This page gives an overview into what we know about the mind and about Hypnotherapy.
The Conscious Mind.
The Conscious Mind contains the things that you are aware of at any given moment. It is estimated that it can be aware of five to nine sources of information, derived from seeing, hearing, feeling etc. at that given moment.
It is the part that is reading this text right now, and could be hearing sounds around, feel the chair you’re sitting on etc. (Visual, Auditory and Kinesthetic)
It is the part that is switched off during sleep, and may vary in intensity throughout the day. Sometimes you may feel more “awake” than at other times.
Everything in the conscious mind must also be in the subconscious mind.
The conscious is tiny compared to the subconscious mind, like the tip of an iceberg, with the vast bulk under the surface, out of sight, out of consciousness.
The Subconscious Mind
The words Subconscious and Unconscious are often regarded as interchangeable, and some would deny the existence of either. I won’t get into that debate here. I find it easier to define the Unconscious as that part of the mind that looks after bodily functions, such as Breathing and Digestion, Growth etc. and Subconscious as that part that deals with Memories, Emotions, Identity, Beliefs and Behaviours.
The Subconscious contains everything that you know, from all the experiences you have ever had, though you may not be explicitly aware of theses things in a given moment, other than what is in the conscious mind, as above. You might not be thinking about the colour of your front door, until I mentioned it, but the information is there in your subconscious. However, some memories are easier to access than others, and some may remain subconscious, though still affect behaviours.
All your lifetimes learnings about the world around you are “mapped” and stored in the subconscious, though not always easily accessible, and can affect Behaviours, Emotions and Beliefs, even bodily functions, without you necessarily knowing, consciously, how and why.
Everyone’s map is different. What you believe and how you react to an event, may be totally different to someone else’s reaction and beliefs about the same event, based on yours and their previous learnings, fed to the conscious mind by the subconscious.
We all know what a spider is when we see it, and some will want to keep it as a pet, some will want to squash it, and some will panic and run away as fast as possible. Clearly, we don’t all see the same spider in the same way!
It could be said that the subconscious is constantly playing a game of “Snap” with the vast amount of information that is being fed to it by your senses. When it comes across a piece of information that it sees as similar to something that happened in the past, “snap! …. this is like that!” and you react accordingly, before your conscious mind has had a chance to evaluate the information.
Mostly, this keeps us all from harm, but occasionally this system may malfunction, based on previously unresolved discomfort, and may cause a dysfunctional reaction or behaviour.
This is why some people will feel the need to run away from a harmless spider, that is, in reality, just trying to go about it’s life being a harmless spider.
The information that “it’s just a harmless spider” has been drowned out by some unresolved, often hidden, memories and emotions from the subconscious.
The Subconscious is where everything is “stored”
The subconscious is the seat of all your learnings, your identity, emotions, beliefs and values and how you react within the world and with those around you.
It also contains your skills and attributes, sometimes allowing you to perform tasks “unconsciously” such as driving a car, once you have become “unconsciously competent”.
This is clearly a very efficient way of operating in life, as less energy is spent thinking about when to change gear etc.
The art of driving a car has then become habituated, and can be described as a state of “Flow” or “in the Zone”.
This is a very useful state to be in, for example, for athletes and musicians, when the conscious mind takes a back seat and doesn’t interfere by questioning the action.
Many other actions can be habituated, and become separate from conscious control, where that action has been repeated in the past, for some perceived advantage at that time.
For example, lighting a cigarette may have, at one time, gained the new smoker a feeling of self esteem around their peer group, looking cool, or in the case of young teenagers, giving the impression of maturity to others. (Teenagers are particularly vulnerable to feelings of low self esteem, it’s a natural part of growing up!).
The subconscious sees this as a reward, and the action of smoking becomes habituated.
It may have been appropriate then, and may no longer be so, but the ritual actions of smoking remain, associated with good feelings from the past.
As we are very social animals, self esteem and self worth are extremely important for our physical and mental well-being.
Bonding with our social group has evolved as a very useful strategy for our safety, food supply and ability to find a mate. It is built in to our psyche, and can be threatened on a regular basis by, for example, competition for a mate, losing a job, or, apparently, not buying the correct brand of cosmetics or training shoes.
So, like it or not, the Subconscious affects and effects every aspect of our lives. Our individual “maps”, that are different from everyone else’s “maps”, cause us to react to events in the environment in our lives, in as many different ways as there are people on the planet.
Every situation, in every second of your life that you experience is unique. There has never been an exact moment like this in your life, and there will never be another. Children display wonderment in new situations so much because they have never had an experience before that is a close match to what is happening. It is all fresh and new.
