What is Hypnosis?
While hypnosis has become generally accepted for many issues such as smoking cessation, weight loss, and stress management - there are still many misconceptions about what it is and how it is used. Just the term "hypnosis" can conjure up images of the swinging pocket watch or the stage show in which someone is "made" to do something embarrassing. Fear of mind control or notions of new-age mysticism have kept many people from experiencing something that in 1958 the American Medical Association (AMA) recognized as a valid medical treatment. As our understanding of the mind-body connection develops, the range of applications for hypnosis grows.
The fact is, we all experience hypnosis daily - while driving a car, studying, watching TV, daydreaming, playing golf - just to name a few. Anytime we are deeply relaxed and/or highly focused, we are in a hypnotic state - a mind state somewhere between full consciousness and sleep.
Put simply, the mind is made up of two parts - the conscious and the subconscious. The conscious mind deals with aspects of our daily lives that require analyzing, calculating, and processing. Our subconscious mind holds all of our belief systems, habits, memories, imagination, and emotions. The things that we do automatically come from our subconscious, including physiological processes. We don't analyze breathing; we just do it.
Consider this illustration - if you were to drive to a place you had never been before, you would be working from the conscious mind - following directions, looking out for street signs, checking how many miles you've gone, etc. However, if you were driving to a place that you had been many times before, you would likely be giving little thought to those details and would instead find yourself on auto-pilot, working from your subconscious. Your thoughts would be wandering and then all of a sudden you'd realize you'd reached your exit (or just passed it)! This is often referred to as "highway hypnosis."
If we want to make changes in our lives - address habits, fears, behaviors - we must look at what is in the subconscious. If we merely try to deal with these things on a conscious level, our efforts will often be unsuccessful. Think of the subconscious as the hard drive of a computer, and all of our memories, beliefs, habits, etc., make up the files stored there. Once we have saved a document, it is kept in the files of the hard drive. We can try to make changes to the document on the surface; but unless we save it again, those changes won't be retained.
Think of the smoker who recognizes on a conscious level that they should quit and tries to talk themselves into giving it up. Unless they address the habits in their subconscious - the things that trigger them to automatically reach for a cigarette - then they are not likely to stop smoking.
By engaging the imagination, the language of the subconscious; by quieting the conscious mind through distraction or relaxation, hypnosis allows us to remove imprints left by traumatic experiences, eliminate triggers and habits, release emotions like fear that may be attached to memories, do away with phobias, increase confidence, get in touch with our inherent intuition, and on and on.
Hypnotherapy is a safe and effective tool for helping to "dehypnotize" us from the negative influences that exist in our culture and in our own subconscious.
Learn more about Hypnosis from our Frequently Asked Questions page.