How Does Hypnosis Work
One of the most frequent questions I am asked concerning healing with sleep hypnosis is what is sleep hypnosis anyway? The answer is a little bit involved because in order to understand how it works you need an understanding of what it is.
I initially learned about sleep hypnosis online and the best resources available are anything written by a hypnotherapist and hypnotherapy websites. Without actually participating in various guided meditation and hypnosis sessions and entering the trance-state, though, it was difficult to fully grasp what is involved (other than the obvious of going to sleep with sleep-hypnosis).
A more important question to me was not “how” it works, but does self-hypnosis work? I am not interested in spending hours educating myself about something if it has no value, and if it isn’t going to solve my problem I don’t want to spend any more time with it. I have spent more time educating myself on hypnosis since that time than most anything else. Because it does work.
First, a hypnotherapist is an Alternative Healthcare Professional who has completed a course in hypnotherapy. Many licensed medical professionals use hypnosis as part of their practices.
The hypnotist relies on thinking and memory processes to help with controlling the body’s responses to circumstances of everyday life and living such as love, anger, pain and discomfort, happiness and sadness, fear and worry, as examples.
Hypnotherapists are unregulated in most of the United States but certain states do require licensing or at least registration. There are several “hypnosis agency” type of websites but none are government regulated and, at most, those who practice hypnosis are encouraged to join as members for credibility toward a business practice. In Queensland, Australia, hypnotherapy was regulated until 2002.
To find the most generic, reliable and non-technical answers I selected a hypnotherapist who has over 420,000 YouTube subscribers and over 80 million views of his guided meditations and hypnosis videos. With over 125 videos posted on his YouTube channel, many of which have been viewed millions of times, I began participating in his videotaped sessions on a regular basis. I have found his level of knowledge on the subject to be compelling and credible.
One of my favorite sessions (highly effective for me) and obviously very popular with others with 7,585,060 views as is Guided Meditation for Detachment from Overthinking (Anxiety, OCD, Depression).
Michael Sealey is from Queensland, Australia. He is a groomed Australian actor who graduated from The University of Queensland with a Bachelor of Arts in English and Drama in 1995. He is also a martial artist.
Much of his knowledge about hypnosis and the subconscious and conscious minds and how they relate, is contained in his recorded sessions, but this is his explanation of what hypnosis is and how it works:
“Hypnosis is a completely natural state of often deeply felt relaxation and focused attention where positive suggestions can be more easily accepted by our subconscious minds. Imagine a fantastic and tranquil state of daydreaming, and that is very close to hypnosis!
Hypnosis can bring us improved self-control, clearer and empowered behavioral choices, and allow us to listen to our best inner resources. Many people experience a deep sense of calmness and serenity during hypnotic meditation and are often pleasantly surprised to see the ongoing, life enhancing results.
All hypnosis is self-hypnosis. The power for positive change resides within your own mind. If you choose to accept the suggestions presented, you can rest comfortably knowing that you are the one safely in control of your own positive results.
Deep trance hypnosis is used with guided relaxation for improving your subconscious mind power, boosting your natural memory recall ability, sharpening your study focus, and increasing your motivation for learning and information assimilation.
Take some time to improve your memory, study, focus, concentration, learning ability, or as you prepare for exams. Improve your mind power and your own abilities of self-mind control to harness all of the resources of your natural intelligence. – Michael Sealey.
Michael uses “positive voice suggestions often accompanied with calm images, background sounds and meditation music to allow you your very best state of relaxation, inner change to remove negative blocks, and to create self-guided healing therapy with techniques from the fields of hypnotherapy, modern psychotherapy, trance work, guided relaxation, NLP, cognitive behavioural psychology, mindfulness meditation, and ASMR.”
As with all hypnosis, it is recommended for “repeated and regular listening as it will help compound positive suggestions and/or your own positive results.”
Although you can listen to his videos on YouTube at no cost, he has MP3 downloads available (my preference). He doesn’t appear to promote his sessions for much profit as you can obtain 78 sessions for $0.99 each and many of the sessions are over one hour in length. Visit the All Things Meditation & Wellness Emporium, Guided Meditation/Hypnosis section.
