What is hypnotherapy?

There is a lot of mystery around hypnosis and the various images it tends to evoke... maybe you have an image of stage performer making an unlikely volunteer cluck like a chicken in a bizarrely convincing manner.

I will break hypnosis and hypnotherapy down quite logically by explaining different aspects of the mind, how they work and how to influence them. It will take a little time but it will be worth it ;)

What do I need to know about the mind?

There are 2 parts of your mind to understand

  1. Your conscious mind can handle 7-9 pieces of information at any given moment. It deals with the current task/action that you’re focusing on. You are often fully absorbed in the conscious mind and, unless you are able to relax it, your mind can be very noisy. Your conscious mind requires a lot of effort and gets tired and less effective the more that you use it.
  2. Your subconscious mind is constantly recording everything that you experience. Literally 1000s of pieces of information from your environment in every given moment are stored. This part of your mind runs the vast majority of what you do. It is essentially your autopilot, governing learned behaviours like driving, riding a bike and walking, or even natural processes such as the way you breathe. Your subconscious mind is always doing stuff without your effort.

How do these 2 minds interact?

  • Most of what you do is governed by the subconscious mind.
  • Your conscious mind can choose to override your subconscious mind; this requires use of your willpower.
  • Willpower is like a muscle that gets tired with use. When you're low on willpower it is more difficult  to overpower the subconscious mind.
  • Your subconscious mind will govern everything whenever you are not using your conscious mind.

How does this information help someone change their behaviour?

  • You can continuously use willpower. This is very tiring and for many people it doesn’t happen because there are many different challenges in one’s life. Exercising willpower to make many changes concurrently and sustain them is highly unlikely to be sustainable.
  • You can change what is going on in the subconscious mind, so that the way you behave changes automatically, i.e. without requiring willpower.

The key takeaway is this: Seeking behavioural change without seeking to change what is going on in the subconscious mind wastes a lot of willpower and is futile. The way to truly change is to alter the subconscious mind.

Interesting Fact: You cannot access any memory without in fact altering it in some way. So, if you recall a memory and play around with the image/feeling of it, you can totally change it’s entire meaning. And in turn this changes the way your subconscious interprets those events and how it responds to future situations. This is pretty cool, right? (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Neuro-Linguistic Programming make use of this somwhat effectively)

You might be wondering how your subconscious mind decides which processes to run and that it knows what to do. In a nutshell, your mind does what it thinks you want it to do. This means that it avoids things that you have somehow interpreted to be painful and it seeks things that you have somehow defined as pleasurable. I use the word “somehow” because we don’t always communicate with our minds clearly and we might have confused what we associate with pain and or pleasure. Consequently, an individual should understand how their subconscious sees the world around it and seek to alter its perspective in order to serve them better.

What is hypnosis?

Hypnosis is a state of trance, quite similar to being deeply relaxed or in deep meditation. Imagine that pleasant dreamy haze as you’re dropping off asleep or as you're waking up. And imagine being able to stay at that level of relaxation, stillness and calmness without any effort required. Personally, I use self-hypnosis before bed because it’s so dreamy and I’ve even done a meditation whilst in self-hypnosis.

Contrary to popular belief when you’re in hypnosis you are fully aware, totally in control and perfectly able to resist. The stage shows that hypnotists do are in a setting (in clubs, under the influence of alcohol) where inhibitions are lost and with participants who are very "up for it" and wanting to do unusual things. In reality, an individual is able to “come out” of hypnosis whenever they want and even control how deep they go. Furthermore, the normal “fight or flight” response can kick in if anything happens in your environment.

When you are in hypnosis:

  • Your brain waves are predominantly alpha, and sometimes theta (as opposed to beta in your normal wakeful state)
    • This is very similar to the state that you’re in when dreaming
    • These waves are up to 2500 more powerful than beta waves; it follows that the force of your thoughts can be magnified by this factor.
  • Your conscious mind is still and peaceful
  • Your subconscious mind is very permeable and responsive to commands and suggestions

This means that you’re able to:

  • Be free of the constant chatter that is normally in your mind
  • Ask questions and listen to responses from the subconscious mind; it’s almost like googling for something and finding that the top result is perfect
  • Strongly imprint your mind with new ways of thinking and commands

What is hypnotherapy?

Hypnotherapy is conducting therapy for some desired transformation whilst the client is in a state of hypnosis.

This is powerful because the state of hypnosis allows us to:

  1. Set an intention for change
  2. Understand what has led to the limiting behaviours
  3. Let go of the thought patterns & habits that have been sabotaging you without your knowing
  4. Get in tune with the new way of being
  5. Imprint that new way of being strongly into your subconscious mind

 The Summary

  • Hypnosis is a state that allows you to communicate with your mind deeply and profoundly.
  • Hypnotherapy is the use of the hypnotic state with the intention of transforming a specific behaviour or thought pattern.
  • It works because you’re accessing your entire mind and creating change at the source, where the behaviour originated from and replacing it with a new way of thinking.
Sukh Kalsi