Now this is an extremely difficult topic, as even today many people differ on their theories of what actually constitutes hypnosis and what does not.
The explanation I am going to give is a very simplistic one and I am leaving myself wide open to be shot at dawn by the purists.
Never-the-less, I will continue on with my simplistic approach, as this is the easiest way I have found to get a basic understanding of a vastly complex subject.
Believe me, if you want to look deeply into this subject, there are theories out there that will blow your mind (and your understanding of this subject wide open).
So from a simplistic point of view, here goes:-
Hypnosis is simply an altered state of consciousness, a little like day-dreaming.
Can you think back to when you were a child, sat in a boring lesson in class. You may have found yourself elsewhere, somewhere infinitely more interesting than in class listening to the teacher.
Wherever you were you were more than likely brought suddenly back to the classroom with a jolt. (in my case it was the chalk or (if I was unlucky) the blackboard rubber making a well aimed connection with my head.
Well if you have had that experience – maybe without the violent interruption – you have been day-dreaming which means you have been in an altered state.
When you enter hypnosis, you enter an altered state, a state in which you are more susceptible to suggestion. The deeper into hypnosis that you go, the more susceptible to suggestion you become.
If you imagine that there are two parts to your brain (again you realise very simplistic) – the conscious and the subconscious parts.
The conscious side is that which is logical, it is that with which you make your daily decisions about what to do, what to avoid etc.
The subconscious side is the side that quietly works away in the background, minding its own business, keeping your body going. It controls breathing,circulation, heartbeat, emotions, endocrine,nervous system etc.
Your conscious mind can cope with about seven or eight things at the very most all at the same time. In contrast, your sub-conscious mind copes with thousands of things at the same time.
Your conscious mind is the logical one that makes all the decisions and depending on the outcome of those decisions, it either stores them as a positive suggestion in you sub-conscious mind, stores them as a negative suggestion in your sub-conscious mind or stores them as a neutral suggestion in your sub-conscious mind.
But you see, here-in lies the fundamentals of hypnosis.
During hypnosis, the hypnotist can by-pass the logical side of things and put suggestions directly into the subconscious mind. Since the subconscious does not judge – merely just accepts these suggestions(yes there are exceptions but these will be covered at a later date) then they are implanted into the sub-conscious.
Now, during everyday activity, the subconscious mind is feeding info to the conscious mind. AND the conscious mind is making decisions on info it receives from the subconscious mind.
So, even though the conscious mind will challenge information from an “external” source, it will readily accept info from the sub-conscious as gospel.
So if we place a suggestion into the subconscious, (by by-passing the conscious mind in the first place) the subconscious will then feed this new “belief” to the conscious and the desired change in behaviour will take place.
Hypnotherapy is simply the use of hypnosis (among other techniques) to bring about a desired change of behaviour in a subject / patient.