All hypnosis students get to learn the Eight Rules of the Mind. This collection of postulations forms the foundation upon which hypnosis is built. But whether you are hoping to learn the art of hypnotic induction or not, these Rules are key to understanding a bit about the way you think and act. In the hands of a skilled practitioner, these rules make their subjects much more malleable, allowing the hypnotist to persuade and influence people to do some crazy stuff. Yet these same rules, in your hands, allows you to get so much more out of life by understanding how you subconscious mind works and how it interacts with your conscious mind.

A quick Google search for 'the eight rules of the mind' results in hundreds of website references, nearly all of which are connected with hypnosis in one form or another. In fact, these rules form the backbone of this fascinating skill. But before we get into the eight rules, it's best that we get to grips with what hypnosis is. Finding a precise definition, is about as slippery as a banana peel on the floor. Nobody really has a good idea of how it works and why induction into this state of mind is available to all of us. Yip, you're right to query whether you can be hypnotised or not. The surprising answer is that almost every human being slips in and out of hypnosis at regular intervals. Examples of this are: Driving your car down the highway while your mind is far away on other matters (a state of mind known as daydreaming) when suddenly it snaps back to reality and you wonder how the hell you got this far along your trip because you just can't remember having driven along that part of the road. During that time, your mind split. Part of it drove your car responsibly through the traffic while another part locked onto the far away fantasy-world that grabbed your attention.

Other examples of the hypnotic state are the periods of transition between wakefulness and sleep (known as the hypnogogic state) and between sleep and wakefulness (called the hypnopompic state). I love these moments and look forward to them every day. One is partly awake during the hypnogogic and hypnopompic states and you'll find that your mind easily slips into that familiar daydreaming state as you drift in and out of consciousness on your way to sleep. While you can easily recall approaching asleep, most of us will never be aware of the moment we fell asleep. Hypnagogia (the onset of sleep) is often characterised by some weird but common mental phenomena that occur during this 'threshold consciousness' phase, commonly called 'half-asleep,' 'half-awake' or 'mind awake body asleep.' While in this zone, phenomena including lucid thought, lucid dreaming, hallucinations, and sleep paralysis may occur. This curious phenomenon was known in Aristotle's days and was romanticised by writers like Edgar Alan Poe and Charles Dickens. Dickens gave an elaborate description of the hypnagogic state in his novel, Oliver Twist. Transition to and from sleep may be attended by a wide variety of sensory experiences.

Wikipedia describes some of these quite well:

  • There are psychedelic images or patterns. Among the more commonly reported, and more thoroughly researched, sensory features of hypnagogia are phosphenes which can manifest as seemingly random speckles, lines or geometrical patterns, including form constants, or as figurative (representational) images. They may be monochromatic or richly coloured, still or moving, flat or three-dimensional (offering an impression of perspective). Imagery representing movement through tunnels of light is also reported. Individual images are typically fleeting and given to very rapid changes.
  • Then there are imagined moving or floating objects, especially after having had a repetitive experience. People who have spent a long time at some repetitive activity before sleep, in particular one that is new to them, may find that it dominates their imagery as they grow drowsy, a tendency dubbed the Tetris effect. When the activity involves moving objects, as in the video game Tetris, people tend to perceive the corresponding hypnagogic images as moving. The Tetris effect is not confined to visual imagery, but can manifest in other ways. For example, Robert Stickgold recounts having experienced the touch of rocks while falling asleep after mountain climbing. This can also occur to people who have travelled on a small boat in rough seas, or have been swimming through waves, shortly before going to bed, and they feel the waves as they drift to sleep, or people who have spent the day skiing who continue to 'feel snow' under their feet, also people who have spent considerable time jumping on a trampoline will find that they can feel the up-and-down motion before they go to sleep.
  • Some people experience auditory hallucinations, including sounds and voices. Like the visuals, hypnagogic sounds vary in intensity from faint impressions to loud noises, like knocking and crash and bangs. People may imagine their own name called, crumpling bags, white noise, or a doorbell ringing. Snatches of imagined speech are common. While typically nonsensical and fragmented, these speech events can occasionally strike the individual as apt comments on — or summations of — their thoughts at the time. They often contain word play, neologisms and made-up names. Hypnagogic speech may manifest as the subject's own 'inner voice' or as the voices of others: familiar people or strangers. More rarely, poetry or music is heard.
  • Then there are the sensations of sleep paralysis with their attending feelings of being crushed or moved. Humming, roaring, hissing, rushing, zapping, and buzzing noises are frequent in conjunction with sleep paralysis. This happens when the relaxing shift in the tone of one's muscles sets in sooner than usual, before the person is fully asleep. Sleep paralysis is reportedly very frequently among those who experience excessive daytime sleepiness and intermittent, uncontrollable episodes of falling asleep during the daytime, a condition known as narcolepsy. The paralysis itself is often accompanied by additional phenomena. Typical examples include a feeling of being crushed or suffocated, electric 'tingles' or 'vibrations,' imagined speech and other noises, the imagined presence of a visible or invisible entity, and sometimes intense emotion: fear or euphoria and orgasmic feelings. Sleep paralysis has been proposed as an explanation for at least some of the alien abduction and hauntings experiences.
  • But the most amazing of these phenomena are insights into a problem and enhanced creativity. The best-known example being August Kekulé's [kek-ule] realisation that the structure of benzene was a closed ring while half-asleep in front of a fire and seeing molecules forming into snakes, one of which grabbed its tail in its mouth. Many other artists, writers, scientists and inventors — including Beethoven, Richard Wagner, Walter Scott, Salvador Dalí, Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla and Isaac Newton — have credited hypnagogia and related states with enhancing their creativity.

