Hypnosis is like the shadow of the tree against your wall at night; it seems a little scary because you're not entirely sure what it is, but once you realize how ordinary it is you can't imagine why you were afraid to begin with. There are still a lot of misconceptions about hypnosis. (Just go to the Q and A section of this site to see a few.) Some people think its mind control, and some people think you literally use a swinging pendant to put people under the hypnotic state. Thankfully, my friend T.O. M. is here to clear some things up to show just how ordinary hypnosis is.
T.O.M: Theory Of Mind.
Essentially the mind is divided up into four areas, all of which must be accessed to enter the hypnotic state.
On the outer layer, you have the conscious mind. This is formed usually around 8 or 9 years of age. It is where the logical thinking, decision making, and will power exists.
Around this same age, the critical filter develops. This part of the mind takes in information, or message units, and either rejects it or accepts it into the next layer of the mind. Think of the critical filter like a security guard at the airport; if something isn't right, the security guard won't allow the luggage or person on the plane.
The layer below this is the modern memory area. This is where the subconscious mind begins to form and contains all of the persons memories and associations. It works in conjunction with the critical filter. The critical filter will asses if the new information matches the old information that is based on memories and associations. If its a match, the new information may enter. If not, it gets tossed out, which is why old habits can be harder to break.
At the very base of the mind is the primitive area. This is also located in the subconscious region, and is where the flight or fight response is activated. Flight or fight is the term that relates to how people manage fear or stressful situations and it is completely instinctive. There is no thinking, your body just reacts and either you fight in the situation or you run away. This area is established at birth. The modern memory are and the primitive area make up about 80% of the mind, which means that the majority of your mind is controlled by the subconscious. No wonder making changes can be difficult!
So what does the theory of mind have to do with hypnosis?
When you're trying to make a change, as stated before, often times new habits are harder to stick because the critical filter will often not accept new information long term. For example, you make the conscious decision to overcome your fear of flying. You tell yourself that the fear is silly, that planes are perfectly safe and that the technology used to make them is advanced so of course you have nothing to be afraid of. That new information passes into the critical filter. The critical filter checks with the modern memory area and remembers all of those times you were terrified to fly, all of the plane crashes you've ever heard about and those stories of planes going missing. Out goes the new information and the next time you board a plane you find yourself in fight or flight mode and anxiety takes over.
Now try the same scenario with hypnosis. You make the conscious decision to overcome your fear of flying. You tell your hypnotherapist that you want to overcome this fear. Using hypnotic tools, your hypnotherapist overwhelms the critical filter, which puts you in the hypnotic state of mind. This means that you can bypass the modern memory area, and new information doesn't have to be checked with old memories and associations. Your hypnotherapist gives you the suggestions you want to reach your goal and reinforces them with new associations. The next time you go on a plane, you feel relaxed and in control.
Hypnosis can make changes feel more natural by utilizing your natural frame of mind to plant the suggestions you want.