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What is Hypnosis? How does it work?


Clucking like a chicken.

Swinging pocket watches.

You’re getting sleepy, very sleeeeepy.

Does this sound like your notion of hypnosis?

If so, you are not alone. But, all of the above is inaccurate.

These stereotypical ideas have tarnished the reputation of hypnosis in recent decades.

While hypnosis has been around for thousands of years, going back to the time of Egyptian temples, the entertainment industry has skewed people’s perception of hypnosis.

After decades of myths and misrepresentations, there is a growing body of evidence and research that shows the therapeutic and healing benefits of hypnosis. In fact, the Mayo Clinic is using hypnotherapy to help people heal alongside the more traditional models of treatment. (A type of hypnotherapy being used at the Mayo Clinic happens to be the form of hypnotherapy I am trained in!)

To begin, let’s differentiate hypnosis, hypnotherapy, self-hypnosis, and holistic hypnosis

What is Hypnosis?

Hypnosis alone refers to the process of inducing one into a state of mind that is passive. When in a passive state of mind, also known as a trance, there is increased communication between the conscious mind and the subconscious mind. (more on this below). A trance state often refers to deep relaxation, enhanced focus, and increased suggestibility.

In simplistic terms, I describe hypnosis as deep and restful relaxation with a focus.

Hypnosis is similar to meditation in that you follow particular steps that lead you into deep relaxation and concentration. However, it goes even further as it allows the participant to set a goal of resolution that can be achieved in time.

Hypnotic trances are a natural state that everyone --yes, everyone-- experiences every single day.

Have you ever driven somewhere and arrived at your destination without much memory as to how you got there?

Have you ever been so absorbed in your favorite book or movie that everything around you disappeared for a time?

Have you ever daydreamed?

Then congrats! You've achieved a state of hypnotic trance!

Researchers believe that up to 85% of people can be hypnotized. It seems that those who frequently daydream, become lost in daily tasks, are empathetic and sensitive, and have an open mind to learning new skills are more likely to reach a hypnotic state. That said though, hypnosis is effective even for those who cannot reach a sustained hypnotic state.

The main difference between the trance state just mentioned and hypnosis is that hypnosis is intentionally used as a means to achieve a particular outcome; be it self-awareness, understanding, or healing. Hypnosis can also be done alone or induced and guided by another person.

While the state of hypnosis feels different person to person, in general the experience is one of deep calm and relaxation in both the mind and the body. Do you know that feeling you get when you’re about to fall asleep, or right as you begin to wake up? It is a space where your breath begins to deepen, your whole-being settles in and you might even feel warm and completely comfortable.

Being in a state of hypnosis can often be described as a deep sense of relaxation where you’ve given in to gravity and have a heaviness about you physically, yet you’re highly focused and aware. The difference in hypnosis is that you’ll stay alert as you are guided through your experience. For most, there is reluctancy when it is time to exit the trance state because it is such a peaceful place to exist.

Hypnotherapy

The term hypnotherapy is differentiated from hypnosis. Hypnotherapy is a psychological healing modality that uses the process of hypnosis to help a person achieve a desired goal/outcome.

You can think of it like this- hypnosis is a tool and hypnotherapy is the use of that tool. Hypnosis, the tool that enables the trance state, is a tool that helps to solve mental, emotional, physical, and even spiritual problems. Hypnosis, or again the trance state, can also be thought of like a key. This key helps to unlock a door into areas of our mind that house memories, motivations, unconscious thoughts, and more. Hypnotherapy is conducted by trained medical and mental health professionals.

Self-Hypnosis

Self-hypnosis is a process by which a person guides him/herself into a state of deep mental and physical relaxation in order to drop into the subconscious mind where positive images, messages, or thoughts can be absorbed in order to work toward creating positive and lasting change. This can be done in one’s mind, or by listening to an audio and following along. (audios coming soon!)

Holistic Hypnosis

Holistic Hypnosis (HH), as I call my unique process, uses the power of hypnosis and dynamically blends it with ‘coaching’ to help people discover subconscious patterns and limitations, identify challenges, and clarify desires. This process integrates a variety of evidence-based and holistic healing modalities in order to best help one expand inner awareness and develop more resourceful ways of thinking, doing, and responding in order to reach life goals.

This particular mode of hypnosis helps people to take charge of their mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being in a unique way and equips people with greater resourcefulness and empowerment going forward.

