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Hypnosis & Anxiety

Hypnosis and anxieties are brought about in the same way.

It is our experience that many people who are in a high-anxiety state will escape the anxiety by entering into a trance state – a reversion to a more primitive area of the mind. The human being receives messages into his brain through four sources.

  • The first, the External Environment, sends message units dealing with such things as the weather, the news, music, television shows, jobs, interaction with partners, and anything else from our everyday surroundings that affect us.

  • The second source is our Body. Its normal tensions, movements, digestive activities, feelings of tightness, pains or discomfort, all constantly send message units to the brain.

  • The third source is the Conscious Mind, which handles our logic, reason, objectivity, decision-making, and all of the influencing factors that affect us consciously.

  • The fourth, and probably the most influential source is the Subconscious Mind, which receives and holds, without accepting or rejecting, all the message units we receive from our religious, social, and genetic backgrounds and all the little conflicts that enter our consciousness daily.

Through his evolutionary development, man has acquired the ability to deal with these message units without triggering the primitive Fight or Flight mechanism. He has been able to accomplish this by adding tolerance to the Fight or Flight reaction, thereby extending

it to deal with the Pain/Pleasure Syndrome that a more modern society imposed on him. This modern syndrome deals with "knowns" (pleasure) and "unknowns" (pain). A "known" is a unit of communication that does not represent any threat because it has been learned or experienced before; we can associate with it, understand it, and be comfortable with it. An "unknown" is just the opposite. Because it has not been learned before, it causes us to experience psychological and physiological reactions that we are not used to. These reactions threaten the brain and body, and the resulting fear brings us pain.
What is known to some, may be unknown to others; so what is a pain to some, may be a pleasure to others, and vice versa. Even physical discomforts or negative feelings, such as depression can be classified as pleasurable for some people, simply because they have been experienced before and the mind will accept them as knowns. This is why the mind will accept negatives.

With the extended Fight syndrome of Reaction vs. Action, the human developed nervous anxiety and tension. A reaction would take place in the body and the individual would attempt to vent it out by walking, running, working, or taking some physical action. The extension of the Flight syndrome involved repression (taking everything inside, hoping to vent it later through dreams or emotional reactions) or depression (an escape into fantasy or deep, long sleep). The modern extension of these reactions does not, however, eliminate the possibility of triggering the primitive modes of Fight or Flight. We may revert back to these primitive reactions whenever the message units are too great to be handled by the modern syndromes or whenever we experience a feeling of loss of control.

Should certain circumstances take place where one or more of the four sources send too many message units, we will

become threatened and begin to feel insecure in our external environment.  If we find we cannot cope with the pressures of the times or of the moment, more message units than normal begin to move into the brain. Then the body begins to tighten and malfunction.

When we cannot keep up with external message units, our body begins spasmodic shivering, and the adrenal glands start to secrete.

As the body develops more pressure, more message units also move into the brain, and this reflects into the conscious mind, which will now try to develop more logic and reason to work it out.
When the conscious mind can no longer handle the input of message units entering the brain, the subconscious immediately prepares us for Fight or Flight. The heart pumps faster, blood pressure goes up, blood is forced from the organs to the muscles, the pupils dilate.
But when we realize that there is nothing to fight, this physical feeling increases the anxiety and creates apprehension and fear of the unknown, causing a pressure buildup inside. In its effort to protect us, the self-regulatory parasympathetic nervous system then overcompensates, by changing this Fight or Flight physical reaction to a slow, passive condition, where we lose the will to fight and remain still and sleep-like in a depressed, apathetic state until the danger passes. This reminds us of the time when the threatened primitive Man and animal would lie very still and play dead until the predator left.

In other words, when we find out that we cannot fight the environment, we cannot fight the job, and we cannot fight the messages that are coming into our brain, we revert back into the escape mechanism of Flight, which immediately puts us into an apathetic, depressed, hypersuggestible state. This can create futility and melancholy if it happens in an uncontrolled situation because the inhibitory processes become totally disorganized and we become overly receptive to negative input. As a result, we overreact to all our senses and have a loss of tolerance.

Hypnosis is created by the same mechanism but in a positive controlled situation. 


The message units going into the brain create the anxiety that eventually leads to the escape process, which is hypnosis. At this time, the body and brain feel safe within their environment, and the brain loses the critical ability that might otherwise cause it to reject suggestions.

In summary, anxiety and hypnosis are the same, except for one characteristic: hypnosis is a pleasurable state within a controlled environment, whereas anxiety is a worried, fearful state within an uncontrolled environment. When over-activity of the senses takes place, causing extreme receptiveness, the hypnotized subject is guided with positives, while the anxious person is guided by his own

Excerpt from PHM by 

John G. Kappas, Ph.D.

California Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist
Founder, Hypnosis Motivation Institute

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