Your ideas become your thoughts.

Your thoughts become your words.

Your words become your actions.

Your actions become your habits.

Your habits become your values.

Your values become your destiny.

Mahatma Gandhi

Photo by kslyesmith. Creative Commons license

I think that hypnosis can be a useful tool to improve some life’s aspects, if it is used correctly and at the right time in one’s inner growth.

Many people are afraid about hypnosis, mostly because of misconceptions coming from what they have seen in movies, shows and television. For this reason, I would like to dedicate a post to this subject, to try to distinguish between what hypnosis is and what it is not. Here is a long-standing question…

Is it possible to change long lasting beliefs and habits?

Yes, it is possible! Many people think they are born with certain tracts of their character that cannot be changed during the course of their life. In this way of thinking there is a complete identification with the idea that a person has (and/or others have) of her. However, this is an illusion. We can all change and every moment is the right one to make this decision. It is not so important what we have been up until now as much as what we decide to be from now on.

The thing is that we have often tried to change, making many efforts without success. We wanted to fall in love but we did not attract the right person. We wanted to be rich, but we have not become rich. We had dreams and passions but we have not been able to realize them. The list can be long. Therefore we conclude that things will continue this way because we cannot behave differently. This is how the rational, linear mind perceives reality. However, this way of thinking does not consider that the conscious (rationale) mind influences our reality only by 5%. We are not aware that beliefs deeply anchored in the subconscious influence and forge our life to an extent far greater than our conscious desires and thoughts. And often time unconscious beliefs do not arise from our direct experience. We rather absorbed them by the environment, either in this life or in previous lives.

Is there coherence between what we feel in our heart – desires, passions, dreams – and our way of thinking, speaking and taking actions? Are we satisfied of our life? If this is not so, we can turn our attention inside and become aware of limiting thoughts or habits that do not serve us anymore. We can let them go. There will be space to let intuition, solutions and ideas come to us. The outside world will change accordingly.

This does not mean we have to analyze and understand all the experiences we lived. This is not necessary. Being in contact with our wounded parts, observing emotions and feelings with no judgment, starts a process of transformation.

It does not really matter how long we have taken old beliefs as our truth, consciously or unconsciously. We are like a computer, which keeps running the same, old program, if it is the only one available, even when it becomes outdated. If we download a new one, more appropriate, the latest version will be used and the old one discarded.

Hypnosis: some history

The practice of inducing trance states, which is now called hypnosis, can be traced back to ancient times, when it was mainly used in religious or healing practices. Egyptians, Greeks and Romans as well as many shamans and healers in other cultures were proficient in these techniques.

Hypnosis lost importance in early Christian times, when people were led to believe that it had to do with black magic and that the a person experiencing trance processes was under the power of devil.

The modern era of hypnosis started with Franz Mesmer (1734-1815), but scientists of the Academy of Science and the faculty of Medicine in Paris discredited his theory and the use of trance states was relegated to the area of mysticism. Nevertheless, several medical doctors continued using hypnosis to alleviate the pain due to surgical operations. This lasted until the advent of chemical anesthesia in 1848. The general use of hypnosis decreased after that time but continued to play an important role in wartime, when anesthetic agents were often unavailable.

Psychiatrist Milton Erickson (1901-1980) is considered as the father of contemporary hypnosis. He reconsidered the power and importance of hypnosis as a useful tool that can be taught and used as a support for other medical therapies. The British Medical Association (in 1955) and the Council on Mental Health of the American Medical Association (in 1958) approved and recommended the use of hypnosis as a valuable tool in the field of medicine.

Dr. Erickson’s extensive work influenced significantly Richard Bandler and John Grinder, the cofounders of Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) in the early seventies. They tried to understand how the way people interact, behave and communicate influences their life and the achievement of their goals.

What is hypnosis?

Hypnosis is a state of focused concentration that many of us experience every day. When we are relaxed and our concentration is so intense that we are not distracted by external noises we are in a state of light hypnosis. One example is when we are so absorbed by reading a book that we do not pay attention to stimuli around us. Another common hypnotic state arises when we drive our car in an “automatic mode”, getting to the place we wanted to go without realizing how we got there.

Contrary to a common idea, people experiencing hypnosis do not lose control. There is absolutely no danger in hypnosis. Nobody can remain “stuck” in a hypnotic state. In fact, all hypnosis is self-hypnosis, meaning that the person has the control and can stop the process anytime, simply by opening his/her eyes. The role of the therapist or operator is only to facilitate a relaxed state using an induction procedure. Although there are many hypnotic inductions, most of them include suggestions for relaxation, calmness and wellbeing. Some persons are very responsive to hypnosis, other less, but in general they describe the experience as very pleasant. It is a kind of meditative state.

Hypnosis is a way to access the subconscious. What is the difference between conscious and subconscious mind? The conscious part of our mind is analytical, rational, critical and aware. With our conscious mind we evaluate, take decisions and organize our daily life. The subconscious mind stores all the information and experiences we have (and we had) and all that we absorbed (ideas, beliefs, judgments) by the environment (family, school, society). Using this information, it influences our behavior accordingly, although we are not aware that this happens constantly. It can remember everything, but it does not judge, it takes everything as true. Like a computer, it uses, automatically and impersonally, the programs that have been downloaded and are available. If our conscious desires are not supported by the subconscious mind, it may be difficult to realize them, despite our efforts. It is as if part of us wants to turn right and another chooses to go left. By learning to communicate with the subconscious mind we can change behaviors we do not like and build the life we aim for and deserve.

At the same time, the subconscious is a doorway to access intuition, creativity and wisdom that we have acquired. It is a source of answers and solutions.

How is a person “under hypnosis”?

Hypnosis is not a form of sleep, but rather a state of focused concentration. The person feels generally very relaxed and at the same time he/she is absolutely aware, alert and in full control of what happens. Physical relaxation facilitates the hypnotic process, but it is not a necessary prerequisite for hypnosis to occur. Since hypnosis is a state of concentrated attention, one can be anxious and still be focused. Once the session is over, the person remembers everything she said, listened and experienced.

Are there cases in which hypnosis is not recommended?

It is not advised to use hypnosis with people suffering of serious troubles of personality, psychosis, maniac depressive states, schizophrenia, paranoia, borderline states, serious depression.