Hypnosis works by letting us sneak suggestions through the door to your subconscious mind which is usually closely guarded.
If you’ve ever wondered why people in hypnosis do all sorts of things that a hypnotist tells them to then this page will explain why and how it works.
It’s all to do with getting around something called the critical faculty.
Update – this page was written years ago when I was new to hypnosis. Some of the information here is wrong and contradicts what I say in my videos and on other pages of this site. I decided to leave it up because I started off thinking of it this way and found what hypnosis really is. Maybe you will too.
What is the critical faculty?
The critical faculty is like a security guard in the reception of a self-storage depot.
To gain access to the storage areas you will need a swipe card or will have to show some ID the security guard on the desk before they’ll let you in.
Now let’s compare that to what happens when someone says something to you.
When someone tells you something, the security guard in your mind (the critical faculty) checks the information before it lets it go into storage (your subconscious mind).
This guard does a very important job because without them anybody could leave their suggestions inside your head.
If a total stranger told you to give them your house keys then you just would. If they told you to walk like a chicken then you would.
This is because when a suggestion gets into your subconscious mind you’ll act on it without analysis.
The subconscious mind does just what it’s told without asking any questions. That’s what makes it so powerful yet so stupid.
Thank goodness for the critical faculty!
Is it critical factor or critical faculty?
Many hypnotists incorrectly call it the critical factor but the correct term is critical faculty.
I don’t like to be picky about things like this but just because two words sound similar that doesn’t mean you can swap them around.
Telling someone you want to kiss them is very different to telling them you want to kill them.
The problem with the critical faculty
The problem is that the critical faculty can stop us listening to things that are good for us.
Let’s imagine a person called Bob who has very little self-confidence and doesn’t believe anyone would ever be interested in him romantically.
One day someone goes up to Bob and asks him if he’d like to go for a drink or just hang out sometime. Bob really likes the look of this person and would love to go on a date but the critical faculty kicks in and ruins things!
The critical faculty would be telling Bob “They aren’t interested in you. They must be after your money or it’s a joke. Get out of here!”.
Bob says no, walks away and the date never happens.
The critical faculty always has our best interests at heart but sometimes it can be like an overprotective parent that does more harm than good.
Notice how in the description of Bob I said that he doesn’t believe anyone would ever be interested in him romantically.
I didn’t say he couldn’t believe because he can if only he changed his way of thinking.
How hypnosis works
Hypnosis works by telling the security guard to chill out and go for a tea break. While they’re not on duty we can sneak positive changes into your mind that would normally be turned away.
Now this guard is no longer on duty we can access the greatest part of your mind: the subconscious.
The conscious and subconscious mind
There are two parts to your mind: the conscious and subconscious.
Let’s have a look at how these two parts of the mind work.
The conscious mind
The conscious mind accounts for around 10% of your total mind. It’s easy to think of your mind being like the entrance to the storage facility we’ve been talking about. The one that the security guard is protecting.
Think of one of those self-storage places with the little reception room you enter. That room is tiny so where is all the storage space?
What you’re seeing is just the entrance of course. The big rooms with all the storage are out the back.
Your conscious mind it just like this small reception area. It’s where the critical faculty (security guard) works.
The guard is protecting a door that leads to the much larger and more powerful subconscious part of your mind.
The subconscious mind
The subconscious part of your mind accounts for around 90% of your total mind. It dominates and controls your conscious mind because of it’s immense size and power.
This is where all of your fears, phobias, pain, thoughts and ideas come from. This is the part of the mind you need to work on to see real change in your life.
If we tell your subconscious mind not to be scared of flying, spiders or whatever then it listens, understands and a problem you’ve had for years can easily be fixed in minutes.
We can just replace “spiders are scary” with “spiders are cool”.
The problem is that the security guard on the desk isn’t letting these instructions through. The guard means well and is trying to protect you from harm but they’re getting in the way.
Hypnosis allows us to sneak past this guard like a ninja and then we can make changes.
The power of the subconscious mind
Let me give you a way of discovering how powerful your subconscious mind is.
Are you breathing as you read this page?
Of course you are but were you consciously doing it or was it just happening on it’s own?
Your subconscious mind takes care of all the little things we take for granted. It controls things like blinking, breathing, walking, making a cup of tea and to some extent even tasks like driving.
