This video illustrates the the strange nature of any psychological, behavioural or emotional problem. When you are doing something that you do not want to do, be it over eating, feeling anxiety every time you go near an aeroplane or thinking about the worst that can happen all the time. Why can’t we just ‘stop it’. If doing something physical causes you pain, you stop. If eating something makes you feel sick, you stop. Why can you not stop thinking a certain way or doing a certain thing that causes you distress or annoyance? Why would you need to seek the help of a hypnotist? The video shows direct suggestion at its simplest, but in this case the suggestion is being made to the wrong part of the client’s mind, so how does direct suggestion in hypnosis work?
If you are going to a hypnotist to stop feeling anxious, for example, it will not be as simple as having them tell you to stop it. If this is attempted without hypnosis then the therapist is talking to the conscious mind which is not the part of the mind that is creating the anxiety so it cannot stop it. Hypnosis accesses the subconscious mind though, the part of the mind that is creating the anxiety, and in some cases, when treating anxiety, it is possible for the hypnotist to tell the subconscious mind to stop it and it will.
Throughout your day to day life your subconscious mind, which stores all your thinking and behaviour patterns, lies behind the protective screen of the conscious mind which is the part of you that deals with the external world. The hypnotic process is designed to use the language of the subconscious mind – imagination and emotion – to coax it out from behind the conscious mind so that the hypnotist can talk directly with the subconscious – the part of your mind that is creating the anxiety or unwanted habit. Now, made in the right way, an instruction to ‘stop it’ can be absorbed by the right part of the mind that is able to cease that behaviour. The hypnotist can then put things back the way they found them except for this one key change.
When you see stage hypnosis this is what is happening. The subconscious mind is dominant for the duration of the show and so will take on any suggestion that is given, but this will only last while the process is taking place. Long term change is a little more complicated.
A suggestion needs to be put in a way that fits with the belief system upon which a subconscious pattern is built. The pattern of thought that creates the anxiety is being run that way for a reason so the new suggestion needs to encompass that reason, address it, and show a new way of doing things. Stories and metaphor are a great benefit in hypnosis for this.
This is why it is important that the hypnotist tests the hypnotic connection by giving some direct suggestion early on in the session to test that your mind can accept them. If it does not the session will be a waste of time and money. It is also good for the session to involve some two way communication between you and the hypnotist so they can test that your mind is working with them and alter their techniques or focus if it is not. This way there is less ‘hope for the best’ after the session as the session should end with some confirmation that what you have done has been effective. Direct suggestion works in hypnosis to achieve long term change but it needs to be used with finesse!