A conscious process is something we are cognitively aware of at the moment it is happening.
An unconscious process is something we are not aware of at the moment it is happening. Unconscious processes are inaccessible to consciousness but influence our judgement, feelings, and behaviour. According to Freud, the unconscious mind is the primary source of human behaviour. Like an iceberg, the most important part of the mind is the part we cannot see. Our feelings, motives and decisions are powerfully influenced by our past experiences, and stored in the unconscious.
The evolution of the notion of the unconscious through the ages:
The existence of an unconscious mind is something which is quite commonly accepted: after having had a bad dream or making a slip of the tongue, many people assume that their unconscious was trying to tell them something. Whilst much modern psychotherapy accepts this idea, there are other schools of thought which do not, and historically this has not always been the case.
So where does this relationship with our unconscious originate?
In the time of the ancient civilisations, Egyptian pharaohs and high priests believed that their dreams were messages from sacred sources. Many 18thcentury philosophers began to contemplate our actions and their relationship to what was going on in our heads. Most often, the unconscious was seen as a negative and unhelpful ‘substance’, ‘state’, ‘ego’, ‘idea’ or ‘will’.
Influential French philosopher René Descartes (1596–1650) believed that the mind was always thinking cognitive thoughts and totally rejected the concept of the unconscious. He was the first of many left-brained rationalist and rigid Cartesian thinkers for whom only conscious reasoning was to be followed and studied.
The English philosopher John Locke (1632–1704), following similar principles, established a notion of ‘clear’ and ‘obscure’ ideas when talking about the unconscious, however he did not see these ‘obscure’ ideas as emanating from the unconscious and in fact did not use the term ‘unconscious’ at all. His philosophy was that we were born without innate ideas, and that all learning comes from experience. Locke spent a great deal of time defining the origins of ‘simple’ and ‘complex’ ideas, and tried, in his own way, to make sense of the mind, saying, ‘We know nothing about the nature of spirit and nature.’
German philosopher Gottfried Leibniz (1646–1716), was referring to the unconscious when he spoke of ‘petites perceptions’ - or minute ideas of such low intensity that consciousness cannot detect them.
The Dutch philosopher Benedict Spinoza (1632–1677), the ‘philosopher of psychoanalysis’, studied the way we function mentally and talked about the ‘not-conscious’, a place where ‘mere imaginings and mere fantasies may have consequences comparable to those of perceptions of reality’, a place where ‘confused and inadequate ideas’ seem to operate and where ‘passive emotions may be due to processes of associations, and ideas may be determined by other ideas of which the mind is not aware’ (Emotion, thoughts and therapy: a study of Hume and Spinoza, 1977, volume 2, p149).
A summary of the ideas above was proffered by German philosopher Eduard von Hartman (1842–1906) who acknowledged that ‘many philosophers of time past possessed an unconscious idea of the unconscious to which they gave different names’. (The Unconscious in Philosophy and French and European Literature, Fernand Vial, Dan T Valahu, 2009, p33).
Freud’s major work focused on demonstrating how unacceptable thoughts and feelings are repressed into the unconscious and that from there they continue actively to influence our life. Freud believed that the unconscious was acquired along with language, in other words that we were not born with it.
Two major new ways of thinking emerged when Swiss psychiatrist and student of Freud, Carl Jung (1875-1961) took a new path with his views on the unconscious. On the one hand he followed Freudian ways of thinking and psychotherapies, and worked with those early-acquired repressed thoughts to treat patients, and on the other hand, Jung and his followers work with an innate form of the unconscious.
Jungian psychotherapies recognise a natural unconscious that exists before language is acquired, and they also maintain the existence of a collective unconscious.
While Jung was a follower of Freud, he differed in seeing the unconscious existing on two levels: the ‘personal unconscious’ (a person’s repressed, forgotten or ignored experiences), and a deeper level, the ‘collective unconscious’ (a ‘storehouse of latent memory traces inherited from man’s ancestral past’).
