Gary 'Smiler' Turner's Blog

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Wednesday, 17 April 2013

What is hypnosis?

‘Hypnosis’ is very much misunderstood, even by many hypnotists and hypnotherapists. There are many myths that persist. This blog post addresses a difficult question to answer – what is hypnosis?

Hypnosis is not trance, is not sleep, it doesn’t need eyes closed, nor is it relaxation of either mind or body. Hypnosis can occur with each of these yet is not dependent on any. There is no definite state of hypnosis that can be shown neurologically. Basically, neurologically hypnosis is not a ‘state’. Hypnosis is not about different ‘brain wave’ states such as ‘alpha’ brain wave patterns.

So what is ‘hypnosis’? It defines a process and a result. I recently quizzed many of my leading peers in what they consider to be their definition of hypnosis. The definitions were discussed, dismissed, added to and evolved.

There is a very simple definition of hypnosis that can be written in very simple form, and should suffice for most people:

 “Hypnosis is when your imagination is guided so that it becomes your reality.”

If you are looking at getting a little deeper, I love this all-encompassing definition of hypnosis from the brilliant hypnotist Anthony Jacquin. I follow the definition with my further definitions (my breakdown, not Anthony's) of the component parts, for better understanding and clarity.

"Hypnosis is a social construct that causes the cognitive processes of automatic imagination. Hypnotic responses are defined by their subjective sensation of automaticity or involuntariness, because they lack the knowledge or feeling of intention."

“Social construct” – two or more people interact (or for self-hypnosis two or more parts of our personality) to construct hypnosis both as process and product.

“Cognitive processes” – the brain functions with cognitive processes, we ‘think’. (Note – all thinking is guided by the unconscious with ‘consciousness’ being a commentary on these unconscious processes’)

“Automatic” – autonomic, it happens apparently ‘outside of our control’. This is however a bit of a paradox as technically all of our conscious thoughts and actions are actually unconsciously driven before we rationalise them as them consciousness

“Imagination” – our unconscious is our imagination, we perceive our version of reality, all of our internal representations are imagined, etc.

“Automatic imagination” – the imagination is guided automatically at the suggestion of another – the other person (or personality) – automatically becoming their ‘reality’ with a disconnection between conscious control and unconscious actions.

“Hypnotic responses” – phenomena, sensory perception changes and thought pattern changes. Incidentally we can have the ability to produce every phenomena ourselves without hypnosis, the phenomena exist in daily life, yet here they happen at the suggestion of the hypnotist

“Subjective sensation of automaticity/involuntariness” – the subject believes it happens out of their control; it just appears to ‘happen’ to them, either as normal or extra-normal, yet still something that they can’t control

“Lack the knowledge or feeling of intention” – the subject is not able to access the knowledge as to what they are creating inside their mind nor the intention of meaning to do so.

I would love for people to pick apart all of this blog, ask questions, explain why elements may be wrong – I want this definition to evolve. Please contribute, and feel free to contact me at should you have any questions or points you’d wish to discuss.


  1. Hi Gary, Great post. I like this definition and your break-down of the elements. I'd like to ask - in the context of your post - how do you define 'the unconscious'? Steven

  2. I don't like the term, feeling it is an incorrect metaphor. I just think of the mind as whole, a resultant of a functioning brain.

    If I had to, I would term unconscious as everything outside of consciousness. Consciousness, if I had to define, I would term the element of our brain with a sense of self that rationalises and commentates on what our unconscious has already decided or acted upon.

    Hope this helps!

    Kind regards,


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