How Hypnosis Works

Hypnosis involves a shift in the thinking pattern. To my patients I define hypnosis as “using your imagination to help yourself.”

Hypnosis involves a state of focused attention. Thus, learning how to focus your attention on a swinging watch, or by imagining a favorite place, or staring at a spot on the wall can all lead someone into a hypnotic state.

In the state of hypnosis people are more receptive to suggestions. This occurs because the conscious mind is focused on a task, and therefore is less likely to interfere with incoming suggestions by expressing doubt or resistance to change.

Hypnosis also has been described as a trance state, in which people are half-conscious, and experience more difficulty with acting voluntarily than in a usual state.

Hypnosis and trance states are common. Daydreaming is a form of hypnosis. Children spend a great deal of time in trance states when they are engaged in pretend play. Hypnosis can help us improve how our minds work. In medical settings, hypnosis can help people cope better with their symptoms and even resolve some of them. Also, hypnosis can help people develop insights, and create more positive, peaceful, and confident outlooks on life.

Will I be good at hypnosis?

Take our quiz to find out

The Subconscious

The subconscious is responsible for many of the phenomena that we observe and experience with hypnosis.

Many patients learn how to interact with their subconscious so that they can gain from its insight, knowledge, and wisdom.

Patients can be told that the subconscious represents the part of their mind of which they are usually unaware. For example, the subconscious is in charge of regulating the body’s breathing and coordinating walking. The subconscious also contains thoughts and feelings that the patient may not recognize. Sometimes, these subconscious contents lead to development of physical symptoms. For example, a child who is afraid she cannot trust her friend, but does not admit this to herself, may develop dizziness when she is around this friend. The subconscious also appears to be a storehouse of knowledge that the patient may have forgotten consciously, and wisdom that a child may not use in day-to-day life because he does not stop to consider all he knows before he makes a decision.

The subconscious can be observed in action outside of the consultation room, when people shake their heads without realizing it, shift their gaze when they are not telling the truth, or suddenly come up with an inspirational idea “out of the blue.”

Will my symptoms improve with hypnosis?


Many people feel that during hypnosis things just happen “on their own.”

For example, during hypnosis some people do or say things that they did not intend to do on a conscious level.

Sometimes, people assume what has occurred is the result of magic or even the occult. In actuality, these phenomena are the result of their subconscious involvement in the process.

Some people fear loss of control during hypnosis because of the apparent involuntariness they experience. However, people are in control of whether they allow their subconscious to express itself through hypnosis.  This often leads to greater accomplishment than with conscious effort alone.

Finally, people can learn how to elevate the subconscious thinking to a level where they are more aware of it consciously.  In this case that part of the mind might be better termed co-consciousness. When this occurs it can be thought of as people thinking with two minds at once, which is very empowering. For example, an athlete in a team sport can learn to both focus on the ball, as well as be aware of the location of other players around him that will help him decide what to do after he catches/throws/hits the ball.

Hypnosis Trivia

Learn some facts about hypnosis

The Subconscious as Co-Therapist

In clinical practice the patient’s subconscious can be used as a guide to the therapy.

Once interactions with the patient’s subconscious are established, the subconscious can be asked what symptoms should be addressed first in therapy or what is most bothersome to the patient.

Sometimes, the subconscious can be asked whether it would be a good idea to ask the patient a particular question, which helps avoid asking the patient questions that might be too upsetting.

Information gained through interactions with the subconscious often leads to much more effective therapy, since the subconscious can often help identify core issues more readily than the conscious self.

The reason for this is that if a patient is anxious about a particular topic she tends to avoid it. However, the subconscious generally is able to discuss sensitive topics calmly.

Interactions with the subconscious can be established through various methods including teaching patients how to allow their subconscious to move their fingers to indicate “yes” or “no”, or showing their subconscious how it can talk, write, or even type.


Experience Hypnosis Now

Hypnosis can be experienced in many ways.  One way involves listening to music while in hypnosis.  To experience and enjoy calming musical hypnosis follow these steps:

  • Imagine being in a calm, safe place.  To start you off, you might even pick one of the images above.
  • Imagine what you can see, hear, smell, feel, and taste in your calm place.
  • Play Claude Debussy’s Clair De Lune in the background.
  • Imagine a piano behind you in your calm place and listen to the music as you imagine being there.
  • Notice the calm that encompasses you during the 5-minute musical experience.
  • Before returning from your imagined calm place tell yourself you want to remain calm for rest of the day.

In Southern California and Central New York you can contact Dr. Anbar and his colleagues at Center Point Medicine:

You can find clinicians elsewhere through the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis:

Changing Children’s Lives with Hypnosis:
A Journey to the Center

Changing Children’s Lives with Hypnosis is a collection of patients’ healing experiences, the story of how these events changed one pediatrician's approach to medicine, and the takeaway parents and practitioners should consider as they deal with the medical and psychological challenges in their own children’s and patient’s lives.


See it in action

Sign up for email updates and Dr. Anbar will send you a link to watch a video of an interview with a subconscious.