A trance is any state of consciousness or awareness other than the usual form of consciousness, or best explained as an altered state of consciousness. A state of trance can occur without effort and it is possible that it can occur involuntarily.
The term is usually associated with prayer, flow (being fully focused or immersed), meditation and hypnosis. It can also be described as a state of elevated or hyper suggestibility.
The trance state of consciousness is generally the most beneficial state for hypnosis. An example of a trance state is daydreaming. It is the state of mind you enter into during hypnosis and is an advanced form of relaxation. You reach a trance state as you slip through various stages of decreased brain frequencies which are virtually the same as the stages of sleep (and the stages of awakening in the reverse order).
If you were to perform a random survey relating to hypnotism and what it is, the consensus would likely relate to a Las Vegas style stage sleep hypnosis sideshow that goes something like this:
An experienced performer/hypnotist calls someone from the audience to participate in the act. This person has already been interviewed and selected based on specific personality traits.
After pulling a shiny pocket watch from his vest he begins to swing it back and forth and his subject appears to fall asleep. The hypnotist provides instructions (or “suggestions”) to walk around the stage and cluck like a chicken, along with several other preposterous and silly imitations to amuse his audience.
This type of performance has prevented people from seeking hypnotherapy which is legitimate, healthy and beneficial to the mind, body, and spirit. Most have never witnessed anyone hypnotized other than in movies, and it certainly is a mysterious and magical subject, but what has science revealed about hypnosis vs. what we don’t yet understand)?
I have even heard references to the occult and demons.
According to the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis, common myths about hypnosis include:
will cause you to lose control
make you surrender your will resulting in being dominated
you cannot be dishonest
will lose consciousness
will suffer from amnesia
you only need one session
hypnosis is sleep
You can recall “lost” memories
The most amusing myth is “You have never been under a hypnotic state.” This myth is a misnomer, as referenced in the previous section on Trance as well as another blog I published discussing that brain waves during the stages of hypnosis are the same stages as sleep. Please click here for additional reading.
A guided or self-hypnosis session allows for an acquainted communication between the conscious and subconscious (or unconscious) mind.
There is a limit to what we can hold in our focal awareness (conscious), and an alternative “storehouse” for all of our acquired knowledge through prior experiences is needed (subconscious).
The conscious is in the foreground where your active thought processes take place and are the part of your mind that you pay attention to when you are thinking.
The subconscious mind is in the background, absorbing and storing every piece of information that has sorted through the brain since the time you were born.
The subconscious mind is responsible for how our body functions, how we breathe and why we have a pulse and every other function of the body that keeps us alive. It is in the subconscious where our emotions originate and connect us spiritually to each other, the universe and our creator.
Although the conscious mind is constantly supported by the subconscious mind, we are still capable of retrieving retained information from the subconscious when the two are connected.
With the assistance of the hypnotherapist (by video or MP3), you enter into a self-session making a conscious (present/mindful) effort to control your breathing for a few minutes (breath in to the count of 6, hold to count of 4 and exhale to the count of 6 while you consciously release body tension upon exhale). In a matter of moments, conscious thoughts will surface.
I have found that acknowledging each thought one by one is more effective than trying to fight with maintaining my focus on breathing. My visual is as though the thoughts are written on a piece of paper that floats into my hand. Once I acknowledge the thought the piece of paper floats away.
This will not work for everyone, but you can try it. Don’t be discouraged. In the beginning, the thought will seem to linger. Once dismissed, another thought will immediately take its place. The longer you sit quiet and focused and acknowledge and release each thought your mind will become quiet and still. No two sessions are alike.
A higher level of harmony, balance, and consistency can be realized when you are able to tap into the subconscious storehouse. It is possible to discover insight into things you can’t even begin to imagine about yourself.
Communication with yourself can and will significantly influence your self-observations and allow you to connect with who you are, what you need and want from your life, it can alter negative emotional responses and even lead to control of your own mental and physical conditions.
Michael Sealey’s session titles involve the wide range of personal issues we deal with on a daily basis. Whether it be physical pain, cravings from smoking or food, or a bad attitude, you can control your thoughts.
