Hypnosis Explained

Dr. Deborah Gilmour PSY.D. R.N. B.S.N. C.H.T

“Hypnosis is a natural, highly-focused state of mind in which the unconscious mind is free to act without any interference from consciousness”

Hypnosis is not a magical or mystical state. It does not take any special powers to either be a hypnotist or be hypnotized. It is a natural state that we go in and out of on a daily basis. When doing hypnotic work we want our clients to be in a highly focused state this way they can access abilities that are not normally within their range of conscious responses to have control over. Every day we go in and out of hypnosis, when reading a book, when viewing television, listening to music and many other activities.

Let me give you an example of everyday hypnosis. Have you ever driven your car and you suddenly arrive at your destination without consciously knowing how you arrived . You have no recollection of making any of the turns or any of the maneuvers in the past fifteen miles. You obviously had stopped at red lights, gone forward when the light turned green, and maneuvered your way through light or heavy traffic, yet you arrived at your destination safely.

Something inside you was aware of what was happening , and that something is the unconscious mind. Your unconscious mind was working automatically and was able to drive safely. With restrictions removed your conscious mind was engaged in daydreaming, perhaps about what you were going to do that evening, making a shopping list, mentally preparing a dinner or many other thoughts.

The human mind is a wonderful, complex and sophisticated thing. In order to not overload with all the complexities that exist, as hypnotists we have the advantages that we can use as a simplified model which will allow us to use the power of hypnosis quickly and easily without too much fuss.

Therapeutic Hypnotherapy, an AMA-approved medical treatment since 1958, induces a state of relaxation similar to the calm, delightful comfortable feeling that comes to you before you drift off to sleep. With proper guidance, you will establish a deep connection with your inner self and your subconscious mind will open, making itself available to positive suggestion for beneficial change. By channelling the power of your mind, you will bring about a more positive perception of yourself. Positive attitude lead to a more productive life, a life free of stress, and addictive self defeating behavior.


Let me help you on your journey.

The Conscious & Unconscious Mind

Functions of the Conscious Mind

First of all, we have this idea of a vague conscious mind. The conscious mind is what we’d like to think of as being ourselves. It is our intellect, it is the choices we make every day, it is the things that we are aware of.

Think of your conscious mind as a little bit like a searchlight in the middle of a dark cave. The search light can only look at one portion of that cave. Wherever the light goes and shines on, you can see a few things, four, five or six object, but then the light runs out and the rest is in darkness.

The darkness, the things that you are not aware of, that is your unconscious mind. And the relationship between the light in the cave is actually quite a nice metaphor for the one between the conscious mind and the unconscious mind.

The conscious mind has certain limitations. For starters, you can only process seven plus or minus two bits of information. What that really means is that if I gave you a random set of facts to remember, by he time I get to six or seven facts, you can probably hold that reasonably easily inside your mind. Eight or nine facts, it starts to be a little trickier.

Ten, eleven, twelve…..you’d have to be a trained memory expert to be able o hold all those things in your mind at the same time. The reason for this is because your focus of attention is limited to how many things you can deal with at a time.

Functions of the Unconscious Mind

The unconscious mind can handle millions and millions of pieces of information at the same time. Many time we experience a problem, it goes over and over in our minds but we cannot find a solution, however, when we sleep on it we find that in the morning the answer just seems so obvious. This is only one of the things that the unconscious mind can do for us, it helps us find solutions to our problems and helps us get through life.

The unconscious mind is everything that is happening in the background. It can be compared to a computer, when you are working on a document that is our conscious mind, that is where your attention is, and the file it ends up in, is the unconscious mind. And just like the computer it has many different things operating at the same time. It runs automatically allowing you the freedom to choose your way through life.

There are many unconscious processes that we are unaware of. Another example, the unconscious mind runs your body. It runs your heart, your internal organs, your blood pressure. You never think “Oh I have to remember to beat my heart 80 time a minute. It also protects us, being in a difficult situation and suddenly you know exactly what to do or say without knowing how you knew.

Likewise there are many unconscious processes we can be totally aware of and have influence over when we choose to focus our minds in a certain way. Right now you are reading this information and maybe thinking about what you are reading. What you are probably not aware of is the sensation of your body sitting in the chair or the temperature of the skin of your back and shoulder. However, now that I have mentioned it , your attention is drawn towards them and something that was not conscious a moment ago suddenly becomes conscious. It is not that they did not exist whilst you weren’t paying attention, there was no reason for you to be aware of them until I mentioned them.

