If you ask a hypnotist, “what is hypnosis?”, you will probably get a different answer from every one. The problem is that science is still is learning how the brain works and it is unlikely we will get a definitive answer anytime soon. Most hypnotists will probably say that there is a conscious part of the mind which make decisions, is self aware, and thinks that it is in control, and that there is an unconscious part that is much larger and does most of the work and is really in control. The more that scientists investigate this the more it seems that we are actually unconscious most of the time and that consciousness is just an illusion that our minds create for us.
Using the latest FMRI scanners it is now possible to see what parts of the brain are active when someone is “hypnotised” and there does appear to be a specific set of parts that are active. However the interesting thing is this set of parts are active a lot of the time.
So hypnosis rather than being a special state that only a hypnotist can elicit in a person, seems to be a totally natural ability that we use all the time unconsciously. Everyone has this ability and can experience hypnosis if they wish to. Some people experience hypnosis quite readily and can have many experiences whilst other people may need some practice and their experiences may be limited. Whatever abilities someone has with hypnosis they can still benefit from hypnotherapy.
The hypnotherapist acts as a coach or guide whose role is to show the person how to enter hypnosis and then help them to change or let go of unwanted beliefs.
It is also possible for a person to hypnotise themselves and this becomes a lot easier once you have experienced hypnosis with the help of a hypnotist. Self hypnosis is a really useful skill that can be really helpful for relaxation and simple problems like preparing for a stressful event such as public speaking.
So in summary we don’t know what hypnosis really is but we all use in every day without realising and when done deliberately it can be used to make incredible changes in our lives.