Within the hypnotic state, most people’s suggestibility is increased; that is, they are very much more susceptible to the ideas that are suggested to them than they would be in ‘normal’ levels of consciousness. The reason for this is the by-passing of what is often referred to as the ‘Conscious Critical Faculty’.
It is this by-passing effect which allows hypnosis to be effective and without it, it is doubtful whether there would actually be any particular use for the phenomena, other than to provide a state of deep relaxation. The by-passing of the Conscious Critical Faculty allows ideas and suggestions to be accepted by the non-critical, non-logical, subconscious mind – and once accepted, they will be acted upon, make no mistake about that.
How does the Conscious Critical Faculty work?
It is easy for us to illustrate how effective this Conscious Critical Faculty actually is, although this is not a particularly dramatic illustration. Consider this statement:
“At night we can see the sun more clearly than during the day.”
Of course, you instantly refuted that suggestion! But why? Well, obviously, it is because you know that it is the moon that is more visible at night and anyway, we can only see the sun during the daytime. You were not born knowing that – you learnt that it was so, you believed that it was so, and now your Conscious Critical Faculty filters out all information that does not fit in with your belief system.
The mechanism is simple. Everything we encounter and every situation we meet, is compared with our existing knowledge-base – which includes all our previous limitations and awareness of things that we cannot do. If it does not find a match – that is, if it opposes what we already have learnt – then it is likely to be rejected as inaccurate or worthless.
The actual concept is of greater complexity than we need to go into here, but it is part of the built-in survival kit in the human mind: only trust and act upon that which you know to be tested and true. This system, designed to protect us, is precisely why we might need therapy and why hypnosis and hypnotherapy can be so helpful!
False or incorrect beliefs and the fundamental belief system
False or incorrect beliefs will cause the Conscious Critical Faculty to reject ideas that could actually be beneficial to us, but that do not fit in with the ‘tried and tested’ criteria. The human psyche will not act upon a rejected idea, even though it may be exactly what we need for beneficial change. Of course, there will have to be a rationalisation of the reason for the rejection and this will usually be along the lines of: “No… I don’t think would work for me. I don’t like the feel of it..” or something remarkably similar.
This illustrates another important facet of the human psyche – the workings of the belief system. In plain language, what it means is that if somebody already believes she cannot do something, then any suggestions that she can will tend to be disbelieved and distrusted in the normal way, whoever it is that tells her so. The Conscious Critical Faculty sees to that. It goes further, actually; the individual may well appear to attempt to act upon the suggestion, but they will do so with the expectation of failure – and failure is what they are likely to find, of course, probably because of a ‘half-hearted’ approach. And then their doubts have been soundly confirmed, along with the creation of a destructive new belief that even if they do what others suggest, ‘it’ does not work for them.
Henry Ford summed it up beautifully when he said this:
“Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re probably right.”
The Conscious Critical Faculty is based on nothing more credible than the teachings you have received since the moment you were born. We all have learned beliefs and acquired behaviour patterns, many of which will have come about from a most inappropriate source… somebody else’s belief system! Our fundamental belief system is what makes Henry Ford’s statement so true. And the Conscious Critical Faculty is a part of this belief system, seeking to maintain its integrity by rejecting out of hand anything which does not ‘fit’, whether it is good or bad.
The great thing about hypnosis is that it can sometimes – often – allow us to change one or more of those limiting beliefs. Hypnosis works by by-passing the Conscious Critical Faculty so that the subconscious mind can accept a more useful idea – which it will only do if it is an idea that is distinctly beneficial to, required by, and accepted by, the individual. Hence, we simply cannot use hypnosis to persuade you to do anything that is against your moral code. Any attempt to do so within the state of hypnosis will alert the Conscious Critical Faculty to what is happening and the hypnotic state will be instantly terminated.
A practical example of the workings of hypnosis and the psyche
Consider a shy young man who has always had difficulty talking to girls, though he has no idea why this should be. All his friends and family have said all the right things, they have all reassured him that girls like him and so on… but the Conscious Critical Faculty has rejected all of it – because he knows he has the problem and expects to feel the same way each time. Those reassurances are not tried and tested information to be trusted and acted upon. So his problem steadily gets worse as experience confirms that his belief system is right. He has terrible trouble talking to girls.
Then along comes a hypnotherapist…
Like all competent hypnotherapists, they easily by-pass the Conscious Critical Faculty (don’t worry about how it is done, just accept that hypnosis allows it to happen) to prepare the young man’s psyche to accept a new and more desirable belief about himself. During the session, the hypnotherapist will suggest something along the lines of:
“… and the very next time that you’re in the company of a girl… you’ll be pleasantly surprised to discover yourself to be so totally relaxed and so totally at ease within yourself, that you’ll find yourself talking to her comfortably and confidently. And that sensation of confidence and easiness will actually start to increase as you enter into a conversation with her…and that confidence will continue to increase all the time you are talking to her…” and more to that effect.
Now, the Conscious Critical Faculty, being by-passed, does not interfere with the idea. And because it is what the young man truly wants to happen, the idea can be absorbed into his belief system, especially if it is repeated a few times – which hypnotic suggestion always should be.
You might imagine that the individual would think to himself: “Well, I can’t see why. After all, I’ve never been able to before…” when he is given this suggestion. Well, of course, he would… if his Conscious Critical Faculty had not been by-passed. If the hypnotherapist had not done their part of the work properly. If that work is done properly, though, what will happen is that the hypnotized young man will merely think: “Wow! That’s really going to feel so good!” or words to that effect.
In practice, it might take a couple of hypnotherapy sessions and some more skilled work with words and imagery from the hypnotherapist for the concept to truly take root in the young man’s belief system. If the individual in question were to put the idea into action before the suggestion had had a chance to wear off, he would then start to find that talking to girls is easy; the original belief then would gradually be replaced by the new, as experience proved it to be true. It would become tried and tested information to be trusted and acted upon. Well, it would unless there was an underlying cause for his difficulty, but that is beyond the scope of this article. For the moment, just understand how the belief system has been ‘reconditioned’ in a beneficial manner.
This example accurately illustrates the concept of hypnotherapy at work and how effective hypnosis can be when we are able to bypass the all important Conscious Critical Faculty.