What is Hypnotherapy and Can it Work for Me?

What is hypnosis? Many people think of clucking like a chicken or dancing like a ballerina while under a magical spell, under control of the hypnotherapist’s commands. That is one school of hypnosis called “direct-hypnosis.”

Indirect hypnosis is more like, a conversation infused with guided meditations that are stacked together to change unwanted behaviors like: smoking, overeating, procrastinating, self-sabotage, stress and phobias.

I did not know what to expect when I started a hypnotherapy training certification under world-renowned hypnotherapist, Paul McKenna, PhD. My intention when I enrolled in the course was simply to be able to offer another technique for holistic healing, and I was looking for guidance and understanding in my own personal journey. I did not expect it to be so transformative, or for the techniques to be so simple and accessible. It’s a bit like guided meditation, which I have been using and offering for decades, but the specific techniques and immediacy of results was an pleasant surprise.

The Trance State

Hypnotherapists guide clients into deep states of relaxation called “trance.” It’s not as “woo woo” as people think. It’s just like guided meditation,  using voice, pitch, tone and metaphor to relax a person. Change does not happen when a person is stressed. When the sympathetic nervous system, aka “flight-or-flight” part of the nervous system is active, all the body’s energy is focused on getting out of danger. Normal bodily functions like digestion, reproduction and learning – stop. That’s right – learning does not happen under high-levels of stress. If you want to change an aspect of your life, you have move out of stress and turn on the parasympathetic nervous system first. Hypnosis calls this altered state “trance.”

Trance-states are altered states of consciousness, just like the ones entered by experienced meditators, mystics and mediums throughout history. Legendary hypnotherapist, Milton Erickson, described hypnosis as “the loss of the multiplicity of the foci of attention.” This process is called dharana, or single-pointed concentration in Patanjali’s ancient text, The Yoga Sutra. When the mind focuses on one-point, the multiplicity of stimuli fades into the background, allowing the conscious mind to quiet. Once in a relaxed, quiet state, the hypnotherapist is able to communicate directly with the unconscious mind, easily changing behaviors that are not accessible when the conscious mind is running the show. 

The conscious and unconscious minds

The conscious mind is that voice you hear that gives commentary to every thing going on around you. It is critical and analytical. It sorts, judges and categorizes activities, people and events. The one that’s talking right now – yes – that’s your conscious mind. It’s helpful in making lists, getting things done and checking things off these lists. But it is limited in its perceptions and what it can see. It’s ignorant to all the other things that are happening in the mind. 

The unconscious mind is the bigger mind. It holds your memories,  wisdom and all the automatic processes in your body. The unconscious mind keeps record of every event that has ever happened to you, and how you perceive that event. Think of an event in your past right now. The conscious mind is remembering it. The unconscious mind is determining what that event means to you. Was this a good experience or bad one? Were you a leader or a victim? Listen to the language you use when describing this event. The unconscious mind selects the language used. Did this event happen to you or did you somehow make it happen? How did you feel afterwards? Empowered or weak? Happy, sad, mad? Paul McKenna uses a metaphor for these two aspects of the mind. Imagine being in a dark room. There are things all around the room, a couch, table, chairs, knick-knacks, but it’s dark, so you can’t see them. The dark room with all these things in it, is your unconscious. These things are all there, but not visible to your waking self (the conscious mind). You’ve got a flashlight and turn it on. You shine the flashlight on a table and see a table. You shine it on a chair and see a chair. The light of the flashlight is the conscious mind. Whatever it’s focused on is what you see. The conscious mind is only able to focus on a small part of what actually exists in the room. 

As sensory beings, humans take in an enormous amount of information through our five external senses: sight, hearing, taste, touch, and smell. Our conscious mind is not able to process all of it. So, the unconscious monitors all the things happening around you all the time. It’s efficient, sorting through and bringing to the conscious mind only those things it identifies as “important” because of safety issues or value. Most of our behaviors are unconscious patterns created and carried out for efficiency of the system. This is important – most of our behaviors are unconscious, they are patterns that our unconscious mind started in order to be efficient with our attention and energy. Your behaviors are responsible for the circumstances you call “your life.” Your life is what it is because of your behaviors, most of which are unconscious. 

Hold on, you might say. Are you saying that I chose to be – (fill in the blank): overweight, broke, in an unhappy relationship, single, divorced, in a miserable job etc? Pick a situation in your life that is not exactly how you want it to be. Yes, your behaviors have created it to be exactly as it is. How do you know this? Because it is exactly as it is. If it were something else, you would have created that, but the reality in which you are living, was created by you, your thoughts and your actions. Since your unconscious mind has the power to create your life, doesn’t that make you want to learn about your unconscious mind? Doesn’t that make you want to be able to communicate with your unconscious mind? 

Want more money? Talk to your unconscious mind about that. 

Want a loving relationship? Talk to your unconscious mind about that. Want a more fulfilling job? Talk to your unconscious mind about that. 

Question. Why can’t I blame my ex-husband, my boss, my parents, my children, my community or something else for the situations in my life? 

Answer. You can, but what good does that do? It won’t change anything, and in fact, blaming someone or something outside yourself, only justifies your staying in the same situation. Sure, it gives you a  scapegoat, but you will still be: broke, single, unhappy, overweight, angry, resentful, or whatever it might be. Do you want to stay there? Or do you want to experience something else in your life? Hypnotherapy is for people who are ready to take responsibility for their lives and have a desire to create the life they want, but not sure how to do it. 

Hypnotherapy provides a tool to access the unconscious mind and make fast, effective changes in your thoughts and behaviors. Hypnosis allows the conscious mind, the analytical mind, to step aside so the hypnotherapist can plant seeds of the change the client wants into the fertile soil of the mind. The unconscious mind is brilliant. It is creative and vast and has limitless access to knowledge, information and new ways of doing things. Change with hypnosis is fast, effective and doesn’t require months or years of therapy or medication. You don’t need to dig up the past and rehash all the terrible things that have happened in a person’s life. Indirect hypnosis is a bit like having a conversation with a friend that makes you feel really good. 

It’s great for people who want to quit smoking, drinking, overeating, procrastinating and self-sabotage. It’s beneficial for people who want to improve performance like athletes, public speaking, increasing confidence and decreasing stress. The results are amazing.

Sessions can take anywhere from 30-120-minutes. Most behaviors are changed in one to three sessions. They can be done in-person and virtually. All that’s required, is a desire to change. That means, it can’t be your husband/wife/parent/child or anyone else that wants you to change. It’s got to be a change you want for yourself. If there is something in your life that you feel powerless over such as: a phobia, addiction, self-sabotage, procrastination, over-eating or too much stress – and you have a desire to change – then yes, give hypnotherapy a go for permanent, painless and fast results to a better life.