Jung followed the evolution of man, a theory which, like Darwin’s theory of evolution (and in common with some ancient mythology) believed that everyone has two levels of unconscious and that all human beings have the ability to tap into this collective unconscious. (http://www.psychoheresy-aware.org/jungleg.html).
This Jungian theory has become particularly interesting nowadays because of its links with the study of hypnosis, timeline and regression therapies which all seem to validate the theory of a collective unconscious. Certainly, Jung’s theory is one of the few credible explanations of past life regression.
Subjective Units of Distress Scale measuresthe ‘subjective’ intensity of disturbance or distress currently experienced by an individual.
A SUDs scale is mostly used with anxiety or for instance when working with a fear of flying, phobias, or even with pain management. The individual self-assesses where they are on the scale and the therapist can work from this.
When working with a SUDS it is important to consider what condition you are working with. A therapist should think carefully about what level of SUDs is a suitable level to reach.
Working with pain is a typical one where it should never be brought back down to 0, as the pain is there for a reason and it must not be ignored altogether. Working with pain or any medical conditions should only be done after obtaining a doctor’s letter.
10 = Feeling overwhelmed, agonizingly bad, beside yourself, out of control as if experiencing a nervous breakdown. You may feel so upset and agitated that you don’t even want to explain what you are going through as you feel no one will understand, so you stay quiet.
9 = Feeling distressed, freaking, feeling everything is unbearable and you are getting scared of how you might react. Losing control of your emotions and feeling extremely bad.
Most people are a 9 when they say they are a 10.
8 = Losing it, going crazy, flying of the handle, losing control.
7 = Starting to crack up, on the verge of losing your composure and on the verge of having some really bad emotions and feelings. You are nearly losing control.
6 = Feeling awful, you start to think you need to do something about the way you feel.
5 = Feeling reasonably upset and uncomfortable. You can still manage your unpleasant feelings but it takes a lot more efforts.
4 = Upset and agitated, you can’t ignore what is happening and the associated feelings. You can handle the situation and feelings but it some efforts and it’s affecting you.
3 = A little upset and worried. You start to notice something is not quite right, it’s bothering you.
2 = Only a little upset when you pay attention to the way you behave and your feelings. You only notice there is something bothering you when you analyse your emotions.
1 = Feeling basically good. However, if you really think hard and put your mind to it, you might be able to feel something unpleasant.
0 = Peaceful, nothing is bothering you.
4 great workshops to fight that stress with practical tools!!!
I believe since starting on my own journey to becoming a clinical hypnotherapist that models and concepts learnt have evolved with time and that learning hypnosis is a constant process in itself. Different schools make different assumptions about hypnotherapy and adopt different methodologies. There are many schools of thoughts, and looking at the evolution of hypnotherapy from a neo-dissociation perspective to a more social learning theory explains how today we talk about short integrative approaches.
The main hypnotherapy theories:
This central control system is responsible for monitoring functions of personality and actions. It is believed that under hypnosis we can bypass this control by dissociating. The different cognitive systems can work independently of each other, making suggestions for change easy to integrate.
The social learning theory attached to hypnotherapy came in the mid-eighties with Spanos, who believed that attitudes, beliefs, imaginings, attributions and expectancies, all shaped hypnotic phenomena. This is a 'cognitive-behavioural perspective’.
Another approach by Kirsch developed roughly at the same time goes along the lines that expectancies can directly alter our subjective experience of internal states. When we expect a particular outcome we sometimes unwittingly behave so as to produce that outcome. This describes his response expectancy theory.
In more recent years talks about an integrative approach (Dienes & Perner, Brown & Oakley, Bowers, Kihlstrom) have surfaced. Hypnotherapy becomes goal orientated, with the notion that a successful response to hypnotic suggestions can be achieved by forming an intention to perform the action or cognitive work required.
For me, this is an interesting evolution. I sometime tell my clients about this evolution, to explain this integrative approach that I use, using both cognition and unconscious processes.
When I first started working with hypnosis I used to do a lot of smoking secessions and I was working from a place where the unconscious was working alone, using a script that I would tweak from client to client. I had some successes but I never quite understood how this was working and I never felt satisfied that I really understood my client nor really facilitated change. With further studying and understanding of hypnotherapy and other therapy techniques,
I became more versatile, able to adapt better to different clients and really working with both conscious and unconscious processes.
