An optical illusion is a trick played on the mind using an image that is visually perceived in a way that is different from what it is in objective reality. Our brains interpret and process the information collected from the eye and makes unconscious inferences without you realizing it. The brain processes what it sees, and fills in the gaps using the knowledge from past experiences.
For example if you read this fast you can sitl undrestnad waht I ma sanyig. The brain infers the meaning of words based on only a few letter seen by your eyes, and ‘fills in the the gaps’. The brain also removes things that are not normally there. Did you notice that I said ‘fills in the the gaps’?!
We have evolved to notice differences, such as movement among motionless trees, and to be sensitive to context. These abilities have been so important to our survival that it is very difficult to override them. In this following diagram for example, the shade of green in the top half is exactly the same shade as in the bottom half. Yet they look different. If you isolate the colours with your hand or with some paper, you can see this. However your brain will still automatically perceive them as different, even when you know they are the same.
Now if you look at the next diagram the second circle appears larger than the first circle because of the different contexts they are both placed in. In the first context the circle is made to appear smaller because it is dwarfed by the bigger blue circles, whereas in the second picture the circle seems bigger as you are comparing it to smaller circles.
We go about our life experiencing only a fraction of the ‘reality’ of what is actually going on around us. The brain fills in many aspects of what is going on based on its past experiences. For example if you were attacked by a dog in your past, the brain may interpret a dog running up to you in a friendly way as an act of aggression, causing you to feel fear. However the same dog running in the same way to someone who has had loads of good experiences with dogs, will probably perceive this quite differently.
Our brain organizes and constructs our own personal and unique realities. But because they are ‘our’ reality, we believe them to be the ‘true reality’. This can stop us from growing and learning, and changing our ways. For example some people, due to a past experience, may go through life feeling that people cannot be trusted, and will interpret other people’s actions as confirming this belief, further strengthening their resolve. This narrow view can also prevent us from seeing other people’s alternative perceptions on matters.
Hypnosis sessions can help expand your perceptions of reality, allowing you to experience a little more of the ‘reality’ of what is around you. Hypnosis can challenge your existing views by offering your subconscious mind alternative viewpoints. This can have the effect of opening the mind to other realities, helping you to move closer to the ‘real you’, and ‘reality’ by giving you a choice of other alternatives.
Remember, the reality you have constructed in your own mind is not the same as anyone else’s. We all have a unique outlook on life. Some may perceive life as exciting, challenging, and rewarding; whereas others may perceive it as cold, cruel, and hard. Yet we live in the same world. Luckily the mindset can be changed by hypnosis, if you want to. If you wish to continue with your existing mind set, then fine, you must be one of the lucky people who live relatively problem free. If you do wish to change aspects of you perception, then hypnosis is the perfect tool. A hypnotherapist will gently guide you into a trance. Whilst in trance he is better able to communicate with your subconscious mind, where all your fears and habits are formed, and gently persuade it to change.
I sometimes measure a patients’ shift in perception, after therapy. For example it is not uncommon for example someone who was afraid of dogs to say “I suppose I was never that scared of dogs really” after a session, because they no longer feel that fear. Their perception has shifted and their lack of fear from dogs feels perfectly normal, just like their fear of dogs felt normal.
Before the hypnosis session I sometimes show them pictures and describe scenarios, and ask them to rate, out of 10, how much fear they feel from them. At the end of the treatment, I ask them again. They are usually very pleasantly surprised at how scared they used to feel, even if it was only an hour previous!
Our perceptions of the world are constantly shifting in response to our experiences of the world. However we often do not notice them because how we feel right now is what we feel is the ‘true’ perspective. Sometimes we can experience quite dramatic temporary shifts in our perception when, for example, we are very angry. At these times we might perceive certain people or situations in a very negative light. When we are feeling like this, we still believe that this is the true perception, even though it is massively different to the one we had only a few moments earlier. Then when we calm down, our perception then returns back, and this is again perceived as the true perception.
The point is that there is no true perception, since it is flawed and constantly shifting. However there are some unhelpful perceptions, such as ‘everybody’s out to get me’ and ‘nothing ever goes right, so why bother? ’ These types of perceptions, which many people hold at some point in their lives, can negatively influence our lives. Luckily these can be changed with the subtle use of clinical hypnotherapy.