What Are Intentions & Why Do They Matter So Much in Hypnosis?
Hypnosis presents a paradox. A hypnotherapist will tell their subject their outstretched arm will begin to rise upward as though tied to an invisible balloon. The subject’s arm rises, as suggested, and seemingly without their intention. Though it appears they are being controlled, it is well established that no one can be hypnotized against their will. The paradox: responding to a hypnotic suggestion that your arm will move is to voluntarily perform an apparently involuntary action.
When we think of intentions, we think of our daily life goals: eat healthier, get up earlier, getting things done. Intentions themselves have the potential to become powerful and most effective when specific and goal-driven. However, for intentions to truly work in your favour, you need to make sure you know the reason behind your intention.
The Power of Intention
Peter Gollwitzer mentions in his study, Implementation intentions: Strong effects of simple plans, in a 1999 edition of American Psychologist, “strong intentions (e.g., “I strongly intend to do x”) are reliably observed to be realised more often than weak intentions.”
Intentions keep us from meaningless tasks to keep ourselves occupied. This is most common at work, such as bosses adding to to-do lists. If intentions were explained behind the task, it could help people work smarter, more efficient, and effective.
When you make your actions more meaningful you know exactly what you want to achieve, and this can lead to happiness. When you have intention, you are more likely to achieve your goals, opening yourself up to success.
This being said, that does not mean because you simply have the intention for something you will get what you wish for. But it does open your mind up to a positive mindset, and through positivity you can be more receptive to opportunities rather than settle with pessimistic thoughts.
A series of experiments were conducted by Benjamin Libet and colleagues, where participants watched a clock and reported the time at which they experienced the urge to lift their finger. The experiments suggest we become conscious of our intentions after they have been set in motion due to brain activity being thought to drive the moment found to occur earlier than the reported time of the urge.
Libet’s method of measuring the time between the individual experience of intending and the moment of an action offers a way of examining our conscious experience of intending and its relationship to hypnosis.
Conscious Intention & Hypnotizability
Although our brains constantly process massive amounts of information, we are only conscious of one piece of information at a time. Our unconscious mental activity exceeds what we are conscious of at any given time. An unconscious mental state becomes conscious when there is another mental state, according to higher order thought theories of consciousness. Accepting that, implied by Libet’s results, intentions can be unconscious.
Scientific research into hypnosis uses hypnosis scales to divide the population by “hypnotizability,” the ability to respond to hypnotic suggestions. Standardized hypnotic induction is followed by a series of suggestions of varying difficulty, and the person’s response recorded for each suggestion to create a hypnotizability score, low, medium, or high. Some highly hypnotizable people could avoid having correct conscious experiences of their intentions because their intentions are less accessible to their conscious mental states.
The Mindfulness of Intentions
Mindfulness meditation involves developing the awareness of your mental state, including intentions. According to Georges Dreyfus, in his essay in Contemporary Buddhism, Buddhist scholars argued that meditators should have more access to their intentions and therefore be aware of their intentions earlier than non-meditators.
Using Libet’s method of measuring, Peter Lush and Zoltan Dienes compared highly hypnotizable people, less hypnotizable people, and mindfulness mediators. Those who were highly hypnotizable reported their awareness late after they had moved, while the less hypnotizable people and mindfulness meditators reported earlier awareness of intentions.
This further suggests individuals vary in their conscious access to intentions, variation follows differences in hypnotizability.
At Healing Soul Hypnosis, I ensure everyone’s intentions are clear, both before and during sessions. I’m here for you when needed…a session is only a call away. Don’t hesitate to call me if you have any questions or concerns.
Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Healing Soul Hypnosis and a clickable link back to this page.