Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Why would I want to be hypnotized?

We say that hypnosis brings about rapid change, but what does that really mean? If you read my post about the power of the subconscious mind, you know that the subconscious develops our core beliefs about who we are, it creates our perceptions of events that occur in our lives and how we feel about them, and it leads us to act in ways that our subconscious believes to be in our own best interests.

This is all well and good when the subconscious' core beliefs and perceptions are mostly positive. If we believe that we are successful, happy, attractive, a good person, or any other warm fuzzy feelings, that's great. If we never really experienced any pain or disappointment or fear or shame, even better. Maybe we do experience some negativity along the way, but it doesn't change our core beliefs or perceptions, and we're able to turn that experience into something positive. If we're that lucky, then we don't know anything different, and since we get what we expect to get, then we'll get more of the good, the positive out of life. According to popular theories such as The Secret and The Law of Attraction, positive attracts more positive.

On the flip side, negative attracts more negative. Unfortunately, most of us don't get through life without some negative messages getting into our subconscious. Sometimes they don't have much of an impact on our daily lives. For example, my aversion to meat loaf is insignificant to everyone except for my mother, who still feels insulted by my gagging and retching sounds at the mere mention of it. However, there are other negative beliefs and perceptions that are more detrimental. These can lead to problems such as a lack of self-confidence, fears or phobias, bad habits, addictions, lack of motivation, self-sabotaging of relationships or careers, stress, anxiety, and sometimes even medical conditions.

The beauty of hypnosis is that it's not necessary for you to understand on a conscious level the origin of your issue. You could speculate and analyze for years and not necessarily find the answer. The subconscious always knows, though, and that's where the rapid change comes in. In hypnosis, we access the subconscious and find out the root of the issue very quickly. Once we know the source, we can resolve the issue. We can actually change the way your subconscious perceives it and change the way it reacts in the future. By doing this, you can make the positive changes necessary to live your life to the fullest.

Is hypnosis like mind control?

Hypnosis is often perceived as mystical, magical, or downright evil. Books, movies, and TV shows prefer to portray a hypnotist as an all-powerful magician and the subject as an unwilling or vulnerable pawn in some evil scheme. While these portrayals make for interesting storylines, they perpetuate the continued misrepresentation of hypnosis and are downright false.

Please allow me to clear up the most common myths and misconceptions about hypnosis:

Will I lose consciousness? No. Actually, in hypnosis you are alert and aware of everything at all times. It's actually a state of focused concentration, similar to how you feel when you are engrossed in a good book or fascinating movie. You're aware of your surroundings, but you really don't care.

Are you going to make me quack like a duck? If you've seen a stage hypnotism show, you might have that question. In those shows hypnotist gives outrageous suggestions and the volunteers can't seem to help but follow them. Stage hypnotists are performers first. They have to put on an entertaining show. Plus, those people up on the stage are called volunteers for a reason. They typically want to experience the feeling of hypnosis, and are in it for fun. Their subconscious minds are ready to accept and follow the hypnotist's suggestions in order to have a good time. Clinical hypnosis is used for serious purposes and no outrageous suggestions are necessary.

Is hypnosis like mind control? Will I surrender my will to you? Absolutely not! All hypnosis is self-hypnosis. The hypnotist guides and develops the hypnotic state, but the ability to be hypnotized and the suggestions you accept are up to you. You are always in control.

I'm too smart to be hypnotized. Actually, the smarter you are the better the hypnotic subject you'll be. Intelligent people often recognize when they need to make improvements to their lives and this same intelligence will help you understand and accept the benefits of the suggestions. It is nearly impossible to hypnotize people with low intelligence (below 70 IQ), psychotics, or anyone who is unable to differentiate between fantasy and reality.

Will hypnosis cause me to reveal secrets? No. Hypnosis is not a truth serum. You will not reveal any information under hypnosis that you wouldn't be inclined to reveal while in the waking state.

Can you hypnotize me against my will? No. Hypnosis relies on mutual trust and cooperation between the hypnotist and the subject. If you don't want to be hypnotized, or are uncomfortable with the process, then you won't be hypnotized.

Will I do anything I don't want to do under hypnosis? No. If you wouldn't normally do something in the waking state, you can't be forced to do it under hypnosis.

Can I get stuck in hypnosis? No. On of my favorite movies of all time, "Office Space," depicts a hypnotherapist dying of a heart attack while the main character is in a hypnotic trance. The premise is that the character stayed hypnotized the rest of the movie, causing him to change his attitude toward work. In reality, if for some reason the hypnotist not have the opportunity to "awaken" the subject due to death or otherwise, the hypnotized subject would either fall asleep, or emerge himself or herself after a long period of silence. In the case of "Office Space," the commotion caused by the reaction of the other people in the room when the hypnotist died would have brought the main character right out of his trance.

I'm stronger than my emotions...is my subconsious really that powerful?

