What is hypnotherapy and how does hypnotherapy work?
There are so many misconceptions about what hypnotherapy is and what a hypnotherapist does to help a person. So, how does hypnotherapy work? On this page I'm going to straighten out for you what hypnotherapy really is and how it works. I will shoot from the hip and be completely up front with you. After reading this you will understand what hypnotherapy is really about and why it can work so well.
Hypnosis is a natural state and, when in hypnosis, you are safe.
Before training in hypnotherapy I thought it was about 'a magical state'. I thought, just by getting a person to 'that state', they might respond to anything you say. In other words my understanding was that a person in hypnosis was able to be 'controlled'. However, my understanding at that time, was from a very narrow and misinformed viewpoint. Many people think of hypnosis in conjunction with stage shows where a person SEEMS to be controlled by the hypnotist. And yet, what we didn't get to see was the hypnotist building a whole set of co-operative responses with the person before the performance. The perception given is that the hypnotist 'controls' the person. The reality is far closer to the hypnotist having 'influence' rather than control. And, a great deal of the skill of a stage hypnotist comes down to choosing a person who is super co-operative. The person always has free choice to go against their instructions and yet would prefer to co-operate. So, to the question of: how does hypnotherapy work? The first part of the answer is; by 'influence' rather than control. The person must be open to change and willing to co-operate in the process.
A person in hypnosis has the control and freedom to choose how they respond.
Hypnosis is a learning state.
Have you ever seen someone staring into nowhere? Their eyes are glazed over and they aren't present to the moment? Well of course you have. Look at any group of children and in almost any moment you will likely find a child who has drifted off into their own inner world. Watch anyone for long enough and sooner or later you will notice them change into an inwardly focused state. A state where they are focused less on the environment around them, and more on their inner world. They will be deep in thought about something relevant or interesting to them. They have little awareness of anything else other than that scenario playing out in their mind in that moment. After a while, either something in their environment will demand their returned attention or they will naturally transition back to it.
We experience hypnotic states every day.
We have all done this, and countless times. That's because we all drift in and out of inward and outward attention throughout the constant stream of moments in our lives. When we focus inwardly, the mind has a chance to review what it has learned and make decisions or create meanings. Whatever it chooses to do, the positive intention of this inner scanning mode is to enable the mind to learn. It allows our mind to consolidate important understandings so we can live well and do well. We can survive, respond to other people and thrive in our environment. So again, to answer the question: how does hypnotherapy work? Hypnotherapy utilises this inward focus, this 'learning state' where learning is deeper and more profound.
This inwardly focused state IS Hypnosis. It's extremely familiar and natural to all of us. And, one of the key things to realise is that you are already an expert at going into that inwardly focused state. That's because you've done it every day of your life. No-on can FORCE you into it, but you can be guided into it if you are co-operative. That's the premise of hypnotherapy. No one can DO that state for you either, you are the only one who can take yourself there. But again, you can be guided into it by someone who is skilled in guiding you. That is, if you are willing to follow their instructions and go with it.
All hypnosis is self hypnosis.
Why is a hypnotic state useful?
Hypnosis is a state where our conscious mind could be described as 'less active' or 'more quiet' and our unconscious mind is more open to new ideas. Hypnotherapy is the therapeutic use of this hypnotic state. Where, due to the conscious mind being less interfering, ideas and suggestions can be presented more directly to the unconscious mind. A Hypnotherapist has learned specialised knowledge and trained in skills that allows them to most effectively harness this state. It's not just a matter of telling someone what to do; the language and way of speaking is very important. It can be adjusted to both help keep the person in the hypnotic state AND to enable the unconscious mind to process and uptake ideas.
Our conscious thinking mind develops when we are children and by the age of 7 it is mainly consolidated (although we continue of course to learn, adapt and grow). Our conscious mind is there to enable us to make good judgements. To draw on certain understandings from our database of life experience (held in the unconscious mind) and yet, in a way, limit our range of thinking so we can come to the point of deciding and then taking action. It could be said that the conscious mind directs us and allows us to channel our actions. But at the same time, it restricts us and we can get trapped in limiting ranges of thought, belief and awareness.
Hypnosis allows us to bypass the limitations of conscious thinking
A Hypnotic state allows us to bypass the limitations of conscious thinking. It, so to speak, takes off the limitation cap from a bottle of unending options and creative possibilities. By going into a Hypnotic state the resistance of the conscious mind gives way somewhat. The conscious mind softens and lets go, enabling the unconscious mind to receive useful and empowering thoughts, ideas and suggestions. These suggestions serve to direct the unconscious mind, which, having received them, goes to work on using them in ways that it deems best for the person. The Hypnotherapist can set in motion new directions of thinking and start to en-train the mind towards positive and helpful thoughts and responses.
Why is hypnosis safe?
A hypnotic state is safe because your unconscious mind is the part that protects you. It's not your conscious mind that keeps you safe from harm or manipulation anyway. And so by lulling the conscious mind temporarily aside, it just means we have less interference from limited thinking. It doesn't mean any security functions of the mind are any less intact than usual. In fact, in a hypnotic state, the mind is very focused and sensitive to what is said. If anyone were to give you negative or destructive suggestions and try to get you to do something unwanted, your mind would reject their suggestion and likely return to the normal conscious state in order to break off the stream of ideas from continuing. In hypnosis only ideas which are agreeable to the person get absorbed and take effect. A person's unconscious mind knows that person's goals, knows what is and isn't ok and safe and right. And, to be effective, a hypnotherapist works with the person's values and directs their mind only ever towards outcomes that are right and safe and good for them.
In Hypnosis only ideas agreeable to the person take effect
Furthermore, rather than the Hypnotherapist using their words, the Hypnotherapist interviews the person and uses their own words and ways of describing what they want. This way, while in hypnosis, the person is receiving instructions essentially from themselves. The Hypnotherapist doesn't assume that they know what the person wants and needs. They are far more respectful to the individual's own intelligence and unique desires. Your own solutions and ways of thinking will be used to condition helpful adjustments and that way you can rest assured that all said in hypnosis is safe and completely fits the bill for you.
So in summary: How does Hypnotherapy work?
Hypnotherapy works by taking the mind into it's own natural 'learning state'. A state where the conscious mind is less active and less external information is coming in. A state where the mind can focus inwards and make new neural connections (brain cell connections) which bridge the gap between where you are now and where you want to be. In other words, whatever change we are focused on, we are allowing the mind to process possibilities and find it's own best solutions. It leads to positive change where you find yourself feeling different and, in turn, behaving differently. Taking new actions that lead you to what you have decided is best for you. And, perhaps the best part is that, although this sounds like a lot of work, your unconscious processes do this for you. Consciously you'll get to relax very deeply and enjoy the process.