What does hypnosis feel like? So many people are curious about this, and there are many misconceptions about it. For me, "hypnosis" refers to a mental process. During the process different “feelings” can be suggested by ourselves or by a hypnotherapist. For this reason, the hypnosis experience is different for each person and even the same person can experience it differently in different situations. And yet there are some common characteristics.
Most research indicates that hypnosis involves becoming absorbed in an idea to the point that other distractions are filtered out. Once this happens, your brain will notice things in your inner experience (internal dialog, images, thoughts) or input from outside ( words, events, environment) that support the idea and the idea gets reinforced. This creates a deeper level of absorption which is again reinforced and the hypnotic cycle continues. This "feedback loop" is essentially a combination of focus and imagination. It doesn't necessarily involve relaxation, but it can.
I believe most people are already experiencing the hypnotic cycle pretty much every day in some form. But it’s typically just a random occurrence and not directed toward any specific purpose.
Here are some examples of "everyday" hypnosis:
When the mind relaxes but drifts to something specific and vividly imagines it. This can happen during: a boring lecture, during after lunch drowsiness, at bed just before you fall asleep, during a long drive or plane flight, waiting in line or on hold, during TV and other media commercials.
When the mind focuses on something and the brain goes to work without your conscious intervention: shopping for a highly desired product like a car, being a “diehard fan” of anything, obsessing over how many social media “likes” you’re getting, reacting to a hurtful comment, reacting to praise from someone you admire.
As you can see there are different ways the mind can become absorbed. But the end result is an idea takes hold and the brain scans for things in your inner experience or your environment to confirm it. Some people are naturally able to achieve this absorption and focus better than others. They are good at “make believe” and they can easily make their imaginary world seem quite real. Others are extremely logical and analytical. Most people are somewhere in between.
How does this work in Hypnotherapy?
In hypnotherapy we use various techniques to introduce mental absorption in an idea intentionally. We can direct the power of this absorption toward a goal that the client wants to achieve, Typically, relaxation is an important part of the program. This is always beneficial and restorative. But many other techniques can be introduced that are more active and targeted to a specific area. Sports performance, confident public speaking, targeting a goal, getting rid of fears and anxiety and much more.
I use various imagination exercises to help the more analytical clients develop their imaginative skills. I find the exercises work really well. It's possible that clients may find it easier to imagine in hypnotherapy than in stage hypnosis because the outcome is something they truly desire and the problems have sometimes already become hyper-real to them, even bigger than real. In any event, with the right techniques almost anyone can achieve the kind of imaginative focus needed to do effective hypnotic change work.
Please feel free to leave any comments or reach out to me if you have any questions about hypnosis or hypnotherapy.
Gary Schwantes, CCH, CHt, MFA, Clinical Hypnotherapist