What is 'Hypnotherapy', 'Hypnosis' and ‘Trance’?
The term hypnosis originally derives from the Greek word ‘hypnos’, meaning to sleep. This is actually quite an inaccurate description of the experience, as in most cases the hypnotic state (trance) is entirely different from sleep. Trance is a totally naturally occurring altered state of consciousness that we access through hypnotic techniques, leading to a state of physical and mental relaxation, whereby your awareness becomes heightened and focused. This enables communication with, and access to the resources of the unconscious mind. Hypnosis can occur unaided (known as self-hypnosis) or with the assistance of another person.
Hypnotherapy is the use of hypnosis by a trained professional to encourage a state whereby beneficial change can occur, whilst utilising and communicating with the client’s unconscious mind.
What is the 'unconscious mind'?
Simply put, it is everything that is not in conscious awareness in any given moment. For example, think back to your classroom at your first school. Now we’ve mentioned it, you can bring some information to your conscious mind about what it was like. Your unconscious keeps that stored for you throughout your life. Now, if you like, bring your breathing to your attention. Notice its rate, depth and the ease at which it naturally occurs without you normally having to think about it as your unconscious mind takes care of that for you.
Still unsure? Here’s a more in-depth chat about it!
We can only process just over 7 pieces of information consciously at any one time. Any more, and we would be overloaded, so we filter the information by deleting, distorting and generalising it in order to process and make sense of it. This is based upon our past experiences and the other differing ‘filters’ that we all have that contribute to our personality and how we perceive the world. That is why everyone experiences and focuses on different things, so no two people would have the same recollection or interpretation of one experience. This leads on to the premise and example that if we focus and look for the positive things in life, that is what we will find. If we are mainly focusing on what is negative in our lives and look for it… that is also what we shall find, missing all the positive things along the way, as we were not focused or open to them. Life is so much happier, opportunistic and healthier when the ‘glass is half full’!
We digress in order to share a vital tip with you… so back to the workings of the unconscious mind and a simple analogy to help you understand better ….
Our mind is like a computer!
The unconscious mind is highly powerful and influential. It is like the computer ‘hard drive’ of the mind and operates continuously in the background. For the purpose of a simple analogy, without the intention de-personalising or diminishing the complexity of the human mind, consider it like this.
Think of a computer and if your conscious mind is your desktop and holds everything you are working on right now, everything else is your unconscious mind, including all the other processes and programs that go on behind the scenes. The programs and processes have a set way of running from when they were originally installed, just like the way we go about learning, becoming motivated, feeling anxious, feeling confident to name just a few of our human processes.
These processes are usually installed from a previous experience, often in childhood and earlier years, and the more we run the process, the swifter and more embedded it becomes. It can be changed if we identify what the process is and ‘reprogram’ it. All the data information about your experiences and memories are stored in your files, which we can find if we search for them and open the file on our desktop (our conscious mind). Some data files of experiences are buried deeper down and can be fragmented, similarly to repressed memories and unresolved events.
So, it keeps our body working without us having to think consciously about it. It stores all our memories and information about our experiences and it aims to protect us at all times. It drives our behaviours which is why sometimes no matter how hard we consciously and logically (our unconscious mind is not logical!) to change our behaviours, our unconscious overrides this, as it continues to gain some way. Our behaviours often serve a higher unconscious purpose that is outside our awareness, for example smoking to make us relaxed, over eating to fill an emotional need, fear of flying to maintain control, procrastinating to prevent us facing our fear of the possibility of failure. By communicating with the unconscious we can make longterm changes and ensure all the conscious and unconscious needs are met.
It is sometimes referred to as the sub-conscious mind, meaning ‘under’ our awareness. However, we believe the term unconscious is more representative and respectful to its amazing power and ability.
What about stage and television hypnosis?
Peoples concerns and misconceptions about hypnosis often stem from watching hypnosis used for ‘entertainment’. This tends to be where concerns about loosing control or the potential for embarrassment stem from. Contrary to how it may appear, the participants are carefully selected and it is an entirely voluntary process whereby they are giving their permission to the hypnotist and expecting to be embarrassed! All participants that volunteer know the types of things they are letting themselves in for and are chosen for their suggestibility and compliance, solely for entertainment purposes.
Hypnotherapy is a profession concerned with the desired outcome for the client and has your best interests in mind at all times. Our intention is never to control or embarrass clients, rather to act as your partner and guide towards the result you want. You will never be influenced against your wishes. We leave the turkey clucking and foolish performances to the stage for those who wish to do it!
Am I in control?
Definitely…. Yes! This is common fear and misconception some people have about hypnosis, quite understandably so. You ALWAYS have total control.
You are in an altered state on consciousness; you are not unconscious and everything occurs only with your full consent and complete control. If you wished to you would be able to talk (or keep quiet if that is what you wanted!), open your eyes, stand up and walk out.
You can regulate the depth and breadth of your trance and choose to respond to anything that occurs in the environment. Additionally you have complete control over the content during the session for example your memories, behaviour and rejecting or accepting suggestions made by the hypnotherapist.
Nothing occurs unless you choose and allow it to.
Can I be influenced against my will?
No. You cannot be made to do anything against your usual ethical or moral judgements of beliefs. Your unconscious will protect you at all times and the hypnotherapist is there to assist you with your desired changes and has a professional duty of care towards you. It is important that you select a fully qualified therapist that you trust and have confidence in.
Can I stay in a trance and not 'wake up'?
No, never. You can ‘wake up’ at any time, simply by opening your eyes when you are ready to do so. Occasionally there are people who take longer to ‘wake up’, this is usually as their unconscious mind is using the opportunity to process something and they will come around when they are ready.
There are of course people who enjoy the feeling so much they don’t want to wake up, as well as people that occasionally fall asleep! The unconscious mind protects you at all times, and everyone wakes up in their own time, just like you do after sleeping.
Can I be hypnotised?
Yes, but only if you want to and are personally motivated to change! It is you that hypnotises yourself, we are simply there to assist you through the process. You are always in control of how deeply into trance you go and what you allow of yourself and the hypnotherapist.
Being hypnotised is simply an altered state of awareness. You are actually in your own varying states of hypnosis regularly in everyday life. Some common examples are daydreaming, watching the television and being unaware of what is being said or done around you. You may well have experienced what is termed ‘highway hypnosis’, whereby you are driving and your unconscious does a perfectly good job of getting you to your destination without you consciously remembering most of the journey.
So as it is a naturally occurring state that we have all naturally experienced, anyone can hypnotise themselves with the hypnotherapist as their guide, just by inducing that same ability to experience that pleasurable state.
The majority of the time, you only need to be in a light trance for the therapy to be effective. People often don’t believe they have been hypnotised as they just feel relaxed and are expecting to feel somewhat different. Yet being relaxed is perfect and exactly how we want you to feel! By being relaxed in a light trance, you allow your unconscious mind to absorb suggestions for it to make the necessary changes.
How does it feel and what can I expect?
As the ‘trance’ is a naturally occurring state and controlled and initialised by you, it will feel very familiar and natural to you. Some people describe it as feeling how they do when they are in a daydream, meditating or simply very relaxed. You may feel calm, aware of everything that is around you and experienced heightened focus.
Some people may experience different sensations in their body during hypnosis such as lightness or tingling or movements, images, or dissociation of body and mind. This is all totally normal and harmless. In fact people usually feel refreshed, invigorated and calm after hypnosis.
Do not expect to feel ‘hypnotised’, people often don’t think they have been at the end of the session as it is such a familiar, natural experience to them!