How to Use Hypnosis as a Tool

Understanding the Parts of Your Mind

The part of your mind you are most familiar with is your conscious mind.  This is what you know you know, the information you take in with your senses, your short-term memory, your willpower, the rational, analytical part of your mind.  When you hear that you are only using 10% of your mind, this is what that means.  While it is still an essential part, your conscious mind makes up only 5 to 10% of your mind. 

This could explain why, after you have made a solemn resolve to cut back on sweets, you suddenly find yourself eating a donut.  Your will power is backed by the smallest part of your mind, the conscious.  Habits are found in the subconscious, which makes up a much greater portion of your mind. 

Where do you find the most ice?  In the tip of an iceberg above the surface of the water or underneath?

Your subconscious mind is like a massive computer.  This is the database where all of your memories are stored.  Everything that ever happened to you, the good, the bad, and the ugly are all stored here.  Memories from even before you were born to reside here.  Prenatal research has discovered that a baby in utero can hear and respond to the environment the mother is in.    You became sentient before you were born and that’s when your subconscious began collecting data.  

Your conscious mind may not remember a traumatizing event that impacted how you feel about yourself or whether or not you trust others, but the event created a program in your subconscious mind.  That program continues to run until it is replaced by another.  You may think you make your decisions with your conscious mind, but those decisions are based on the programs running in your subconscious.

This is where habits are formed.  You may make a decision to be more outgoing and friendly, to be the first to start a conversation at a networking event.  But your subconscious remembers what happened in first grade and will stoutly “protect” you from any possible rejection.    

In addition to your habits, your emotions are here.  And since your conscious mind is not aware of everything in your subconscious, this could explain why some of your emotions seem to come out of nowhere.  

Your subconscious holds all your information and is powerful in many ways, but it has one fatal flaw.  Its prime directive is self-preservation.  It is extremely resistant to change.  So, when your conscious mind decided to give up sweets, your subconscious may have said, “Why change now?  We’ve always eaten donuts.”  Or when you decided to be a more effective networker, “I remember what happened to you before.  That was so terrible you cried for hours!  I’ll keep you safe from being hurt or humiliated ever again.”  Your subconscious does not make decisions based on your best interests.

Have you ever set a goal and felt fully committed to reaching it only to find that you have sabotaged your success?  “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

The Critical Factor

What is the critical factor?  This is the part of your conscious mind that acts as a filter, deciding what data becomes part of your permanent memory and what is discarded, forgotten.  Here are two examples of how it can impact you.  

Someone at work makes a caustic remark about your intelligence.  You know you are smart.  You did well in school, always got good grades.  You’ve demonstrated your competence on several occasions.  And you also know the person who made the remark has a history of being insecure and wanting to make other people look bad.  This new information is not congruent with your past experience and the program running in your subconscious.  You deal with it at the moment and eventually forget it.  It does not enter your long-term memory, which is a benefit to you.

Our second example is not as fortunate.  As a five-year-old, you are told by an insensitive adult that it is fortunate you have such a pleasant personality because you just aren’t as smart as your siblings.  This is compounded by other experiences when you were compared to others--classmates, friends, acquaintances—who were performing at a higher academic level than you.  It becomes part of your belief system that you just aren’t smart.  You may even accept the label of “stupid.”  You begin to look for evidence to support this belief.  And when you are looking for something like that, you usually find it.

Now when a coworker makes a caustic remark about your intelligence, your critical factor lets it right in because it matches what is stored in your subconscious.  Another coworker may remind you that the person who made the remark has done the same thing to others and is generally accepted as a jerk.  Your supervisor may assure you repeatedly that you are a valuable and trusted employee.  Your spouse and close friends can point out every intelligent thing you have ever said and done, and none of that matters.  That caustic remark goes straight to your permanent memory and strengthens your negative beliefs about yourself because it fits the program running in your subconscious.  

New information that is congruent with the programs that are running in your subconscious is admitted, new information that is not is discarded.  That is what the critical factor does.  Sometimes it is your friend, sometimes it isn’t.

The Power of Your Subconscious Mind

Notice the difference in those two scenarios?  It’s subconscious programming.  In the first, your subconscious was programmed to believe yourself smart and capable.  Any claims made that you weren’t were ignored, forgotten, like water off a duck’s back.  In the second example, your mind had been programmed to believe you weren’t good enough.  A cruel comment found its mark like a skillfully aimed arrow.  Any input to the contrary was ignored.  

Your subconscious mind holds the programs that run your daily life.  These programs affect the way you feel about yourself and others, whether you are willing to take risks or not, whether you eat for nutrition or comfort.  You may find that you continue engaging in behavior even after you know it is preventing you from your desired outcome, such as a relationship you cherish or progressing in your chosen career.  Your decisions are heavily influenced by your subconscious.  It’s that powerful.  

Fortunately, it is not that permanent.  Just as an outdated computer program can be rewritten or replaced, so can your negative programming.  That is what hypnosis does.  

What is Hypnosis and How Does it Help?

Hypnosis is an altered state of awareness.  We move in and out of it frequently without realizing it.  Have you ever arrived at work and suddenly realized you don’t remember the details of the journey?  Maybe someone asks you about a building on Main Street and you don’t even remember driving on Main Street, even though it was part of your route.  This is called highway hypnosis.  Your subconscious mind took over the driving while your conscious mind was focused on something else. It would have become immediately present if needed, but the trip was routine and so it was assigned to your subconscious.

Have you ever become so focused on something–a book, movie, or conversation–that someone trying to get your attention had to call your name several times or even shake your shoulder to get your attention?  This is another form of hypnosis.  Daydreaming is yet another example.  Hypnosis allows you to connect with your subconscious.  

All hypnosis is self-hypnosis. A hypnotist may guide you on the journey, but you take it.  You cannot be hypnotized to do anything you wouldn’t do in an awakened state.  Hypnosis can remove mental blocks that prevent you from reaching your goals.  Athletes use hypnosis to improve their performance.

Research has shown that hypnotherapy and training in self-hypnosis can help people achieve success in any problem involving anxiety.  It has been shown to provide relief through improved self-regulation. (1)

“Considerable evidence exists that training in self-hypnosis not only reduces generalized stress but is also effective in reducing anxiety associated with public speaking, test-taking, and coping after being diagnosed with cancer, as well as in reducing anxiety experienced by burn patients and those going through childbirth.”(2)

Hypnosis has also been proven effective in overcoming a smoking habit.  One hypnotist reported that over her 30-year practice, she had an 80% success rate with her smoking cessation program.

Study results also show that learning self-hypnosis frequently increases self-esteem and perceptions of self-efficacy.  Some people report that they are able to release old emotional baggage through hypnosis.  It is a powerful tool for changing habits and shifting mindset. 

References:

1) Smith WH. Hypnosis in the treatment of anxiety. Bull Menninger Clin. 1990;54(2):209-216.

2) Hammond, D. Corydon. Hypnosis in the Treatment of Anxiety and Stress-Related Disorders. Taylor & Francis Online. 2014: 263-273.