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Why Hypnosis Works

This post was written by Donald Michael Kraig
on February 28, 2011 | Comments (7)

It has been said that if magick is the ability to make desired changes, then the most powerful form of magick is the ability to change your mind.

I’m not sure that’s completely accurate, but the ability to fully use the mind to make desired changes is certainly quite powerful. To my mind, no tool is better for changing the mind than hypnosis. Llewellyn publishes many books that include hypnosis as well as some very good ones that focus on hypnosis including:

But why is hypnosis and self-hypnosis so effective? It’s because of the very nature of what hypnosis is. And to understand it, I’d like to first look at what hypnosis isn’t.

What Isn’t Hypnosis

Perhaps the best known method of inducing hypnosis is known as the progressive relaxation (or sometimes, the progressive muscle relaxation) induction. This involves consciously relaxing the muscles—usually from the feet to the head or head to the feet—and then increasing the amount of relaxation. The result is total relaxation of body and mind. This is very similar to the state when you’re arousing from sleep (technically called a hypnopompic state) or when you’re falling asleep (technically called a hypnagogic state).

But although they’re similar, and although deep relaxation often accompanies hypnosis, they are not the same. Real hypnosis is more than just deep relaxation or sleep. James Braid (1795–1860) observed a display of what was called Mesmerism and discovered he could create the same phenomena and surprising cures through the use of a specific altered state of consciousness and suggestion. He called this “nervous hypnosis” and published a book entitled Neurypnology. Very soon after he realized that hypnosis—named after Hypnos, the Greek god of sleep—had nothing to do with sleep at all. Rather, it was about intense, singular focus. So he corrected himself and tried to rename hypnosis, “monoideism.” Thankfully, it didn’t stick as being called a hypnotist sounds much better than being a monideationist!

I would add that it is easily possible to instantly induce a state of hypnosis that requires no relaxation of the body or mind at all. So hypnosis is not about relaxation or sleep. In the previous paragraph I used the expression “altered state of consciousness.” Unfortunately, there are many such altered states. When playing sports you may enter such a state. Certain drugs cause such states. Reading a great book or watching an exciting movie can put you into an altered state. Being in love results in such a state. None of these, however, is hypnosis. Hypnosis includes being in an altered state of consciousness, but that is not the totality of hypnosis. Hypnosis is more. And to understand hypnosis, we have to look at the way the mind functions.

Parts of the Mind

What I am about to share is a metaphor. The mind, in reality, is a whole. It works excellently as a unit. However, to understand it, we can divide it into parts based on functioning. I would contend that the mind is a non-physical part of us that is usually linked to us through the physical organ called the brain. They are not the same, but they are related.

Everyone knows that a major part of the mind is the conscious. The conscious mind does your thinking and makes decisions. It does one thing at a time very well and tends to multitask very poorly. The subconscious or unconscious mind does everything else for the body. It controls all of the organs and stores all memories and beliefs. If the conscious mind makes decisions, it is the unconscious that does the work–often without our conscious even being aware of it—to manifest the decision made by the conscious. The memories and beliefs held in the unconscious may influence the conscious mind, but the conscious still makes the decisions.

Let’s say you’re a smoker and decide (conscious) that you want to quit smoking. Your unconscious (which behaves sort of like an agreeable six-year-old child and will explicitly obey any instructions) should be ready to turn you into a non-smoker. However, we all know that for most people it’s not that easy. Why not?

Hypnotists contend there is a third part of the mind known as the critical factor. This part of the mind is a type of filter. It works with information from both the conscious and unconscious, along with beliefs and memories from the unconscious. On its own it may alter and even oppose the orders of the conscious on their way to the unconscious:

Consciousness: “I am going to quit smoking.”
Critical Factor: “Are you kidding? Don’t you know smoking is more addictive than heroin? There’s no way you could do this.”
Unconscious: “I can’t stop smoking. I can’t help you stop smoking. It’s soooo addictive. I’ll make sure we continue smoking.”

As a result, the unconscious mind, in spite of your conscious desires, actually works to keep you a smoker.

The REAL Secret of Hypnosis

When you are hypnotized or practice self-hypnosis, the real key has nothing to do with relaxation or an altered state of consciousness. These are merely side effects that may accompany hypnosis. The important part of hypnosis is the you bypass the critical factor. Do that and here’s what happens:

Consciousness: “I am going to quit smoking.”
Critical Factor: —
Unconscious: “Okay! I’ll do everything to make that a reality.”

So the most important part of hypnosis that differentiates it from other states and practices is the bypassing of the critical factor. Books, trainings, CDs or DVDs in hypnosis should show you exactly how to do this. If they don’t, they’re not teaching hypnosis.

The Dirty Secret of Hypnosis

Most people who want to learn hypnosis focus on the induction, the moving from a non-hypnotic state into a hypnotic state. They look for the “best” or “ultimate” induction. Sadly, this is a terrible waste of time. There are really only a few basic types of inductions. All other inductions are just variations (and often very minor variations) on those basic inductions. Spending time learning dozens of inductions is like spending time learning one-syllable words and ignoring words with more than one syllable. Right now there are literally dozens, perhaps hundreds of videos and DVDs purporting to teach unique and magical inductions, and they’re all nothing more than a variation on basic techniques. They’re making money for relatively little.