As we get older, we assimilate new experiences with old ones that have similar properties. For instance, every time you see your front door, it looks slightly different to every other time, as the light falling on it will never be the same twice. However, our minds waste no energy on something that might not seem important, so the front door looks the same colour each time, and the difference is no longer noticed.
We assimilate new experiences with old ones, and develop a frame of reference, or world view, which helps assess experiences. Some things that don’t fit may be rejected, whilst others are pigeon-holed for future reference.
This is what Psychologists call your “Generalised Reality Orientation”, which acts as a filtering mechanism, operating as a safety valve before the Conscious part receives the information. This G.R.O. will let you know things about the world around you. For example, you know that films or books are not real life, because in the past you came to that conclusion and pigeon-holed that information.
The Subconscious can only accept positive input, keeping us away from that which it perceives as negative and dangerous, but may react, from a conscious point of view, in a seemingly negative way, in an effort to keep us from harm.
The Subconscious is there to protect us, not always to make us happy, but it will flood you with “feel good” hormones when you act advantageously.
The Subconscious is not unconscious, but the Conscious is unconscious of what the Subconscious is conscious of……
The subconscious and unconscious function twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, throughout your entire life.
Hypnosis is not a “thing”, but rather a state of mind that we all naturally experience in our day to day lives.
You may experience “Waking Hypnosis” several times a day, whilst your attention is fixed on one thing, to the exclusion of all else. For example, listening to music, reading a book, watching a film. It may also occur at other times, such as whilst driving, when you miss the last five miles, come back to attention and think “where did those miles go?”
Daydreaming and Reverie may be described as Hypnotic states, as you look forward to future events, re-experience things from the past, or imagine things that may never, or couldn’t possibly happen.
You may remember being at school, staring out of the window as the teacher droned on, drifting off into your own little world, and then come back with a jolt as he shouts or throws a piece of chalk at you.
Hypnogogic states occur as you drift off to sleep, and Hypnopompic states occur as you awaken.
Brain-wave patterns exhibit similar properties to those in REM (Rapid Eye Movement, or Dreaming phase) sleep, though Hypnosis is not sleep, but just above, in terms of levels.
Hypnotic, or “Trance” states, for the purposes of therapy, are achievable by an estimated 90% of people, to varying degrees, depending partly on susceptibility, or how open they are, partly the skill of the hypnotherapist, but more on the particular therapy involved.
During a Hypnotherapy session, it is thought that the Generalised Reality Orientation effect within the mind can fade. You almost certainly will have experienced this at times, such as whilst watching a film, which you know is not real life, but become engrossed in the plot, empathising with the characters, or even living temporarily in their shoes. Your critical faculties have been temporarily dampened and you could believe yourself to be that character.
This “Hypnotic” focussed state allows the mind to be more open to positive “suggestions” that consciously it might otherwise reject, or filter out, with reference to past events that may not have been accepted, or may have been accepted as advantageous at that time.
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As stated above, the subconscious can only accept positive input, which means that you will never accept anything which is inappropriate. Nor can you be made to do anything against your will. Your subconscious will simply reject it.
Your Subconscious speaks your language.
We all think in language, forming thoughts from whatever events are apparent. We describe to ourselves the world around us, and our reactions to it.
Someone may describe fear of an event such as public speaking as, for instance, “I’ am not confident”, (Identity), leading to “speaking in public is scary” (Belief), leading to “I will freeze when I step on stage” (Behaviour)
Each persons reality is subjective, as explained above, and the purpose of Hypnotic Suggestion is to help change that persons perception and language of that reality, within Identity, Belief or Behaviour, to one that is more appropriately functional or realistic.
The use of language during a Hypnosis session is the key to eliciting change within the subconscious, while the conscious is less active, so that the normal critical beliefs are less intrusive.
For instance, you may believe “I’ll never be able to give up smoking”, but with the critical voice out of the way, that belief may change to a healthier one, allowing a more positive thought process to prevail.
The idea of being a non-smoker can then become part of your Identity.
Your Subconscious “thinks” in your language, though it may not be apparent to you. Hypnotherapy can access that part of the mind that is always doing its best to protect you from harm, but sometimes, paradoxically, can cause more distress.
Obviously, there is still much to learn about the mind, and I do not pretend that this page even begins to scratch the surface of the subject, but is intended a basic introduction for the purposes of this site.
For more information on the issue that may be troubling you or a loved one, please contact me
© Martin Lancaster 2011