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Hypnosis and Its Working

Updated on October 15, 2016

Hypnosis is a state of human consciousness that involves focused attention, reduced peripheral awareness and enhanced suggestibility. During hypnosis, a person is said to have heightened focus and concentration. The person can concentrate intensely on a specific thought or memory, while blocking out sources of distraction. Subjects under hypnosis are said to show an increased response to suggestions.

The term "hypnosis" comes from the Ancient Greek word Hypnos meaning "sleep", and the suffix Osis, meaning "put to sleep".

Mostly people consider that hypnotism is helpful to resolve psychological issues and mental tension but many still oppose this view. According to many researches, it has been proven that hypnosis helps develop psychological stability.

Four states of hypnosis -

When a subject is hypnotized, he or she passes through specific states, which have their own characteristics and depths. Mainly, there are four hypnosis states viz. 1. the hypnoidal or waking state, 2. the lethargic state or light trance, 3. the cataleptic trance or medium state and 4. the deep or somnambulistic state. Each one of them has characteristics of its own as well as a different depth from the one preceding it and from the one succeeding it. They have been described in short below:

  1. Hypnoidal state - This state is the one which happens at the initial stage of the hypnosis induction. It is a state in which the patient starts feeling relaxed and loose. We go into this state everyday when we are about to fall asleep. We are fully conscious during this stage, but we feel very relaxed and start losing focus on what surrounds us. This stage is considered a hypnotic state, and some suggestions can be successfully employed in it.
  2. Lethargic state – It follows the preceding one and is characterized by being a light trance state, in which the patient would feel lazy and sluggish. During this stage, the hypnotist could notice on his patient’s eyelids some flickering as well as movements of the eyeballs under them. This can be used as means of recognizing when the patient enters this lethargic state, since it shows him to be in a deeper level of hypnotic trance than the hypnoidal one.
  3. Cataleptic trance - Following the lethargic one, in this state the subject looses focus on what happens around him and starts feeling disconnected from the environment in which he or she is. From this stage on, the subject’s memories of what has happened after he or she comes back into the natural awake state, will be somehow diffuse and misty. During this state, the subject easily responds to the hypnotist’s voice and suggestions. Although the hypnotized person always has some level of control of himself, in this stage the hypnotist will have a strong influence on him. This is the ideal hypnotic state for employing suggestions and applying therapies. In this state, hypnotists can make the subject, with whom they are working, his or her body completely rigid so as to be able to put them horizontally sustained by two chairs backs without falling or losing the stone-like rigidity.
  4. Somnambulistic state – It is a deep hypnotic state. When it comes to hypnotherapy, it is not good because, after coming into this state, the subject will not want to keep following suggestions or paying attention to the hypnotist. People under this state are feeling extremely relaxed and good. They do not want to be distracted or kept away from it by the hypnotist’s voice. Therefore, hypnotists should avoid that their patients enter this state. And in case they do, they should awake them from it.

How does hypnosis work? -

Human brain operates through the coordinated actions of two separate parts: the conscious mind and the subconscious mind.

Conscious mind -

The conscious mind is the part of the brain, which allows one to think and perform cognitive tasks. One is fully aware of everything that’s happening in one’s conscious mind. The conscious mind works only when one is awake and shuts off when one is asleep. Even though the conscious mind is very powerful, it only accounts for about 5% of total brain activity.

Subconscious mind -

Actually, 95% of total brain activity happens in the parts of the brain that we are not aware of - the subconscious mind. The subconscious mind creates emotions, feelings, and associated automatic body responses. The subconscious is the area of the brain, where one’s beliefs and patterns of physical and emotional behaviors are stored. It serves as a vast database of information, that is to say, anything one has experienced since birth no matter how insignificant is filed and stored in the subconscious in the form of sensory and emotional data sets. Unlike conscious mind, subconscious works 24 hours a day. Even while we are sleeping, it is constantly scanning our external and internal environment, automatically responding to a vast majority of stimuli and forwarding only a small amount (5%) for the conscious processing.

Some of the programs performed by the subconscious mind are pre-programmed in our DNA, which means that we are born with them. These programs make our heart beat incessantly, our lungs breathe in or out air, our endocrine system release hormones, our vascular system dilate or constrict blood vessels, and so on. In other words, these programs are essential for sustaining our life.

Simultaneously, the subconscious mind acquires programs, which develop throughout our lifetime in response to our experiences. These acquired programs are the source of our habits, automatic behaviors patterns, beliefs, expectations, and emotional responses. Since these programs are acquired, they can be modified or replaced by programs that we can deliberately design to fit our needs.

We cannot control events around us, but if we deliberately change the thoughts associated with our triggers, our responses to them would be different. This means that we can change specific subconscious programs by changing our thoughts and mental images associated with their triggers. Hypnosis is one of the most effective methods that can be used for re-programming the subconscious mind.

How does hypnosis affect subconscious mind? –

Our subconscious mind doesn’t have the capability to differentiate between a real experience and vividly visualized one. That is to say neuro-physiological response to visualized and real events is exactly the same. Therefore, the images and thoughts, we deliberately create in our brain when we are hypnotized, feel absolutely real and authentic to us.

This property of the hypnotic trance presents an amazing opportunity for creating new response pathways simply by visualizing ourselves thinking, feeling, and behaving the way we wish to think, feel, and behave. With an adequate number of repetitions, our new subconscious programs will replace our old programs.

If you are able to enter a deep hypnotic trance, you may reprogram your subconscious mind with just one mental rehearsal of the new programs. If you are working in a lighter trance you may need a number of mental rehearsals to accomplish your goals. And that’s what hypnotists help us with during our guided hypnosis sessions.

Summary –

A hypnotic state is characterized by focused attention, reduced peripheral awareness and heightened suggestibility. Basically, hypnosis works by influencing the subconscious mind of the subject, which is unable to differentiate between a real experience and a vividly imagined one. And that is why the thoughts and images, we create in our brain, when we are under hypnosis, feel absolutely real and authentic to us. Due to this property of hypnosis, we can create new neural pathways by imagining ourselves thinking, feeling and behaving the way we wish to do. With adequate number of repetitions, we are able to replace our old programs with the new ones. Sometimes, we can be able to reprogram our subconscious mind with just one mental rehearsal when in a deep hypnotic trance.


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