The first time…

Do you remember learning to ride a bike? Did you notice that you reached a stage where the more you tried the more it seemed to go wrong?  There are few things that we have the natural aptitude and ability which allows us to progress and acquire competence quickly.

Whilst there are a percentage of people who go naturally and deeply into hypnosis as soon as you work with them, the majority of people will need to be taught how to use their natural ability for hypnosis. As part of this learning process you will need to practice.

There are four stages in developing competence in any skill, which represents a blue print for any programme of self development:

  1. Unconscious Incompetence  you may or may not know that something is not working, but you have no idea what it is or how to go about fixing it. i.e. you don’t know what you don’t know.
  1. Conscious Incompetence  you are aware of a lot of your problems, but you don’t know how to correct them. You may understand what is needed, but have no knowledge or confidence in how to get it. You may feel overwhelmed by how much you need to learn.

  1.  Conscious Competence – you know how to correct your problems but it will take time and practice. You know what you know, and can apply it as long as you are concentrating and focusing on it. You have to think your way through the process and it feels unnatural and foreign
  1.  Unconscious Competence – you have become so skilled that it’s automatic and you do it unconsciously because you no longer have to think about it. e.g. speaking your native language.

As a hypnotist my role is to take you through these stages, as necessary, and as quickly as possible. Therefore all my clients, at their first session, receive a CD which is designed to teach them about hypnosis and the content is intended to have a positive impact on the problem that they wish to address. By listening to the CD between sessions, their competence is developed and by the time I see them at their second session they have more control of their natural ability for hypnosis. It is crucial that a person is confident about their ability and feels empowered before progressing to the stage of using hypnosis to correct unwanted behaviour or emotions and facilitate real lasting change.

Don’t mention the R word…

Regression therapy (hypnoanalysis) is a form of psychoanalysis within hypnosis, and its underlying theme is that problems are based on traumas from the past, often from childhood.

Anthony Robbins (“Unlimited Power”) draws a parallel between a jukebox and neurological activity:

  • “The human being keeps having experiences that are being recorded. We store them in the brain like records in a jukebox. As with records in a jukebox, our recordings can be played back at any time if the right stimulus in our environment is triggered, if the right button is pressed.”

Thomas A. Harris (“I’m OK You’re OK”) quotes W. Penfield (“Archives of Neurology and Psychiatry” and states:

  • “Perhaps the most significant discovery was that not only past events are recorded in detail but also the feelings that were associated with those events. An event and the feeling which was produced by the event are inextricably locked together in the brain so that one cannot be evoked without the other”
  • “The subject feels again the emotion which the situation originally produced in him, and he is aware of the same interpretations, true or false, which he himself gave to the experience in the first place. Thus, evoked recollection is not the exact photographic or phonographic reproduction of past scenes or events. It is the reproduction of what the patient saw and heard and felt and understood.”

Both Robbins and Penfield state that memories remain intact in the unconscious mind and that they are generally buried in our unconscious to protect us from trauma. When the memory causes a problem, in our everyday lives, we need to recover it and deal with it. The most effective way of doing this is via hypnosis since it opens a memory channel to the unconscious mind in a safe way, allowing a re-evaluation of the memory. However whilst this form of therapy may be very attractive to clients, it also produces the most unwarranted fear.

The underlying thrust of this form of therapy is that you must find the cause of problem in order to resolve it. Whilst Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) may have impacted on this premise, it remains essential for a very significant percentage of clients.

There are many hypnotherapists who are fearful of this technique and refuse to undertake any form of regression, preferring to give suggestions for change. This has also struck me like employing a bricklayer who does not use any cement!

Why are the walls so small?

In part one of this article, I stated that even a massive oak tree started life off as an acorn and it is generally the same with most of the unwanted behaviour or emotions problems we experience. The exceptions, that exist, include phobias and traumatic events which generally create the problem in an instant.

I would like you, for a moment, to consider a visit, as an adult; back to a place you used to regularly visit as a child. When you revisit as an adult have you noticed how there is a conflict in your memory e.g.  your adult perception of the walls clashes with the much smaller “child memory” of the walls. This will obviously apply to any other objects in the memory.

