What is Hypnosis and How does it work?

Interestingly, there does not appear to be a consistent definition of what hypnosis is or how it works.  If the Oxford dictionary definition of hypnosis is to be believed, hypnosis is “the induction of a state of consciousness in which a person apparently loses the power of voluntary action and is highly responsive to suggestion or direction”.  Now to me, that definition reads like a very clinical assumption about what someone has heard rather than one which has its basis in first-hand experience.


When people ask me what hypnosis is, I take a very different view to the vague, and in my opinion not terribly helpful definition you’ve just heard.  To me, hypnosis is a natural skill which we all naturally possess.  It is a state of enhanced focus and self awareness which allows you to capitalise on your own natural potential for positive change.  If you’ve ever daydreamed, gotten lost in thought, become very focused on something you’re working on to the point where you block all else out, or even if you’ve been driving along a familiar route on auto-pilot and arrive at your destination some time later with no real recollection of how you’ve gotten there – if you’ve experienced any of these things then you have experienced trance.


Hypnotic trance is not simply a binary state where you’re either in or out.  It’s a process, and each stage unlocks further potential.  When I describe how hypnosis works, I liken it to learning a new skill such as learning to play a musical instrument.  You can learn the basic skills on your own, and perhaps enjoy limited success, but if you want to grow and develop your talent so that you can become better and achieve more, then you bring in someone to teach, guide and coach you, don’t you?  Someone who can show you how you can develop and capitalise on the skill which you already possess.  With hypnotherapy, that person is the hypnotist.


To my mind, hypnosis is not something that is necessarily “done to you”.  When I guide people into trance, I see my role as a facilitator.  I am there to encourage you to be more self-aware of how your skills develop, what that feels like, and how you can continue to build upon that potential.  I teach you what you need to know to be able to build upon the foundations you already have and capitalise upon your achievements.    You have an immense resource of potential with in you.  A good hypnotists job should be how to show you how you can tap in to that resource and use it for your own benefit.


There are infinite ways to enjoy entering a hypnotic trance.  The methods hypnotists use to encourage a trance state are known as inductions.  Some hypnotists prefer using well recognised, tried and tested inductions – for instance you may have heard the “Elman Induction” mentioned as this is very popular.  Other hypnotists, such as myself create unique inductions for each person and tailor suggestions to the specific needs of the individual.  Some hypnotists combine both approaches.  There is no right or wrong way – if the induction assists you in enjoying trance then that is what matters.


Regardless of which induction is used, the aim is the same – to help you achieve a trance state where your conscious mind is allowed to fall back, relax and take a break, and your powerful subconscious mind is allowed to be brought to the fore.  The result of this change in dynamic is an increased focus, relaxation and sense of self-awareness which are all characteristics of trance.


In addition, because the trance state is a truly natural one – a state that is induced and controlled by you (with the guided support of the hypnotist) it is impossible for you to get stuck in trance.


I hope my explanation has given you a better understanding of what hypnosis is – in essence a natural state of enhanced focus – and how it works.  Enjoying hypnosis can be a truly phenomenal experience and in reality, the only limit to what’s possible is your imagination.