The high point of learning hypnosis is not the induction. Rather, it’s what you do and say after the induction. This is why there are so many good books and DVDs on the subject. Learning the induction is a minor aspect of hypnosis. Learning how to tell the unconscious exactly what to do in a way that will get the best response from the unconscious, making the desired goal happen, is where people would more wisely be spending their time and learning efforts.

Learning Hypnosis

Hypnosis is an incredibly powerful tool. I have been doing an intensive study of hypnosis for over a decade, now, and often teach hypnosis when I appear at conventions and festivals. I am both a certified hypnotherapist and certified as a teacher of hypnosis and hypnotherapy. Just last weekend, at Pantheacon, I gave a workshop on using hypnosis to change your personal life and as a part of magickal rituals. The room was jam packed and overflowing. People were sitting on the floor and standing against the wall (yes, you can be deeply hypnotized while standing).

If you catch me at a festival or convention, I may be teaching hypnosis there. For my friends in Southern California, I’ll be teaching an Introduction to Hypnosis on Saturday, March 5, from 2:00–4:00 p.m. at The Green Man store in North Hollywood. For details you can call them at 818-985-2010. For those who are really interested in thoroughly learning hypnosis, I will be teaching an in-depth hypnosis training leading to certification, also at The Green Man store. This will include 60 hours of in-class training over multiple weekends. This Certification Course in Hypnosis will teach multiple inductions, give training in how to help people with hypnotherapy, and allow you to legally practice hypnotherapy in California and many other states. Certification will be through the Society for Experiential Trance or the American Board of Hypnotherapy or both. For details, see my WEBSITE.

Reader Comments

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#1 
Written By Kyle
on February 28th, 2011 @ 2:26 pm

I was hypnotized about two months ago. It was by someone I knew who has been doing it for years. But, it did nothing for me. That is, I was “inducted” (via relaxation visualizations) but my “critical factor” was present and hyperactive as ever (so I guess I wasn’t even inducted at all). I was wondering what might be the blocks or hurdles that prevent some people from being hypnotized (at least at first). When I was in college, a hypnotist hypnotized half a dozen students who all began clucking like chickens within minutes (and I knew some of them personally and knew they weren’t stooges who were pretending). But how come they all were inducted easily and I wasn’t? What can I do to change this?

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#2 
Written By Donald Michael Kraig
on February 28th, 2011 @ 3:01 pm

Hi, Kyle.

The main reasons people fail to enter hypnosis are:
1) They have fears about hypnosis that haven’t been dispelled
2) They don’t trust the hypnotist
3) They choose not to be hypnotized

It’s up to the hypnotist to overcome 1 & 2. He or she should know ways to do this. However, if a person chooses not to be hypnotized, it is unlikely that they will be hypnotized.

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#3 
Written By AstroHerbalist
on February 28th, 2011 @ 4:09 pm

Another awesome post Donald Michael! :-) I just LOVE how absolutely PRACTICAL you are! And it seems I am similar to Kyle, and in my case I had a strong distrust of the hypnotist. Back then, I didn’t know it, but despite the fact that he was probably OK and wouldn’t do harm, I was likely just picking up on something, even if the relevance wasn’t entirely on point, that just didn’t feel right – despite my desire to be hypnotized. My critical factor obviously took over (and who knows, maybe it was good).

I often find that the critical factor is a good thing, as it is designed ideally to protect ourselves, but sometimes it can be misinformed. The misinformation often comes from the mis-processing of an emotional experience, or even trauma. I find that flower essences, when the proper one(s) are chosen, can also bypass this critical factor. It can help reorient the experience and correct the process – and we don’t even have to try. If you take the essences, the energies are like teachers that gently educate, and when things surface, it can be uncomfortable at first – but if the education continues, and sometimes it happens right away, you get a light bulb, or an “Aha!” moment. This is when the critical factor would be corrected, due to a new and better viewpoint of the underlying matter that needed the correct viewpoint.

Have you, or anyone, combined hypnotherapy with flower or other vibrational essence therapy? I could see this being very effective! :-)

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#4 
Written By Donald Michael Kraig
on February 28th, 2011 @ 10:24 pm

Thank you. for your comment. Yes, sometimes even though we have no logical reason not to completely trust the hypnotist, we still don’t trust him or her. Good hypnosis training teach hypnotists how to overcome this problem.
In one of my hypnosis trainings, we worked with special inhalers. They were tubes filled with wax infused flower essences. They had effects on their own as well as working as hypnotic “triggers” (in NLP they’re called “anchors”) to reinforce hypnotic suggestions.

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#5 
Written By Kyle
on March 1st, 2011 @ 8:43 pm

Do you think it might be worth it to try self-hypnosis? Or should I give it another go with another hypnotist? It’s something I really want to take advantage of to help me with my magickal studies and practices.

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#6 
Written By Donald Michael Kraig
on March 2nd, 2011 @ 9:48 am

Kyle, why not do both? Tell a hypnotist that you want to learn self-hypnosis. Tell your hypnotist what happened last time. Your hypnotist can give you some great, positive suggestions as well as install triggers or anchors that will help you achieve self-hypnosis more easily. Books will then add to whatever you experience. One more thing: be sure to ask your hypnotist to give you some “convincers” while you’re hypnotized. These are simple tests that will prove to you that you are in a hypnotic state.

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#7 
Written By Paul Wanders
on March 16th, 2011 @ 12:06 pm

I have to fully agree with Donald here. It’s best to also ask your hypnotherapist for advice how to continue practicing hypnosis from home. It will strengthen your ability to go into hypnotic trance in the sessions you have with your hypnotherapist.

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