The subconscious mind is powerful. You already have the answers and remedies and they are contained within you.
With multi-taskers there is a significant amount of uncontrolled thinking that can cause exhaustion and fatigue, which lowers stress levels and creates the perfect circumstances for the development of insomnia.
Over the long term, left untreated, it will exacerbate to the point of excessive stress, anxiety, and depression.
While insomnia can occur independently as a sleep disorder, it is not unusual for most people to experience inadequate sleep during different times in their lives.
Adequate sleep is imperative to an adequate mental function. This is achieved through relaxation into the various stages of sleep necessary to achieve the REM stage where the most beneficial sleep is obtained. This well-known and well-established science explains how and why hypnosis is so effective for insomnia.
Sleep hypnosis was my first experience with hypnotherapy. Combined with mindfulness styled meditation, guided meditations, and affirmations, the most immediate change involved my perspective of the symptoms caused by my conditions. This included frequent and consistent insomnia.
Although I still experience pain on a regular basis, I no longer lay awake at night fighting for a comfortable position that will allow me to fall asleep and stay asleep.
I no longer fully rely on mind altering drugs to control sleep, muscle spasms, inflammation, and pain. My doctor recently told me that if it were not for the pain my blood pressure would be normal. I found that to be quite interesting since I have to take blood pressure medication. I am hopeful that my continued meditation practices will allow my body to function properly completely drug-free.
A hypothetical example of how hypnosis can alter a physical condition is – let’s say you have a headache. A headache causes pain. The body’s reaction to the stress is to release additional chemicals and hormones which are responsible for a headache. When the stress is relieved the body no longer responds to the stress, eliminating the source of a headache. Medical doctors treat physical symptoms with drugs. The Hypnotherapist focuses on the thought processes that are contributing to the stress.
A stress headache can’t be compared to the level of chronic pain from disabling medical conditions such as degenerative disc disease or rheumatoid arthritis but migraines are debilitating.
Nearly every illness, disease or condition includes the symptom of pain. Eventually, though, without proper pain management, the risk of developing mental health conditions like anxiety and depression are significantly increased.
Srini Pillay, MD, an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, discusses how chronic pain alters brain circuits:
The pain itself can rewire your brain. When pain first occurs, it impacts your pain-sensitivity brain circuits. But when pain lasts, the related brain activity switches away from the “pain” circuits to circuits that process emotions. That’s why emotions like anxiety often take center stage in chronic back pain. And it’s why emotional control becomes that much more difficult.
Dr. Pillay fully recommends mindfulness meditation and hypnosis to treat chronic pain because it will “improve emotional control by increasing brain blood flow to the frontal lobe.”
If these techniques are used for an extended period of time (scientific studies indicate 8 weeks) it can improve anxiety and depression symptoms as well.
Mindfulness and Hypnosis cause a “brain relaxation pathway by deliberately ignoring mental “chatter” and focusing on breathing.” When you do this, an “unfocus” circuit called the default mode network is activated. (Dr. Pillay).
When I first read the article by Dr. Pillay I actually thought to myself “is this guy making this up?” But he is a professor of psychiatry and there are nearly 70 years of scientific research to support various theories.
The benefits of hypnosis are not limited to chronic pain. While numerous studies indicate meditation literally changes brain structure, there is still much research to be performed.
Another method that relieves chronic pain and depression (temporarily) is ASMR, or autonomous sensory meridian response, in which some people experience tingling sensations or a static-like sensitivity along and on the skin. It characteristically starts on the scalp and travels down the back of the neck and upper spine and shoulders. One study published by the Department of Psychology, Swansea University, Swansea, UK indicates:
“The current study identifies several common triggers used to achieve ASMR, including whispering, personal attention, crisp sounds and slow movements.”
ASMR produces a flow-like mental state, a fully engaged feeling of enjoyment, complete involvement, and an energized focus.
Many Christian beliefs are sincere when they consider the influences of demonic activity, and some believe that an open mind will invite some type of demonic movement against the Christian.
Based upon what we know for fact, there is nothing scientific establishing how this can occur, but it would be reasonable to assume that if a person’s decision skills and thinking was altered or diminished somehow, that it could possibly enhance a more lucid imagination – and hypnosis can produce more lucid visuals and dreams.
