More Hypnosis Information & Suggested Reading

Hypnosis 4 Health® | San Francisco Hypnotherapy

How does hypnosis work on the subconscious part of the mind?

To understand how hypnosis creates change, you must understand the functional difference between the conscious and subconscious parts of the mind, their relationship with the development of our self identity, and how they sometimes come into conflict.

The most important function of our subconscious part of the mind is to maintain homeostasis by regulating our many bodily processes. It is our most basic and primary operating system through which we live and respond to our world. Virtually all of its functions are hard-wired, and it is finely attuned to our environment. It faithfully manages energy, stores and retrieves impressions through association, protects, defends, motivates, adapts, creates, emotes, visualizes, nurtures, and heals itself. The language of the subconscious is imagery and metaphor. Most of its work is done below the threshold of our awareness. It also builds up an enormous amount of stored impressions and learning experiences in our long-term memory bank.

The function of the conscious part of the mind, i.e., the intellect, is mostly to weigh decisions in problem solving and strategizing, functioning primarily as a binary, “yes/no” decision-making computer. It interprets the impressions of our lives through analysis, correlation and comparison, discrimination, critical thought, judgment, rationalization, and abstraction. The conscious part of the mind also contains the short-term memory. The language of the conscious part of the mind is logic and reason. It can argue both sides of an issue equally as well. It develops predominantly through formal education. Through our intellects we learn the language we use to describe our subjective selves and our objective world.

As our self awareness develops, we are generally taught in school to spend less time in our subjective “fantasy” world and focus more on the objective “real” world. This localizes our identity in our conscious intellects, that is, the rationalizations we have about ourselves, our conscious intentions, and our social affiliations. We learn to identify ourselves more objectively by our sex, age, school, club, clique, sports interest, love interest, or role model, etc. We even learn to consciously lie about our experience, actions, or ourselves in order to avoid punishment or fit into a social scheme. We develop a personality, and we learn to lie to ourselves and others in the service this personality. In a sense, the intellect forms layers over the subconscious part of the mind and a schism between them is formed. Intrapersonal and interpersonal problems arise when the intellect wants one thing and the subconscious part of the mind wants another, notwithstanding the problems also caused by trauma, neglect, physical or emotional abuse. The subconscious, with all its quirks and immature beliefs, eventually prevails.

In terms of identity, our intellectual development is in direct conflict with our early childhood practice of identifying ourselves (in the English language, that is) by our sensual and emotional experiences, i.e. “I am cold, hungry, sleepy, etc., or by our feeling state, such as when sick, “I’ll never get better”. We promote this schism when we say that a person is “beside themselves” with anger or grief. We basically learn not to know ourselves anymore. Consequently, unable to bridge that schism with just our good intentions, we become frustrated and confused when we act out irrationally or continue to do something destructive to ourselves even though we know rationally that the behavior is unhealthy for us. Most long-term smokers know intellectually that smoking is bad for them and ill-ogical.

We all too often ignore or minimize the subconscious part of the mind even though it is a very powerful force in our lives and contains many key elements of our psyche. Take mental stress, for instance. In order to make a living and get through our hectic day, we become accustomed to ignoring, ingesting or stuffing our bodies’ subconscious impressions, feelings, perceptions, and warning signs. (This chronic situation is harmful to the body, often going unnoticed, and why stress is called “the silent killer”.) The decisions we need to make all day seem more important than paying attention to the body until suddenly the body breaks down. Despite our best conscious designs, we eventually all discover that the body does not lie. And more often than not, we do what we feel like doing, go by our “gut feeling” or do what our “heart tells us” anyway.

Thus in truth, the intellect is really just an island floating on a vast subconscious ocean; an ocean the depths of which we are often unaware, due to our identification with our thoughts and the demands placed upon our intellects in daily life. And then there are times in our lives when we are made very aware of this powerful subconscious ocean. During stormy emotional turmoil, sudden loss, or trauma, when our lives seem to grind to a halt, we witness the subconscious mind’s power to override our bodily functions and intellect: we cannot function, eat, sleep, talk, or even think clearly. Or when we grapple with either a persistent habit such as nail biting or fear of public speaking and fail. Sometimes, when we “think” we have resolved our sufferings, the subconscious creates a wake-up call: a psychosomatic symptom or illness sprouting years after a traumatic event, just to show us who is in charge, that we cannot go on stuffing our feelings indefinitely. Our body has no other way of communicating to us except by its symptoms, aches and pains.

