But before considering how hypnosis works, perhaps the first question should be does hypnosis work?
Theories as to how results are achieved range from the idea that hypnosis produces changes in brain activity, to the idea that the subject is “method acting” the role of a hypnotized person, to the skeptical point of view that it’s all down to the placebo effect (which, of course, raises the awkward question “how does the placebo effect work?”). All of these theories, however, are essentially saying the same thing –hypnosis works by communicating with the unconscious mind.
Conscious and unconscious are really just shorthand terms to describe the general characteristics of the human mind. The “conscious mind” is the bit where we tend to “live” – the bit you might think of as “you”. If there’s a little voice reading these words out loud in your head, that’s the conscious mind talking. The unconscious mind is everything else!
The unconscious controls all of the autonomic processes that you don’t have to think about – the heart rate, the blood pressure, tissue growth, cell regeneration, the immune system and so on. It’s where our thoughts, memories and accumulated experience reside. It controls our emotions, our habits and our responses to the world.
In many ways, it creates that world for us. The unconscious mind handles about two million bits of sensory information every single second. The conscious mind deals with about seven. That means that the reality you’re actually aware of from moment to moment has been brought to your conscious attention by the unconscious, in a sort of Readers’ Digest version, choosing seven bits which it thinks are important from the two million it’s just processed
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