Guide to "What is Hypnosis?"

by Erika Slater

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When you discuss the topic of hypnosis with anyone, they’re usually confused with grasping the concept. Many people have trouble believing hypnosis is real, and those that teeter on the fence with regards to what it is and what it can do, usually believe there is some mystery or something entirely mystical about hypnosis in a magical sense.

The fact is hypnosis is real and there’s nothing mystical or magical about it. If there is any element of mystery it surrounds the subconscious mind and how it works and not hypnosis.

Many hypnotherapists will tell you all hypnosis is self-hypnosis. This stems from the perspective Hypnosis only works if you’re actively participating in it and so in effect you’re actually doing it to yourself. This is an over simplification of the process where a therapist is involved but as the goal here is to discuss general hypnosis we can put this debate aside for today.

subconscious mind key conceptHypnosis works on our subconscious mind also called the unconscious mind – different terms same thing. The subconscious mind among other things controls our habits.

It’s a life-saving device for us, for example making sure we continue the habit of breathing when we fall asleep!

Hypnosis is a heightened state of awareness or focus which produces tunnel vision. Through tunnel vision, you’re able to isolate, intensify and ingrate your focus on one key perception or experience and hold your concentration there for an extended period.

You only see, hear and feel what you choose to, such as you’ve probably experienced in the past when you were absorbed in a activity.

Since hypnosis leads to a heightened state of awareness, individuals are able to shift their focus to specific qualities of an experience and hold them there. This means they can put their attention on things they want, and avoid focusing on what they don’t want – where one’s thoughts go, their energy flows!

There are many false beliefs which surround hypnosis.

Most of them revolve around perceived fears people hear about or have read. There are no substantiated “bad things” that occur when using hypnosis.

fear concept imageUnfortunately, the bad raps people sometimes believe about hypnosis deter people from trying it because they’re simply afraid of; going into a deep trance and not waking up, doing or saying something absurd while under trance, developing amnesia (memory loss), sharing deep dark personal secrets, or perhaps having the hypnotherapist make them do something they don’t want to do!

These misconceptions lead some people to hold suspicious beliefs about hypnosis, or even deter them from considering it all together.

Many people have tried hypnosis in the past or know someone who tried it and it didn’t work for them. They may have tried hypnosis for weight loss, stopping a bad habit such as quitting smoking, or reducing stress or anxiety, etc.

Perhaps the person engaging in hypnosis wasn’t truly ready, or really wanting to quit their bad habits. This would pose a huge barrier to their success in using hypnosis!

Often times, people will base judgments on one negative experience, or one that someone else has told them about. Unfortunately, things do get “filed away” in one’s subconscious mind and accessed automatically by the conscious mind when making a decision to accept or disbelieve something.



The question often asked by people who do not understand it, nor have experienced it is, “How can something like hypnosis work if there are no drugs involved, or the person doing it isn’t a specially gifted person with super powers?

Unfortunately, this is the perception many people have about hypnosis. They quip, “I need to see it to believe it!“, or “If it really worked, everybody would be using it, therefore it must be too good to be true.

Hypnosis Pills ConceptFirst off, you can’t see or touch “hypnosis” like finding it in a bottle in pill form, or a chemical in a syringe.

Since you can’t “see or touch it“, then for those folks that require something tangible then it must be an illusion of sorts.

Second, if you go in with the attitude of, “I don’t believe it works!“, or “It’s some kind of sham“, then you’ll not experience the outcomes it can bring to you, as hypnosis is based on the power of expectation.

Let me explain how powerful this “expectation” aspect is…

Have you ever heard of the ‘placebo‘ effect?

This is when someone is given nothing more than a bit of sugar and food dye shaped in little pills and told to consume them to help them get better. Studies have demonstrated that when subjects in two groups received medicine (some got the real drug, while others got the placebo pills), the recovery results were much closer than you’d expect. How can that be so, after all one was just sugar pills and not real drugs?

The reason it worked was that the subjects receiving the placebo trial were operating on a mindset of expectation.

Placebo Pills ConceptTwo things happened! First, the one administering the drugs was a doctor, most likely wearing a white lab coat. Doctors are trusted professionals – after all they took an oath to do their best to heal.

Second, the subjects truly wanted to get and feel better, so they went into the trials expecting to get better because that’s what medicine is supposed to do… heal.

Yes, it’s true that medications do treat symptoms and help one’s body heal, but it’s also about mindset. The expectation you’ll feel better is a powerful effect in the healing process.

Hypnosis works this way as well. You might call it a placebo effect of sorts minus the sugar pills.

When you want something to work and you have your mind made up it will work, then you’re more likely to succeed at achieving your goal. With that said, you basically have two minds – a conscious mind and a subconscious (unconscious) mind. Your conscious mind is your critical mind, always analyzing things. It is your critical thinker. On the other hand, your subconscious mind doesn’t criticize; it accepts without judgement on whether something is good or bad. Your subconscious mind is also infinitely larger than your conscious mind.

It’s your conscious mind which determines whether you think hypnosis will be beneficial for you, and your subconscious mind stores your answer for later access.

