Updated: Mar 21, 2022
The minute you start to ponder what it means to be conscious and get into the science of it, it quickly goes into a place that is anything but agreed. You end up listening and reading some of the most powerful scientists and philosophizers go into hours of explanation much of which is theoretical and even can touch on quantum theory. What's nice about how hypnosis works are that it is observable and well understood while avoiding the areas where speculation arises.
Your conscious mind is a small part of your larger mind. Like your stomach is a small part of your body. This is a very key concept to understand because once you do you can start exercising the rest of your mind and limit the amount of focus you spend on what you think is you. It's not surprising that much eastern philosophy regards the dissolving of the self as a paramount goal. One interpretation is that the ego is a smaller muscle like a bicep existing amongst all the other muscles in your body. Imagine just doing curls all day and what would happen to your physic.
One thing we know is our conscious mind is expensive in terms of energy and mental resources. For this reason, it only is utilized as much as it is needed. Like your stomach, if there is no food for it sits idle. When you sleep and when you are on autopilot, driving a car unemotionally, for example, it is basically on standby. This is important in hypnosis since hypnosis is simply the state of having your conscious mind on standby while still be alert and highly focused. The less you are engaged in the world and more in the realm of ideas and memory, the less it is needed, as we will discover next.
One of the main purposes of the conscious mind is to determine what is true. The more accurate our picture of the world, the better we can function within it. It does this in part by giving us access to logic and reasoning. It gate-keeps things that are judged misleading, unknown, and dangerous from the deeper areas of the mind that have few defenses from bad information. The deeper mind assumes what been feed into it is correct. The simple fact that it can trust what information and beliefs it has mean it can process very large amounts of data without us being aware. Can you imagine how powerful it is then to be able to directly communicate with this trove of knowledge directly and add, change and delete elements in it? That is what hypnosis allows us to do.
Another purpose of the mind is to define the boundary of where "you" stop and the external world begins. One of the milestones of becoming hypnotized is a sense of mental expansion as the line between you and the world becomes blurred. It is a very pleasant feeling, often described by the Buddhas, and can allow us to feel more connected to the universe. In the process the sense of "I" is reduced, in other terms, one's ego is released from responsibility.
Much of the language used by hypnotists reflects these concepts. Instead of saying, "you can change and you will no longer bite your nails" the hypnotist might say "everyone can change themselves.....even something like nail-biting can be stopped when there is a desire. People stop their breathing when they are underwater so of course, they can stop something so simple as a silly habit, and then you have long beautiful nails." The emphasis is on the nature of the behavior of nail-biting and how there are other process you can use to model what it is you want to change. Don't get me wrong, direct commands are effective and can be combined with more elaborate suggestions. My experience is that the creative and metaphorical approach has a stronger and longer impact when in light trance and that only direct commands take in very deep hypnotic states. Typically I start light and work deeper and deeper until the issue at hand begins to shift or disappear entirely. Often trance is not even necessary, just understanding why nail biting is occurring can be enough for some people to lose that particular compulsion.
The subconscious mind is the holder of beliefs that feed the ego, who you think you are can be changed by altering the beliefs you have about yourself and the world. Suppose you can start to believe that your voice is captivating to others because when you talk you are so emotionally expressive. It naturally draws people in, and it will alter how you think and act almost instantly. And realize how such a belief will change your experiences with others. That is such a fast and fun change and really why not? Often at my free consultation when someone wants to experience trance, we setup up a gift like feeling good about tomorrow or discovering something wonderful in the next 2 hours. Let me tell you, I have never had someone agree to a gift and not want to change something more substantial after that experience!