With all these possibilities, available to you as you fall asleep, it's no wonder why many people seek ways to prolong the hypnogogic state to milk it for what it offers. I know that I do — and it's far safer than taking shrooms or LSD. The easiest way to prolong hypnagogia is to fall asleep on your back with one arm resting on your elbow and your hand pointing up towards the ceiling. You can rest your elbow on your stomach, the way I prefer to do it, or on the matrass next to your body. REM atonia is an almost complete paralysis of your body when it shifts into REM sleep. Motor neurons throughout the body undergo a process called hyperpolarisation which raises the threshold that a stimulus must overcome to excite the muscle. In simple terms, you cannot keep your arm pointing towards the ceiling while you fall asleep because, as your muscles relax, your arm will fall. That sudden movement lifts you out of sleep and, with a bit of practice, will keep you in your hypnogogic state. I recommend that you play with this and I am keen to know what experiences you have. Engage with me through social media if you want to know more.

Anyway, let's get back to hypnosis and the eight foundation stones upon which it is built. One definition of hypnosis is that, "[It] is a state of human consciousness involving focused attention and reduced peripheral awareness [with] an enhanced capacity to respond to suggestion. The term may also refer to an art, skill, or act of inducing hypnosis." Even though the definition comes from Wikipedia (which isn't always that well informed), this is a pretty reasonable explanation. The experience of being hypnotised is very similar to those experienced during hypnagogia, which itself is akin to daydreaming. All share many of the sensory and awareness characteristics of the other. But instead of playing a hit-and-miss game while trying to fall sleep states, you can willingly induce hypnosis at any time. And you can either do this by yourself or under the guidance of a professional hypnotist. Hypnosis one of my most powerful mental states that is the gateway to much of my spiritual awareness, immense clarity of thought and some intriguing healing controls over my own body.

The Eight Rules of the Mind are the cornerstones of the art of hypnotic induction. Every hypnosis student learns them. Search as I may, I cannot find a reliable reference to the originator of these rules. Perhaps they have been assembled from various sources, grouped together as a collection of precepts and handed down from one hypnotist to the next. Who knows? So here they are, and don't worry if you don't easily grasp these concepts immediately because I shall return to explain each one in turn:

  1. Every thought or idea, causes a physical reaction.
  2. What is expected, tends to be realised.
  3. Imagination is more powerful than knowledge.
  4. Opposing ideas cannot be held at one and the same time without creating stress.
  5. An emotionally induced symptom tends to cause organic change if it persists long enough.
  6. Once an idea has been accepted by the subconscious mind, it remains until it is replaced by another idea.
  7. Each suggestion acted upon creates less opposition towards successive suggestions.
  8. When dealing with the subconscious mind and its functions, the greater the conscious effort, the less the subconscious response.