For the sake of the remainder of this article, I will primarily use the word hypnosis. The reason for this is because the trace state (hypnosis) is the tool that is used to facilitate relaxation and subsequently the desired personal change. The reasons and/or depths to which one goes, using it for therapeutic purposes or not, is all based on the same foundation and uses the same key tool.

Am I in control in Hypnosis? How does it work?

When it comes to any form of hypnosis, all hypnosis is self-hypnosis. How is this the case? Because hypnosis is an inside job.

A person in a state of hypnosis is in complete control and has free will throughout the entire process whether they are being guided by another or are practicing self-hypnosis. The change happens internally.

Anyone who experiences hypnosis in any form is a willing participant who is in 100% control, meaning there is no such thing as mind control. Let’s be clear about that and squash that myth.

Even though the word "hypnosis" comes from Greek origin meaning a “sleep-like state,” you will not be asleep or unconscious during hypnosis. Although you are very aware of your surroundings under hypnosis, you are incredibly relaxed and focused and all other sounds/sensations/distractions only serve to take you deeper.

In a hypnotic state awareness is heightened and your brain waves change states (to theta waves) so that you become more suggestible.

That said, even though entering a theta state makes us more suggestible, you have total control over what you say, do, and feel during hypnosis. Being hypnotized is a choice and you will remain connected to your morals and core beliefs throughout a session.

This is what makes hypnosis such a powerful tool.

It is believed that the deep state of relaxation reached during hypnosis is what allows one to bypass the conscious mind and drop into the subconscious mind.

The Conscious Mind vs The Subconscious Mind

Everything that has ever happened in your life has been filed away in your subconscious mind. You have stored experiences, feelings, interpretations, and beliefs that have resulted in the creation of patterns and habits, which have begun to run automatically. As a means to protect you and keep you safe, your subconscious runs the same familiar system(s) over and over.

Up to 95% of our thoughts are automatically generated in our subconscious which then directly leads to our behavior(s). Repetition and reinforcing of our negative thoughts, fears, habits, and worries become so deeply embedded that they occur without any conscious thought.

Fascinating, right?

The conscious mind is called the creative mind. It can learn new information, generate a new idea, and change it’s mind. This is believed to be about 5-10% of our mind.

The subconscious mind, on the other hand, is called the habit mind. It is the part of the mind that is not readily accessible but that stores all your feelings, experiences, beliefs, and memories. It also holds our intuition and imagination. It is believed that this is 90-95% of our mind.

The subconscious can be likened to a hard drive on a computer- a place where all your files, programs, and systems are housed.

To give you another example….

Just like your autonomic nervous system automatically regulates certain processes in your body such as your blood pressure, the beating of your heart, and the flow of your breath without conscious thought, the subconscious is responsible for automatic responses too. These include your drives, impulses, fears, bad habits, negative preconceptions, and behaviors.

Say you have a habit you don’t like- this could be picking your finger nails, twitching your leg, procrastinating, or being afraid of flying, among many others. That habit likely originated due to one trigger.

Take fear of flying. Perhaps you experienced a bumpy descent/landing on a flight once. It is possible that because of that negative and emotionally charged situation, you become wary of flying. The next time you took to the skies you had a different experience- the ascent was turbulent and unsettling.

Now, your subconscious is building new associations and has associated flying as being a life threatening risk. Therefore, you develop a fear of flying. Now, the thought or the action of flying on a plane has formed a new series of networks in your brain that says planes are scary, dangerous, and put your life at risk. Each and every time you think about flying or step on an airplane, you are enforcing the neural networks that were created (think grooves in a road). These particular pathways became more embedded and therefore perpetuated the habit that has formed, which was to exhibit symptoms of your fear- anxiety, heart palpitations, panic attacks, etc, all as an unconscious response.

Can this be changed? Yes, it absolutely can but it takes time and concerted effort. You won’t see change until something new enters your subconscious and begins to consistently override the existing system.

Consider this- Have you ever had a challenge in your life and read a self-help book? Or maybe read 5 self-help books on the same subject because the first four didn’t do the trick? Talk about discouraging. Or, have you ever talked and talked and talked about an issue of yours but still did not experience resolution? The reason for this is because you can fill your conscious mind with new ideas, talk in circles, try to change an action, and create elaborate plans for making personal changes, but not actually see the results.

You see, your operating system lives below the conscious mind. Your habit mind, the subconscious, is a combination of what you’ve seen, were told, experienced, and decided for yourself from childhood on. Your subconscious programming (i.e. a personal belief that you are powerless), feeds your thoughts, stirs up emotions, and results in your actions.

