Your unconscious mind is always on and listening. It tracks the billions of bits of information coming from your body and the environment. It loves complexity and ambiguity, as it’s the finest pattern-finding machine on the planet.
As for your conscious mind, not so much. You can only focus on a couple of things at a time. It’s like an eccentric genius locked in an ivory tower – it misses most of what’s happening out there but, what it does notice, it thinks about deeply.
A hypnotic trance is your brain’s way of surrendering conscious control to your unconscious. There are certain things you just want to do, rather than think about.
If you’ve heard all the benefits of self-hypnosis, then you might be intrigued. Some people describe it as being like meditation, only easier, more flexible and more fun. Others describe it as a gateway to your inner mind – one that you can step through at any time.
From there, your altered state of consciousness gives you freedom. Improving your way of thinking is so much easier in this state than out of it. You can defuse habits, rather than fighting to change them with willpower. You can navigate your mental landscape to find the roots of your issues.
Or maybe you simply want to relax, recharge and focus.
Self-hypnosis is simple and natural. You drop yourself in and out of the trance state all day. And that’s part of the challenge. Like a fish that doesn’t know what water is, most people experience trance and write it off as ‘normal’.
It is normal, true. It also happens to be useful.
Hypnosis and marketing have a lot in common. Both have formulas to guide the process. Both transcend these formulas – they are useful guides but, if you follow them blindly, it leads to disaster.
The PCAT formula underlies all hypnotic change:
You start with the Problem/Parameters, so that people have what they want in mind.
Then you bypass the Critical factor – a fancy way of saying you put them in a trance.
When they are in tune with their unconscious mind, you Activate inner resources.
Finally, you Transform them by applying the resources to the change. Then you Test to make sure it stuck.
If you followed that rigidly like a script, then you’d struggle to hypnotise anyone. If you use it as a framework to build upon, then everything flows like magic.
In copywriting – whether it’s email, sales letters or social media – there’s another formula: AIDA.
Meditation is a complex artform. It consists of skills within skills and challenges within challenges. All of them are valuable, as they train your mind to function in a smoother, more effective way.
One important task is probably the most difficult. Everyone comes from different histories and personalities, so maybe you find this easier than others do. Having said that, most of you will struggle with this at first.
It isn’t holding your attention stable.
It isn’t quieting your mind in a relaxed, easy way.
For a long time, the brain was a black box. No one knew what it did or how it worked. History is rife with hilarious misconceptions, from Aristotle thinking the brain cooled the blood, to Descartes who thought the pineal gland was the home of the soul. It wasn’t until we were able to peek inside that we learned some basic truths of ourselves. One of which was among the first evidence that hypnosis is real.
Electroencephalography (EEG) machines were first used in the 19th century. They showed that the brains of humans and animals emitted electromagnetic waves. These waves changed frequencies depending on what was going on inside.
It was crude, but it opened a window into the brain.
If you are feeling tense, stressed and strung out for no reason, then something in your life is unbalanced. Tension should rise in the face of challenges, then quickly drain away. If it doesn’t, then something is amiss.
Now, this could have a psychological cause. If you spend all day fixating on what can go wrong, then of course you’re going to be in this state.
But what causes this fixation in the first place?
Poor habits of thinking?
The human mind is full of riddles, mysteries and contradictions. I hope I’m not shocking anyone by saying that. We do things that don’t make sense. We follow rules then break them mid-stride. And, as passengers of these strange meat computers, we don’t notice these lapses. Everything seems smooth from the inside, which is why hypnosis works in the first place.
You’re probably smiling and nodding so far. If you’re shaking your head, insisting that you are in fact a superbly rational creature, then I encourage you to grab a psychology textbook.
You may be superb, but rational? Generally not.
Even if you agree with me, though, do you really? You may know that blind spots in your mind lead to bad ideas. How often do you exploit those blind spots to resolve them?
Consider this tale about bad manners:
Serotonin is on everyone’s lips lately. This strange little neurotransmitter shows up in all sort of weird places. Its role in mood regulation is so critical that many researchers call it the ‘happy molecule.’ It regulates appetite too.
Hypnotists – I hope you’re paying attention. This little bundle of joy is worth paying attention to.
If you are catching an interstate bus, I recommend the midnight run. It draws the more interesting crowd. There’s something sublime about hurtling down the highway at the dead of night, surrounded by weirdos. And the last time this happened, I learned a great lesson about hypnosis.
The driver, Edward, was exactly who you want behind the wheel at that time of night. He’s a bright, charming, friendly sort of guy. Energetic without being annoying, warm without being perky. A walking paradox, as he’s tall and well-built with a soft and soothing voice.
He’s pale, commanding, effeminate and reassuring. He cracked joke after joke for the first few minutes, then left us to ourselves.
Whatever you’re paying him, bus company, it’s not enough.
Hypnotists need a certain state of mind when working with clients. In a therapeutic context, the relationship is everything. I’m not saying anything strange here – how you see each other shapes everything else. Rapport is king and without it, hypnosis is impossible.
To say that a single neurochemical triggers the perfect state for this would be ridiculous.
I’m going to say it anyway. It’s only a slight exaggeration.