Some people are absolutely more susceptible to certain influences (hypnotherapy) which someone else would see as detrimental. It would be during this time of susceptibility (hypnotic state) that a demonic attack would be more likely to occur. Hypnosis, at one time, was known to be associated with the occult with the intent of contact with demonic spirits.
There is scripture taken quite literally by Christians. In Acts 16:16-18, “startling” detailed memories by people who would not have otherwise experienced them. Exactly how it is known that they would not have experienced them otherwise is not clear.
The expected response by many Christian’s is that hypnosis is considered a form of witchcraft, despite the fact that what we now know about the phases of sleep and brain wave frequencies, the same events occur without hypnotherapy and are biological phases of sleep.
Galatians 5:22-23 mentions that we need to control ourselves and not give control to someone else.
Romans 6:12-13 says we need to submit ourselves to God, not something else.
Romans 6:16 warns us against submitting our decisions to another.
Despite the success stories about Hypnosis and despite how much we may trust the hypnotist, the Bible tells us to stay away from anyone trying to control our minds. There are many Christians who will not accept hypnosis as a viable method of healing the mind and body.
“Weird and Awesome”
As I was scrolling through pages on the internet the other day, I came across a post written by someone (possibly born in 1982) who never had an interest in hypnosis until he read an article that “sparked his interest.” He happened to come across Michael Sealey’s videos. This reminds me of my own experience when discovering the self-hypnosis and sleep hypnosis of Michael Sealey. His story is honest and sincere.
“I’ve never been interested in being hypnotized before. I read an article that sparked my interest, and I usually have a rough time sleeping, so last night I searched Youtube for a hypnosis video to help me sleep.
I found one from Michael Sealey – It normally takes hours for me to fall asleep, I was out within 1-3 minutes, and woke up this morning feeling great.
Earlier today I listened to another one of his videos in the early afternoon. Again, I couldn’t have been awake longer than 5-minutes, and I wasn’t tired. I don’t remember anything until the end of it (about an hour) when he was doing the count-down to bring me back.
That was pretty insane, again felt great. And the rest of the day I felt like I was in “god mode”. I’ve noticed a difference in about everything, a crazy sense of well-being. Really confident and motivated. Clear thinking. Better conversations. Extremely focused and no stress. My senses seem amplified, colors seem more vivid, even smell and taste are noticeably improved.
Here’s where things get weird. I’m a long-time smoker – he has a quit smoking video. So earlier tonight I decide to give it a shot. This time I remember everything, but it was like a lucid dream. Induction definitely works on me, which I didn’t expect.
Anyway, the last video, I remember it (the audio) fairly vividly. And I remember that towards the end of it and after I thought that it was going to work, I was done smoking. And again, snapped out of it feeling great.
Within minutes I was starving, which has happened before when I’d tried to quit, but usually hours/days into it. So I eat, and I wasn’t really craving a cigarette, but I had a few left and figured I’d finish the pack and see how it goes. Big mistake.
If you’ve ever smoked you know how there’s like a cigarette taste/film that sticks in your mouth? That taste is there, except amplified by like 100x. It’s horrible.
And I’ve had an unquenchable thirst since about 8pm (it’s 4:40am now). I mean, I’ve been chugging water constantly, I actually drank more water today than usual.
That was the one video where I could hear him the whole time. He didn’t suggest anything (overtly anyway) along the lines of “if you smoke, it will be the worst taste you can imagine, and you’ll have to drink water for hours”. So I dunno, it’s weird.
If I’d been told something like that would happen, I still would have listened to it. I’ve tried everything to quit, this definitely takes the pleasure out of smoking.
I’m amazed at how powerful this stuff is. I’m not sure if my subconscious just clicked over and decided I don’t smoke anymore, and that I need a ton of water to flush out toxins or what’s going on. Any theories on that would be awesome.
Another thing, it’s now almost 5am, I usually go to bed before midnight and I’m not tired. I think I’m on an endorphin high. I tried to go to sleep around midnight, listening to a couple of his videos, including one that knocked me out before, but the constant thirst and drinking water makes it impossible to relax and go under.