When we drive a car we never sit and say “Okay I need to put my foot on the gas, then I will put my foot on the break, then I will hold onto the steering wheel and guide the car, now I will put my foot on the break to slow down,” There is no need to do that, because your unconscious mind is creative. Creativity is not a gift that people have, it is a file inside the mind that you can access. And through the assistance of a certified hypnotist you can be guided into the different files and discover abilities that you were not aware of.

Responsibilities of the unconscious mind

  • Protect and Survive:- (flight or flight response)
  • Emotional Protection:- ( The unconscious mind can protect you from emotional wounds. Fear of making a mistake or being in an embarrassing situation For whatever the reason the unconscious mind is going to protect you from the emotional pain by giving you the fear not to enter into the event to find an excuse not to do a certain thing. Or a repressed memory that still has a strong negative charge, and rather than deal with it, your unconscious mind stores it away to be dealt with when you are able to do so.)
  • Maintain Health:- (Regulating blood pressure, regulating temperature, regulating internal organs, increasing the healing process, decreases blood flow after an accident, The unconscious mind runs your body.
  • Stores Memory:- (when you think of a telephone number, where was that number a moment before you thought about it? It had to be hovering there in your mind somewhere. With hypnosis you can retrieve memories that you need to be able to succeed in life. Test taking.)
  • Regulate Emotions:- (We do not choose how to feel at any given moment . We respond to something that is going on) All emotions are an unconscious phenomenon
  • Wisdom, Experience and Ethics:- (In the same way it stores memory it stores your life experiences and the lessons we learn from those experience develop our wisdom, ethics and moral values.

Many people believe that things that are in the unconscious are inaccessible and repressed. Freud often talked about repressed feelings of the unconscious . However, this is not true. It may be difficult to obtain certain information at times albeit there are many unconscious processes that we can be totally aware of and have influence over when we choose to focus our minds in a certain way.

This gives you some very clear distinctions as a layperson and ease your mind that it is a simple goal to achieve without great difficulty. Knowing that it is a natural state and a highly focused state, you can probably go back to an experience when you were both highly focused and an altered state of consciousness arose totally naturally.

One can see that this state of mind can be very liberating and going into hypnosis is a wonderful way to develop automatic habits, which means you don’t have to think about stuff anymore, you can get on with your life and think about the important things like what are you going to wear on your date.

Conscious -v- Unconscious conflict

The previous examples describe the unconscious mind coming to your rescue, doing what it is designed to do. The difficulties arise when there is conflict between the two.

A good example , Imagine that your mind and body are like a ship and the captain of the ship is a bit like your conscious mind. It is there to look into the distance and look at the charts, and then decide, “here is the way we are going to go.” These are the directions we want to go in and this is the path that we’ll take to get there. The unconscious mind is the ship and the whole of the crew. And whist the crew and the ship is well trained and does their thing, a captain just points the directions and enjoys the breeze, everything is find.

And yet, from time to time, the captain is getting a little bit nervous or loses a little bit of trust in his crew, and what happens then?

Either the captain is so busy running down stairs to check that the coal engine is working and swabs the decks and goes into the kitchen to prepare the dinner, who’s minding the ship?

Who’s deciding which direction to go? The crew gets frustrated because the captain is interfering and the captain and the ship lose the direction or purpose in life because the captain is too busy interfering with things that are best left to the crew.

This is an example of where hypnosis becomes a tremendously powerful tool. When people interfere in their own lives too much, when they get in there own way to bypass the captain, regulate the crew again, give them a new set of instruction so that they can do their job properly, give them a new set of conditions, and then the captain can get on with happily doing his job which is looking at the charts and deciding which way the ship should go”.

Frequently Asked Questions About Hypnosis

If you wish to be hypnotized you can be hypnotized. Hypnosis can either be overt or covert. I use both but always with the permission of the client. There are some people that are a little more difficult than others and that is where covert methods are more suitable.

Self hypnosis is a skill that is not difficult to accomplish. Initially, some clients are more adaptable than others, but anyone can improve with a little practice. Self hypnosis is beneficial for some things , the release of stress on a daily bases for example, or falling asleep at night . However, when it comes to deeper issues it is best to be guided by a skilled certified hypnotherapist. He/she can accomplish much more in a shorter period of time. When it relates to emotional trauma, where there is a release of negatively charged emotions, you can deal with the issue quickly and effectively ending the session in a positive change for the client. The hypnotherapist works with you during the session to create the most powerful changes within you.

When in trance you will be aware of the sounds around you, you are very capable of shifting your position, moving (scratching an itch) one client I had removed herself from the chair and went to the ladies room, returned, and remained in trance the whole time. While in trance you will find that your mind may wander and drift. This does not affect the benefits of hypnosis. I would like to clear up a few misconceptions about hypnosis which must be addressed so that you can understand and benefit from the hypnotic process.