Imagine for a moment that you are a little girl about five or six years old. Let's say you have a very pretty older sister. You know she's pretty because everyone says so. Perhaps she is known as the "pretty" one, and you are known as the "clever" one. Maybe when you were really little, some insensitive adult made a comment like, "Let's hope she grows into that nose." Now imagine that when you get a little older, the boy you have a childhood crush on chooses to sit next to your friend rather than you because "she's prettier." As time goes on, your subconscious receives many messages that lead you to believe you are an ugly duckling. As you get older, though, perhaps people start complimenting you on your appearance. Your friends and family may tell you how nice you look. However, because you've heard so many times that you aren't pretty, your conscious rejects those compliments and you don't believe them. Those messages don't get through to your subconscious because the contradict the reasoning that the conscious mind has learned based on past experience. Now you've reached adulthood and you take a good, honest look in the mirror. You now realize "consciously" that you are actually very attractive. Then you go out on the town and maybe your friends get more attention than you do, or the guy you are interested in is more interested in your friend, and your emotions revert right back to that "ugly duckling" feeling you had when you were a child. Perhaps your feelings of insecurity cause you to retreat to the corner, or stay quiet, or become too introverted to meet anyone new.

This is a simplified scenario that demonstrates how our subconscious minds can stand in our way of being who we truly are. In this example, you received negative suggestions in your childhood that formed a belief about yourself and your looks.

When I was in kindergarten, my mom made meatloaf for dinner one night. It was really tasty and I'm told that I liked it so much I went back for seconds. The next day at school, after our nap, I threw up meatloaf in front of the entire class. I can still picture the scene including the horrible details. I remember my teacher calling the secretary on the intercom, frantically asking her to call my mother. I also remember her telling a classmate of mine not to step in it. Then I remember being moved to the hallway with my blanket to wait for my mom to come get me. Lastly, I remember the way the janitor glared at me as he was cleaning up the mess. At the time I was physically sick from what turned out to be the flu, I was embarrassed about disrupting the class, and I was frightened by the janitor's reaction. All of those emotions went straight to my subconscious creating the strong message that MEATLOAF IS BAD! To this day, thirty years later, I won't eat meatloaf. Consciously I know I had the flu that day long ago. Consciously I know that there was nothing wrong with the meatloaf itself. It doesn't matter, my reaction was so strong that my subconscious still won't let me go near it.

Imagine that you are a teenager and all of your friends smoke cigarettes. They can't believe you've never tried it. Maybe they tease you about it. You really want to belong. Maybe you're just curious about what the big deal is anyway. You try it, and hate it, but you don't want your friends to know that you hate it. So you keep smoking. Eventually you stop feeling sick from smoking and start feeling that nice buzz. Before you know it, you're addicted to that feeling you get from smoking. You find yourself smoking when you're tense or stressed, when you're with friends, when you're driving, etc. Your subconscious has begun to associate all these activities with the good feeling you get from smoking, and it believes that you can't enjoy those activities without a cigarette.

Our subconscious begins forming long before our conscious minds do. Research has shown that our subconscious minds begin receiving suggestions as early as when we're in the womb. Our subconscious minds are where are emotions are stored. Our subconscious is where our habits get formed. It's where our long-term memory is stored. It's also where we form our belief system. Our subconscious wants to protect us and makes sure our needs get met. It's where our reactions come from. Babies get hungry, they cry. We hear a loud noise and we jump. Someone yells "Fire" and we flee. Our subconsious takes over and reacts for our own self-protection.

When we are children, up until we're about seven or eight years old, everything we see, hear, feel, or experience goes directly into our subconscious. Our conscious, or critical, mind isn't fully formed yet, so we really don't have much to help us reason and filter the suggestions we get. If we are told enough times from an early age onward that the sky is green, we're going to believe it. If we're told that we are ugly or stupid, we are going to believe it. If we discover that throwing tantrums gets us our way all the time, we're going to believe it. If we learn that sucking our thumbs makes us feel safe and secure, then we're going to believe it. And if we experience a trauma or upsetting situation that causes us a strong emotion, our subconsious will do everything it can to make sure we avoid any situation in the future that might cause us to experience those same terrible feelings.

Our conscious mind is logical, rational, and helps us reason. It utilizes experience and knowledge to help filter suggestions. If a suggestion is received that the subconcious agrees with, then the conscious mind will allow that suggestion to go through. If a suggestion is received that contradicts what the subconcious mind believes, then the conscious mind kicks back that suggestion and it never reaches the subconscious. Now since the conscious mind is reasonable, rational, logical, and intellectual, it may understand an even agree with a suggestion, such as "Smoking is dangerous. It will kill you and you should stop." However, the emotional subconscious believes that smoking feels good, helps you to relax, and there is no reason to stop.

In a battle between emotion and logic, emotion will usually win. In a battle between the subconscious and conscious, the subconscious will usually win. Now, with a lot of effort, diligence, and commitment, logic can win. This is called "will-power." It is often difficult and takes a long time, but it can be done. Hypnosis eliminates the need for will-power and enables change to take place much quicker.