It is this clash of perception that effective hypnotherapy addresses and allows a person to change and move forward in their life.  Consider for a moment a common symptom of panic attacks is a bad feeling anxiety in a person’s stomach or some other part of their body. Even after medical examination and medication generally this reaction persists. The person will know that the terribly debilitating feeling is not real but he/she is powerless to make the impact go away.

Hypnotic regression to the point in the person’s life when this reaction to anxiety was created and working with the “child’s memory” from that time will begin the process of eradicating this unwanted reaction and behaviour. This process is so effective because the person is able to explore the originating event with:

  • The certainty that they survived the experience
  • A n opportunity to modify their perception and nurture  the child

Can I get stuck?          


We routinely go back into our memories to recover data e.g. close your eyes for a moment and think back to a friend, who you have not seen since your Primary school days. When you allow your mind to stop trying, he or she will come into your mind and when you stop they disappear again, quite quickly, back into your unconscious mind!

Your unconscious mind performs the following functions:

  • Stores all our memories
  • Controls automatic actions and processes e.g. metabolism, breathing, pulse, digestion, heart rate etc
  • Controls habits and programmes e.g. ability to ride a bike, walking, eating etc
  • Centre for our emotions, which are much more powerful than our logic
  • Houses our immense imagination
  • Motivation – the power and energy is generated from here

Our unconscious mind is critical to our every day lives and we take it for granted. e.g. try for a minute to focus on every breath you take. You find after a short period it becomes an effort, because normally our unconscious mind just takes care of this function. We rely on accessing it and using its power all the time. You will not get “stuck” using hypnotic regression. However because of the need to effectively manage the emotions you may access during regression you should always use the services of a hypnotherapist whose qualifications are recognised by the two main registers in the UK and ensure that he/she has extensive  experience of regression.

Will I be able to do to it?

Just say to to a friend – “don’t think of a pink elephant.” Then ask them what came into their mind. If they have not stopped to think of it at all, they will answer “a pink elephant.” This is a naturally occuring phenomena. Even though we all know what the words mean, the unconscious part of our brain does not recognise all of the statement and will intervene and give the answer “a pink elephant.” If this does not happen, your friend is thinking and then using the conscious part of their brain, even if it does not appear as if they are!

As you will see, it is again natural for us to access the unconscious part of our brain. The question is not “will I be able to” but “how can I learn to do it.”


I don’t have a bad experience…

It is amazing how human beings have the capacity to push memories into our unconscious and “forget” about them. I’m shocked by how often you talk to women about childbirth and they have no recollection of the pain!

I saw a client who had recently ended a relationship with a violent controlling man. I asked her if she had had any other relationships of this nature. After thinking about it, she said “no.” I then asked her to tell me about all the relationships she had ever had which had lasted more than 4 months. When she got to number four, she “realised” they had all been controlling or physically/emotionally violent.

Human beings are generally programmed to embrace  pleasure and avoid pain. In this context depression is a fascinating condition. I regularly successfully work with clients who are depressed. My starting point is generally to explore the benefits of remaining depressed. If I offer you the chance to; feel angry at yourself, feel inadequate, isolate yourself, feel tired all the time, lack motivation, enjoy very low self esteem, feel constantly sad etc; how many of you are excited by this offer? In my experience, the acceptance of depression, represents the culmination of choices a person made earlier in their life.  The work we would undertake would range from determining their needs to finding their voice.

The Work

A core aspect of hypnosis is accessing the imagination part of our unconscious mind. I am always intrigued by how people answer the question; Is imagination more powerful than logic? As a hypnotist i take the view that imagination is always the more powerful. If you are not convinced consider the idea of the Bogey man. A client  said that when she woke up at night, she used to be fearful of someone being under her bed. When she checked she was fine, but after a short passage of time she became fearful again until she checked again. This phenomena is repeated in numerous other situations but particularly with common phobias.

I generally start to teach people regression by taking them back to a memory I know that every person has, but one which they can not usually access with their conscious mind. The memory I choose is a neutral or happy memory. Once they have succeeded, they are able to distinguish between their conscious and unconscious thoughts.

Thereafter we proceed, to address the presenting problems in subsequent sessions until the work is complete. An important aspect of all sessions is teaching the client techniques which will enhance their problem solving ability i.e. a range of techniques based on self hypnosis.

David Owen