What is Hypnosis?

The declarations listed below have been made by "experts" in the field of hypnosis. I have listed all of these remarks to show that hypnosis is something that can be very useful but is extremely difficult to define. I have also given my explanation of hypnosis in an effort to simplify something that most people don't know much about.

1. Hypnosis is the process of communication with the unconscious mind recognizable by an unconscious response to suggestion. (E.A. Barnett, MD)

2. I stressed the words if the subject is willing because consent is imperative. You cannot impart a suggestion unless the subject is willing to take it. At all times and in all degrees of hypnosis, the subject has complete power of selectivity. He therefore reacts only to suggestions that are reasonable and pleasing to him. (Dave Ehlman)

3. Hypnotism is simply exaggerated suggestibility. (George Estabrooks)

4. A state of intensified attention and receptiveness, and an increased responsiveness to an idea or to a set of ideas. (Milton H. Erickson)

5. Hypnosis is largely a question of your willingness to be receptive and responsive to ideas, and to allow these ideas to act upon you without interference. These ideas we call suggestions. (Andre M. Weitzenhoffer and Ernest R. Hilgard)

6. An altered state within which suggestions have a peculiarly potent effect. (K. S. Bowers)

The way that I describe what happens in hypnosis is as follows:

Your conscious mind is where your thoughts are and the subconscious part of your mind is where you function from. You can only have one conscious thought at a time. You can have many thoughts, one right after the other, but only one at a time.

The subconscious part of your mind is like a big filing cabinet. It holds a record of everything you've ever experienced. All of your habits, behaviors, responses, reactions, memories and emotions are stored there as though there is a file about everything you do. That is the information that you function from.

When you come into my office to be hypnotized, we discuss what you want to change. Essentially, I'm trying to find out what is in the file right now, because that is the information that you are currently working from. When you are in hypnosis, what we are doing is getting the subconscious part of your mind to open up intentionally (or pulling open the filing cabinet) so that we can put a new file in about how you want to function (i.e. being a non-smoker, having different eating habits, being more confident). After the session is over, your mind has new information to begin to work from and doesn't need to keep going back and working from the old information.

I think it's easier for people to understand it in this way. Hopefully it takes some of the mystery out of hypnosis and gives people a more concrete idea to work with.