How Hypnotherapy works
The mind can be compared to an Iceberg, the part above the water being the conscious mind, the much larger part below the water being the sub-conscious mind and the water level represents what’s known as the critical factor.
The conscious mind is the logical, analytical mind, its where we make rational decisions based on consequences.
The sub-conscious mind, being much larger that the conscious mind, is a multi-tasker, it has many functions; memory, imagination, emotion, dreaming, automatic functions and behaviour:
Memory: The unconscious mind remembers everything we have ever experienced, but of course we can’t instantly remember all of this, for example you are unlikely to remember what you had for tea on the day before your 3rd birthday, and of course you would have no particular reason to remember this, unless it was of any significance. However, we can instantly be triggered back to something in our past, for example if the song Mull of Kintyre comes on the radio I’m immediately reminded of a New Year’s Eve party in 1977, but I won’t in any way have been thinking about that party prior to hearing the song. This can happen through any of our senses and you will have experienced these many times.
We can think of our sub-conscious like a huge filing system; everything is stored in the ‘data banks’, all labelled and filed away. Some of it is filed away so deeply that we are unlikely to be able to find it, as it would be like looking for a needle in a haystack. Also, some information is incorrectly labelled when it is filed away – this is often the source of the issue that we are experiencing and is where hypnotherapy can come into help, to ‘re-label’ the experience so that it doesn’t cause us an issue going forward.
Imagination: This is the language of the sub-conscious, it has a powerful effect on the way that we interact with the world. We use our imagination to test out potential experiences; for example, if someone were to suggest to you to undertake a parachute jump, you would imagine the experience before you made your decision as to whether to go ahead with it. Imagination can also have a physical effect on us; if you imagine seeing someone biting into piece of lemon, most people would grimace and some would even get a burst of saliva in their mouths, just as it you had bitten into the lemon yourself.
If you relate this to something that you have a fear of, the mere imagination of what you are afraid of can cause you to have a physical and/or emotional reaction. Again, this is where hypnotherapy can come into help, by adjusting your reaction.
Emotion: Unconscious emotions are often very close to imagination and memory; a happy memory can bring back the positive feelings we had then, or imagining a happy experience, can help us to feel calm and relaxed. However, a negative memory can make us feel uncomfortable.
Hypnotherapy can use this to help to create positive or neutral feelings for a memory that is causing us an issue.
Automatic function and behaviour: Our sub-conscious mind keeps our body running so that we don’t have to consciously think to breathe in and breathe out or what muscles have to be activated for us to take a step or turn our head for example, if we had to consciously think of all of these things, then we’d very quickly go crazy!
If we repeat an action or thought pattern often enough, it moves from the conscious mind into the sub-conscious and becomes automatic. That’s great when it’s a useful behaviour; when you first learned to walk or write your name, it will have taken a great deal of effort and concentration. Making that habit automatic saves you a lot of mental time and energy. But, if it’s biting your nails, feeling petrified when you see a spider, experiencing panicky thoughts or not feeling confident or ‘good enough’ around other people it can be counterproductive, especially if the reason for this no longer applies.
Some things can be overcome simply by making a conscious effort to change them but many still have sub-conscious emotions or memories attached, and these need to be dealt with at the sub-conscious level.
The critical factor of the mind – the water line of our iceberg – acts like a kind of filter between the conscious and sub-conscious mind. Whatever we are experiencing, comes in through the logical conscious mind and passes through the critical factor ‘filter’ to the sub-conscious mind, which then scans the ‘data banks’ of every experience we’ve ever had to decide how we are going to react to the information received.
Different people have different reactions to the same situation dependent on what is stored in their sub-conscious ‘data banks’, for example:
Imagine two people in a room; one who keeps pet tarantulas and the other who was bitten by a spider as a child and has been scared every time they’ve seen a spider since. If a spider runs across the floor, one person reacts calmly and the other person reacts with fear but they have both experienced exactly the same event.
This is because thought processes are formed; similar to someone walking over a lawn; do it once and the grass just springs back but if it is repeated over and over again then eventually a pathway will be created.
We are more likely to accept information which is consistent with what we already have stored in the ‘data banks’ of our sub-conscious and more likely to reject information which is not consistent with it:
The tarantula owner tells the other person that there is nothing to be afraid of, but the critical factor ‘filter’ of the other person rejects this, because of the memory, imagination and emotion that they have stored in their ‘data banks’ relating to spiders. Therefore, they continue to react to the spider in the way they have done for so long, thus reinforcing their thought process pathway of reacting to spiders with fear.
This is where hypnotherapy comes in; during hypnosis I will relax your conscious mind, so that I can communicate directly with your sub-conscious mind, there are many different ways and methods that can be used to do this, it depends on you and your circumstances, as to which works best for you. There isn’t a ‘one-way sorts all’ method with hypnotherapy, sometimes different ways have to be explored and tried, to find which works best for you.
You have to want to make the change, hypnotherapy isn’t a magic pill or wand, something that you sit back and have done to you. It takes work and input from you, there will be homework for you to do after each session, which you need to commit to doing. The more work you put into it the more you will get out of it.
People often ask ‘will I end up clucking like a chicken?’ Hypnotherapy can’t make you do anything you don’t want to do, its not mind control. Its communicating with the sub-conscious by relaxing the conscious mind and by-passing the critical factor, but an element of the critical factor always remains active, so if, under hypnosis, I were to suggest something dangerous such as jumping off a cliff, you wouldn’t do it because your critical factor would reject it as not a good idea!
Change doesn’t happen by chance it happens by choice – only you can change your life, no one can do it for you – my role is to help you to help yourself to make the changes that you want to make.
- How Hypnotherapy works
- Lyn Palmer
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