But HOW Does Hypnosis Work? (Part 3)

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In our previous discussions, we have learned a bit about what happens in the mind of a hypnotherapy subject during the process of hypnosis.  Remember, however, that every mind is unique, and the best we can do is speak broadly about the process of hypnosis for people in general.

We have seen that suggestions offered to subjects who are in a hypnotic trance (relaxed and focused, but not necessarily asleep) are often adopted by the subject, assuming that the suggestions are normally agreeable to that subject.  This then results in a change of behavior or attitude–or both.  But just how long will this changed behavior or attitude last?

To answer this, let’s consider the subject of the post-hypnotic suggestion, that is, a suggestion given to the subject during hypnosis that will show itself later, after the hypnosis session is done.  For example, if a client is hoping to find some lost article in her home, I may give her the suggestion that “as soon as you walk in the door of your house, you will instantly remember where that article is and you will go right to the spot and retrieve it.”  In this case, the suggestion only has to last for the hour or so until the lady returns home, whereupon her subconscious mind directs her to the lost object.

But what about suggestions that lead us to a more permanent change in behavior, such as suggestions about stopping smoking?  Some research indicates that such suggestions may last as long as 10 days, although in practice we see a wide variety of time spans.  This is why it is so important to reinforce suggestions by having multiple sessions or having subjects repeatedly listen to the session on CD.  In the example of smoking, the unconscious mind keeps hearing and repeating the anti-smoking ideas over weeks and months, until the unconscious “habit” becomes NOT smoking, rather than lighting a cigarette.

It should come as no surprise that learning a new behavior takes time and practice.  When most of us first learned to ride a bicycle, we had to have help and we had to think about what we were doing in order to remain upright on the bike.  Over time, however, the actions become automatic, and for the most part we don’t give them a second thought.

Overall, this is what we are often attempting to do in hypnotherapy–that is, the teaching of a new positive behavior that, with repetition, becomes part of the subject’s normal behavior.  That we are able to accomplish this is many cases is a testament to the effectiveness of hypnosis and to the power of the subconscious mind–a power that can be tapped by each and every one of us, if we are willing.

This concludes our brief series on how hypnosis works, but I am sure there are many questions out there about one or more aspects of this powerful treatment modality.  In my next few postings I will answer any and all questions you may have (as well as some I have heard often).  Just send your query or comment to:


I look forward to hearing from you!