What is hypnosis?
Here is are some very basic concepts...
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 going to be 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 a more relaxed state, observing your breathing and other signals and guiding you with breathing and visualisation techniques to help you to let go and relax.
The next step is known as 'deepening'.
Your hypnotherapist will offer various visualisation and breathing techniques that are designed to help you to become deeply relaxed, or 'hypnotised'. It is very pleasant and very therapeutic on its own, even without any kind of specific therapeutic intervention. Simply taking away stress in a person's life can resolve many issues on its own. It is good for you to relax deeply.
Your breathing will now be nice and slow and even and your muscles in your face will be visibly relaxed. Your subconscious mind is receptive to suggestions and the therapist can offer suggestions that will help you to get to your goal. Your subconscious mind will know which ones it wants to accept and which ones to reject…
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, 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.
If the hypnotherapist asked you for your bank account number, for example, you would think 'what the heck?' and you would wake up and the hypnosis would be over because trust is broken.
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! There is a lot more to the wonderful world of hypnosis and many powerful techniques that can be used to help you to get where you want to go. I have some favourite ones that are really effective such as Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), which involves tapping on meridian points.