Have you ever been so absorbed in a thought that you didn’t hear someone calling your name? Have you ever been reading a book or watching TV and not noticed anything that is going on around you? If you answered yes to either of these questions then you have experienced hypnosis – a trancelike state of extreme focus and deep relaxation.
When you are in a trancelike state your subconscious mind is open to suggestion. If you think of your subconscious mind as an entity that operates on a very simple level – it believes what you tell it – then you can begin to understand how hypnosis works and how a hypnotist can help you get rid of bad habits, develop and improve skills, and achieve a greater level of self-confidence.
In order for hypnosis to be effective the hypnotist needs to believe that they can help you with your problem. That’s right. You don’t need to believe it. But, you do need to trust the hypnotist. That is why a skilled hypnotist will first spend some time getting to know you. This is the pre-talk. They will ask you to talk about your problem, when you first noticed it, and what kind of outcome you are hoping for. They will ask you questions about your perception of hypnosis and any fears about the process that you may have, so that they can put your fears to rest. They will answer your questions and discuss with you how hypnosis works. And a skilled hypnotist is not just speaking with you and answering your questions. The minute you sit down in front of them, they are preparing your subconscious mind by giving positive suggestions, assessing various aspects of you that will help them choose an approach that will achieve the greatest results, and they are establishing rapport, a key ingredient to creating trust between two individuals.
The next step is to get you to a state of deep relaxation. There are many methods a hypnotist can use to guide you to this state and the methods are often dependent upon what has been determined about your personality type during the pre-talk. Some people are naturally relaxed and will slip into that state easily, some people are nervous and unsure and the hypnotist will use techniques that work with that kind of personality. A few people have difficulty taking suggestions and commands. Hypnotists have techniques for these assertive personality types that help them overcome their need to be in control.
Once you have achieved a state of relaxation, the hypnotist may use a tactic called deepening. Deepening techniques take you even further into a relaxed state. The more relaxed you are the more receptive is your subconscious mind. At this point you may notice a tingling sensation in your fingers or a feeling of heaviness and lethargy. You might have a sensation that you are floating. Hypnosis is a very personal phenomenon and all experiences are valid.
You have achieved a state of deep relaxation. You may hear the voice of the hypnotist drifting in and out of your awareness. Now, the real work begins. This is when the information you gave the hypnotist is used to communicate with your subconscious mind. Remember, your subconscious mind takes everything at face value, without analysis. It believes what you tell it. If, at some time in your life, you became fearful of elevators, it believes that elevators are a thing to be feared. If, at some time in your life, you began to view smoking as your friend, your subconscious takes the same view. But, there is also a conscious part of you that knows right from wrong, sense from nonsense. That is why you have come to the hypnotist for help. You are aware of the benefits you will reap by not having a fear or bad habit anymore. You know how much it will help you in your career or personal life if you improve the areas in which you feel you are lacking. But your subconscious mind believes what it has been taught and it doesn’t understand the rationale of your conscious mind. What some people mistake for lack of willpower is merely a miscommunication between conscious and subconscious thought processes. The hypnotist will speak to your subconscious mind, using words in a way that your subconscious mind will understand, and help it to think and feel differently about the issue.
While you are in this trance-like state, the hypnotist is also going to focus on eliminating your need for the secondary gain which is the real reward of your fear or habit. Secondary gain is often the underlying reason we cling to bad habits, resist change, and have difficulty overcoming fears. It could be because you get sympathy, attention or it gives you an excuse not to have to face something. But this reward is a false one. It is stopping you from changing and growing, from moving forward. The hypnotist will help you face your secondary gain and show you how it is actually holding you back.
Once the suggestions have been planted in your subconscious mind, the hypnotist will give you a few minutes to enjoy this very pleasant state of relaxation, and then begin to slowly bring you back to an alert state. The hypnotist will discuss your experience with you and might suggest a follow-up visit to catch any residual behavior that is counterproductive to the result you are trying to achieve. However, many behaviors and fears are eliminated at the first visit and you will leave the hypnotist’s office with the issue permanently resolved.
For some people, hypnosis is not the answer. You must truly be ready for change with your mind wide open to all the wonderful possibilities that lay before you. A hypnotist helps you help yourself. You are fully in charge of the experience and the outcome. You cannot be made to do something which you are unwilling or unable to do. Hypnosis is only a solution if you allow it to be.