Theory of Mind

During my education at HMI, I was introduced to an interesting concept known as the Theory of Mind. The basic idea is this, your mind comprises of your conscious mind (about 12%) logic, reason, decision, willpower etc. and your subconscious mind (about 88%) all the positive and negative knowns, things you have experienced, beliefs you have etc., and around about the age of 8-9 we develop a critical filter between the two, to try to help protect you.

As we process information throughout the day we are exposed to various ideas and influences, some we accept and some we reject, this is the critical filter doing its job. We go through a process of identification, association and then reaction. Within our subconscious mind, we have a collection of knowns, these can be positive or negative, for example, you may have a positive memory of eating your favorite chocolate bar or a place you went to as a child, this would be a positive known. You may also have a negative memory of being chased by a large dog as a child, this would be a negative known.

Similarly, with unknowns, you may never have been on an airplane before, you may never have been to a certain place before or done a specific activity, these are your unknowns and your subconscious has no information to work with, sometimes we may be more fearful of something good that is an unknown, than something bad that is a known. So, for example, if you see that familiar chocolate bar that you like, you identify it as such, you associate it with the positive memory, and then react to that, most likely with a positive emotion and a desire to eat the chocolate. With the above example of the negative memory of being chased by or even bitten by a dog when younger, a person would see a dog approaching and even if it was the smallest, cutest, fluffiest, most harmless looking dog on the face of the earth, their subconscious mind has this known about dogs, and would activate your fight/flight reaction, as to you, dogs are vicious animals that chase and bite.

Using your experiences, knowns, and unknowns, your critical filter tries to sort through all the information coming into your conscious mind and block out anything you are taking in that doesn't fit with your current belief systems, so if someone tries to tell you consciously, this is a harmless fluffy dog, it really won't bite, you will reject that statement and not believe them, because you know deep down that dogs are chasing and biting machines.

Here's where a Hypnotherapist and Hypnosis comes in to play. Using an overload of the information/message units, coming into your conscious mind, we can break down the critical filter and allow direct communication with the subconscious mind. Hypnotherapists can use various techniques to do this, we start by discussing your presenting issues, what you would like to change, how you would like to improve yourself, your life etc. and discuss the reasons why things are the way you think they are, then before this information has a chance to be reviewed and rejected by the critical filter, the Hypnotherapist helps to bring about an overload of message units and increased stress, causing the mind to want to escape from the situation, dropping into Hypnosis. The mind becomes very suggestible at this point and the Hypnotherapist will continue with techniques to keep you in this suggestible state. This then allows the bypass of the critical filter and everything previously discussed drops right into the subconscious mind.

This is how a Hypnotherapist can go in and help you make changes to those knowns and unknowns within your subconscious, allowing someone to reframe events from their past, input new ideas and beliefs, modify old limiting beliefs etc. such as changing their perspective on dogs, so they are able to be comfortable around them, knowing not all dogs want to chase and bite them etc. Similarly with bad habits and addictions, such as smoking. In the beginning, someone may consciously choose to smoke, their subconscious learns the habit of smoking and all the benefits they are getting out of the habit, such as the social interaction, the mistaken belief it helps them relieve stress and so on. Then after a while they decide that smoking isn't good for them, they would like to quit, can't afford to smoke or don't want the negative health issues associated with smoking, but there is now a conflict between the conscious mind and subconscious mind. Being that the subconscious mind is about 88% and the conscious mind is only about 12%, which do you think wins the battle? You're right, the subconscious mind gets its way and they continue to smoke.

The Hypnotherapist would then be called in to help them alter the beliefs within the subconscious, replace anything positive they get out of smoking with something healthier, for example, deep breathing (this is what is actually making you feel less stressed when you smoke, not the cigarette) and helping them to remove the various triggers, that, in the past, have caused them to light up. Now they are consciously wanting to quit smoking, their subconscious is on the same page and things run a whole lot smoother from that point onward.


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Michael D. Milson, C.Ht

Michael studied Hypnotherapy at the Hypnosis Motivation Institute and graduated in 2015. Since then he has kept up on his education with the latest research and techniques, through online courses provided by the American Hypnosis Association among others. Michael has also studied many other hypnotists and the various hypnotic modalities they use, to constantly refresh and add to his own toolbox.

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