What is Hypnosis?

By Susanna Sweeney, MSc, MBACP, CHT

In this brief article, I will attempt to answer your question “What is hypnosis?” in a concise way... however, hypnosis is a vast topic. Therefore, this article is also the center of a series of other, more detailed articles that are aimed at helping you find out more about hypnosis and hypnotherapy.

What is hypnosisWhat is hypnosis? Keith Barry's take on the issue.

You will find links to these articles at the very end.

But before I send you off in those other directions, allow me to give you an overview of the topic.


The Scientific Perspective

For over a century, scientists have been working on answering the question of what hypnosis is.

For a long time, there was a scientific debate between those who believed that hypnosis was a distinct state (‘state’), and those who did not (‘no state’). Those who argued hypnosis was not a distinct state, insisted that the reason hypnotic suggestions worked was simply because people were motivated to accept them.

Not quite so.

Just recently, this debate has been settled, and hypnosis has been recognized as a “real psychobiological state and process” (1). Research using brain imaging has shown us that three distinct patterns occur in the brain during hypnosis, resulting in functional changes.

The functional changes include changes to how memory is being encoded, to how connected mind and body are, changes in perception of pain, as well as auditory and visual stimuli. These changes are well known to researchers and have been observed by scientists for a long time.

In this article, I will attempt to answer the question as to what hypnosis is in simple terms.


What is Hypnosis? A Simple Explanation

The first and second time when experiencing a state of hypnosis, many people don’t realize they were, in fact, hypnotized. This may be because this state feels so natural and familiar.

You will have already experienced light trance states. These may occur when you are engaged with a monotonous task such as driving along a motorway, cleaning, or doing repetitive factory work, or even when watching a movie that you are highly absorbed in.

The hypnosis-like state occurs when you stop being aware of what you are doing, and your thought turn to other concerns, perhaps to daydreams, perhaps to fantasies or to insights how you would like to change your life.

When your mind drifts, this is a natural thing. It is not hypnosis as such, but it gives you a first insight into the mind’s natural inbuilt mechanisms for relaxation.

This natural inclination may be a an evolutionary gift to humans that offers natural ways for our brain to recover from periods of stress and to become focused on what's next. It can be harnessed and developed into a deeper 'recovery brain state'.


What is hypnosisWhat is hypnosis? A simple explanation.

There are many different such methods that work with slightly altered states, such as:


  • Rebirthing
  • Meditation
  • Breath work
  • Hypnosis


Each of these methods brings about a slightly different brain state, and depending on the state, the brain will do slightly different things.

Find out all the details here about what to expect from the experience of  hypnosis and self hypnosis trance. Following here is just a small summary of the most important criteria of this particular state.

What is Hypnosis Trance?

The main characteristics of a light hypnotic trance state are:


  1. Being extremely relaxed, sometimes so relaxed that the state could be described as lethargy. One could not be bothered moving a limb. Yet, recent research has shown, there is increased connectivity between brain and body.

  2. Much easier access to memory than in ordinary awareness. This is important for life regression hypnosis and when you are interested in healing with hypnotherapy for deep seated emotional issues such as anxiety hypnosis or hypnosis for depression.

  3. Much increased ability to visualize images in your mind’s eye. whatever you can visualize, you can ultimately achieve.

  4. Much increased ability to focus. Research has shown that the brain shuts out external input in hypnosis and focuses instead on your inner world.

  5. Much reduced critical facility of the mind. What I mean by that is, compared to being in ordinary awareness, you are much less inclined to question everything you are thinking or doing multiple times. Rather, you can ‘just do’ or ‘just think clearly’.


But why bother bring about such a state?


Good question, because there are different uses of hypnosis:


  • Some brain researchers work with hypnosis in order to explore how the human mind works.

  • Stage hypnotists that use the hypnotic trance state to produce unusual phenomena in volunteers on stage that the crowd finds fascinating.

  • My use of hypnosis is limited to hypnotherapy for change, and I am fascinated by what you can achieve with this method. Read more here about how hypnosis can help you. In short, hypnotherapy can help you to update and maintain your mind.


Updating your mind is important because your mind plays a large role in so many things:


  • The psychological addiction to smoking. Read more here about how you can quit smoking with hypnosisthrough changing your underlying beliefs.

  • Your relationship with food. Weight loss hypnosis has been used successfully for many years.

  • How you feel about yourself. Hypnosis has been used to improve people’s self concept, their self esteem and confidence. Find out why I recommend most people should consider hypnosis for self esteem.

  • How you feel about life in general. Hypnosis has been used to treat anxiety and depression and improve people’s quality of life without the need for medication. For example, find out what depression hypnosis could do for you.

  • Whether or not you will set goals for yourself and whether or not you will succeed in achieving those. Find out about hypnosis for success.

How Does Hypnosis Facilitate Change?

Hypnotherapy practitioners use this state to effect change in their client’s lives:


  • You will be very relaxed, which means you want to be exactly where you are and not move away, or distract yourself by moving about.

  • You will be highly focused on the issue you want to change in your life.