So it’s been weird and awesome at the same time. I plan on experimenting a lot more with it. I didn’t expect it (especially audio recordings) to be anywhere close to this powerful, I can only imagine what hypnosis in capable hands and customized could accomplish.
The guy I mentioned above is the only one I’ve listened to so far. I’m going to be really picky about who I let into my brain now, although any suggestions for basic cognitive function/well-being stuff would be appreciated.
Overall I’ve had an incredibly positive experience so far. The thirst/taste has subsided a lot, I’m not worried about it now. It’s just a mind F***.
I’ll happily reply to any advice, questions or comments.
From the perspective of this 20 plus year patient of chronic neck and back pain (referring to myself), and having also lived with the associated conditions of panic attacks, numerous situations of depression with anxiety so intense that it has been labeled a “disorder,” all resulting from pain, I am extremely thankful that (1) hypnosis does in fact “work” (2) there are credible resources available to educate yourself as to what healing hypnosis really is and (3) by using hypnosis, including sleep-videos such as those by Michael Sealey, you will begin to understand how it works.
Meditation techniques and hypnosis have been the most effective pain management strategy I have found since the mid-1990’s.
There is one more thing I have felt needed to be discussed the entire time I have been working on this material. Maybe my subconscious is responsible for the “gut” feeling I have had about sharing a summary of my medical situation.
I want you to be comfortable with the accuracy of the information I have chosen to present to you. It is important that you absolutely relate your medical conditions and symptoms to these alternative healing methods.
Not only has medicine advanced during the time I have managed my own medical conditions, but I am also 20 years older. What I find the most interesting is, that even though medical doctors have had access to the advancements made in medicine concerning the use and effectiveness of alternative treatment, it has never been offered to me by anyone. And I suspect it may have never been offered to you.
A summary of my own history of incidents that caused my physical condition to deteriorate over time, hopefully, will satisfy any questions you may have about whether the methods I am telling you about will work for you. If you are not convinced then you will be less likely to get involved. And, as someone who knows the reality of what you may be going through, it is important to me that you find your healing too.
- 1978 – Cervical Neck Sprain Strain – auto accident
- 1987 – hysterectomy
- 1993 – Cervical Neck Sprain/Strain and L-1 Compression fracture – auto accident. Diagnosed anxiety/depression
- 1994 – Aggravation of 1993 injuries – auto accident
- 2007 – herniated the L5-S1 disc – Working with a physical trainer
- 2008 – L5-S1 continued to deteriorate and after a fall the disc completely ruptured and was found broken into three pieces during the surgery.
- Between 2007 and 2009 I underwent regular spinal epidural steroid injections and took significant amounts of opiates and muscle relaxers.
- In October of 2008, I was unable to walk and was wheelchair bound.
- 2009 – February – L5-S1 fusion – I wore a brace for 8 months post surgery with strict physical limitations (could not lift more than 5 pounds), but the bone graphs did not completely fuse for two years. Physical exertion caused inflammation, pain and I still had radiating pain into my legs.
- 2010 – 2011 – continued exacerbations with excessive physical activity but I was able to control the pain with anti-inflammatories and I had been off the heavy opioids since the end of 2009.
- 2011 – My fiance and I went to Mexico the summer of 2o11. There was a zip-line theme park consisting of 14 zip lines, some of them going through caves and waterfalls. We zipped every single one.
- 2012 – severe nerve pain down into my right arm and hand. The testing showed four bulging discs in my neck. The neurosurgeon referred me to pain management because I had degenerative changes affecting the nerves, but had not deteriorated “enough” to justify surgery.
- 2012 – Dental implant surgery
- 2013 – Gallbladder Surgery
- 2012-2014- I was working a very stressful job as a paralegal. I saw the pain management specialist every other month. The only medication that was effective was opioids. Extreme stress, excessive sitting exacerbated pain.
- 2015 – pain increased. Testing indicated 4 herniated discs in the neck. Neurosurgeon fused C-5, 6 and 7 vertebra on 7/2. Expected return to work three months. Pain continued. Additional testing revealed bone spurs and advanced degenerative changes in lower thoracic and upper lumbar spine as well as narrowing at prior L5-S1 fusion.