Most people are primarily aware of their conscious actions, not necessarily their thoughts, and are even less aware of their subconscious programming (in this example an inner belief of powerlessness).

Habits are a result of your subconscious mind believing that it’s helping to keep you safe and protecting you from something worse.

While all programming is not necessarily due to anything in particular that you did, it is up to you, and within your power, to change your inner programing.

How Can It Resolve?

The subconscious is reprogrammable and happens most effectively through the use of hypnosis. Again, this is because hypnosis allows you to bypass your conscious mind and enter your subconscious mind where you can more easily and effectively get to the root of the issue. Getting to the core and working to resolve it from this deep place is most effective, in my experience and opinion.

In the case of hypnotherapy/holistic hypnosis this happens through what I consider a top down, bottom up approach. You take what you are currently most aware that you want to change and then de-construct it, going back to a place where you are less aware.

This weaves it all together to actually create the desired personal change. By being aware and taking the presenting issue from a conscious perspective, it is then possible to enter into the subconscious and get to the root of the issue. Once at the root, the real work begins by further identifying, detangling, and unraveling the issue. This may be fear, negative associations, triggers, worries, and/or unhelpful habits. Once this becomes known then the work of releasing, reframing, reversing, updating, and establishing new patterns of association and thought can begin.

While taking responsibility for our actions is essential and it’s necessary to work backwards from there, I will also offer that it is our awareness that leads us to be intentional in our actions. When it comes to the personal change process, I go by this formula… awareness + intention + action + a whole lot of grace = positive outcomes. Personal change is typically a process that takes twists and turns before it evens out.

Intrigued yet?

What Can Hypnosis Be Used to Treat?

Hypnosis can be used as a means to

  • deeply relax

  • treat a therapeutic issue

  • identify and clarify life desires

  • create positive change

Hypnosis is a way to get out of the grooved road you’ve created and begin to take a new path down a new road of your choosing.

Hypnosis allows you to get to the core of your issue and intentionally form a new habit/thought/behavior/belief, etc. The more you do it, the more strength it gains and ingrained it becomes.

Thousands of studies and clinical research over recent decades have examined the use of hypnosis for a myriad of presenting challenges, and has resulted in highly positive and compelling outcomes.

Hypnotherapy is effectively used for:

  • anxiety

  • pain management

  • stress management

  • behavior change

  • smoking cessation

  • weight loss

  • among others

Regardless of the way you choose to experience hypnosis (be it hypnotherapy, transformational hypnosis, or self-hypnosis) the process allows you to get to your authentic desires much quicker than trying to get there through all the noise of your conscious mind. This is because hypnosis enables you to go deeper and deeper into a quiet space within that is connecting you with your innermost self- the part of you that contains your essence. I consider hypnosis to be soul centered.

As your hypnosis facilitator, I will help you trigger a power you already have and make it work in your favor to achieve your goals!

In the hypnotic state, one is able to focus intensely on a specific thought, memory, feeling, or sensation while blocking out distractions. My focus as a clinician is to guide you into this heightened receptive state, where you can begin to re-train your subconscious mind and release limiting beliefs to make positive improvements in your life.

(Please note: Hypnosis is not recommended to be used with individuals experiencing severe mental health issues, including those with schizophrenia.)

Ready to Get Started?

It is easy to get started since you have so many options. (Yay for something being easy!! :) )

Hypnosis helps you to be more calm, well, and free from that which isn’t serving you. It allows you to experience emotional relief, and positively transform your inner landscape.

If you are ready to usher in greater well-being, experience emotional relief, and take charge of your mental and emotional life, I invite you to inquire about my unique Holistic Hypnosis.

This form of hypnosis can be facilitated in-person as well as virtually, with the same level of effectiveness. Virtual hypnosis is a preference for many people due to its convenient nature, ease of scheduling, and the fact that it can happen in the comfort of your own home. Because HH is not therapy, I can work with anyone, including those I know!

To find out if holistic hypnosis is right for you, I invite you to schedule a 15 minute complimentary call where we can discuss your individuals goals.

Additionally, if you’re seeking to resolve a therapeutic issue, consider hypnotherapy. Due to the more delicate nature of this particular process, hypnotherapy is conducted in person. If you’re located in Colorado, these sessions will be facilitated in my Louisville office.

And, there is always a benefit to self-hypnosis audios. You can download a self-hypnosis audio recording in my store (coming soon!).

I look forward to connecting with you soon and sharing the power of hypnosis with you!