Interestingly, once you engage in hypnosis, it’s all about your subconscious mind, getting at the negative stuff and replacing it with positive values, ideals and perceptions.

Think about any goal you’ve ever set for yourself. When setting your goal did you tell yourself you were setting this goal because you weren’t expecting to achieve it? Heck no! You set the goal with the intention of achieving it. This is what hypnosis is all about – intention. This is often times conscious, but you want it to take root in the subconscious and become a deep-seated passion.



Positive Negative Thinking ConceptHave you ever heard the term self-fulfilling prophecies?

This is thinking something beforehand as a great possibility… a truth. You focus your mind and feelings onto it so intently that it comes to pass. Unfortunately, since the mind tends to be drawn to negative thoughts, especially when they involve you, you’re more likely to “will” or “not will” these experiences into reality due to what is stored and prominent in your subconscious mind.

Let me explain more…

Do you often feel tired or run down? And when you feel this way, do you tell yourself and others, “I’m so tired… I’m beat… I’m spent.” This is the “message” you’re sending to your subconscious mind. People also call this ‘self-talk.”

You see, your mind can energize you or bring you down depending on the words you consciously speak as your subconscious mind is ready to present the feeling based on what has been filed away.

Your body is getting a fresh, reaffirming dose of instructions on how it should be – tired, run down and beaten. Your mind is the “genie” and your wishes are at its command! The body – your robot – can only do what the mind tells it to do.

One of the most difficult activities known to humans is mastering their own thoughts.

This is so difficult because it requires monitoring thoughts which requires a censoring moment to moment awareness. Given you’re a creature of habit; you don’t like to change things, especially when things feel comfortable and are already simple. Change requires work and the exertion of energy. Instead of following through on “resolutions” and intentions you want for a better life, you are more likely to slip back into old habits because they’re ingrained in your subconscious mind and you simply accept them.

How many times have you heard people say they want to make changes in their lives?

procrastination concept imagePerhaps you’ve heard yourself speak this one too many times? You may tell yourself you’ll get around to things later. How many people simply ignore the messages and hope things will just go away? Out of sight out of mind… right?

Well, when you keep telling yourself “later“, the subconscious mind sees no need to change and what you see is what you get!

Did you know your mind takes things in without even critical sensing them? You do this on autopilot, or another deeper explanation is you do this in a ‘trance state‘ – it’s how we perform habits – good or bad ones.

Basically, when you do the same things over and over, without making any changes, or even paying attention, you are in essence hypnotized?

How many times have you driven to and from work each day and “just arrived” at your destination, paying no attention to how you got there because you were in your own little world? Welcome to ‘hypnosis‘!

You’ve experienced hypnosis if you have felt anything like this, even reading a book or watching a movie and being able to block out everything around you. This is tunnel vision.

Remember when I asked if you have ever been hypnotized? You may check the box now as “yes!”.



I’d like to finish this introduction to hypnosis by touching on the topic of self-hypnosis. At the beginning I mentioned that many hypnotherapists believe all hypnosis is self-hypnosis, and regardless of whether the session is conducted at a hypnotist’s office under their guidance or at your home listening to a recorded hypnosis session on CD or MP3.

But for this article I want to use the term self-hypnosis to mean when you’re engaging in hypnosis without the aid of a hypnotherapist either directly or through a recorded session you’re listening to.

In effect you relax yourself into a hypnotic trance using specific techniques designed to allow you to do this. In this state you’re able to speak directly to your subconscious and begin the process of breaking down barriers, and changing habits and beliefs standing in your way of getting the result you want.



Breaking Through Barriers Concept

Self-hypnosis to break through barriers.

It’s beyond the scope of this article to explain self-hypnosis and the techniques used.

However, if I’ve piqued your interest enough about self-hypnosis you may now be asking what the next step is.

Certainly there are books you can purchase on the topic, but it’s a cumbersome way of learning the techniques, and it’s always seemed an awkward way to me with nobody to guide you to the basic paths to get you going.

Another option is to purchase a self-hypnosis product which is typically a set of recorded sessions you listen to which are specifically developed to guide you into self-hypnosis.

Typically you would purchase a specific product for the change or result you want such as increase confidence or decrease stress or help achieving a goal.

A third alternative and one I’m focusing on in my area is self-hypnosis workshops. Participants can be in-office or online. The workshop environment allows for a dialogue on each technique as there are three I teach to get into self-hypnosis. The workshop is 2-hours so there is plenty of time to explain and perform exercises around each technique.

If this option is something that interests you then please check out the group self-hypnosis workshop registration page and sign-up so I can keep in contact with you on dates and format. You can find details about the self-hypnosis workshop here >>>. However, if you want to consider working directly with me through my online or in-office sessions then check out my Hypnosis Services or if you’ve a specific need around this topic then contact me here.

I always welcome feedback and comments and so just leave them below if the article is still open to comments.



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Erika Slater CH
Free At Last Hypnosis

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Interested in making a significant change in your life and interested in learning more about what I do and how I do it? Discover my hypnotherapy services here or contact me here.

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In this free audio hypnosis session, you’ll experience the power of your subconscious mind to begin to change your habits. If you've never experienced hypnosis before then this is a great introduction...