Hypnosis can bring the formidable power of the imagination to bear upon diverse areas of our lives. For example, it can "turn off notifications" from specific circuits of the mind, making it possible to perform major surgery without anaesthetics, or to unpick deep traumas beneath the radar of the panicky ancestral emotional mind.
Optimisation is another area hypnotists work in, helping actors, dancers, CEO's and martial artists to perfect their skills and maximise their potentials. Trance can slow cognition down and focus in on certain elements of mental, emotional or physical activity, while irrelevant processes fade into the background.
To illustrate how this aspect of hypnosis improves performance, name the colour of the font of the following words:
Most people perform badly for the top line because the meaning clashes with the sensation of the colours. Semantic interference, however, can be bypassed completely with hypnosis, and subjects read the top line just as quickly (Ras et al, 2002).
Hypnosis can also turn up the volume of specific notifications - the feeling of confidence when you need to act assertively, for example, or feeling satiated from after dinner until bedtime.
Another technique implants alternative responses to triggers. When someone offers you a cigarette and the phrase that leaps to your lips is, "No thanks, I don't smoke", and the feeling is one of indifference, then you are a non-smoker.
As brain waves slow down, the attention increasingly turns within. The eyelids flutter in the early stages, and as the state deepens the eyes begin to go from side to side beneath the eyelids. The same thing happens in the R.E.M. (rapid eye movement) phase of sleep.
During R.E.M. sleep, emotionally charged memories are converted into "episodic" memories that can be thought about dispassionately. For example, an argument in the afternoon may leave you ruminating irritably until bedtime; but in the morning you may wonder why you let it upset you. The memory remains, but the emotional intensity has gone.
R.E.M. sleep requires a great deal of energy, and some people with a lot to process wake themselves up in the night overdoing it - or else they struggle to get out of bed in the morning. A vicious cycle can set in, with sleep patterns disturbed and anxiety building up in what we call the "stress bucket".
Fortunately, hypnosis can help. While the eyes are moving just like in R.E.M. sleep, emotional memories are being processed, so you come out of trance feeling relaxed and rested. If you follow a program of hypnotherapy with me, we will do a couch session once a week, and I will give you a hypnosis track to listen to once a day. As the stress bucket is gradually being emptied, the post-hypnotic suggestions implanted will change the way that you respond to stress triggers, meaning that it won't fill up so quickly.
Things could look dramatically different in a few short weeks.