The National Council of Psychotherapists
The following pages are the second and third chapters of the book by our long-serving member, Len Mason, reproduced with his kind permission.
What is hypnosis? Many people feel threatened at the very word. They hold the Victorian melodramatic vision of a fiery-eyed villain taking over control and forcing them to do things against their will. Nothing is farther from the truth.
Many have tried to define hypnosis, but no one has fully and satisfactorily described the state, probably trying to put more into it than there is. I will offer my explanation, which, I hope you will accept as a truthful observation.
First, what it is not. It is NOT domination. No one can take control and command of your mind and bend it to their will, making you do what they want you to do. Repeat - no one can. Many have tried. It is hard enough to help you to do what you say you want to do! It is impossible to make you do something which is against your moral judgement, religion, or your sense of decency. You may be persuaded to do things which will not harm you, or are innocuous, or which are for your own best interests and benefit, but that is all. If hypnosis is not domination, then what is it? It must therefore be cooperation - cooperation of the conscious and subconscious minds with the hypnotist.
In this state of cooperation many things can be achieved. In normal suggestion therapy, very deep relaxation may be reached; far deeper than the subject may have thought possible, and this relaxation is beneficial in itself.
Reinforcement of wanted, logical and sensible ideas may also be given, which helps the subject to focus his attention on them, thus giving them more importance and thus more mental energy to positive thoughts.
Unexpected phenomena can be experienced, for example, if anaesthesia would be beneficial, the subject’s subconscious has the ability to turn off pain. Many major operations have been carried out in this way without the disadvantages and unwanted effects of an anaesthetic.
We all have perfect memory; this can be proven by regression in hypnosis to earlier periods in life where complete recall is possible. Thus it is not our memory which fails in normal life, but our recall system. This too can be helped with hypnotic techniques.
These and many other interesting phenomena may be observed in this fascinating state.
As we all have both conscious and subconscious minds, and indeed I have found that there are many deeper levels of consciousness that can affect our behaviour, it is important to understand the mechanism.
The conscious mind governs our awareness; it is where we make decisions. The subconscious mind governs all the automatic actions of the body; it acts like a fantastic computer. With a computer it is necessary to insert a program of instructions before anything can happen. The central processor part of the computer system then absorbs this information and acts upon it. We are the same. We program our computer (our subconscious mind) with thoughts. What we think, and give importance to; how we think, negatively or positively; what we focus our thoughts on, etc., becomes our program. This information is fed into our subconscious mind, and this then reacts in accordance with these instructions.
Its overall aim is our survival, so it will also act to protect us from any threat, real or imagined, to person or ego, giving an appropriate reaction of behaviour to ensure that survival is ensured, even at the express counter instructions afterwards from the conscious mind. However, when we are born, unlike a computer, we arrive in this world with some basic instructions already inserted in our subconscious. These instructions separate the machines from the animals. When we arrive we already know how to survive. We can breathe, suck for food, make a noise for attention, etc. From then on it is up to us. A computer can only accept a ‘go’ or ‘no go’ as a gate - add one and one; from this basic ability everything else is added and gradually built up upon.
We are very similar; in every situation that is presented to our senses we have free choice of thought, but that thought can be positive or negative. That is all we can do, and everything is gradually built up on that. Sadly we are not all trained in correct thinking by our parents or schoolteachers because they have been unaware that it is the way we think which is so vitally important. It is the most important thing that we do; it shapes our whole personality right from the word GO.
Unfortunately negative thinking is an easy option, and unaware parents even encourage this by their attitude, and often do it unconsciously to bolster up their own feelings of inadequacy.
“You are a silly child, you’ll never learn!” infers the cleverness of the adult and the stupidity of the child. Unfortunately the youngster may accept that message as absolute truth, and then by mental agreement give instructions to the subconscious not to learn, which when carried out, then confirms the thoughts, which are then reinforced by further instructions to the subconscious. “No, I can’t do it.” We have then arrived at a situation where a child is labelled educationally subnormal, when in fact the child may be very clever, but oversensitive to his own thought instructions.
There are many cases of famous people who, when at school were branded ‘not very clever’, but who, on leaving school and the influence and earshot of teachers with a negative outlook, began to change their ‘self talk’ (their thinking) naturally, to a more positive manner; to reinstruct the subconscious to do the things it had been told not to do after which the situation completely changed. From where did these ‘dunces’ get their newfound intelligence? Of course - it had been there all the time, acting under wrong commands. As soon as the instructions to the subconscious became positive, i.e. “I CAN do that.” “I WILL achieve this,” then the subconscious obliged.
If we give focused negative thoughts to certain events, we are liable to trigger off other energies within us. Emotion; stress; tension, etc. Many people complain that they are in a stressful job, or are under great pressure at work. There is no such thing as a stress job or outside ‘pressure’; these stresses and pressures are caused by our own thoughts, and our ‘self talk’ about the job or situation that we are in. If we think about it in a different way, talk to ourselves about it in a different way, then all is changed. (Not the job!)
Keeping the ego too high is another of our basic errors. If it is too high it becomes intolerable to accept the fact that other people may laugh at you, it would be too great a humiliation if they thought you foolish. This frame of mind can lead to many problems, but as soon as you lower your ego and realise that it does not matter what others think of you, then you are freed of its effects.
‘Self talk’ should be something like this,
“I am me. Being myself and doing my best in life for my fellow man. If people like me - great! If they do not like me - so what! I am doing my best; I can’t do more than that!
“The same applies to the things I do. If people like what I do; - good! If they don’t; - so what? If I do my best and that is not good enough for them; - so what? I cannot do more.”
So; be yourself; do your best; and don’t worry about other people’s opinions. In this way your ego is lowered, and life becomes so much better.
Len Mason FNCP