Many of my clients come to see me feeling simply bewildered; their doctor has run out of tests or pharmaceuticals for their symptom and has told them, “sorry, there is nothing wrong with you, it is all in your head”. “That’s my worst fear!” the client tells me, as though their symptom were not real. They are then stuck in a vicious cycle of subconsciously reinforcing the problem; they start focusing more on symptom (and worrying about their sanity) than eliminating the root cause. For example, insomniacs keep themselves awake by worrying about not being able to fall asleep. Also, men who worry about thinning hair will inadvertently cause more hair loss from the increased stress and loss of self-esteem, while spending literally thousands of dollars on all sorts of concoctions and techniques avoiding the inevitable.

We are both the island and the unseen ocean depths! To make a conscious, lasting change in behavior, heal, or maintain our health, we need to enlist the help of the subconscious part of the mind. It helps us follow though with our conscious intentions. We need to learn that the subconscious has its own unique logic, too.

The trance state is the state of mind in which we heal ourselves. Healing is not an intellectual process! One cannot improve one’s life or heal one’s pain by just thinking about it, or telling oneself with just the intellect, you should “grow up”, “just get over it”, or “be rational”. Hypnosis can bridge the schism between the different sides of ourselves and help integrate the split parts of the self. In trance, the sense of self is expanded, and the analytical intellect is relaxed, allowing one to communicate with one’s subconscious mind through creating, recreating, or releasing symbolic mental images and memories as in a lucid dream state. But first one be ready and want to heal or change. And as I tell my clients, one cannot see the back of one’s head without help!

Hypnosis is really about being more awake! Once you establish a “beachhead” of awareness in the subconscious, you can access buried memories, unmask erroneous beliefs, repair your self-esteem, motivate yourself for change, strengthen your conscience, improve your intuition, and restore your physical, mental and emotional health. The results can sometimes be miraculous!


“Where can I learn more about hypnosis?”

Well, my friend, if you have read this far and want more information, I applaud your interest! Here are some books I recommend:

Self Hypnotism
Leslie M. Lecron / Mass Market Paperback / N A L / May 1976

Self-Hypnosis and Other Mind Expanding Techniques
Charles Tebbetts / Paperback / Westwood Publishing Company / June 1977

Hypnosis for Change
Josie Hadley,Carol Staudacher / Mass Market Paperback / Random House, Incorporated/ October 1987

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Hypnosis
Roberta Temes / Paperback / Macmillan Publishing USA / October 1999


If you are already practicing Clinical Hypnotherapy and wish to refine your technique or expand you knowledge base, here are some books which I found invaluable in my training:

The Art of Hypnosis:Mastering Basic Techniques
Roy C. Hunter / Paperback / Kendall / Hunt Publishing Company / February 2000

The Art of Hypnotherapy
Roy C. Hunter/ Paperback/Kendall / Hunt Publishing Company / June 1997

Trance-Formations: Neuro-Linguistic Programming and the Structure of Hypnosis
John Grinder,Connirae Andreas (Editor),With Richard Bandler / Paperback / Real People Press/ June 1982

The Wisdom of Milton H. Erickson: Hypnosis and Hypnotherapy, Vol. 1
Ronald A. Havens / Paperback / Irvington Publishers / September 1989

Become the Dream: The Transforming Power of Hypnotic Dreamwork
Randal Churchill,Cheryl Canfield (Editor) / Hardcover / Transformi / July 1997

Hypnosis: The Application of Ideomotor Techniques
David B. Cheek / Paperback / Allyn & Bacon, Inc. / December 1993

Handbook of Clinical Hypnosis
Judith W. Rhue (Editor),Irving Kirsch (Editor),Steven Jay Lynn (Editor) / Paperback /American Psychological Association / June 1997


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