The conscious and the subconscious mind
Although hypnosis is not strictly a therapy in itself, the hypnotic state allows me to gain access to your subconscious, or unconscious, mind. It is your subconscious that determines much of the way you behave and react to events.
The conscious mind, that part of the brain that you use in the wakened state to make you aware of your surroundings and respond appropriately, is only relatively small compared with the subconscious part of your mind. The subconscious is rather like the main bulk of an iceberg under the tiny tip (the conscious mind) that floats above the surface of the sea. Your subconscious contains all your past-learnt experiences and memories, all your learnt behaviour patterns and reflexes, as well as those inherent survival reflexes that were already present at birth. In the example of phobias, which means an irrational fear of something, the fear will have been learnt at some stage your life and will remain despite your intellectual agreement that it does not need to be a problem anymore.
In the hypnotic state, your mind will become very open to suggestion. The hypnotic state is very different from the normal waking state. Hypnosis is also clearly not the same as sleep. The term 'hypnosis' is a misnomer because the derivation of the word is from the Greek word 'Hypnos', which means sleep but a hypnotised person is not asleep.
The state of hypnosis is essentially a state of deep relaxation and is thus almost universally found to be pleasant. Hypnotherapy involves you entering this state of deep relaxation, during which your mind, particularly the subconscious mind, becomes very open to positive, behaviour-changing suggestions made by me. In this relaxed state, you will believe things that you would not believe in the waking state. In simple terms, this principle is used in the therapeutic setting to enable you to believe that, for example, you are no longer afraid of flying, or spiders, or eating in public or whatever your problem behaviour is. These potentially behaviour-changing suggestions, or messages, are left in your subconscious to work at that level and if they are effective, your behaviour will change. Naturally, it is essential that the changes intended are exactly what you want and this is discussed in detail with you before any session of hypnosis takes place.