Is Hypnosis Real? And How Does it Work?
One of the most common questions I get asked when people discover I am a Hypnotherapist is whether or not hypnosis is real? Perhaps this question is fueled by stage hypnotists (cluck like a chicken anyone?!) and/or the countless number of myths surrounding hypnosis (don’t get me started..). But either way, it’s always a fascinating topic, and one people are intrigued to know more about.
So let’s dive on in.
WHAT IS HYPNOSIS?
First off let’s start by defining what hypnosis is, because it’s probably very different to what you think it is. Hypnosis is in fact an altered state of consciousness. This means that in contrast to say ‘normal waking consciousness’, a person in hypnosis is deeply relaxed and has heightened focus and concentration. This means they can concentrate intensely on a specific thought or memory while blocking out all the distractions around them.
A good example of an ‘hypnotic state’ is to think of how it feels when you are reading a really gripping book. You become so absorbed in what you are reading that you may look up and find an hour has gone by! This is the state of hypnosis. It is the feeling of being totally engrossed and focused in whatever you are doing. Another common example of being in the state of hypnosis is when you are driving. Have you ever driven somewhere, and once you’ve arrived at your destination been unable to recall the actual journey itself? Yes, my friend you were in a hypnotic ‘trance’ while driving, and your subconscious mind was in control (more on this next!).
So, to answer the question of ‘is hypnosis real?’, you betcha! The state of hypnosis is not only real, it is in fact a very natural and common state for us all to go in and out of during a day. It can also be described as the state of ‘day dreaming’.
What happens to your mind in hypnosis?
Nothing to be afraid of I promise. In fact, quite the opposite.
When you are in the state of hypnosis your conscious mind becomes less and less distracted by everyday cares and worries. You become more and more relaxed, and as you become more relaxed your subconscious mind becomes more and more awake. In this relaxed state you are more ‘open to suggestions’ without interference from critical or anxious thoughts. A simple example of being ‘more open to suggestion’ in everyday terms, would be to think of a time when you bought something in a store or online that you had not considered buying before you saw it. Your logical rational conscious mind was definitely not in charge!
Throughout our lives we are constantly given ‘suggestions’ by our parents, friends, newspapers, advertising, and of course social media. Suggestions don’t just happen in a hypnotherapy session!
Your brain in hypnosis
One of the things I love about hypnosis is the science behind it, and the effect we can see of hypnosis on the brain.
When you are fully engaged and active in your day to day life your brain will most likely be in a Beta wave pattern (15-40 cycles per second). However, as you start to relax, your brain starts to slow down to an Alpha wave pattern (9-14 cycles per second). The Alpha wave pattern can be described as being in a ‘light hypnosis’, and if you were to continue to relax, you would then enter a Theta wave pattern (4-8 cycles per second), also known as a deeper state of hypnosis (or a deep meditative state). This is not the same as sleep, which is known as a Delta wave pattern, and is slower again at 1-4 cycles per second.
the focus shifts between your subconscious and conscious mind
I mentioned earlier that when you are in the state of hypnosis, your conscious mind becomes more and more relaxed, and your subconscious mind becomes more and more awake. But what is your conscious mind? Well it’s been estimated that your conscious mind only makes up about 5% of your ‘mind power’. This is where your short-term memory, and the logical and rational part of you that likes to be ‘in charge’ lives. It’s the part of you that says ‘yes, but….’. It’s highly critical and negative, and it’s the part of you that would come forward and say ‘I’ll never be able to do that’ if I told you to stop drinking coffee for example. Your conscious mind wouldn’t have a piece of it!
Meanwhile your subconscious mind is around 95% of your total ‘mind power’ and this is the ‘powerhouse’ behind your reality. Your subconscious mind oversees many things, but in this context, your subconscious mind is the part of you that can respond creatively to challenges, and access and bring forward your inner strengths and resources. It does not judge, criticise, analyse or reject. If I was to give you the suggestion that it was possible for you to stop drinking coffee under hypnosis, your subconscious mind would very likely accept this suggestion (if of course you actually wanted to do this!). The inner critical voice of conscious mind would be silent. Pretty awesome right?
So, in summary, suggestions given while you are in the deeply relaxed and focused state of hypnosis will be more easily acted on by your subconscious, because your rational logical mind is very much detached vs in a normal waking state.