  • In hypnosis you respond easily to suggestions. The hypnotist will give you suggestions that support the changes you want to make and your brain tends to accept these new, nourishing suggestions which can now replace old faulty beliefs.

  • The hypnotist will support these suggestions with metaphors that evoke strong images. In hypnosis you are easily able to visualize, and these images that you visualize will support the suggestions given.
  • These suggestions will sink in deeply because research has shown that memory encoding works differently when you are in trance- the information is integrated straight into your long term memory.
  • There tends to be a heightened connection between thought and emotion under hypnosis. When you feel enthusiastic about the hypnotists suggestions, this increases their impact and they sink in even deeper.

  • If memory access is required for the work that is being done, (as it would be in life regression hypnosis) you will be in the right state for your subconscious mind to bring you just the right memories you need at this time.
  • When these memories come, they are usually highly integrated and connected to emotion and body sensation (because of the heightened link between body and mind under hypnosis), and their meaning will be clear or ready to emerge.
  • These memories are usually easily to integrate, too, and change follows naturally. In this way, hypnotherapy can cut through a lot of the struggle that is present in psychotherapy or self help work.

What is Hypnosis? Other Articles on This Topic

Discover the Power of Hypnosis

Discover the power of hypnosis through 10 amazing facts about hypnosis you most likely have not heard before.

Does Hypnotherapy Work?

You may have heard anecdotal reports about hypnosis being nothing more than unscientific ‘mumbo-jumbo’ which might have planted this question in your mind. So, does hypnotherapy work? Find out my answer to this charged question, and it probably isn't what you would expect.


Subconscious Mind Programming

Evolution has given humans a powerful tool that enables us to be the most dominant species on the planet- yet this tool contains a critical flaw that is limiting many people and preventing them from living their dream. This may be limiting you, too...


How Does Hypnosis Work?

Find out the scientific background to how hypnosis affects your brain.


How Hypnosis Can Help You

Find out the most common issues that hypnosis can help you with and see what you could do with hypnosis to change your life.


How Does Hypnotherapy Work?

This article is a great starting point to understanding what to expect from hypnotherapy treatment, including what you can do to get the most from your treatment.


16 Hypnosis Myths Exploded

Hypnosis has been shrouded in mystery. There are many myths or, simply, false beliefs attached to hypnosis. You, too, have likely picked up a few of them as they are ‘around’ in public consciousness. Let me bust those myths for you so you can be free to enjoy and appreciate hypnosis for what it is.

Suggestion Hypnosis

This article covers everything you want to know about suggestion hypnosis, including what it is, what it can do for you, how it works, what techniques are used and how you can get the very best out of it. Suggestion hypnosis can help you to reach your goals and change your life.


Regression Hypnosis

Regression Hypnosis can help you to clear blocks relating to the past which are causing you trouble now. Find out how it works, how it compares to coaching and psychotherapy and see if it is suitable for you.


Life Regression Hypnosis

This article fills you in on how you can get the very best from regression hypnosis and is a must read if you are thinking of embarking on hypnotherapy treatment for a complex personal issue.


Past Life Hypnosis

Some hypnotists offer specific sessions to uncover past life memories. Is this a good idea? Find out what my thinking is on how to get the best results from past life hypnosis.


Hypnosis or Self Hypnosis Trance

Hypnotic trance is referred to with much mystery. Is it really that spooky? Allow me to talk you through what the experience is like.


What is Havening and how Can it Help you Change Your Life?

Find out about a novel psychsensory treatment we combine with hypnosis which can help you clear trauma, fears, phobias, anxiety, low self esteem and more while also supporting you in building resilience and positive emotions.


The History of Hypnosis

Discover the history of hypnosis from its inception to the 21st century.


What is Self Hypnosis?

  • Self help hypnosis has become very popular. It involves you doing the hypnotizing yourself, while also being the client.

  • The benefits of self hypnosis include cost savings, being independent and flexible as to how and when you practice.

  • Although self-help hypnosis has some challenges, these can be overcome to make self hypnosis a powerful self help tool for changing your life. You can also use self hypnosis to achieve your goals.

  • Modern approaches to self hypnosis techniques are not restricted to working with trance states. They also draw on techniques that you can use in a waking state.

  • You can use self hypnosis for smoking, to lose weight or for any other issue that hypnosis can help you with.

I hope you are now starting to feel that your question "What is hypnosis?" is being answered. In truth, hypnosis is a huge topic and each article can only cover so much ground.

Above will find the other articles in this series. You might find them helpful in broadening and deepening your understanding what to expect if you go for a hypnosis treatment.

Did you find this article useful? let me know in the comments underneath.

Regards,

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References for "What is Hypnosis?":

(1)    Benedittis, 2015. Neural mechanisms of hypnosis and meditation. Journal of Physiology , Paris. 109 (2015) 152–164



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Hello Venturer,

Welcome to my Online Hypnotherapy Clinic. I am Susanna Sweeney, accredited psychotherapist and hypnotherapist. I have been helping people to overcome their blocks and move forward for 25+ years.  Along the way, I have fallen in love with hypnotherapy. 
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