As a basis for my work, I draw on the principles and values of the person-centred approach. This approach (which is also known as client-centred) is really a way of being, and is based on the belief that the clients know themselves best. A genuine therapist, can offer their clients empathic understanding and acceptance, thus creating a safe and supportive climate that helps them come to a deeper self-understanding and to get in touch with their own unique potential.
He describes the first phase (1940 – 50), as ‘non-directive psychotherapy’, a permissive and non-interruptive process allowing the client to get insight into themselves and their life situations.
He then goes on to talk about a second phase (1950 – 57), reflective psychotherapy, when both the client and the therapist explore the feelings of the clients and avoided threats. Through this the client was able to achieve a greater degree of congruence between real self and ideal self.
The final phase he mentioned was experiential therapy (1957 – 70), a therapeutic approach that encourages patients to identify and address hidden or subconscious issues through experiencing with various activities such as role playing, guided imagery, the use of props, and a range of other active experiences.
This practice originally introduced by Rogers is still evolving today, equine therapy, expressive arts therapy, music therapy, psychodrama etc. all derive from this ongoing evolution. They are all therapies that encourage clients to experience something different, get their guard down and receive specific feedback regarding specific actions or behaviours.
With hypnotherapy, it is common practice to incorporate other approaches or elements of other approaches (CBT, EFT, EMDR, NLP etc.) within the sessions to provide a way of breaking through some barriers and give the clients more tools to use once the sessions are over.
I do not use the same technique with every client as every person is an individual with specific preferences and some clients may be more receptive to one approach than the other.
A little about NLP and EFT:
Founded by Richard Bandler and John Grinder at the University of California, Santa Cruz, began a process of discovering how masters in the domain of therapeutic communications performed what these researchers began referring to as ‘magic’. Primarily NLP was a study of language used by exceptional therapists of the time: Fritz Perls (Gestalt Therapy), Virginia Satir
(Family Therapy) and Milton Erickson (Medical Hypnotherapy). Bandler, started to study and mimic the nonverbal elements and worked on a modelling concept. Other famous people then came along studied and brought other elements from different psychology fields to the original NLP concepts, thus creating a toolbox for the therapist to use. Anchoring, sensory acuity, reframing, time line, regression etc. are all tools that were developed later on and form part of NLP. Today, many NLP tools are used within a clinical hypnotherapy setting thanks to the people who put them there in the first place. This is not to say that NLP has stopped evolving, now it has diversified, it has caught up with time and courses are more focussed towards specific aims such as NLP for Change, NLP for Resilience, NLP for Business etc. I enjoy sharing some of these techniques with my clients as I find them very effective both during and out of trance.
Another tool I use quite a lot is EFT. The tapping journey has come on a long way since the late TFT founder Dr. Roger Callahan “cured” Mary's water phobia by tapping under her eye in the 1980s.
Callahan began experimenting with tapping meridian points and soon discovered that by bringing in other meridian points to tap on he could increase his success rate. His ideas were initially known as “Callahan Techniques” but later became Thought Field Therapy. In 1991, Gary Craig became a student of Dr. Roger Callahan, devised EFT a simpler version of TFT.
EFT was originally dealt with phobias, fears, pains etc. the focus was to let go of them in a simple way. Some followers, such as Silvia Hartmann, with a vision that the past should not be revisited and that focus should only be on the present moment and the future have created Positive EFT focusing current needs, dreams and ambitions to help clients. Robert G. Smith, developed Faster EFT, cutting some of the steps and adding some positive visualisation. Another recent form of EFT being developed at present by Gary Craig is called Optimal EFT, which focus on spirituality and Quantum Physic.
As you can see, there is more to hypnotherapy than just putting someone in a trance and making suggestions for change. Every therapist should keep up to date with their skills and knowledge and they should also keep up to date with trends and adapt their practice to a changing society and client base.
Marie claude Bouchet
Mental well-being, stress management, resilience etc.
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