Mind wandering during hypnosis

Postby Louise McDermott » Wed Oct 08, 2003 10:26 am


Somebody I know asked me if, when they're listening to their hypnosis tape, if their mind wanders and they find they're not at all listening to the voice on the tape, is anything therapeutic happening?

Now, on one hand I'm thinking that it's fine and that the mind wandering is keeping the conscious mind tied up while whatever's on the tape can go more smoothly into the unconscious.

But I remember speaking to Roger about learning, and absorbing information. A fellow student on the diploma had said that she barely wrote notes, because she fully trusted her unconscious to retain all the info for her.

I thought she was very brave to do that! I write lots of notes and find them invaluable.

Roger had said that there needs to be a level of focus and concentration going on in order to retain info - some part of you which is actively engaging in the learning.

So this is where I'm wondering how focused a person might need to be (on the actual voice) while being hypnotised?

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Postby Roger Elliott » Wed Oct 08, 2003 10:58 am

Thought I'd better hop on in seeing as I am being quoted ;)

So firstly, if someone is listening to their hypnosis tape and their mind wanders, is it OK?

Well, I think it depends.

If you are aiming to decondition, or recondition a response, you need more focused attention in my opinion, as in this case you are asking for conscious effort from the individual.

But of course, you can listen to a story in hypnosis, forget it consciously and have the pattern 're-activate' in the appropriate situation later - unconscious learning.

And then there's the whole sleep thing - what level of consciousness does there need to be for a story to be perceived 'unconsciously'.

Getting complicated... :)

I remember Pat Williams story of how she told a young man in a coma the story of Ulysses and the Sirens, which was the only thing he remembered when he came round weeks later.

If you are looking to be confident that you know something, then it has to come into consciousness - the facts, skills or whatever, because confidence is 'knowing' that you know.

But if you are happy to tolerate uncertainty, and it is not that important that you 'know' that you know, then leart info or behaviour can remain unconscious until it is required, perhaps.

So in summary (I think! ;) )...

Yes, something therapeutic can be happening if your mind is wandering in hypnosis.

Yes, conscious learning requires a level of focus and concentration.

No, unconscious learning does not require conscious attention.

Yes, I am getting confused too... :lol:

(All in my opinion of course)
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Postby kfedouloff » Wed Oct 08, 2003 11:00 am

Hi Louise

I wonder if this is related to the other discussion about working with someone who is asleep.

In both cases, the ears are open and the soundwaves are going in. What does the brain do with the sound signals it receives which are not consciously appropriated? We know that people can hear things they are not really listening to - e.g. the orientation response picking something up from the background noise, or, as you say, people responding to a hypnotic suggestion while the conscious mind is listening to something else.

The question comes down to this: When and how does the brain exclude or treat as irrelevant any particular audible signal?

As working therapists, we probably don't have the tools to determine this, so we make a choice. Some work on the assumption that everything important is heard. Others work on the assumption that the only things that are heard are the things known or acknowledged to have been heard. In the end, they are both assumptions.

Does the client make progress? At least that is evidence that they heard SOME of what you were trying to tell them!

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