“Hypnosis” has unfortunately gotten a bit of a bad rap over the years. Images of unsavory characters hypnotizing unsuspecting people to do unpleasant things, “mind control” and having things done to you outside of your awareness has made many people shy away from this useful relaxation and self-programming tool.

Hypnosis is, like meditation, a state of inward-focused attention. It is an altered state (really nothing more than a different way of acquiring and processing information than normal).

Practically everyone has experienced this state – when you’re immersed in a book, a sport or a project and you’ve shut out all distractions, you are already in the alpha brainwave state that occurs in meditation and hypnosis. You know that when you’re completely absorbed like this you function at a really high level of learning and performing. It’s being “in the Zone” – the state where you have a perfect opportunity to do some very meaningful self work like programming new, more beneficial thought patterns and behaviors.

Why Willpower Doesn’t Work

Why does self-hypnosis work where willpower does not? If you could consciously tell yourself, “I am no longer going to smoke” or “I am going to lose weight” or “I am going to stop procrastinating” – and be successful – then you wouldn’t need hypnosis. In some cases you can be successful but it requires tremendous effort.

The problem is, the conscious mind doesn’t control your actions as much as you may think, yet many people go about changing habits by using conscious commands. For example, if you smoke you may have tried commands like, “No! Don’t pick up that cigarette!” But how many times do you even realize you’re pulling the cigarette out, lighting it and taking that first deep, satisfying drag? How many times does some inner urge override your will?

Did you know that MOST of the actions you take – and the thoughts you think – are habits that reside in the subconscious?

You operate on auto-pilot most of the time so that your mind can be free to do more complex tasks. You have a particular way of tying your shoes; cooking your eggs; you have a routine when you get in the car and a consistent way of signing your name; you typically grocery shop in a certain order; you have favorite sayings, mannerisms, way of answering the phone and signing off on emails, and of course the way you think about things like your finances, your relationships and yourself.

For that reason, habits don’t live in the conscious mind – they’ve been relegated to “auto mode” so that you can concentrate on new things that require your attention. The auto mode is incredibly efficient. Most of the time, you’re not even aware that you’re performing the same actions and thinking certain thoughts in nearly identical ways as you’ve always done them.

The habits you’ve created are based on efficiency and pleasure. You get pleasure from addictive substances, but it’s also EASY to do things and think things a certain way. Once you’ve become really good at something, it’s pleasurable to keep doing it that way and not try another way which requires initial effort. Change is not necessarily easy OR fun; so when you decide to use willpower to change a habit, the conscious mind says, “Whoa! That’s going to be hard and uncomfortable!”

Getting past the conscious mind into the subconscious is the only way to effectively deal with mental, emotional and physical habits. Your conscious mind will always get in the way of change. It will protest, “You can’t do that, you’ve always done it THIS way! Change is BAD! This way is much easier!” And besides, the minute your conscious mind is occupied with a complex task that requires attention, you miss the subconscious trigger to perform your habitual behavior and you perform the action automatically. If you catch yourself, it may already be too late to stop.