This article discusses how to use hypnosis to make behaviour changes to address smoking, weight loss concerns, depression and many other issues.

Why it often feels like ‘pulling teeth’ to make a positive change in your life

Have you ever tried to address an issue but became frustrated that you continued to struggle despite trying every possible strategy you could think of?  The reason that progress feels like ‘pulling teeth’ may be that your subconscious mind is working against your conscious attempts to make positive change.

What is the subconscious mind and how does it affect your behaviour?

In contrast with the conscious mind of which we are aware, the subconscious mind lies outside our awareness. Like an iceberg, this part of our mind ‘below the surface’ is substantial.  It is comprised of many beliefs, thoughts, impulses, attitudes and urges—all of which are outside our immediate awareness.  And, just like an iceberg, what lies below the surface can have a tremendous impact.   The subconscious mind is so powerful that it can often override a person’s conscious efforts and desires to think or act in a particular way.  For example, it will be very difficult to quit smoking if in your subconscious mind you have the belief that smoking is the only or best way you have to handle stressful situations.  Similarly, it will be very challenging to change your diet to lose weight if in your subconscious mind you have the belief that food is the primary way to reward and comfort yourself or to relieve boredom.

Dr. Patrick Keelan Hypnosis Therapy

Change problematic subconscious thoughts and beliefs with hypnosis

So what do you do if your conscious efforts are faced with this losing battle against your subconscious mind?  Use the primary technique which changes your subconscious thoughts and beliefs so that they are consistent with what you want to achieve consciously. This technique is hypnosis.  Many people have a misconception of how hypnosis works and what its purpose is largely based on its depiction in theatrical performances.   Hypnosis is not used in therapy to get people to bark like dogs or cluck like chickens.  Although there is nothing wrong with these entertaining applications of hypnosis, hypnosis in therapy is primarily used to help people change their thoughts, beliefs, attitudes and behaviours which are negatively affecting their lives.

The state of trance in hypnosis

Hypnosis is a heightened state of awareness achieved by the person becoming very relaxed so that they enter the state of ‘trance’ in which the subconscious mind is receptive to suggestions and changes.  A person typically enters the trance state with the help of a therapist who instructs them to relax.  Often this ‘induction’ phase begins with the person focusing their attention on some object.  As they become relaxed, the instructions to close one’s eyes will lead the person into the state of trance.

Giving suggestions to change your subconscious mind during hypnosis

Once in the state of trance, the person’s subconscious mind is able to receive suggestions to change its content—attitudes, beliefs, thoughts, urges and impulses.  This restructuring of the subconscious mind is typically done by the therapist giving suggestions which are helpful to the person in addressing whatever issue they are struggling with.  For example, someone trying to lose weight might be told, “And now whenever you think of eating, you choose those good healthful foods.   And you eat the correct amount.  And when you have eaten the correct amount you stop eating.”  Someone struggling with depression might receive suggestions like “The moment you recognize your negative thought process in progress, you immediately stop, take a deep breath, and realize your negative thoughts have no value.”  Someone who smokes primarily to relieve stress might receive suggestions like, “Now when you feel stressed, you close your eyes and breathe deeply ten times; you go for a walk, talk to someone about what is causing the immediate stress, and shift your attention to a constructive activity that you enjoy.”

How hypnotic suggestions help to change your behaviour

After the suggestion phase, in the final ‘coming up’ phase of hypnosis the person receives instructions to return them to full alertness as they open their eyes.  As a result of the hypnosis session, the person typically finds it easier to make the changes they had been attempting to make previously without hypnosis.  The reason is that the suggestions which have targeted their subconscious thoughts and beliefs are able to influence the person’s behaviour when they encounter situations related to their issue.  For example, the person will typically find it easier to stop eating when they are full if they have received a hypnotic suggestion to this effect.  Likewise, a depressed person will find it easier to avoid focusing on negative information if they have been given this suggestion in hypnosis.  A smoker will find it easier to pursue alternatives to reaching for a cigarette when they are stressed if their subconscious has received suggestions of this nature.

Practice makes perfect

For best results, the person should be exposed to hypnotic suggestions regularly—especially when they are in the early stages of attempting to change a long-standing attitude or behaviour.  Primarily for reasons of convenience and economics, this repeated exposure is often done by the client on their own through self-hypnosis (as taught by their therapist) or by listening to a recording of a hypnosis script made by their therapist.  Research indicates that this practice typically increases the likelihood of the person making lasting change in problem areas which they may have been struggling with for years using other methods.

Taking the next steps toward using hypnosis to address your issues

The range of issues that people can address with hypnosis is vast:  Weight loss, smoking, stress reduction, natural childbirth, health problems, pain control, improving self-esteem and motivation, improving learning experiences, improving athletic performance, enhancing creativity, sleep, anxiety and panic, healing from sexual abuse, loss and separation, surgery, and overcoming depression are among the problems that hypnosis has been used effectively to address.  So if you’ve struggled to make progress on an issue using every technique under the sun, it may be worth your investigating hypnosis.  Talk with a qualified therapist who is trained in hypnosis to see if you would be a suitable candidate for this treatment.  In this regard, some people are more likely to benefit from hypnosis because they are more likely to enter the state of trance than others.

So now that you’ve read this article, the next time someone tells you that hypnosis is all about people barking like dogs and clucking like chickens you’ll be able to set the record straight.

Subconsciously yours,

Dr. Pat