No! This is pretty much nonsense. You will always wake up out of hypnosis. Even if the hypnotist has a heart attack or gets up and leave the office. The worst thing that can happen is that you may drift from the hypnotic state into a natural sleep and half an hour later, or an hour later, however long it takes, you will wake up as if you have woken up from a normal, natural sleep.

What concerns many clients is whether they will reveal things about themselves that they’re afraid to. Everyone has skeletons in the closet,. Everyone has things in their past that they don’t want to talk about or might be a little ashamed of. This is not the case your secrets will remain your secrets. Hypnosis is not a truth serum. You are aware of the process and in control of what is said or not said at any time during the session.

One of the things that one needs to realize is that the control in hypnosis is shared. Our role as a hypnotist is to guide someone through the experience. Your role is to listen to suggestions and any suggestions that are negative or in some way contrary to your moral code, your moral values, you will reject. Hypnosis is a state of heightened awareness, a tool with which you can tap into the power of your mind and create positive changes in your life. The protective critical faculty of the mind ensures that your morals, values, and beliefs are kept intact, and allows only positive suggestions into the unconscious. It is up to you, whether or not you want to follow the hypnotist. If you choose not to, if you choose to go of in your own direction, well guess what, NOTHING WILL HAPPEN.

“Go under” is a poor choice of words to describe the hypnotic state. During hypnosis you are not asleep or unconscious and, in fact, experience a state of heightened awareness. Relaxation goes along nicely with hypnosis but is not a requirement. Hypnosis can occur when standing, sitting, with eyes open or closed. There simply needs to be a willingness on your part to participate and by following the instructions of the hypnotherapist you will be able to benefit from hypnosis.

No! One of the biggest myths is the idea that you’ll be asleep when you are hypnotized. That your mind sort of disappears and you’ll have no recollection or memory or anything else of the experiences you’ve had. When you go into hypnosis you will be totally aware of everything that is going on around you. The sound of my voice and everything else. So you will not be asleep, You will hear everything I say, In fact, you will be even more aware of the things I say. Because one of the things that hypnosis and the hypnotic state does is it tends to accentuate. It tends to increase people’s responsiveness, people’s senses.

You can enrich your senses through hypnosis You can increase your sensitivity to touch. Typically this is what happens. Some of your senses will become blown out of all proportions. They will become minutely aware of, say, the ticking of the clock, whilst other of your senses will totally disappear. It makes no difference whether you “remain awake” or “fall asleep” during a hypnosis session. That is only the opinion of your conscious mind which really has no way to gage the hypnotic state and therefore you may “think” you have fallen asleep when you are simply benefiting from a relaxed state.

No, it is a myth that people can be made to do things against their will, you will not do something during the hypnotic state that you would not do otherwise. Hypnosis simply affords you access to the more powerful part of your mind, the subconscious mind, where you can make changes that will benefit you. You are always in control.

Many people think that in order to be suggestible you’ve got to be gullible. There’s a big difference between gullibility and suggestibility. There is evidence to suggest that there is a correlation between intelligence levels and suggestibility. A sharp mind is an asset in accessing and benefiting from the state of hypnosis. The smarter you are, the more suggestible you will tend to be.

One of the reasons for this is that first of all you have to be able to understand different types of suggestions and be able to have different kinds of experiences. Part of what defines intelligence, although it is a difficult thing to define, is your ability to have many different experiences and understand them and immerse yourself in them. That is what suggestions are designed to do, to give you a different set of experiences.
The other thing about intelligence is it allows you to put on hold one model of the world, one way of thinking, and try on different models until you find a better model.

That is how people evolve or grow, become more intelligent or find better solutions to things. Different induction methods will benefit different learning styles or information process abilities. A skilled hypnotherapist will help you utilize your individual style and intelligence level to benefit from hypnosis.

Yes, provided we know what is happening. We are actually better able to control hypnosis in the clinical sense, i.e. when we know it is coming. Can a hypnotist make you do something against your will? No. But, advertising oftentimes convinces us that something is for our own good, that we must have a certain something, that their is truth in a particular statement. By triggering emotions; tapping into our hopes, fears, dreams; they sell us cars, attract us to restaurants. And convince us we cannot have a baby. This is also hypnosis— these are also hypnotic suggestions.

Each year millions of dollars are spent to overcome infertility. While modern medicine has improved, vast amounts of cash and emotion are spent in pursuit of pregnancies that never happen. Hypnotherapy represents a safe and powerful way of increasing fertility.

Previously terrified of animals with a 50 year severe phobia, this client is now free from his lifelong debilitating difficulty!

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