Mmm! These are some intriguing propositions indeed.

Firstly, we need to understand the distinctions between the various parts of your mind as these are very different from the various parts of your brain. So, what is the difference between mind and brain? The best analogy is your smartphone: your brain is like your physically tangible phone and your mind is like the apps that run on it. You have three levels of awareness: consciousness, subconscious beliefs and memories, and your deeply unconscious thoughts and processes that control your bodily functions. Sigmund Freud proposed this layered analogy of the mind, saying that it reminded him of an iceberg with only a fraction of its bulk peeking above water. He likened the protruding part to conscious awareness. It's the part of your mind's thinking process that you can experience. Immediately below the waterline are your subconscious beliefs and memories. We are not always fully aware that we know this stuff but we can access at will if we need to. Take the date of your birth as an example. You don't go about life consciously aware of this date but you can access it and bring it to mind whenever the need arises. Subconscious beliefs influence the way you behave. You will mainly act in line with the things you believe to be right and proper. The deeper you go below the waterline the darker, fuzzier and murkier things get. It's possible but you'll need to do some deep hypnosis to have conscious control over your blood pressure, heart rate and the secretion of information and processing chemicals in your body.

Let's properly unpack these rules of the mind to reveal the profundity they have on your mental and physical health and how they help you realise how you think, subconsciously. Furthermore, I shall give you a little advice as to how you may apply or benefit from this understanding. By auctioning these bits of advice, you'll soon notice positive changes in your life. I know I have…

  1. Every thought or idea, causes a physical reaction.

    Me: Thoughts cannot exist without causing physical bodily reactions.

    Abstract: It's not hard to imagine how this works. Notice a person's body language, reflexes and demeanour before and during a general anaesthetic and you will quickly notice a huge difference. When the person's mind is offline during an anaesthetic, the body, whilst still very much alive, is completely unresponsive. You will not be able to tell anything about the person's mental state by watching him or her during anaesthetic but you could glean a lot of information by watching his or her body language when the person is fully conscious. The Ideomotor Phenomenon is a term derived from the conjunction of two words: ideo, meaning idea or mental representation; and motor, referring to muscular actions. This is a process whereby a thought or mental image brings about a reflexive or automatic muscular reaction, often barely perceptible and potentially outside of the subject's awareness. As in reflexive responses to pain, the body sometimes reacts reflexively with an Ideomotor response to ideas without the person consciously deciding to act. Because the reflex is so instantaneous, there is little chance for the conscious mind to hijack it and censor or distort it. The effects of automatic writing, dowsing, facilitated-communication, and Ouija boards have all been attributed to this phenomenon.

    My Advice: Diligently monitor your thoughts, pruning those that cause negative stress which might lead you to illness. Cancer, cardiovascular, gastro-intestinal and mental diseases often follow as a consequence of improper thinking.

  2. What is expected, tends to be realised (good or bad).

    AKA: The Law of Attraction.

    Me: Whatever you expect to happen, will tend to happen.

    Abstract: The once popular movie, The Secret, seems to have dwindled over the years but its main theme focusses on the supposedly secret Law of Attraction. But the Law of Attraction is no secret. Statistics show that like attracts like. When you obsess over an idea, you create opportunity for that idea to manifest in your reality by tuning your actions to take steps to make it happen. Remember that this is equally true for your conscious and unconscious patterns of thinking. The longer you hold onto the expectation, the more likely it will be that the idea will manifest in your life, not only affecting your health but every other aspect of your life too.

    My Advice: Take heed of the wise one-liner that says, "You attract the things you fear the most." Also, monitor your self-beliefs. People with victim mentality soon find ways to become victims. But the converse is also true: those with good, healthy, positive attitudes and outlooks on life tend to become victorious.

  3. Imagination is more powerful than knowledge.

    Variant: Reason is often overruled by imagination.

    Variant: Imagination is more powerful than willpower.

    Me: Logic and reason do not solve emotional problems.

    Me: The weirder something is, the more likely you will remember it.

