by Hope Rehab Team
The Ongoing War Between the Monkey and the Elephant
Imagine a monkey riding on the back of an elephant. The little guy may feel like king of the jungle from his lofty position, but is he really the one in charge? The truth is the elephant is by far the most powerful of the two in this relationship, and the best the monkey can hope for is cooperation. If the elephant was to suddenly decide to go in a completely different direction, there is very little that the monkey could do about it other than make a fuss.
The relationship between the monkey and the elephant is similar to the relationship between our conscious and unconscious mind. Our conscious mind is like the monkey who is giddy on power and constantly barking commands, but it is really our unconscious mind that determines our behavior. The reason why so many of us struggle to make positive changes in our life is because our monkey doesn’t have the cooperation of our elephant.
Accessing Our Wealth in the Unconscious
You can think of the unconscious mind as like a bank-vault jam packed with gold, jewels, and other riches. The problem is that we are normally prevented from accessing this wealth, and therefore have to survive on a just a measly dribble that manages to escape the bank-vault. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could gain full access to these inner-riches? Self-hypnosis may be a method that allows us to turn this dribble into a mighty river.
Does the Unconscious Mind Exist?
If you are in any doubt about the existence of the unconscious mind, ask yourself the following questions.
What controls my pancreas and other important organs that are keeping me alive? Is this something I do consciously?
- When I suddenly remember something, where does this memory come from?
When I have a good idea, where does it come from?
When I decide to quit something, and the craving for it continues to come up, where does the craving come from?
Why do I often have thoughts that I don’t want to be having (e.g. jealousy)?
Sigmund Freud is credited with the first serious scientific investigation into the tension between the conscious and unconscious mind. He noticed that it was often repressed material (ideas that the conscious mind can’t deal with so they are pushed into the unconscious) that was the cause of mental illness. Freud believed that it was by bringing this repressed material into the light of the conscious mind that his patients could recover from their neurosis.
How the Critical Faculty Prevents Cooperation Between the Conscious and Unconscious Mind
It can sometimes appear to us as if our unconscious mind is deliberately sabotaging our efforts to improve our life, but this is not the case. The actual problem is one of communication. Think of it this way, there is a barrier between the conscious and the unconscious mind. This barrier is sometimes referred to as the critical faculty.
The critical faculty can be described as functioning similar to a doorman in a nightclub. Its job is to decide what passes between the unconscious and conscious mind and vice versa. If we were to suddenly become aware of everything in our experience, we would be completely overwhelmed. Only a small amount of information passes into the conscious mind, and it is the critical faculty that controls this flow.
The agenda of the conscious and unconscious mind differs. Our world is impossibly complex and everchanging, but it is the job of the conscious mind to create a sense of continuity and predictability. It does this by carefully choosing what information is allowed to be conscious. The problem with is that this sometimes means that things remaining predictable is prioritized over our well-being.
Hypnosis Allows Us to Bypass the Critical Faculty
If we are serious about making positive changes to our life, we need to get the cooperation of the unconscious, and this means bypassing the critical faculty. In order words, we need to be in a state where we are more ‘suggestable’, and this is where self-hypnosis may be of real value to us. This state of suggestibility is referred to as ‘trance’, and it is something we experience multiple times a day (e.g. when you are absorbed in a Netflix show or a good book, you are in trance).
When we are in trance, the critical faculty lowers its guard, and this is the best time to seek cooperation of the unconscious. It creates a situation where new ideas and behaviors can enter our everyday experience, and it is these gifts from the unconscious that change our life for the better. This power of trance to make us more suggestible is abused by advertisers and others seeking control of our behavior. Isn’t it time that we used this power for our own benefit?
Self-hypnosis is a method that we can use to increase the likelihood of making positive changes in our life. The good news is that you are already an expert on going into trance, and all we are doing here is being a bit more deliberate about it.
Here is one approach that is simple and doesn’t need to take much time.
Set aside 10 to 15 minutes somewhere comfortable where you won’t be disturbed.
Decide on your intention for the session. This needs to be a change you want to happen rather than something you don’t want to happen (e.g. “I want my unconscious mind to help me make healthier food choices” rather than “I want to stop eating junk food”).
Begin by relaxing the body. Do a slow body scan from head to toe releasing any tension as you go.
Deepen the hypnosis by imagining yourself walking down 10 steps – with each step taking you deeper into trance (remember that you already know how to go into trance, you do it all the time).
- Ask the unconscious mind for help by stating your intention.
Cleanly end the session by imagining yourself walking up the 10 steps and back to normal consciousness.
Will Self-Hypnosis Work for Serious Addiction Problems?
Some people do have success overcoming certain addictions (e.g. cigarettes) using hypnosis, but it is less likely to work with long-term alcohol and recreational drug abuse. These are complex conditions, and unless the underlying issues driving the addictive behavior are tackled, any attempt to quit is unlikely to be successful long-term. Self-hypnosis can certainly play an important role in creating a wonderful and satisfying life following an addiction.
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