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The Human Mind

What can you tell me about the human mind?

The human mind is like an onion with many layers. The outer layer is our conscious mind, which helps with our daily decision-making processes working according to the reality principle. It is intelligent, realistic, logical and proactive, especially in new situations where we have to apply rational thought processes to work out what to do and how to do it. However, it can only deal with between two and nine things at any one time and becomes easily overloaded, when we carry out complex tasks. i.e. Remember the process you underwent whilst learning to drive?

Remember how your conscious mind worked out what to do incrementally, slowly assimilating all the pieces of information to allow you to take a car on the road and get it from A to B. Could you possibly imagine driving in that way now? In order to drive well you need to utilize both conscious and unconscious processes. The subconscious or main hidden layer of the onion works on “auto pilot” i.e. reacting according to the pleasure principle in that it seeks to avoid pain and obtain pleasure and survival, regardless of external considerations. It is concerned with our emotions, imagination, and memories as well as our autonomic nervous system which controls our internal organs automatically. These four main functions are very closely interlinked – in other words the mind affects the body and the body affects the mind. It is powerful and very clever at dealing with many complex instructions at any one time but is not intelligent.


What is Hypnosis

Misconceptions about hypnosis and hypnotherapy abound. Many of these fallacies can be traced back to the unfortunate early use of non-ethical demonstrations of hypnosis as a form of entertainment on stage and television. Leaving aside that rather specialised form of hypnosis, the best way to view hypnosis is as a state of intense relaxation and concentration, in which your mind becomes remote and detached from everyday cares and concerns. In this relaxed state the subconscious part of your mind is best able to respond creatively to suggestion and imagery.

It can focus on the things you wish to change and on the ways you can best do that, free from anxiety or analytical thoughts. Hypnosis is a natural state entered on a regular basis when relaxing, daydreaming, watching the television. You are, definitely, not asleep nor are you rendered unconscious. You are in an altered or alternative state of consciousness in which you, allow things to happen, through your subconscious mind rather than trying or forcing them to happen with your conscious mind. So given that hypnosis is a natural state, accessing that state is not difficult.

What is more elusive is the art of utilising that state in a creative and beneficial manner. Whilst in a state of hypnosis you are more likely to accept suggestions given to you and act upon them subconsciously, this is a powerful tool in hypnotherapy. How readily the subconscious mind becomes predisposed to new ideas depends on the skill and integrity of the therapist and the commitment of the client. Posthypnotic suggestions are those that will be carried out by you with your subconscious permission, when you come out of the hypnotic state.

Self Hypnosis

Can you tell me about Self Hypnosis?

It has been maintained that all hypnosis is essentially self-hypnosis. It is certainly impossible to be hypnotised by someone else unless you want or allow it to happen. Self-hypnosis is a way of safely bypassing the conscious mind and should only be practised on the advice of a professional therapist. But once you have learned how to hypnotise yourself, practice will enable you to put yourself in a ‘trance’ whenever you wish to, quickly and easily. Psychotic and severely mentally unstable people, however, should never attempt self-hypnosis.

The English term “hypnotism” was introduced in 1841 by the Scottish physician and surgeon James Braid. According to Braid, he first employed “self-hypnotism” (as he elsewhere refers to it) two years after discovering hypnotism, first teaching it to his clients before employing it on himself.

My first experiments on this point [i.e., self-hypnosis] were instituted in the presence of some friends on the 1st May, 1843, and following days. I believe they were the first experiments of the kind which had ever been tried, and they have succeeded in every case in which I have so operated.

In a later work, Observations on Trance or Human Hybernation (1850), Braid provides probably the first account of self-hypnosis by someone employing it upon themselves.

Braid’s Account of Self-Hypnotism

It is commonly said that seeing is believing, but feeling is the very truth. I shall, therefore, give the result of my experience of hypnotism in my own person. In the middle of September, 1844, I suffered from a most severe attack of rheumatism, implicating the left side of the neck and chest, and the left arm.


At first the pain was moderately severe, and I took some medicine to remove it; but, instead of this, it became more and more violent, and had tormented me for three days, and was so excruciating, that it entirely deprived me of sleep for three nights successively, and on the last of the three nights I could not remain in any one posture for five minutes, from the severity of the pain. On the forenoon of the next day, whilst visiting my patients, every jolt of the carriage I could only compare to several sharp instruments being thrust through my shoulder, neck, and chest.


A full inspiration was attended with stabbing pain, such as is experienced in pleurisy. When I returned home for dinner I could neither turn my head, lift my arm, nor draw a breath, without suffering extreme pain. In this condition I resolved to try the effects of hypnotism. I requested two friends, who were present, and who both understood the system, to watch the effects, and arouse me when I had passed sufficiently into the condition; and, with their assurance that they would give strict attention to their charge, I sat down and hypnotised myself, extending the extremities.


At the expiration of nine minutes they aroused me, and, to my agreeable surprise, I was quite free from pain, being able to move in any way with perfect ease. I say agreeably surprised, on this account; I had seen like results with many patients; but it is one thing to hear of pain, and another to feel it.


My suffering was so exquisite that I could not imagine anyone else ever suffered so intensely as myself on that occasion; and, therefore, I merely expected a mitigation, so that I was truly agreeably surprised to find myself quite free from pain. I continued quite easy all the afternoon, slept comfortably all night, and the following morning felt a little stiffness, but no pain. A week thereafter I had a slight return, which I removed by hypnotising myself once more; and I have remained quite free from rheumatism ever since, now nearly six years.


Self-Hypnosis and Stress

Patients who are stressed and/or lack self-esteem can be taught self-hypnotic techniques which can induce relaxation and/or strengthen their self-esteem. Specifically, once the patient is in a self-hypnotic state the therapist can communicate messages to the patient, allowing the relaxation and strengthening process to occur.

When teaching self-hypnosis, a word or phrase should be stated to the patient for them to repeat. This will not work unless the patient deliberately uses the word or phrase to hypnotize themselves.

In addition, since stress prevents well-functioning of the immune system, researchers from Ohio State University came to a conclusion that self hypnosis to prevent stress can also help in protecting the immune system against the negative effects of it. They proved this by showing that students who performed self-hypnosis during stressful exam weeks showed a stronger immune system when compared to those who did not learn the technique of this phenomenon.

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