Does hypnosis for memory really work? Is there a connection between hypnosis and memory, or is memory more of a physiological attribute beyond the power of positive suggestion?
If using hypnosis for improved memory really can work, to what extent can hypnotherapy help you remember things on a day-to-day basis?
Interestingly, one of the most common reasons people contact therapists with hypnosis in mind is to discuss memory recovery improvement. Recalling forgotten memories, in particular, is an important point of focus for many people. Forgetting childhood memories (positive and repressed memories) is inevitable with time, but research suggests that even the most distant memories can be recalled through hypnotic regression.
For others, the priority is simply to improve memory function on an everyday basis. There are various practical techniques that can be used to improve your memory and ‘train’ your brain, but some believe nothing has more power or potential than hypnosis.
The ability for hypnotic suggestion to prove effective varies from one person to the next, but evidence nonetheless suggests that most people are eligible candidates for hypnosis for improved memory function.
What is Hypnotherapy?
First, hypnosis is not about swinging pendulums or having individuals run around on stage pretending to be chickens.
Popular culture has painted an entirely inaccurate picture of hypnosis and hypnotherapy, which in the right hands has the potential to be an exceptionally beneficial therapeutic practice.
At its core, hypnosis is about enabling a person to gain deeper control of their subconscious minds and reach a state of heightened emotional awareness. It enables people to create direct links and associations between their conscious and subconscious minds in pursuit of positive life improvements.
Remarkably, the human brain utilizes approximately 20% of the body’s entire resources – despite the fact that it occupies only 2% of its entire physical mass. Consequently, the brain is always on the lookout for shortcuts and ways to save time and effort. This is why it is extremely difficult to break old habits or to talk yourself out of something you have come to believe in.
It’s also why forgetting what happened where traumatic incidents occur is something that happens automatically.
For the sake of our physical and psychological health, we all seek to make positive changes to improve the quality of our lives from time to time. You promise to focus on staying relaxed and stress-free when away from the office, you pledge to cut down on unhealthy dietary choices, and you make all manner of positive and helpful plans. But when you actually attempt to go about the process, you hear a little voice in your head trying to persuade you to keep doing things the same way.
At its core, hypnosis seeks to either bypass this voice in your head or to reprogram it in a more positive way. Essentially, a person seeks to enable their subconscious to be better controlled by the conscious part of their brain so as to make more positive and informed decisions to improve life quality as a whole.
How Does this Apply to Using Hypnosis to Improve Your Memory?
The human brain simply does not have the capacity to store details on everything that may happen every second of every day. In fact, it struggles to keep track of even just a scarce few things that have happened over any given period of time.
Consequently, the vast majority of unimportant memories are forgotten within a remarkably short period of time. Research suggests that we forget exponentially more than we remember, with the brain automatically decides which memories can be recalled and put in ‘long-term storage.’
But what’s important to acknowledge is the way in which ‘forgetting’ something in the conventional sense does not necessarily mean that the memory in question is gone for good. It simply means that it has been put in a different storage section of the brain, which many believe can be accessed through hypnotherapy.
The same can also be said for false memories, which account for a surprising proportion of our perceived memory capacity. It’s hard to come to terms with, but research suggests that a huge proportion of the apparent memories we have are actually completely wrong.
This means that the way we remember things happening – particularly things that happened a long time ago – is often nothing like the reality of what actually took place. The human brain sometimes deliberately adjusts its storage to ensure traumatic events don’t have a negative long-term effect on a person’s life, while other memories simply fade into obscurity due to the passage of time.
Accessing the Brain’s Long-Term Storage Area
The key to successful hypnosis for memory lies in two things:
1. Developing the deepest possible understanding of how memories work on conscious and subconscious levels
2. Understanding and acknowledging the capabilities and limitations of hypnotic therapy in general
Contrary to popular belief, hypnotic suggestion (and entering into a hypnotic trance) is not about flipping the proverbial switch for major life improvements. Instead, it’s simply a case of opening doors, providing the person in question with the ability to take more confident control over their way of thinking.
Regression is a very specific form of hypnosis, within which a subject may be encouraged to revisit a single event in their past to accurately recall what happened. This is a common technique used when an individual is looking to overcome some kind of emotional issue that cannot be immediately tied with a past event or encounter.
For example, it could be that something that happened when the person was a child has had a major impact on their confidence and psychological wellbeing, which the brain subsequently ‘blanked out’ as an automated response mechanism.
But it is also possible for a skilled hypnotherapist to help a subject improve their overall memory function on a broader basis. Where a person struggles with a relatively limited short-term memory capacity, gaining access to the brain’s long-term storage area could prove helpful in recalling important things on an everyday basis.
The brain’s neural networks may be incredibly complex but can nonetheless be trained and strengthened like any other part of the body. It’s just that with hypnosis, links are created with deeper parts of the brain that may not be otherwise accessible.
Hypnosis and Memory: Essential Guidelines
Do hypnotic suggestions work for everyone? The short answer is no. Even at the hands of the most skilled and experienced therapist, these kinds of mental reprogramming techniques are not suitable for everyone.
Anyone looking to use hypnosis for memory improvement must first ensure they have an open mind. It is also important to understand what being hypnotized means in context while acknowledging what hypnotists can and cannot do.
Hypnosis is an effective method for gradual self-improvement through a combination of deep relaxation and targeted message delivery. It is by no means an all-around cure for any issue or condition, psychological or otherwise.
In the run-up to the first session with a therapist, a certain degree of preparation can go a long way. Each of the following will ensure you get the most out of the session, and each subsequent session that follows:
1. Conduct at least a little rudimentary research into how hypnotherapists use hypnosis for memory recall. In doing so, you will build a more realistic picture of what you can expect during the session.
2. Ensure you have a relatively defined objective in mind, along with a clear reason as to why it is a priority for you. It is much easier to achieve goals when they are clearly defined and realistic.
3. Feel free to test audio recordings of hypnotic suggestions and general memory recall tutorials available online as a precursor to your first session.
4. Carefully question the extent to which you are confident in the capacity of hypnosis to work in the context for which you intend to use it. If you are even remotely skeptical or have doubts as to its effectiveness, you are unlikely to benefit from it.
5. Consider attempting self-hypnosis at home, though do so only if you have relatively straightforward goals in mind. If you are looking to recall something particularly unpleasant or traumatic from your past, it is best to do so only under the watch of a qualified professional.
If you do decide to go ahead and take on the services of a professional hypnotherapist, be sure to carefully research their credentials and experience ahead of time. Hypnotherapy is a surprisingly competitive field, which means you are guaranteed to find plenty of suitably qualified professionals in your area.
If you do not believe the therapist you are considering is a good match for you for any reason, feel free to look elsewhere.