Basic information about hypnosis

What is the evidence for hypnosis? What is hypnosis, exactly? How does it work? What are the myths about hypnosis, and what is the truth?

The first time I saw a stage hypnosis show, I mistakenly thought it was fake. ¬†How surprised I was when I did some research! I was shocked to find that everything I’d learned about hypnosis from bad movies was wrong. I should have known to look to better information sources than Hollywood!

Stage hypnotists spread the fame of hypnosis, but do nothing for the reputation thereof. I love watching stage hypnosis shows and always have a great time, but stage hypnotists are there to entertain, not educate. Most deliberately try to perpetuate an aura of mystery and suspense, and have to keep audience interest high while going through a rapid-paced show. That doesn’t give them any motivation to explain what they are doing… which is to select the minority of people out of the crowd that are wonderful hypnosis subjects and that are also very eager to volunteer to be humiliated on stage in front of their friends.

What is hypnosis, when you really get down to it? There are many imprecise definitions. The IMDHA defines it this way:

Hypnosis is an education-communication process that allows the conscious and subconscious mind to believe the same thing

Essentially, it’s a way of persuading the subconscious to your point of view.

How does hypnosis work? Our conscious and subconscious mind are continually influenced every moment of every day by influences both internal and external–what we see, hear, think, believe. What we see on TV, what our friend tells us, what we tell ourselves. If you think on it, you’ll find that many of your habits and beliefs did not come about from conscious decision, but rather by your subconscious assimilating something you experienced. Most of us do not stub our toe and consciously decide to say “ow.” Instead, it is a learned habit our subconscious picked up from observing others.

Hypnosis is simply taking advantage of this principle by putting the subject in a state most receptive to suggestions, and giving these suggestions in the way that person’s mind is most receptive to.

What is a hypnotic “trance”? It is certainly nothing mysterious. It is just a state of consciousness as easily measured on an EEG as any other. When we are focused, concentrating, calculating, judging and deciding, our minds are in the highly alert beta brain wave state.

When our minds are more relaxed, they dip down to the alpha brain wave state. This happens when we are falling asleep or waking up, when we are watching TV, when we are driving and don’t remember what we passed, when we are caught up in a good book, when we are “in the zone” in some activity, and so on. Most hypnosis is performed in this state as well. More deeply relaxed theta and delta brain wave states can also be used. When our mind is relaxed this way and is not consciously active, we are not consciously filtering stimuli. This results in suggestions being, by some calculations, hundreds of times more influential. Bear this in mind the next time you vegetate in front of the television!

Most hypnosis sessions consist of the subject getting relaxed, as if for a nap, and listening to the hypnotist talks. The subject relaxes physically and mentally, focusing on the voice of the hypnotist to the exclusion of everything else… the exact same narrow-minded focus as when we focus on driving or watching TV and shut out everything else. Usually subjects feel deeply relaxed after a session, as if they took a nap.

It’s important to realize how much impact we have on our own minds and bodies, even though we may not realize it consciously. Thinking of happy memories cheers us up; thinking of sad memories saddens us. Thinking of an embarrassing memory may result in blushing–in other words, mere thoughts impact the flow of blood around the body, a wholly subconscious process! With hypnosis you can gain much more control over your mind, emotions and body. If the subconscious controls it, so you can you.

Mental discipline is the key. Hypnosis is a form of mental discipline, but more than that… remember that the company you keep, the TV shows you listen to, the books you read and even the thoughts you allow yourself to focus on do influence you and make you who you are. Don’t be powerless; take charge of your own life to ensure you are being influenced for your own self-improvement.

If this did not answer your questions about hypnosis, try the Hypnosis FAQ.