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Theory of Mind

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Imagine this to be the human mind.  When we are born our life script has very little content.

There is one area of the brain however that is already wired and working right out of the box, and we refer to this as the primitive area of mind. In this area we have a couple of fears, as well as some instincts.

Among these are the primitive responses of Fight/Flight known as part of the Sympathetic Nervous System. Back in caveman days if we were confronted by a saber tooth tiger, if we were armed with the right weapon we may choose to "Fight" and hopefully have dinner, or engage "Flight" so we did not become dinner.

Then in the following days our life script begins to develop content through identification, association, and response.

Think of a time when you were driving along and a song came on that had significance to a certain time in your life. You "Identify" with the song, "Associate" it to a certain time or event from your past, and it creates an emotional "Response."

Then we begin to grow and learn about the world around us through our experiences. We'll have some positive, negative, & neutral experiences that for each of us will make up how we interact with the world around us.

Being an animal lover, having grown up with dogs who went with me everywhere, if my old German Shepherd were to walk in I would likely turn into a ten year old boy, get down on the floor and start playing with him. Therefore dogs represent a positive association with me.

If however you were attacked by a German Shepherd as a child, you might be filled with fear and panic causing you to subconsciously activate your Fight/Flight response and run away as the same dog represents a negative association to you.

So if we look at this subconscious or unconscious area that encompasses our "Knowns," memories, automatic responses, autonomic functions, and the "Primitive Area," we estimate that this comprises about 88% of the mind.

Then around 8-9 years of age we begin to form what we call the "Critical Mind." Lying part in the conscious, and part in the subconscious we think of this critical area as a filter of sorts, or critical thinking. Before this forms children are like a sponge as they take in everything.

In this conscious critical thinking, we have our logic, reasoning skills, decision making abilities, and willpower; and this critical faculty is there to protect us. It allows us to think about and analyze things where as children will take things more at face value.

This conscious area makes up the other 12% of the mind.

The conscious mind is exposed to millions of "Message Units" throughout the day which come in from the environment, body, conscious, and subconscious. The Critical Mind filters these message units and rejects what it deems as not worthy.

While in a state of hypnosis however, this critical filter goes into a state of abeyance and allows carefully phrased suggestions from a skilled hypnotherapist to slip directly into the subconscious to deal with fears and phobias, or alter habits.

Theory of Mind

The Theory of Mind slideshow presented above provides a broad overview of the concept developed by Dr. John Kappas over forty years ago.  The model which on the surface seems so basic, actually has complex physiological and psychological ties throughout the human body, and provides for a very powerful approach to hypnotherapy.  Using this paradigm a well trained hypnotherapist can utilize this theoretical model to create successful session plans for cessation work, weight loss, habit control, and even issues such as chronic pain and other medical issues.  In fact, it’s a foundational basis for virtually every type of hypnotherapy session one can conduct, and it is so important that it is taught in the very first Foundations Class lecture given at the College of Hypnotherapy.

What is important to understand about the model that isn’t readily covered in the slideshow due to the format is the way in which the association or “known” is changed.  For example in the first scenario, the person who experienced extreme fear when the dog came into the room had a negative association or “known” residing in their subconscious relating to dogs.  If this person was planning to marry into a family with a big dog, he or she might want to reach a place where they could objectively size up a situation where a dog was in the room, and determine their course of action rationally, instead of from this position they have now determined is an unfounded fear.  In this case, the goal in Theory of Mind terms would be to create a newer, healthier association or “known.” 

In the second example shown in the presentation, the person was a harmful habit who wanted to stop.  This person had a positive association with the habit.  If he or she were to come in and wanted to change this habit, we would want to change that positive association. 

While an explanation of Neural Pathways is beyond the scope of this discussion, please understand that while the above presentation shows things on a very basic level, in most cases the hypnotherapist isn’t planning to snap the current known out of the subconscious. There are situations and habits where things can be simply suggested away, but in more complex issues what really happens is that a new pathway, to a newer, healthier “known” can be made.  This newer, healthier route then becomes the path of least resistance and is chosen over the old association.

If you would like to learn more or speak with someone regarding hypnosis, contact us online or call the office at 469-225-9040.

Please note that sessions for issues with an underlying medical etiology require authorization from a licensed medical doctor.


Kappas, J. G. (2009). Professional Hypnotism Manual: Introducing Physical and Emotional Suggestibility and Sexuality (5th ed.) Panorama Publishing.