Hypnotherapy and the mind-body connection

René Descartes was a French philosopher who spoke a few centuries ago about the separation of mind and body. At that time, people didn’t think of the brain as being the centre of the nervous system. Instead, matters of the heart were the domain of the church and Descartes was a devout catholic who, in his own personal journal, wrote about the fact that it was his loyalty to the catholic church that drove him towards a separation between mind and body, yet his drawings of the nervous system do show that he saw them as being connected.

Nowadays, we know without a doubt that mind and body are inseparable. One doesn’t even exist without the other. You can’t have a mind without a body and vice-versa. They are intricately connected. Anything that influences the body influences the mind and anything you put in your mind, anything that affects you emotionally and mentally, including your thoughts, will in turn affect your body.

So you see, the mind-body connection might simply be called mind-body because it’s not just a mind and it’s not just a body. It’s a mind-body. The terms that we use for this have to do with things like conscious mind. The conscious mind is your thinking mind and your conscious mind is a part of you that knows how to add, how to substract, multiply, choose the right verb, knows how to do analysis and reasoning. It’s that part of your mind which has to do with active thinking.

The other part of your mind (which is a much greater part of your overall experience) is your subconscious mind. Now, some people will use the word unconscious. I prefer to use subconscious because it means something to me. “Sub” means below or beneath the thinking level of awareness whereas “Un” to me just means something that is not – but it doesn’t tell me what it is. That’s why I prefer to use the term subconscious.

The mind of the body, your mind-body, is your subconscious. It’s the part of you that is so much smarter than you are or I am. That’s the part of you that knows how to regulate all four chambers of your heart, how to regulates your lungs – you don’t have to tell yourself when to inhale or exhale – it’s the part of you that manages your immune system and manages digestion. The subconscious mind also manages your nervous system. The mind of your body or subconscious is that part of you that’s functioning without you being consciously aware of it, without you having to be involved.

Now, let me tell you about some special properties of your subconscious mind:

First of all, the subconscious or mind-body has its own language. It processes language on a literal basis. You are used to intellectually processing both figures of speech and literal speech. So, what’s a figure of speech? A figure of speech is something abstract: a metaphor would be a good example. Expressions such as “Oh, he is a pain in the neck, oh, that burns me up, oh, that rubs me the wrong way, oh, I am itching to go to the zoo". We know what they mean but the mind of the body, the subconscious mind has its own language and it’s literal. It’s very much like children beneath the age of eight because they are processing primarily at a literal level.

And so, the literal language of the subconscious does interpret everything you say as literal. Let me give you an example, I’ll be using the same metaphor as I have just mentioned, “pain in the neck”. If a guy is a pain in the neck and that’s all you call him, that’s what you think of him but you can’t speak out loud because he might be the boss or it might have bad repercussions. So, he walks into the room and the individual who speaks the pain in the neck, who used that expression, might notice that his neck muscles are getting tight. In fact, this all stems from the language he’s been using and we could give many more examples similar to this one.

The mind of the body always wants to literalise what we say. So, “oh, I am just itching to go to the zoo, oh, that gets under my skin, it’s rubbing me the wrong way” are metaphors which actually translate into symptoms within the physical body. To understand where the symptoms come from, we often simply need to look at the language we are using. Remember that the mind of the body, the subconscious, only processes language literally.

More often than not, it just so happens that symptoms are produced by the body, by the subconscious based on what an individual was emotionally experiencing. This is very much the case when there is an emotional conflict where you can’t really express what you feel. This is why being aware of the mind-body connection is so important. Monitoring your thoughts, your wishes, your desires and your wants is something you might want to practise a bit more.

You know, you create thoughts and thoughts are things. Thoughts are very real. They are a form of energy and those thoughts are recognised, those thoughts resonate through every cell of your body. Your thoughts will determine how you feel and how you feel will in turn, determine how you act or react to outer stimuli (what happens outside of yourself, your external circumstances).

Your subconscious mind hears everything you hear, everything you say and everything you picture or imagine within your mind. As we know already, the subconscious mind cannot tell the difference between what’s literal and what’s figurative because it only process literally. The subconscious mind cannot tell the difference between what is real and what you imagine.  

Think about the time you walked across the carpet and jumped out of the way of something that actually turned out to be harmless. In that moment, you didn’t even think about jumping out of the way. A part of you moved so that something harmful wouldn’t have stung or bitten you. The subconscious mind perceives things in its own way, literally. 

We now know from neural imaging studies, MRI scans and PETS scans, that we can actually see the activity of the brain when someone is doing hypnosis. If somebody imagines pain in their foot, the part of the brain where the foot registers pain lights up exactly as if they really did have pain, all based on a suggestion, a thought, an imaginative idea.

This reinforces what we said before: the subconscious mind cannot tell the difference between what’s real and what you imagine. Be aware of the power of your imagination and the nature of your thoughts. Hypnotherapy enables us to convey more strongly the messages of our intent (our objectives, what we focus upon) to both parts of our mind so that both of them can focus on the same objective, at the same time and with the same determination.

Of course, there will be some other ingredients that make that happen. These ingredients are motivation, belief and positive expectation. You have to want something to make it happen - that’s motivation, you have to be willing to believe in it, you have to be willing to at least believe 51%.

Whatever has the majority of your belief is what your subconscious responds to. It doesn’t have to be perfect belief but the majority of belief. Lastly, you must look at life with a sense of positive expectation. Writing a gratitude journal might be one of the stepping stones enabling you to achieve this if you are struggling to be positive.

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Written by a listed hypnotherapist