Hypnosis as an altered state of consciousness, where an individual’s focus
of attention is narrowed and his or her concentration directed toward a
goal. Scientists believe that hypnosis tends to involve greater right brain
activity and imagination. Each person experiences hypnosis in a unique
way. The benefit of hypnosis is that it helps an individual relax in a
secure environment, allowing the that individual to use his or her
subconscious mind to focus on more positive ideas and create motivation for
making healthy personal changes. Through hypnosis, an individual can
access mental strengths, and utilize his or her innate capacity for greater
mental control and self-mastery.
There are many myths about hypnosis, but there is nothing magical or
mystical about it. It is simply an inner state of focused attention,
absorption and mental concentration. This altered state of consciousness is
similar to a magnifying glass in the sun, in which sunrays are focused in
the glass and are thus, more powerful. Similarly, when the mind is
passively concentrated and focused, more potential and power can be directed
toward a goal. It is commonly believed that we use only five- or
ten-percent of our mental potential. Hypnosis is simply a focused state of
attention and concentration that allows you to use more of the potential and
power of your own mind. Self-hypnosis can help you gain more control over
anxiety, and increase mental concentration.
To better understand hypnosis, consider the differences between the
“conscious” and “subconscious” mind. For simplicity, the conscious mind
functions when we are fully awake and aware of our external environment, and
the subconscious mind is most active when we are asleep or daydreaming. For
example, have you ever driven on a highway, absorbed in thought, and then
became suddenly alerted to the road, only to realize that your mind was off
in thought for several miles? The conscious mind was absorbed in thought
and the subconscious mind through years of memory of 1000s of driving hours
held the road competently. Another example of the activity of the
subconscious mind is when we are unable to remember someone’s name. Finally
we get frustrated and give up, and then the next day without any conscious
effort, the name appears in mind. The subconscious mind goes on autopilot
to do its memory retrieval work. Additional trance states occur when we
are deep in thought, or completely absorbed in a movie or exhilarating book.
In hypnosis, the use of the imagination is the foundation of the process.
Otherwise, it is simply meditation of varying sorts. Mental imagery is very
powerful, especially in a focused state of attention. Rather than using
will power, hypnosis harnesses the natural and cooperative power of
imagination. The skillful use of guided imagery, which is symbolic in
nature, can assist in creating change similar to the belief and feeling
quality of the very things that are imagined. This process already occurs
constantly, which, ironically is how fear and anxiety manifest. However,
with hypnosis, the outcome can be positive rather than just random. In
addition, positive suggestions are stated to the subconscious mind. In an
altered state of focused attention, ideas that are more healing and
compatible with the mind’s desires may be accepted and lead to desired
Unaware, we often use spontaneous, informal trance states in a self-limiting
manner. This occurs when we visualize negative outcomes or memories that
tend to stir up anxiety or depression, or when we speak internally to
ourselves in critical ways, or brood and reiterate negative experiences.
When criticizing ourselves, we may be in light trance state, preoccupied,
and internally focused. While thoughts, imagination and internal dialogue
can be positive and helpful, they can also be negative and maladaptive.
Through hypnosis, you can alter your internal world to discover and change
how you think and feel, and visualize and imagine things the way you want
them to be. The goal is to create positive change in thought and
Hypnosis is optimally effective when an individual is highly motivated to
overcome a problem, and when the therapist is well trained in both hypnosis
and in general issues relating to the treatment of the particular problem.
On the other hand, it is less effective when a client maintains unrealistic
expectations about its potential, or is ambivalent and less motivated.
Hypnosis should always be used in an ethical manner, and the clinician
should be well trained and have received qualified supervision in
hypnosis. Hypnosis is not an end-all treatment, it is one of many to be
used only where it is efficacious. The real work in healing requires a
more holistic strategy involving positive lifestyle changes, improvement in
diet, and changes in attitude, qualities that go beyond just therapy.
There are many misconceptions about hypnosis, such as a fear of loss of
control, of surrendering will, or of being dominated. This is a myth,
partially resulting from TV images of hypnosis as control strategy or stage
hypnosis, where a guest in the audience is made to quack like a chicken.
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