The Subconscious Mind and Hypnosis

Illustration to represent the subconscious

We have two parts to our brain – the conscious part and what we call the “subconscious.” These two parts have very different roles. When you cut your finger, for instance, you can consciously decide to clean the wound and apply a plaster. But all the work that actually heals the wound is controlled by the subconscious. The creation of an inflamed area protects the rest of the body from infection, the engagement of the immune system kills off the bacteria, and the body creates new skin to replace what has been lost – and all of this happens without any conscious input!

We frequently mention the subconscious mind when we talk about hypnosis and hypnotherapy. There is no doubting the power of this “invisible” part of our mind. The subconscious governs our every waking moment, determining the people we like, the way we react to others, our behaviour patterns in specific situations, the things we “cannot stand at any price”, the sort of entertainment we enjoy, our sexual attitudes… everything we do is at least coloured, if not controlled, by our subconscious processes.

The subconscious mind does not actually think

The subconscious is totally without reason or logic, without judgement or criticism, without qualification or allowance. In the subconscious everything is either black or white, it either is or is not. It is, in effect, nothing more than a reactive emotional center where our instinctive resources reside, both those we were born with and those we have acquired through the process of living.

It is an evaluation system that constantly weighs up every single input through our senses for every split second of our lives. The subconscious only communicates with the conscious mind via feelings – and it uses that communication to seek to keep us safe. It appears to be able to evaluate every new input from our five senses against everything we have experienced so far in our life. If the new input matches something already experienced, then the reaction we notice will depend on the result, be it a good reaction, which might be pleasure, or a bad reaction, which might be fear.

The workings of the subconscious are completely invisible

The subconscious is completely invisible to consciousness. Absolutely nobody can feel his or her subconscious at work, so we have no way of knowing what the new input is actually being compared with, which accounts for why we might take a sudden dislike to a particular individual or maybe experience a surge of fear over some relatively minor event. Of course, it can just as easily work in reverse; have you ever had that situation where you like something so much it confuses even you? And you end up saying something like: “Goodness knows why I’m so hooked on…” whatever it is. It can be a singularly unsuitable partner or maybe an item of clothing or almost anything.

The subconscious is unbelievably fast in its processing ability

Now this is a little complicated to take on board, but it is a fact that by the time you are consciously aware of a stimulus, an input from any of your senses, including your own thought processes, by the time you are consciously aware of that stimulus, the subconscious has sensed it, tested it several thousand times, and already attempted to instigate an action based upon it. Then your conscious mind gets in the way… and that, in a nutshell, is the origin of conflict. Your subconscious mind urging you to perform some action or other that is different from that which you consciously wish to do.

The subconscious mind often gets things wrong

It is an important fact that, although one of the primary objectives of the subconscious mind is survival of the organism, it makes mistakes about what is actually a threat to survival. Or seems to. These mistakes often show up as… symptoms.

A symptom, in the context of the psychological workings of our mind, is nothing more than a behaviour pattern which is inappropriate to the situation in which we find ourselves. The phobic response is a good example – there is usually no valid rationale, yet the fear it can generate is immense. Sometimes, these symptoms, whatever they might be, are nothing more than an acquired habit, a conditioned response. But even that has its roots in subconscious processes, otherwise we would simply stop doing whatever it is. Or start doing whatever it is we believe we cannot.

The subconscious does not listen to conscious reasoning

The thing about the subconscious is that it does not give us a chance to consciously reason our way through what it does, because it only communicates with us via feelings which govern our reactions. If we try to overcome those feelings and reactions with conscious reasoning, then the subconscious redoubles its efforts!

Have you ever tried to reason away fear when the conscious mind cannot recognise why the fear is actually there in the first place? Public speaking is a good example of this sort of thing. Many people have an irrational fear of public speaking – irrational, because, after all what can actually happen? OK, you might make a mistake and possibly forget what you were going to say… but the dry mouth, leg-quaking, stomach-churning, heart-pumping feeling of real fear that can often result at merely the thought of it is a bit ‘over the top’, if viewed rationally! But it does not go away just because you know that. The subconscious ‘learnt’ that reaction, took it on board as an instinct designed to protect you in some way, and now has no intention of letting you make any changes to it.

This process is almost certainly linked into our ancient survival mechanisms from our pre-human days, millions of years ago. It is precisely because it has been perceived by subconscious that we need that specific response for survival, that it has been consigned to a place in our mind where it does not need conscious thought to operate, and cannot be interfered with by consciousness… well, almost cannot.

Hypnosis allows us to communicate with the subconscious

It is often pointless attempting to make the change in our conscious mind, when the process resides in our subconscious. Hypnosis allows us to make beneficial changes in the very depths of that subconscious – and as such it can be a truly astounding power for good. By entering the state of hypnosis we can safely bypass the Conscious Critical Faculty part of the mind and ‘reprogram’ the subconscious so that it takes on board new, better ideas.

Everyone can benefit from hypnosis. If you find that you are repeatedly doing something you do not want to do, or repeatedly not doing something that you need/want to do, then you are emotionally unwell, i.e. you have a symptom. Always remember, a symptom is nothing more than the expression of an idea that has been absorbed by the subconscious but which is in conflict with conscious wishes or needs. Hypnosis and hypnotherapy enables us to find a way to override that subconscious idea or to bring it into the light and either re-evaluate its validity, or use suggestion to render it inactive.

There are so many myths and misconceptions about hypnosis, one of which is that people can be made to do or say things against their will or moral code. Therefore it is important to point out that these ideas for change, by way of hypnotic suggestion, must be desirable for you, the individual and accompanied by the presence of positive emotion. When they are, the possibilities for personal improvement are almost limitless.