What is Hypnosis? My Attempt at a Definition

What is Hypnosis? My Attempt at a Definition

Have you ever been driving in your car, reached your destination and wondered how you got there? It seemed like no time had passed as if you were driving on auto-pilot.

Have you ever been standing in an elevator? Watching the numbers go. Suddenly, the door opens so you decide to get out of the elevator, only to realise that you need to scramble back into the elevator because this is not your floor.

Have you been so deeply captivated in what are you are doing that you lose track of time? Perhaps you realise you have been watching your favourite TV show or reading a good book for a couple of hours but it seemed like only minutes.

If you have had any of the above experiences, then you have been in a trance. A trance is a natural highly focused state of mind in which the subconscious mind is free to act without the interference from regular consciousness. There are many different types of trances, some seem similar to sleep whilst others are much more mobile and physically active.

The next question that naturally arises is normally “Is everyone able to go into a trance?” The answer is definitely yes. It is something that happens naturally throughout the day when you are going about your normal daily activities. In fact, there is a state that we pass through as we go from waking state to sleep known as the hypnagogic state. We would like to think that when we are awake, that is one state and when we go to sleep that is another state. However, it is more of a continuum that we fluidly transition through during our normal cycle of a day.

Now, we know what a trance is, we can ask the question “What is hypnosis?” Hypnosis is the PROCESS of creating a trance. While the terms trance and hypnosis are often used interchangeably in the literature, this distinction should be made. Your brain, often whilst doing menial tasks like driving and watching TV, will re-route and re-distribute its capacities to performing other tasks as required. This complex and fascinating organ does this throughout the day performing little shifts while it is processing incoming information. Jonathan Chase is famous for saying “Everyone is a hypnotist, they just don’t know it yet.” This quote cleverly points out the fact that hypnosis is a naturally occurring process that happens all around us when a person is telling a good story or you are just deeply immersed in an interesting conversation. Hypnosis is all around us, you merely have to watch people and you can see it happening! Richard Bandler, one of the co-founders of NLP, went so far as to say: “My attitude is that at some level or other, everything is hypnosis. People are not simply in or out of trance but are moving from one trance to another.”

The mind is the most complex thing that we have ever encountered. The great part about the study of hypnosis is it is practical application to our modern scientific endeavours to understand the mind such as neuroscience and psychology. By showing people how to have greater control of their mind and body, hypnosis has the ability to reach a person more deeply. It can teach people how to have greater control over how they can influence others and themselves. It has the potential to enrich people’s lives, enabling them to be happier and healthier.


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