The Real Definition of Hypnosis. [Ultimate Guide]


In this article the goal is to educate you on the wonderful world of hypnosis. Their is far to little information, and lack of know-how on the subject, so we have decided to dedicate ourselves to educating the general public on one of the most fascinating fields in the world. This is what you will find in this article:

-What is Hypnosis

-Conversational Hypnosis and Hypnotic Storytelling

-How hypnosis works for change. The magic of hypnotherapy.

-Hebb’s Law

-How Stage Hypnosis Works


What Is Hypnosis

Hypnosis has been a favorite subject for a couple of hundred years and has caused much debate. From profound changes made through hypnotherapy to the showmanship of Hypnotic stage shows, the lack of scientific evidence has been the biggest hurdle any hypnotist has had to try and explain the phenomena. Luckily, in the last few years, we have had dramatic findings in neurological research that begin to explain the how, why, and what’s of Hypnosis. Let’s start to explore.


Hypnosis is commonly described as an induction of an altered state of consciousness. So what does that mean? Well, a state of consciousness is just that – the conscious state that you are currently occupying. For example, if you’re happy you are in a state of happiness. So what do we mean by an altered state? An altered state is simply a state that differs from a ‘normal waking state’ (sais Wiki So if we put this all together, the modern definition of hypnosis could be: Hypnosis is inducing a different state of consciousness than we are typically operating in.


This is a great start, but does this mean that after a bottle of wine I am in hypnosis? Technically I am in an altered state, same as if I take any drugs, but we don’t typically think of that as hypnosis. How about this situation: think of the last time we were driving your car. Do you remember everything that’s happening? Or do you find sometimes you drift off and then at other occasions you’re more consciously aware of you driving, and it is typically much farther along your journey than you assumed you would be? That, too, would mean you were in some altered state while daydreaming then you are usually in. So it looks like hypnosis is a state that we do enter many times a day by definition.


“It’s not like what you see in the movies. Hypnosis is a natural state of selective, focused attention, and, even though it is 100% natural and healthy, it remains one of the most fascinating phenomena of the human mind. Our ability to enter this unique state of consciousness opens the door to countless possibilities for healing, self-exploration, and change. Hypnosis, called by different names in various cultures and times, has been recognized for thousands of years and used for many purposes.”


As you can see Hypnosis is not necessarily what most of us think it is. Hypnosis involves altering one’s state so that they are more relaxed and calm so that the hypnotist can begin to give suggestions to help change a subject’s life. When a subject is in a profoundly altered state, the purpose is to bypass the critical sensor portion of the mind so that you take on suggestions more efficiently with less analysis or quantifying, but it’s not an all controlling mindless state. A significant portion of the bypassing of the critical sensor and the taking on suggestion has to do with how deep the report (relationship) is between hypnotist and the subject. The subject is in control the whole time, a hypnotist never actually ‘does’ anything to a subject, he simply gives direction in which the subject must follow to get the desired result.

“Hypnotherapy uses this state of deep relaxation to bypass the “critical sensor” which exists in each person’s unconscious mind. The critical sensor is a limiting factor. It can make it difficult or impossible for people to achieve their goals.”


An important note is this: Although hypnosis is considered a relaxed state and almost a state of sleep – it’s not, it is just a strong focus on a particular state. If its relaxation than it will look like they are almost asleep but it can be a strong focus on ANY state.


Through the art of hypnotic language, the hypnotist induces a trance, and the subject becomes more in touch with their inner thoughts. Think of hypnosis as a magnifying glass. The hypnotist will suggest to a subject to close their eyes and relax. Through the use of hypnotic language and techniques, they help magnify this state to a point where relaxation completely absorbs them (ahem, an altered state) at this point the subject is very relaxed and also very comfortable with the hypnotist because he had led them into this beautiful state. In a deep state of relaxation and a deep level of trust between the two, the subjects critical sensor is not as heightened. It’s like having a deep conversation with a loved one; you’re not criticizing or analyzing everything they say, simply listening and allowing the suggestions and stories to be accurate and just accepting them.


It gives access to resources in our minds we all have but have limited access to. Let’s take memory for example. There all millions of memories each of use currently hold, but off the top of your head how many can you remember right now? I bet you’re a little stumped trying to think of that. I am sure that you could go one by one in certain contexts and come up with a lot, but with how much detail? Not only that but to how much precision? Did you know that every time you think of a memory, you change it? That’s right; memories are entirely malleable (this is some foreshadowing into how hypnotherapists work with memories and trauma.) Now let’s take a memory that is enjoyable to you, if you were in a deep state of hypnosis and were totally fixated on that memory you would be able to see it in more detail, hear the scene more clearly, and feel the sensations more fully. Think about how many times you have thought of something pleasurable Vs. Thinking about that memory laying in bed with no distractions and when completely relaxed – you feel more of that memory, see more of that memory, hear more of what’s happening, because you are more focused on it. Imagine how much more involved in that memory you could be in a trance?


MindHacks has a great article on it here


Conversational Hypnosis and Hypnotic Story Telling

Now that you have an understanding of how a formal hypnotic induction and suggestions work, how do we understand what all of these Hypno Junkies are talking about when they are throwing around terms like Conversational Hypnosis or Hypnotic Storytelling?


