The working of the mind is a complex process, not subject to a simple diagram with arrows and boxes. Where exactly in the brain the Middle Mind “operates” is still a mystery, for now. Experts have to reason backwards from effects to causes, and those causes, at least in the case of hypnosis, have taken a few thousand years to define. However, today we do know enough to access the Middle Mind and to work with it to effect change.
In order to explain the Middle Mind and show how hypnosis uses it to alter behavior, I will use the analogy of a computer, a machine with which most of us are familiar. While analogies can be useful in explaining the general ideas, bear in mind that all analogies will invariably break down at some point. For our purposes, though, the computer will serve to help us understand how hypnosis works.
First, consider the computer’s internal system. It has a hard drive upon which all long term data is stored, even programs that are not in current use. A computer also requires Random Access Memory (RAM) in order to operate, a type of short term memory that allows quick access for immediate tasks. The RAM pulls up data from the hard drive for us in order to help us complete our tasks. The RAM then stores that information to the hard drive as each task is completed so that it can be retrieved later; it is a hardwired connection to your system.
Our subconscious, or Middle Mind, is our hard drive. The Middle Mind stores all data, our every memory since birth over the years. All of our years of education, our books, our loves, our hates are filed away in those layered memories. For me, years of near-meaningless baseball stats that I absorbed as a kid growing up are stored in my Middle Mind, as well as most of the dialogue to every episode of Seinfeld.
Our conscious mind, alert and active, is our RAM. It handles our immediate tasks at hand: our cooking, our reading, our driving needs.
Many programs essential to the computer’s operation are engaged and working without a user’s knowledge. These programs are equivalent to the Middle Mind’s operations. Our drives, habits, and instincts work along the same principle; they work without our conscious awareness of them.
However, our analogy of the computer breaks down as soon as we discuss the need for repair. If a computer program or its data becomes corrupted, we can take steps to uninstall the corrupted program and replace it with a healthy one. Behavior problems in the Middle Mind, however, require a different approach. Our Middle Mind programs that lead to poor diet decisions, or create a fear of even the friendliest dog, or make sleep difficult cannot simply be uninstalled with the click of a computer key. Like many of today’s toughest computer viruses, the fix may not be simple. Until the advancement of recent “decoders” in hypnotherapy, people might have a life sentence of frustrating behaviors, or at best, lifetimes of constant battles with themselves resulting in yoyo diets, on-again-off-again smoking, or medicating before flying. Some have sought help in long-term traditional psychological therapy treatments. Hypnosis, however, is the modern key to help and to change.
Let’s try another analogy. When we drive a car, we think of ourselves as making all the decisions. Actually, much of the operation of a car – the work of the engine, the safety features, the climate controls, the warning alarms – are all active and essential to the proper functioning of a modern vehicle. If the car breaks down, our sitting in the driver’s seat and simply willing the car to be fixed will not achieve anything (although I am sure most of us have tried “reasoning” with a car at some point). The first big step in getting the car operational is to look under the hood. Think of hypnosis as the latch to opening the hood to our Middle Minds. Once inside, we can begin to take steps to correct the problem.