Due to the mysterious and fantastical portrayal of hypnosis in the popular culture of movies and books, just about everyone in the world holds misconceptions about how hypnosis works. Here are five of the biggest misconceptions.
Misconception #1: Hypnosis is caused by the Hypnotist
Many stage hypnotists are skilled at creating the illusion that they possess a magical and mysterious power over other people. However, this is just an illusion. The hypnosis subject is always in complete control. Note how all the subjects at a comedy hypnosis show voluntarily agree to participate in the show. They’re engaged and encouraged to put on a show for the audience. Now, in a therapeutic context, the hypnotist is able to use her skills in communication to make acceptance to suggestions more likely, but there is absolutely no control over the client, other than the control that the client gives to the hypnotist. Again, the client must have a strong desire and commitment to the process of change and the tool we use, which is hypnosis. If you were to allow me to guide you through an experience to help you overcome a problem, who was REALLY in control? While the hypnotist guides the experience, it is only to the degree that the client permits it. It’s a mutually beneficial interaction. And if a person does not want to be hypnotized, they will not be. Entering into a hypnotic trance is a personal choice. Since the client is in control of the depth of hypnosis and their openness to suggestion, it further demonstrates why some clients have better results from the same exact type of session than others. If someone is fully vested, committed, and open to the process of hypnosis, they will fare much better as far as results are concern. In the end, all hypnosis is self-hypnosis.
Misconception #2: Only certain People can be Hypnotized
I’ve had clients come to me and explain that years prior they had visited a hypnotist. That hypnotist had told them that they were not hypnotizable and would not accept them as clients. The bad news is that this type of hypnotist described was not a very good one. The good news is that 99.9% of people can be hypnotized! As long as a person can listen and follow my instructions, a very skilled hypnotherapist can help them achieve at least a light level of trance to obtain positive change. While some people are more hypnotizable than others, the overwhelming majority of people are capable of at least a light hypnotic trance.
Misconception #3: Only the Weak-minded can be Hypnotized
Everyone enters states of trance on a regular basis quickly and spontaneously. In fact, the ability to be hypnotized is not reliably correlated to specific personality traits. In my own personal practice, I’ve had many clients do well of both below and above average intelligence. I’ve had people who are naturally very high strung and anxious relax heavily and go deeply into trance. So it’s clear to me that there really is no correlation with a person’s intelligence or personal will power, and their ability to go into hypnosis. In addition, studies so far have been ambiguous about what attributes could possibly make for a person who is more easily hypnotized. If a person desires to enter a trance and is open to do so without over analyzing the experience, they will fare well. It’s best to just go with the flow. And anyone can do that, regardless their intelligence or personal will power.
Misconception #4: You’re asleep or unconscious while in Hypnosis.
Trance is not sleep! Even though a person looks like they are asleep during trance, they’re actually relaxed and alert. When someone is in hypnosis, they are always aware of their surroundings at some basic level, no matter how deep they appear. In addition, in waking hypnosis, a person can be in a trance state while remaining even more aware of their surroundings as they are not necessarily physically relaxed.
Misconception #5: A person must be relaxed in order to be in Hypnosis.
Hypnotic trance is a state of concentrated attention. This can vary depending on the context and the goal of the client and hypnotist. Trances occur when a person has fixed attention, which could happen while watching a movie, reading a book, or listening to a speaker. While relaxation can be a very enjoyable aspect of the formal trance achieved during hypnosis with a professional, it is not a requirement. Your level of relaxation during the session does not necessarily impact the effectiveness, and in fact, there are times when I use methods which are not intended to relax the client at all. But many people who don’t feel normally capable of relaxing, are pleasantly surprised when they feel completely refreshed when they emerge from their hypnosis session in my office.