What is hypnosis?

Understanding the Mind

To understand how hypnosis works we need to take a look at the mind and it's two parts - the conscious and subconscious.

The Conscious Mind

The conscious mind is we spend most of our time, it's where we form all our thoughts, our speech, and control all of our voluntary movements. Although it is the part of the mind that we live in most of the time, it only represents about 12% and is actually the weakest part of the mind.

We can view the Conscious Mind as four parts – rational, analytical, will power, and short term memory.

The Conscious Mind is the rational, analytical part of the mind. It’s the thinking, judging part of the mind. Humans must have a reason for everything.

Our ability to rationalize our actions is what keeps us sane. For example, a smoker will rationalize his or her actions by saying to themselves “smoking helps me to relax.” The reality is that smoking raises the heart rate and hand tremors. It doesn't help you relax and has the opposite effect on the body. Our rational mind is not always correct, but we have a need for our rational mind to come up with an explanation for our actions.

Our analytical mind recognizes problems and tries to figure out a solution.

Will power is also in our conscious mind but it is only a temporary state. That's why it can be so difficult to change old habits or overcome phobias using will power alone - it's a temporary state that we need to maintain, and that requires a huge amount of effort. Will power gives us short bursts of energy to overcome a particular mental chllenge but it cannot affect changes to our subconscious mind.

The final part of our Conscious Mind is our short term memory. This is the limited memory that we need to access on a daily basis, like remembering who we are, where we live and other people's names and faces. The conscious mind can only hold very small amounts of information at any one time though, unike the huge data bank of information that we store in our subconscious mind.

        Any change we wish to make has to come from within our Subconscious Mind.

The Subconscious Mind

The Subconscious Mind is the most powerful part of our mind. It's essentially a huge data base of information, logging every feeling, experience, sensation and memory we have ever had in our lifetime. It encompasses creativity & imagination, long term memory, habits & addictions, feelings & emotions, beliefs, involuntary movement, instincts, values and language. This is the part of our mind that is in control and that will help you to achieve your goals.

Hypnosis accesses the Subconscious Mind in order to make changes that are much more effective than will power. It is where our imagination is stored. Imagination is not just creativity, it our also our perception of the world. Our imagination, or perception, is different and unique to us. We need to remember though that our perception, although it is reality to us, it's not necessarily the truth, just our perception of things.

The Subconscious Mind is the home of our long term memory. Every piece of information ever received through any of our five senses is stored in our Subconscious Mind. Through our whole life everything we hear, feel, or experience leaves an imprint on us from which we build up a huge database of information which forms who we are, our habits and what we believe. It is a highly organized system which works by association - for example, if you hear a favourite song, maybe the first dance from your wedding, feelings come back of the memories associated with that song. The same can be said of a break up song or a food that has made you sick in the past - they will bring back the negative associations that you have with them.

We use this information to form our 'learnt lessons' and we build our opinions and responses accordingly. These learnt lessons provide the basis of our self protection. we learn what is dangerous or potentially harmful to us and then avoid these things. For example , if you have ever fallen down some steps and hurt yourself you will most likely find that you're now quite cautious around them, watching how you tread so that you don't make the same mistake again. Your subconscious has learnt the lesson that steps can be hazardous, that you can hurt yourself if you fall, and you feel cautious in order to keep yourself safe. 

Sometimes, though, the lessons we learn are not 'correct' or helpful to us and become irrational fears, phobias or addictions. If you take something like a fear of spiders as an example. The average spider that you are likely to come into contact with in the UK is not a threat, not going to cause you any serious harm or put you in danger. Anyone with a phobia of spiders knows this in their conscious mind - the rational part knows that there is no real danger. The route of the phobia was probably a scare as a very young child which has become a 'learnt lesson', deeply embedded in the subconscious mind. Whatever the conscious mind knows, the subconscious mind will revert to the lesson it knows to protect us and the phobia will over power the rational part of the mind as the subconscious mind is so much stronger.

Hypnosis provides an effective way to change 'learn lessons' and is much more powerful than will power alone as it can help re-write the lesson and replace it with a positive message. In terms of hypnosis for birth, the lesson we have learnt throughout our lives is that birth is painful and something to be afraid of. We are able to use hypnosis to overcome that fear, replace the negative beliefs with a positive belief and expectation that birth can be a calm, relaxed and beautiful experience.


The term Hypnosis comes from the Greek word “Hypnos” meaning sleep but it is actually just a natural state of trance which occurs many times a day like daydreaming. Intended hypnosis, such as the hypnobirthing MP3s you are listening to, is simply allowing yourself to enter a state of trance which leaves you more open to positive suggestions and change. 

Benefits of hypnobirthing:

Benefits of hypnobirthing:

  • helps to overcome any fears
  • replaces fears with positive thoughts and beliefs
  • clinically proven to lead to shorter labours
  • less reported pain
  • less likely to use pain relief
  • helps you get better sleep 
  • calmer baby
  • higher APGAR scores

Hypnosis facts

  • Hypnosis was accepted by the American Medical Association in 1958
  • Hypnosis is a very natural state of mind and is safe
  • No-one has ever been hurt by Hypnosis
  • Hypnosis is not mind control
  • You can't get stuck in Hypnosis (like you couldn't get stuck being asleep)
  • The worst case scenario is that you fall asleep
  • Hypnosis is focused consciousness
  • Sleep is a state of unconsciousness
  • The wording of “Sleep” in Hypnosis means close your eyes and go deeply relaxed as if you are asleep

Definition of Hypnotherapy

Contrary to popular belief, hypnosis is not a state of deep sleep. It does involve the induction of a trance-like condition, but when in it, the patient is actually in an enhanced state of awareness, concentrating entirely on the hypnotist's voice. In this state, the conscious mind is suppressed and the subconscious mind is revealed. The therapist is able to suggest ideas, concepts and lifestyle adaptations to the patient, the seeds of which become firmly planted. The practice of promoting healing or positive development in any way is known as hypnotherapy. 

Hypnotherapy aims to reprogram patterns of behaviour within the mind, enabling irrational fears, phobias, negative thoughts and suppressed emotions to be overcome. As the body is released from conscious control during the relaxed trance-like state of hypnosis, breathing becomes slower and deeper, the pulse rate drops and the metabolic rate falls. Similar changes along nervous pathways and hormonal channels enable the sensation of pain to become less acute, and the awareness of unpleasant symptoms, such as nausea or indigestion, to be alleviated.

How Does It Work?

Hypnosis is thought to work by altering our state of consciousness in such a way that the analytical left-hand side of the brain is turned off, while the non-analytical right-hand side is made more alert. The conscious control of the mind is inhibited, and the subconscious mind awoken. Since the subconscious mind is a deeper-seated, more instinctive force than the conscious mind, this is the part which has to change for the patient's behaviour and physical state to alter.

For example, a patient who consciously wants to overcome their fear of spiders may try everything they consciously can to do it, but will still fail as long as their subconscious mind retains this terror and prevents the patient from succeeding. Progress can only be made by reprogramming the subconscious so that deep-seated instincts and beliefs are abolished or altered.