You may wonder how hypnotherapy can actually be of any benefit to you and help you to improve various physical, mental or emotional aspects of your life. Hypnosis simply puts you into a normal and natural state of mind that all individuals experience many times throughout the day. It is a state of deep relaxation where the conscious mind “steps aside” and the subconscious mind comes to the forefront. Experiencing hypnosis is not sleep, unconsciousness, nor mind control – it is simply an altered state of consciousness. Daydreaming and highway hypnosis, for example, are other altered states of consciousness – you remain alert and aware of your surroundings, but your focus of attention is elsewhere. Think of hypnosis, then, as a guided daydream.
During hypnosis, consciousness is NOT lost, rather it becomes more selective. It is typical to be more aware of internal processes than of the outside world’s activities and distractions. Scientific studies show that trance is a natural and normal state of mind, and like other states such as alertness or pleasure, has many different and individual components.
When a therapist uses the state of hypnosis to guide and assist you, this becomes therapy – hypnotherapy uses the state of hypnosis as a form of therapy – and anything the therapist says, you can accept or reject freely. Being in the state of hypnosis is not only natural, but it is voluntary, and you are able to speak, hear, and communicate if needed.
You Are Always In Control
It is important to know that your subconscious mind has a component that acts as a protector, and it operates automatically when you are using your conscious mind. This part of your mind makes sure that anything that is suggested to you is in agreement with your own belief system. You will never do anything that you normally would not want to do, or change beliefs that you hold dear – you will still be “you.” Your subconscious mind protects you from danger, whether real or imagined.
There is a ‘critical faculty’ component of your conscious mind that acts as a filter of stimuli you receive consciously via your five senses. In order to get past this critical and judgmental part of the conscious mind, the hypnotherapist uses hypnosis to bypass critical thinking to access your subconscious mind and to focus it to accept new, positive information and changes in behavior. If these new thoughts, ideas and suggestions are allowed to enter your subconscious mind, change and acceptance will occur, and depending upon the condition, within time, you will automatically respond differently or change according to the suggestions. When you are in the hypnotic state (altered state of consciousness), you will always be protected and will never accept suggestions that are not in your best interest or that you do not really want.
The human brain operates within four states of consciousness which actually are levels of electrical activity measured in the form of brainwaves – Beta, Alpha, Theta, and Delta. Hypnosis guides your mind from the Beta stage which we are in about 90% of the time and which holds our logic and reasoning, to enter into either the Alpha or Theta state where relaxation is possible and fundamental change takes place. In order to understand this better, here is a summary of these levels of consciousness:
Beta – Normal, awake and alert. This is the area of logic and reasoning and registers 14-40 cycles per second. It comprises only 12% of our brain’s abilities, stores information or memory, and can result in tension and stress if you remain at this level for long periods of time. As you become more stressed, the brain becomes less able to slow down where learning and change can take place.
Alpha – Optimal level for competition and concentration, with brainwave frequency at about 9-15 cycles per second. At this level, the brain functions at optimal level, tranquil, relaxed, and logical. You can add new ideas and thoughts at this level and control your dreams. You are at this level when you are just about to fall asleep.
Theta – Deep relaxation where suggestions can take place, with brainwave frequency at about 5-9 cycles per second – occurs during the first 20 minutes as you fall asleep, but before deep sleep.
Delta – Complete rest with deep dreamless sleep where healing of both the mind and the body takes place, 1-5 cycles per second.
How Hypnotherapy Can Help
Whenever your conscious mind hears something you believe, or whenever you have a significant experience, your subconscious makes a note of it and holds it to be “true.” Your subconscious mind does not judge – that is the work of the conscious mind. Once that belief has taken hold, it becomes a part of you. Hypnosis reaches the subconscious mind to help change unwanted beliefs, behaviors and thoughts. Once the new thoughts have taken hold, they become automatic.
One thing to remember is that hypnosis will usually not work if you don’t really want change. In those cases, the judgmental conscious mind may prevent the hypnotherapist from bypassing the critical factor to access the subconscious, and thereby effect change. Some clients have fear or doubt about hypnosis and whether they can be hypnotized, and this almost always stems from their lack of understanding or from misinformation about hypnosis. This fear and/or doubt is usually mitigated by the hypnotherapist in the pre-talk where the client gains a better understanding of what hypnosis is and is not and how it works.
Member of the National Guild of Hypnotists
Member of the Arizona Society for Professional Hypnosis