    Me: Whenever willpower opposes cravings, cravings will tend to win.

    Me: Willpower is inversely proportional to cravings.

    Abstract: Walking along the curbstones on a pavement is easy for most nimble people to do but make this a walk along the parapet of a tall building and it'll freak you out. Why? Because we are constantly creating hypotheses about things in life. The impact of falling off the curbstones with a 20cm drop is hardly tragic compared to the 20m drop from the parapet. What the imagination locks onto, the emotions and the body will follow. That's why I have the variant of this rule: Logic and reason do not solve emotional problems. There is an emotional response to walking on the parapet 20m off the ground, probably one of paralysing fear, and no amount of logical persuasion will be enough to conquer that fear — not unless you find ways to reach the feeling mind and change its perceptions at that level of subconsciousness.

    My Advice: Carefully monitor your thoughts and do whatever you can to avoid pessimism, doubt, gloom and mistrust as these negatively charged emotions and imaginings will soon cloud your mind and hold you captive.

  4. Opposing ideas cannot be held at one and the same time without creating stress.

    AKA: Cognitive Dissonance.

    Variant: One or the other will become dominant.

    Psychology: Cognitive dissonance is the mental stress (discomfort) experienced by a person who simultaneously holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values, when performing an action that contradicts those beliefs, ideas, and values; or when confronted with new information that contradicts existing beliefs, ideas, and values.

    Me: Distress occurs when you try to hold onto opposing beliefs, ideas or values.

    Deductive Extension: Using the postulations of Rules 1 and 5, it follows that opposing beliefs, ideas and values can cause physical illness.

    Abstract: What do you suppose will happen in the mind of a businessman who engages in shady, illegal dealings and who then goes home to encourage his young son to refrain from dishonest practises? Or, what do you suppose will happen in the mind of a man who cheats on his partner and then returns home to declare his undying love? Feelings of remorse arise when a human commits actions that go against his or her moral values. Split minds create mental stress. Conscience informs moral judgment before an action is taken so that you can avoid the remorseful discomfort that arises if you ignore that inner caution.

    My Advice: Find resonance and congruity across all aspects of your life. Walk the talk. Stand for honesty and integrity. Be true to yourself.

  5. An emotionally induced symptom tends to cause organic change if it persists long enough.

    Me: Protracted emotional energy causes physical bodily changes either for the good or bad, depending upon the context of the energy.

    Abstract: Epigenetics is the study of stably heritable traits from one cell or organism to another that cannot be explained by changes in DNA sequencing. Simply put, there is growing evidence to support the theory that a habitually positive mind can repair chromosomes and that a habitually negative one can negatively affect these genes. This is the first time science has managed to find proof that your mind affects the functioning of your body, either for good or bad. Epigenetics is a long way off proving that one can cure cancer through positive visualisation but there's a lot of good anecdotal evidence to support that it can.

    My Advice: Closely monitor your outlook on life and find urgent ways to address any negativity that is inevitably going to creep in. Part of your survival tactics are to notice threatening things and situations more readily than you would those that are benign and harmless. This creates a bias that leads you easily into states of worry, anxiety and nervousness. Find ways through exercise, good association with others or personal spiritual practises that make you feel upbeat and enthusiastic about life, if you want to live healthily and free from what doctors refer to as functional diseases. These are ailments that stem from psychosomatic causes and did you know that around 80% of all illnesses fall into this category. Depression is just one of them.

  6. Once an idea has been accepted by the subconscious mind, it remains until it is replaced by another idea.

    Corollary: The longer an idea remains, the more opposition there is to replace it with a new idea.

    Me: Subconscious acceptance of beliefs, ideas or values displace older ones and quickly become dominant.

