What is hypnosis?
What are the conscious and subconscious minds?
Your conscious mind takes in the world with your senses: see, hear, feel, taste, touch and smell. It thinks about it all, criticises it, analyses it, judges it good or bad, right or wrong. Your conscious mind holds your short-term memories.
Your subconscious mind is where you keep your long-term memories. Vast amounts of information that you have been processing your whole life. It can be easy to access, or it can be locked away.
The guards in between represent the protection mechanism of your subconscious mind. They don't let anything pass through unless it is safe to do so. And for good reason!
What is a hypnotic state?
You are in an out of hypnosis all day long. The first state of hypnosis of the day is when you awaken in the morning. Before you start critically thinking about work, parents, kids, emails, pets, Facebook, etc. Happiness hint: if you can say to yourself at that moment 'today is a good day', then that is how your day will go!
You are in a state of 'daydreaming' many times throughout the day; at the traffic lights, staring out of a window, looking at the waves rolling in on the sea, engrossed in a good book, watching the telly, etc. That's hypnosis! That's all it is! You are not asleep and you are aware of everything that is going on around you. In fact, your senses are around 20% more heightened than if you were not in hypnosis. For example, some people may hear a dog barking a long way away that they wouldn’t have noticed before. It is a highly intuitive and creative state.
The last time of the day you are 'hypnotised' is just as you are going off to sleep. Happiness hint: leave all thoughts of work, parents, kids, emails, pets, Facebook, etc. outside of the bedroom door and let your last words of the day be 'thank you', as you drift off into a peaceful sleep.
So how does hypnosis work in a therapeutic setting?
Firstly, you need to have good 'rapport' with your hypnotherapist. It needs to be someone you feel comfortable with and with whom can build a relationship of trust. Make sure your hypnotherapist is suitably qualified.
Your hypnotherapist will ask what it is you would like to achieve with hypnosis and begin working out how to help you to get there. We don't need to know your whole past history and every painful event that led to this moment. It is better if you don't go over it all because this makes you re-live it all again. Hypnotherapy aims to move you out of the past and into a brighter future. It doesn't help the hypnotherapist to know all the details, in fact, it can hinder the process and hold you back. Some good questions your hypnotherapist may ask include: if this problem were to be resolved today, how would things be different for you? How would you feel? Your hypnotherapist is trained to think on his or her feet, also watching carefully for non-verbal communication.
Your hypnotherapist does not judge you or offer advice. It is very important that whatever your wishes and desires are, whoever you would like to be or however you would like to live your life, that they are your own choices. Not someone else's. You are perfect! Your ideas are valid and good and it is very important that you follow your own heart's desires. Don't worry if you can't put it into words, that's what hypnosis is perfect for! Your mind is a weird and wonderful and very powerful thing and it has all the answers. As ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu said 2,600 years ago:
"At the centre of your being you have the answer; you know who you are and you know what you want" - Lao Tzu
The next step is what is known as a hypnotic 'induction'.
It simply means that you start to wind down and relax with less thinking, criticising and analysing from your conscious mind. Thoughts will come and go but your hypnotherapist is trained to guide you to let those thoughts go and just relax, observing your breathing and other signals and guiding you to imagine you are in a beautiful, tranquil place, where you can just relax and let your mind wander wherever it wants to. You and only get to decide where your mind will wander to.
You are always in control
As an analogy, your hypnotherapist is like a tourist guide. She might offer a brochure with various choices of marvellous holidays. Which one would you choose? A luxury cruise, a backpacking adventure, a shopping holiday, horse riding in the mountains, lazy days on the beach, dancing and partying, a romantic destination, etc.?
It's all up to you.
If the one that you really want isn't even in the brochure, your mind will make the quantum leap and work out all the details for you. It's very clever.
Positive suggestions and 'post-hypnotic' suggestions.
While you are in hypnosis, as a very general example, your hypnotherapist may suggest several times that you are taking very good care of your body, that you are making sure you get enough sleep, good food and exercise. If your subconscious mind thinks that all of this is a good idea, it will accept it, on a subconscious level, where habits become automatic.
A technique known as an 'exduction' is used to guide you back into the present moment.
Your hypnotherapist might recap on some important points and then count backwards, guiding you to wake up feeling wonderful, relaxed, refreshed and fully alert and taking away all your new learnings with you.
That's it in a nutshell!
If nothing else, the stress relief of it on its own does wonders for people. I think a lot of them just come back to me again and again because they love this little holiday for the mind! Where they can explore new things and become an even better version of themselves.