One of the most powerful and underutilized tools for personal change is hypnosis. Perhaps because of the mythical images of hypnosis in old films and stories, hypnosis often is associated in the layman’s mind with magicians, hucksters, mentalists, and entertainers. It therefore often is erroneously written off as not being a legitimate mainstream or science-based process. In reality, hypnosis is studied and employed by mainstream scholars and clinicians. The most eminent psychologists of the 20th century were involved with hypnosis, including William James (the father of modern psychology), Sigmund Freud (the father of psychoanalysis), Carl Jung (founder of analytical psychology), Pavlov (father of slobbering dogs and behaviorism), Kurt Lewin (pioneer of social and applied psychology), Stanley Milgram (social psychologist best known for his shocking research in blind obedience), and Milton Erikson (master of the unconscious). Recent developments in neuroscience have illuminated our understanding of hypnosis by identifying the brain correlates of the hypnotic state. Interestingly, the brain networks are similar to those found in the focused attention meditative state.
Before addressing what hypnosis is and can achieve, let’s dispel a few hypno-myths:
No one can get you to do something you don’t want to do while you are in a hypnotic state. If you hear a suggestion that you don't agree with, or don't understand, your subconscious mind automatically will reject it.
The state of hypnosis is not sleep. It is a state of hyper-awareness.
Hypnosis is not religious, spiritual, or magical. It is a neurological state that has been studied and induced by scientists.
Everyone can experience a hypnotic state. In fact, most people unintentionally enter a state of hypnosis just before falling asleep at night, when awaking every morning, and often while driving a familiar route.
All hypnosis is essentially self-hypnosis. Another person cannot “hypnotize” you. Only you can guide yourself or allow yourself to be guided into a hypnotic state. A hypnotherapist or guide can make it easier, but with training you can induce the hypnotic state in yourself.
Hypnosis is a tool to induce a special and pleasurable state of mind. That state metaphorically relaxes your critical and defensive mind network, thereby allowing you to accept suggestions, experience feelings and memories, and rehearse desired behaviors that your critical mind typically filters or prevents. For example, a smoker may know the dangers of smoking and consciously desires to quit, but has been unsuccessful in doing so. The challenge is that the smoker’s unconscious mind associates smoking with positive feelings arising out of the initial smoking experience, such as looking cool, being included in an otherwise exclusive group, sharing special smoke breaks, rebelling against conformity, etc. The conscious mind can’t simply argue with these unconscious positive associations. In a hypnotic state, however, new suggestions and associations can penetrate the unconscious mind because the critical defensive brain network is at rest, failing to guard the unconscious network.
Many goals can be achieved through hypnosis, including development of relaxation responses, desirable behavioral responses, habit elimination and habit formation, creative productivity, self-discovery, and improved attitude. Partners in Thought® self-hypnosis support provides guidance and training for clients interested in exploiting this effective tool and we offer an interactive workshop on self-hypnosis. Our head coach, Jeff Schneider, was certified as a hypnotherapist over 20 years ago and has been studying the untapped power of the mind ever since, including the neural correlates to hypnosis that modern neuroimaging reveals, and applying the hypnotic tool to a variety of client performance goals.