A question I’m often asked is “Can hypnosis delete memories?”. As you might imagine, because we are all individuals the answer is not cut and dried and it’s not the same for everyone.
First let’s look at the components that we are looking at. Hypnosis is a process that lets us change the way that we think. Memories are stored experiences within our mind. The important component is us. People.
If the question is answered in a black and white way then the answer is yes. And that sounds scary.
But if you take time to understand what’s going on then it gets less scary.
- Everybody is different.
- Everybody does hypnosis differently.
- Everybody remembers things differently.
People who do hypnosis well can make changes to their mind better than most of us. That doesn’t mean that the rest of us can’t change, we learn new things on most days, we change our opinion on things on many days, we forget where we left our keys often.
Most hypnotic procedures are designed to change our emotional response to a memory.
So what if we look at how we access memories.
We access emotionally charged memories more vividly.
So if we start by flattening that out so that we react with less emotion to a memory then it’s a good start. For most of us that means that the memory or external stimulus that causes the emotional response will cause a lower power emotional response. So at some point the emotional response is flat, the external event or memory that used to invoke emotions now causes no response. We haven’t forgotten the event or memory, but we don’t react to it emotionally.
That process works to different extents with people. But with practice, most will get there.
Then you have to make the connection, each time you try to forget something you have to remember it first so that you know what to forget. Neurologically each time you recall something it gets stronger, even if there is no emotion attached, the well trodden path of a memory can get stronger by acces and weaker by lack of access.
So let’s take a different tack to forgetting.
Can you remember a memory or external event that you couldn’t remember. More specifically can you remember one that you couldn’t remember that didn’t bother you. You were’nt going crazy trying to get the memory back, it was just one of those things. Now if you can remember such a thing then how would it be if this memory that we’re trying to forget had that effect too. You get a glimpse of it and you don’t care because it doesn’t matter and it doesn’t affect you.
For example when you last went to the doctor, what colour was the receptionist’s blouse. It has no repercussions and isn’t really important. So what does that feel like.
So what would it be like if you felt that way about the thing you were forgetting.
What would it be like if we associated that lack of importance (that you have experienced in relation to other memories) with the memory that you want to forget. It’s not important. That’s different to emotion, it’s actually an indifference. So if you start becoming indifferent to the memory or event then you can see that you are starting to let go.
I’ve outlined a process that may work for many of us.
The hypnotic super responders are easier. You just tell them what to do in the situation.
The rest of us have to practice and it takes a while.
To be fair, most people get relief from having no emotional response to a memory or event. That causes the memory to fade naturally. But we can follow it through, but it becomes more awkward because the more you re-introduce the memory, the more it stays there.
So can hypnosis delete memories? Yes it can be used to delete memories. The extent to which it works depends on the person, and in some cases it depends on how much effort they are willing to apply.