It’s the same principles, to use conversational hypnosis and storytelling to induce trance is just as I explained before but we are using the story as the induction. We use hypnotic language and rhythm along with rapport and engaging stories to get the subject to engage (with their imagination) and begin to drift into a daydream like hypnotize. Think back to when I said it is like a magnifying glass, the more I tell you about how relaxing my trip to Aruba was, as I lay in a hammock in between two trees on the beach… with the hot sun beaming down on me… feeling the cool breeze from the ocean… listening to the waves coming to shore again… and again… I can feel by body relaxing as I feel the heat… as I feel the cold breeze… It’s very easy to imagine yourself there and begin to relax, isn’t it?!


Hypnotherapy, Using Hypnosis for Change Work


Now that we have a good understanding of how hypnosis works let’s take a look at how it works for change. Hypnosis is useful for revivifying memories and states that we all hold in our minds. So what good is that if we have a bad memory? Where is the benefit in focusing heavily on a bad memory and bringing up all of that negative crap in our minds? That does not sound healthy to me! To understand how we use hypnosis to resolve a bad memory we must first understand ‘Hebbs Law.’

Hebb’s Law


In the simplest terms ‘Hebbs Law’ works like this; neurons that fire together wire together.

When you think of a memory, you fire off a cortical pathway of neurons in your brain. All of these neurons are what make up your memory, from the visual to the auditory to the kinesthetic (feelings) it also links many other things together. For example, if you think of a fun time playing soccer in the field outside your house you brain needs to connect many things: when this memory happened, where it happened, who it happened with and so on. As you can see these networks make up millions of so-called data points that are relevant to the situation, and because you are in the field, in the summer, with you brother, during a sunny day, feeling great, all of these things wire together to make one big memory.


Let’s look at how all of this works now for change work. If we have a memory of us standing in front of a group of people and we are very anxious and feel awkward, the chances are that when you think of doing this in the future, you will feel the anxiety. We will then feel this way next time we try to speak in front of groups because all of the neurons are all interlinked to the anxiety when we think of public speaking, or anything related. So how do we change this?


A savvy hypnotist will do the following to use ‘Hebb’s Law’ to his advantage. First, we would elicit the problem state. Ask about the last time you were speaking in front of a group and how you felt and what specifically you were focusing on. Then we would break the state – maybe tell a funny joke – to put you at ease. Then we would ask how you would rather be feeling. If the answer were to feel more confident, we would then do the following. Induce trance and make you feel very comfortable. Then, spend some time eliciting a time when you were feeling very confident, use hypnotic language to magnify this experience so that you were feeling confident to an incredible degree. Then as soon as your feeling as great as you can, we would ask you to remember standing in front of that group of people feeling confident and ask “what’s different now that you’re feeling confident in this situation.” We would cycle multiple times connecting the neurons. Now you have the memory you had before, but we have also fired off all of these neurons that are linked to confidence, and as we have learned “Neurons that fire together, wire together” and because our memories are malleable we begin to change the memory. Sure, you will remember that last time you were nervous or had anxiety, but you don’t feel it, you feel the confidence. So when you think of speaking to a group of people in the future, you feel the confidence and thus expect the confidence, making the next time that much easier.


That was a very simplistic explanation of how hypnotherapy works. There are millions of techniques, but they all follow this basic principle, John Overdurf has coined this as the ‘Meta Pattern’ Here is a great video from Sarah, Jess, and Shawn explaining it:

How Stage Hypnosis Works


Stage hypnosis has a bad rap of being a big con, but it’s not. I will agree to say that it is certainly 80% showmanship, but the principles of hypnosis are certainly needed and used.


Belief, Expectation, and a Willingness to Perform


The first thing a stage hypnotist will do is what is called a suggestibility test. Without getting too far into it, it’s a test that he has everyone in the audience do to (It’s typically a hands out process, so it is easy to see) easily see who is the most suggestible. Now, the people he picks will be the most comfortable to hypnotise; but most importantly who follows direction the best.


After he selects the people from the audience who he feels are the best subjects, he lays the showmanship on to get everyone excited but most importantly, establish his authority as an all powerful hypnotist. From here he will do his inductions, typically instant or rapid inductions because they put on the best show, but the catch is that he will rarely get someone who doesn’t go into hypnosis. Every person who is on that stage is now feeling the social pressure from everyone around. They have a large group of people watching them, they are being given direction from someone who is very authoritative, let alone the fact they had been picked because they were highly suggestible. From here on the stage hypnotist will start with their eyes closed and begin with simple demonstrations of hand levitations, feeling hot and cold or thinking they are on a roller coaster ride. Now as the subjects are all sitting there with this pressure and need to appease with their eyes closed they have the added pressure of assuming that everyone else around them is following the suggestions from the hypnotist, so they better as well!


So the real question is: Are they Hypnotised?

Sure they are! Hypnosis is an altered state of mind. If you were pulled up on stage in front of a large group of people, being given direct suggestions from someone who is very authoritative, with your eyes closed assuming everyone else is doing the same, you could be certain you are in a very different state than you are normally. Now because of this state, we have achieved the critical factor is taking a sideline allowing you to think and believe whatever the stage hypnotist is asking of you because it appeases the social pressure. So yes, you will see people doing some crazy outrageous things, and they will be surprised that they are doing it, but now you know how it is being done and that they truly are in complete control of what is happening.

This concludes todays post – please leave a comment below to let us know where else you would like us to expand on the topic 🙂


About AndrewJames 1 Article
Hypnosis Enthusiast and writer. Certified Conversational Hypnotherapist, Ericksonian Storyteller, and self acclaimed expert!

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