‘All hypnosis is self-hypnosis’
Easy come easy go… Admittedly, this proverb may sound a bit like some throw-away adage, a cousin of those other truisms, ‘What comes up must come down’, or ‘What goes around comes around’. But there is some truth in it. Likewise, the statement, ‘all hypnosis is self-hypnosis’, which is attributed to Dave Elman, an American hypnotist who was born in 1900 who went on to teach medical professionals in the USA up until his death in 1967.
When I was writing my book, I’m Afraid of Hypnosis, but I Don’t Know Why, I researched modern misconceptions of hypnosis. So many folks think that the average hypnotic subject is ‘influenced’ by the hypnotherapist, that you have to weak-willed to be hypnotised, and that such an unquestioning person is actually looking for someone to control his or her mind. You may be surprised to discover that the reality is the opposite. (For a lively discussion of this point, take a look at my Guardian review of Danny Boyle’s film “Trance”) Get with it!
Are you intelligent, imaginative, self-aware?
The best hypnotic subjects are intelligent, imaginative, and self-aware. These people have far more success in making permanent transformations in themselves. Such transformations may be anything from professional success to losing weight, to releasing deep anger, sadness, nervousness, or anxiety. And the transformations enable them to go on and take further positive actions in their otherwise successful lives.
Let’s say it again…
This is because all hypnosis is self-hypnosis. Let me explain that, for the purposes of explaining hypnosis and therapy, you can conceptualize the brain’s functioning as existing in two parts: the conscious and subconscious mind. The conscious mind encompasses decision-making, the linear processing of information, and direct perception through the five senses. The subconscious mind regulates memory, imagination, dreaming, non-linear thinking, instinct, and it can relay information back to the conscious (ever had an “aha!” moment?)
The role of the critical faculty…
The conscious and the subconscious mind are separated by what is called the critical faculty. Now you can indeed ‘get real’, because the critical faculty has the job of allowing you to tell the difference between your imagination and reality. The critical faculty is crucially important, because it is the part of you that allows you to remember that you are indeed sitting at your desk compiling data for a report, even if you are day-dreaming about being all-at-sea on a superyacht. The critical faculty though can be a tough master and rigorous in its judgements.
The critical faculty is also the self-Doubting Thomas (or Thomasina) who may try to deny the reality of your success, and who will not shut up!
The critical faculty can be wrong, and often is. It can be that undermining ‘internal censor’ ― the voice that says, “you’re not smart enough to win that contract”, or “you’ll never be creative enough to write that book” or “you’re not good enough to get that job you want” … For many of us, the critical faculty does not need sleep, it just goes on and on.
Whacking the critical faculty with a baseball bat!
In hypnosis and self-hypnosis you begin to whack the critical faculty with a metaphorical baseball bat, so hard that this harsh insomniac critic is knocked into the wings … allowing you to step into a state of deep relaxation, and (the appearance of) sleep. In this state you can begin to call to mind a whole menu of positive things.
For starters, the ‘internal censor’ quietens down. With the internal sensor quiet, your subconscious mind can be free to accept all sorts of positive realities. These reflect whatever is on your wish-list, be it more success professionally and personally, or to achieve your ideal weight, or to begin to free yourself from those deep feelings of anger, sadness, nervousness and anxiety. Sports people call this ‘mental training’, but mental training inevitably involves self-hypnosis.
And all in the moment as though it is actually happening …
In addition, self-hypnosis allows you to experience these realities as if they were actually happening, because your subconscious mind essentially cannot tell the difference between objective reality and a vivid imagining or ‘sensing’ of a situation or circumstance. The critical faculty, the part of your mind that would be able to tell that you are in fact sitting in a relaxing chair, would be quietened by the steps leading you to a state of deep relaxation. And remember, you can only be led, or guided, in to relaxation. No one can actually make you go in to relaxation. All hypnosis is self-hypnosis.
What is your wish?
Now begin to prepare your wish-list, and in a day or two I will discuss the many ways in which you have already experienced self-hypnosis!
Check out part two here!
Read my thoughts about hypnotherapy here.