(This blog was originally posted on November 16, 2016)
So much goes on in our immediate environment, let alone the world, that we don’t know about or even perceive. But, what if you smelled the scent of every flower or heard every car horn or dog barking in the neighborhood? Imagine noticing each and every person who walked into the room or felt the sensation of the label sewn into the back of your clothes? Consider what it would be like if you could isolate the distinct flavor of every ingredient in KFC fried chicken or your favorite cookie? You would be in a state of overload every minute of the day and probably not be able to enjoy a lot of any of these experiences. In other words, you would be in hypnosis—literally and metaphorically trying to escape the overload of sensations bombarding you every moment of the day.
I particularly notice this phenomenon when I am at yoga. There is always music playing softly in the background, but after the first few minutes of class I stop noticing it. I am so focused on moving and adjusting my body into the various positions, everything else just falls away. My attention only shifts back to the environment when the teacher instructs the class to move into a different pose or adjusts my position. Then I notice the music again for a moment and the other students nearby before my focus returns to what I am doing.
If you drive a car, you probably do a lot of things automatically now that used to take much longer and require a lot more attention when you first learned this skill. Back then, you would take the time to adjust the rear-view and side mirrors and make sure the seat was adjusted before you even turned on the ignition. This was especially true if you were driving the family car and these things were already set to their preference. Eventually you became so familiar and comfortable with the workings of the vehicle that you could adjust the mirrors while you drove. The first few weeks or months after you got your license, you couldn’t even deal with having someone else in the car. Now, you barely pay attention to your favorite CD or radio station blasting through the car speakers while you have animated conversations with your passenger(s). Driving, which was once the complete focus of your attention, has become the equivalent of background noise. We barely notice what we’re doing until something different happens to grab our attention.
The mind can only process seven items of new information at one time. This discrimination is an important aspect of survival: when we notice everything in the environment, everything is attributed equal value and requires a lot of attention (energy) to determine whether it is a threat. As we become used to different aspects of the environment, we can file these experiences as safe/comfortable/familiar (subconscious knowns) and can focus on other things. However, when something new happens or catches our attention, it is immediately filed as a possible threat or danger and triggers the fight/flight response. Once this potential threat has been addressed and the details/information processed, it also becomes part of our subconscious mental script for future reference—in most cases, a non-threat or background noise.
Now, back to that label sewn into the collar of your shirt….
Sara R. Fogan, C.Ht. is a certified hypnotherapist based in Southern California. She graduated with honors from the Hypnosis Motivation Institute in 2005. For more information about Calminsense Hypnotherapy® and to set up an appointment, please visit http://www.calminsensehypnotherapy.com/.