- 2016 – approved for SSDI. Retired. Continued with pain management with 24 hour time released opiates. Until discs in neck deteriorate further the conditions will continue to degenerate. Future to be determined.
- 2016 – eyelid surgery to correct loss of peripheral vision
If you suffer from any mental or physical condition whatsoever, hypnotherapy and meditation techniques DO work and regular practice will provide Whole-Wellness when combined with proper nutrition and as much exercise as you can tolerate.
Not all techniques will work the same for everyone. A particular technique will be more effective for you than your neighbor. With guided meditations and hypnosis there are many voices and tones of voice that I cannot listen to because I find them annoying and irritating. You might prefer a female voice, where a male voice is what works for me.
But one thing is certain: people are living a poor quality of life because of physical and mental conditions that do not respond to pharmaceutical techniques, and there is hope for all of us. So many people have no idea it exists.
Hypnosis, whether used alone or combined with other forms of meditation and relaxation, along with consistent proper nutrition, is a system of self-care that will profoundly affect the body’s reaction to stress producing fatigue, anxiety and insomnia and other physical abnormalities.
What we didn’t dig into in this blog are how the very same techniques can help stay emotionally stable, control impulses that lead to weight gain, addictions such as smoking, and exaggerated emotional reactions to fast paced living (a/k/a Drama). By maintaining a strong immune system we can assure ourselves of a healthy self-esteem while destroying fear, procrastination and subconscious negativity.
Are you interested in learning hypnosis for the purpose of helping someone else or to educate yourself further? Maybe you live with a mental or physical condition that is affecting your quality of life.
As someone who has experienced positive results from sleep hypnosis and guided meditations, I can assure you that a positive outcome awaits you. Take less pain medication, quit smoking, feel good about yourself and have a full nights sleep every night.
Hypnosis Downloads has over 1000 mp3 self-hypnosis (guided hypnosis) sessions in compliance with current psychotherapy standards, as well as hypnosis training courses. It is a complete resource providing hypnosis sessions that can be listened to on your computer, smartphone, tablet or CD. All Hypnotherapy Downloads have been carefully crafted by professional hypnotherapist educators. Over 600,000 sessions have been downloaded since 2003.
Hypnosis enforces no rules and no responsibilities which mean that it is all up to you. A person cannot be held accountable for lack of knowledge. If no one knew that smoking will kill you, or that relaxation techniques performed routinely will ease the mental and physical withdrawal symptoms, then there would be no obligation to do anything.
This article has provided you with the knowledge that relaxation techniques, hypnotherapy, and meditation practices will produce beneficial results of enhancing your overall mental and physical well-being. You are now held accountable for that knowledge, whether you use it for yourself or someone else.
My recommendation to you is: Start working on a plan and begin implementing it into your daily life. The most time consuming, in the beginning, is finding a hypnotherapist or other alternative healer that works for you. Starting with Michael Sealey is a good choice because his techniques are credible and effective and proven. He can introduce you to different techniques as well.
And, of course, check our website regularly for updated articles on related topics and techniques, and subscribe to the website and you will receive new articles and assorted tips and tricks by email.
Michael Sealy, Hypnotherapist, YouTube Channel, https://www.youtube.com/user/MichaelSealey
Srini Palley, MD, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/psychology-low-back-pain-201604259537
Abstract: Shape shifting pain: chronification of back pain shifts brain representation from nociceptive to emotional circuits; Brain. A Journal of Neurology, 2013 Sep;136(Pt 9):2751-68. doi: 10.1093/brain/awt211. Hashmi JA1, Baliki MN, Huang L, Baria AT, Torbey S, Hermann KM, Schnitzer TJ, Apkarian AV.
Myths about Hypnosis, American Society of Clinical Hypnosis
Abstract. Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR): a flow-like mental state. PeerJ. 2015 Mar 26;3:e851. doi: 10.7717/peerj.851. eCollection 2015. Barratt EL1, Davis NJ1.Department of Psychology, Swansea University, Swansea, United Kingdom.