What is Hypnosis?

By Susanna Sweeney, MSC, MBACP, CHT

In this 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. It includes links to interviews with master hypnotists on their work and what makes them tick.

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.

what is hypnosis

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 hypnosisWhat is hypnosis? A simple explanation.

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'.

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

Understand the Basics

Discover the Power of Hypnosis

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

Six Wonderful Benefits of Hypnosis for Creating the Life you Love

Find out the benefits of hypnosis over coaching and traditional talk psychotherapy in helping you change your life for the better and achieving your goals.

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.

The 3 Worst Mistakes Hypnotists Make

Find out the three worst mistakes any hypnotist can make so that you can avoid them and find the right hypnotist for you.

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...

The Secret Language of Hypnotherapy

Learn the secret language of hypnotherapy geared towards the requirements of your subconscious mind so that you can reach your goals more easily.

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.

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.

Hypnosis Methods and Ways of Working

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.

Online Hypnotherapy

Does online hypnotherapy work or is it inferior to face to face work as some people say? Find out what's involved and form your own opinion about advantages and disadvantages working online with us.

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

Find out about a novel psychosensory 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.

Hypnosis for Habit Change

Discover how well hypnosis could work for changing your particular bad habit and how you can make it into a starting point for changing your life.

Hypnosis for Permanent Rapid Change

No more scripts. The new way to work with live issues. It's dynamic, fast, gentle and powerful.

Self Help Hypnosis Articles

Self Help Hypnosis

Can you help yourself with hypnosis? Find out here...

Does Self Hypnosis Work?

You will find this question answered but in a way you probably would not expect. Find out how self hypnosis is always at work, whether you harness it as a skill or not...

The Benefits of Self Hypnosis

Find out in this article how you can benefit from self hypnosis in your life, including what issues you can use it for.

Self-Hypnosis Relaxation Techniques

A good place to start practicing self hypnosis techniques first before infusing them with images regarding your specific goals, or changes that you want to make in your life is with relaxation techniques. Find a sample relaxation script on this page that you can start using today.

Self Hypnosis for Goal Setting

Goal setting is key in working with personal goals. If you don’t get your goals just right, you are much less likely to get good results. Find out how to overcome the seven most common mistakes with goal setting when you use a self hypnosis based approach.

Self-Help Hypnosis- 7 Challenges and How to Overcome Them

Like any other form of therapy, self-help hypnosis, too has some limitations which you should be aware of before you start practicing. I also offer some practical tips and solutions to help you overcome most of these limitations.

Auto Suggestions

In this article, find out the history of auto suggestions, the science behind them and how you can use them to your advantage to change your life.

Auto Suggestion Techniques

In this article, find detailed instructions on how to design, administer and troubleshoot your auto suggestions successfully so that you can use them to change your life.

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.


References for "What is Hypnosis?":

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

Recent Articles

  1. Havening Technique Training auf Deutsch

    Feb 08, 24 11:02 AM

    Havening Technique Training auf Deutsch- Details und Buchung

    Read More

  2. Client Testimonials

    Oct 06, 23 06:08 AM

    Client Testimonials of my Online REPAIRenting® Program that uses various psychosensory approaches for safe and quick transformation

    Read More

  3. Smoke Free Thanks to This Amazing Resource

    Aug 02, 23 09:26 AM

    Oh thank you for this simple resolution to all my worries! I feel like I have had a weight lifted off my shoulders. It is like cheating on giving up smoking.

    Read More

New! Comments

What do you think? Leave a comment in the box below.