    Abstract: According to Sir Isaac Newton, objects travel in straight lines for ever more until they encounter another force that alters their course in some way. Earth would take a straight journey out into the blackness of space if it weren't for the sun's force of gravity that inwardly curves its path. Thoughts and beliefs tend to do the same thing. It might take a while for you to integrate and entrench a thought which then becomes a habit but habits can change by applying the force of a different set of thoughts to knock it off course. Here's an example: Suppose that you walk into a dark room and run your hand across the table looking for something you need, when, all of a sudden, your hand runs over a snake. What will you do? I suspect that you will run out of the room in a state of full-blown fight and flight. The longer you stay out of the room, the bigger and more venomous the snake becomes in your imagination (this is because of Rule 3 which states that imagination is more powerful than knowledge). But find your bravery and go back into the room, switching on the lights and looking at what lies on the table and you'll instantly and permanently change your emotional state if you see that the snake is nothing other than a coiled-up length of rope.

    My Advice: Take heed of what I said in the introduction to this show. I'll say it again to refresh your memory, "Searching deep into the soul requires that you conduct a penetrating self-examination of your motives, convictions and attitudes. You should frequently challenge your personal beliefs and thoughts to open your mind to fresh ideas and freethinking. I'll ask the awkward questions on your behalf, I'll poke holes in rigid belief systems and challenge the way the world taught you to think so that you can use some of these ideas to redesign your life for the better." Now you know why I introduce the show the way I do… to break down redundant beliefs and thoughts and to till new soil for fresh thinking.

  7. Each suggestion acted upon creates less opposition towards successive suggestions.

    AKA: The Law of Truisms or The Law of Repeated Concentrated Exposure.

    Me: Each time you get a person to comply with your requests, the more likely they are to accept your next request.

    Abstract: A mental trend is easier to follow the longer it lasts unbroken. Once a habit forms it becomes easier to follow and more difficult to break. Good sales people know this stuff and are trained to get you to agree to a framework of yesses before asking you to sign on the dotted line. Here's an example: a second-hand car salesman says, "You can see the deep polished shine of this beautiful red car, can't you?" And your subconscious response is, "Yes I can." You might or might not nod your head in agreement and the salesman will keenly anticipate and observe your response. He might go on, "Open the door and sit in the leather seat and notice how plush and comfortable it is, don't you agree?" And your response is another "Yes," one that systematically weakens your ability to say no to his final request to get your signature to close the deal. This hasn't happened to me when buying a car — I'm too shrewd for that to happen — but it has happened when donation collectors have cleverly gotten me to buy into the plight of the impoverished kids before asking me to part with my cash.

    My Advice: Avoid marketing and sales pitches. They could be about the purchase of some commodity of sorts or they could try to convert you to a different way of thinking. After a long sequence of affirmative suggestions, stop for a few minutes (what sales people call, 'cooling off') and think clearly for a while, giving yourself time to purge the influential yesses, before making your final decision. Now you know why I make the following statement in the introduction to this show, "I'll ask the awkward questions on your behalf, I'll poke holes in rigid belief systems and challenge the way the world taught you to think so that you can use some of these ideas to redesign your life for the better." Too many people herd us into paddocks of collective thinking and we are often so blind to their cunning manipulation, believing that it is the only way to go.

  8. When dealing with the subconscious mind and its functions, the greater the conscious effort, the less the subconscious response.

    AKA: The Law of Reversed Effect.

    Variant: The harder you try to do something, the more difficult it is to do it.

    Abstract: This proves why willpower doesn't really work. If you have insomnia you'll know that, "The harder you try to go to sleep, the wider awake you become." This rule means you must work to develop a positive mental expectancy that your problem can and will be solved. As your faith in your subconscious mind increases you'll learn to "let it happen" rather than trying to "force it to happen." Letting go of conscious effort allows the subconscious mind to act automatically. By changing fixed subconscious thoughts at the level at which they were accepted, while simultaneously addressing the emotional responses that led to this acceptance, is the quickest and most powerful method for healing and for change.

    My Advice: Allow yourself to run on autopilot and trust that it will work for you. If you have a gut instinct about something, trust it even if there are dark clouds of concern in your conscious mind. It's like two aircraft flying in formation, one tucked in just behind the other. When the conscious mind is in the lead, expecting the subconscious to follow behind, the world becomes a minefield of patterns, strategies, and tactics. Hard work, micromanagement or sweating-the-small-stuff seems to be the only way to fly. But what if the two aircraft changed positions? What if you led intuitively and instinctively, using your conscious mind as the tail? I think you'd be phenomenal.