All those things that you do on autopilot are down to your subconscious mind.
Think about your breathing now. Notice how you breathe in, your lungs fill with air and then the way you exhale. Be aware of the fact you need to breathe and notice how when you start to think about it, you now have to try harder to do it.
We just brought those thoughts from your subconscious mind into your conscious mind. We’ve turned off the autopilot and gone into manual mode.
Notice how annoying and time consuming it is to think about breathing. Sorry about that but don’t worry because you’ll soon forget and it’ll be back to working automatically.
How easy it is to get rid of a problem
The point of this is that such a vitally important thing to do like breathing is done automatically every day without you ever giving it a second thought.
All those fears and problems you have are coming from the subconscious mind having the wrong instructions. Getting rid of a problem can be as simple as changing the instruction so the subconscious no longer sees it as a threat.
Now that you understand the two parts of the mind, let’s see how hypnosis can change your life by allowing us to talk to the subconscious mind.
How hypnosis works to improve your life
Hypnosis allows us to reprogram your subconscious mind by talking to it without the well-meaning but annoying critical faculty guard getting in the way and messing things up.
Hypnosis works a lot like updating a computer. We’ve all had that annoying thing where a computer says “updates available – restarting now” just as you wanted to get some work done.
The computer shuts down, installs the updates and when it loads up again it’s full of shiny new software or better security. You won’t see it but it’s there behind the scenes doing it’s job.
That’s just how hypnosis works on your mind:
- We’ll have a talk about what needs fixing
- Use hypnosis to power you down and install new software
- Boot you back up with the problem fixed
Is hypnosis dangerous?
No but you’re probably thinking how it can’t be dangerous to turn someones defenses off and let someone else tell them what to do.
The important thing to remember is:
A hypnotist cannot make you do something that you don’t want to.
You see, although you can plant suggestions in someones mind, you cannot make them do anything that wouldn’t be beneficial to them.
Yes you can make people dance, sing silly songs or be unable to move their limbs. Although you might think those things are unpleasant, there’s nothing really bad or dangerous about them. Your mind will let them happen.
If I hypnotise someone and tell them to jump off a tall building, they just wouldn’t do it.
Think of it like this: the security guard (the critical faculty) comes back from his tea break and notices the door to the subconscious mind isn’t quite the same as he left it. Someone has been in there!
The guard goes running into the storage area and finds a few things amiss.
That fear of spiders has gone and the person is more confident. The guard won’t mind those things and realises they probably should have let them in before.
If the guard finds a stupid new thing living in there (like a suggestion to jump off a building) then they’ll kick it out.
Hypnosis can’t make you do something that you don’t want to
You have to want the change for it to work.
People sometimes say that they went to see a hypnotist to stop smoking but still smoked afterwards. That proved to them that hypnotherapy doesn’t work.
Why didn’t it work?
Because they didn’t really want to stop smoking. Some people insist they did want to stop but deep down, REALLY, they didn’t.
It’s like when people say they couldn’t be hypnotised. That’s simply because they didn’t allow it and were resisting.
Another example is if someone was to say no to every job they’re offered and then complain they can’t find any work. How many of those people secretly enjoy being paid for nothing and don’t really want to work?
Some people take great pride in not being able to be hypnotised. They’re often control freaks who like to think they’re winning by resisting hypnosis and proving that it doesn’t work.
What they don’t realise is that by resisting they’re just missing out on a wonderful experience. They’re also proving it does work because they’re having to resist to stop it from working!
I know all this because I used to be one of those people.
Hypnosis can’t make you do anything you don’t want to.
But how does anything ever get past the critical faculty in the first place then?
That’s a great question.
The critical faculty forms in children between the ages of around 7 to 11. That’s why children are so influenced by their parents and believe whatever they’re told.
What you let in is greatly influenced by what you experience in your younger years.
If you grow up seeing your parents smoking then you’ll probably end up as a smoker because it’s just what you have learnt is correct. If you hear your parents swearing in every sentence then you’ll find it hard not to do that yourself while others will be repulsed by it because their parents never swore.
What gets in to your mind at a young age can set the whole course of your life. The good news is we can change it quite easily and quickly using hypnosis.
That’s how hypnosis works
That’s a relatively short explanation of how it works.
You might also want to read my pages Do YouTube hypnosis videos work? and why can’t I be hypnotised?