What is Hypnosis?
Do you know the story of the fish that managed to escape his watery confines and took a trip over the beach and into a small town? OK, so he spent some time looking around at buildings and people and had no idea what they were. The mind of that little fish was whirring as he flipped and flopped back to the sea. He was so excited about seeing his friends and could not wait to tell them about the world beyond the ocean.
The word soon spread that the missing fish had returned and a great crowd gathered on the seabed. Our fish started to explain about the funny looking fish that walk upright, have one gill in the middle of their face and don’t need to live in water – the spellbound audience gapped open mouthed, then one small fish gurgled ‘what is water?’
Hypnosis is an essential part of our human existence
The ocean was such an integral part of the fish that they could not distinguish themselves from the water. Just like that water, the hypnotic state is a natural part of being a human being. It is everywhere in our experience – we just don’t realize it.
Over the next two weeks we are going to write a series of blogs to build your knowledge of hypnosis but the first thing that will contribute to a clearer understanding of hypnosis is to know that it is a natural brain wave state for all humans.
The hypnotic state has several essential functions but lets start building your knowledge by bringing three essential elements of hypnosis to your attention.
1. The Unconscious Mind
To keep explanations simple at this stage lets just say that the unconscious mind is everything that you are not aware of right now. You don’t consciously recall everything you have ever learnt all the time. This information is stored as patterns and associations in your unconscious mind. And your past experiences are filed as multi sensory imprints that can be accessed consciously or unconsciously. The unconscious mind becomes like one huge storage depot.
If you had to be conscious of everything from how to digest food and grow your hair to thinking about what you have to do to engage in conversation – your brain would become totally overwhelmed. What we learn and experience simply gets filed away and becomes instinctive behavior stored in our unconscious mind.
2. Focus of attention
When people talk about hypnosis being like a daydream they talk about how we often forget driving part of familiar route. Or read a newspaper and have no idea of what we have just read. And how many of us have lost a few minutes when dreaming of what we would do when we win the lottery?
When you focus time can slip by and it can feel as if you have been in a dream. Getting lost in a good book, surfing the internet or playing a favourite sport can induce this narrowing of attention. Hours can slip by as you concentrate on the task in hand and loose awareness of what is going on around you.
Now the relevance to the hypnotic state is as you focus you activate rapid eye movement, which is commonly known as the dreaming part of sleep. So lets look at what REM is and how it contributes to your understanding of hypnosis.
3. The Rapid Eye Movement state (REM)
When you are in REM your eyes can be seen to dart around under your eyelids. That’s why it’s been called the rapid eye movement state. The REM state is more often associated with dreaming but is present twenty four seven. REM does occur when we dream but also when you are awake such as when you focus your attention.
Whilst dreaming our imagination and our unconscious mind become engaged and we can really believe what is happening. Have you ever woken up frightened from a dream or really feeling good because something good happened in your dream? I remember looking under my bed once for a pair of lovely boots that I was convinced that I had bought.
So your dreaming brain works within your unconscious mind and can be seen as a reality simulator as in that moment you don’t really know what is real and what isn’t.
Hypnosis is the REM state
When a hypnotherapist helps a client go into hypnosis they will often observe flickering eyelids and other physical changes characteristic of the REM state. So what is the hypnotherapist doing to help their client access their hypnotic state?
The hypnotherapist will talk and guide their client’s attention.
By helping a client to focus, all external stimulus drops away and they start to slip into REM. Whist in the REM state the hypnotherapist can help the person work with their dreaming brain to make the changes needed to that persons unwanted instinctive behaviours and thoughts.
So now you know that when we focus our attention it can activate the REM state and this gives us access to the unconscious mind where all of the things that we don’t have conscious control of are stored. And hypnosis doesn’t just happen when you sit in front a hypnotherapist, it is there when we dream, and focus on a task or thought. We can experience the REM state for a few seconds or for many minutes.
Put this blog on your RSS feed now to ensure you get the rest of this series that will build your understanding of what hypnosis is, how it affects our lives and how it can be used to help yourself and others around you.