be made to reveal their innermost secrets
is not a
state of unconsciousness or sleep
actual fact, all hypnosis is self hypnosis. The role of the
hypnotherapist is to guide their client into hypnosis.
why is hypnosis important and useful when it comes to therapy?
if you think about being engrossed in movie, for example, it's
the more emotional part of the mind that takes over. This, of course,
is the unconscious mind.
you could think of hypnosis as being the 'gateway' to the unconscious
mind. Put another way, using the metaphor described earlier, it's
creating a closer connection between you as the rider and your
elephant. This means it becomes easier to tell your elephant
(unconscious mind) where you want to go, and to hopefully reassure
your elephant that it's safe to do so (providing it is safe of
hypnosis opens up a channel of communication between your conscious
mind and your unconscious mind.
do you hypnotise someone?
their consent! Although , in actual fact, I've never hypnotised
anyone in 18 years as a therapist. That's because, as I explained
earlier, all hypnosis is self hypnosis. So I guide
people into hypnosis. Now there are many ways of doing this; there
are many different hypnotic inductions and deepening techniques.
These include mental confusion, conscious overload, shock and
surprise based inductions and perhaps most popular of all, at least
in the therapy room, good old fashioned relaxation.
should point out though that I'm talking about mental relaxation
rather than just physical relaxation.
So what is hypnotherapy?
we've established that hypnosis is the opening of a communication
channel with the unconscious mind. The therapy is effectively what
you communicate with it. In order to do so, however, you need to
learn the language of the unconscious mind (you need to speak the
language of the elephant).
are several ways of doing this, but two of the most useful ones are:-
suggestions and visualisation.
I said earlier that the unconscious mind doesn't process negatives
(it doesn't hear the word “don't for example). So what you need to
tell your unconscious mind is what you do want,
rather than what you don't want.
as an example, let's take the case of someone who is out of control
when it comes to food and eating and is overweight as a result. If
that person spends a lot of time thinking about food, or indeed
trying to not think about food, they'll end up eating more food, and
adding to the problem. If they spend a lot of time thinking about
being overweight, fat etc. well guess what, they'll stay overweight.
that the unconscious mind takes us in the direction of our most
you need to do instead is think about what you do want.
So, for example, the suggestions “you are a healthy eater”, “you
are a slim person” etc. are required. Alternatively if you are
using positive affirmations then you would word them in the first
person; "I am a healthy eater", "I am a slim person"
and so on..
affirmations actually work?
yes and no. For some people, positive affirmations can work very well
indeed, and in some cases without the need even for hypnosis. For
others though, it can take a long time, particularly where there's a
strong belief that goes against the new belief that a person is
trying to install.
that's where visualisation can play a part. By imagining seeing
yourself as you want to be, e.g. slimmer, healthier, fitter, then it
becomes even more likely to become a reality. Better still,
if you can feel excited about what you see / how you want to be
that's even better. When you feel really good about doing something
or achieving something then your unconscious mind will realise that
this is something that you really want.
what is hypnotherapy used for?
actually it can be helpful in a number of areas, such as:-
healthy eating / weight loss
anxiety, panic states and phobias
a lot more....
this has given you some insight of what hypnosis and hypnotherapy
are, and help you to understand a little bit about how the mind
works. Maybe it will give you a few ideas as to how you can
reprogramme your own mind for whatever you want to achieve in life.
if you want to discover how amazing you are and how much potential
you have, or if you just want to experience hypnosis for yourself,
you can download my free confidence programme. This short programme includes
hypnotic downloads for confidence and also for positivity and
If you want to take a look just click the following link.
All the best,