Hypnotherapy is growing more and more popular in an age where people are looking toward “alternatives” to modern medicine to deal with certain ailments. No one wants to have to take a pill for everything; so many opt to explore the potential of the human mind to deal with their problems. However, there are still many who don’t seem to understand what hypnotherapy is. My favorite way to define hypnosis is as the adjustment of a persons thoughts, actions, or subjective reality through the use of verbal and nonverbal cues, often resulting in a trancelike state of mind. To elaborate further, I thought I might debunk the 5 biggest myths I encounter on the topic.
1. Hypnosis is magic.
One of the first things people say to me when I tell them that I make my living hypnotizing others is, “Ya know, I’m pretty sure I believe in that.” I usually can’t help but respond, “Thanks, but you know it’s not Santa Clause, right?” Now I’ll admit that when trances were formally induced for the first time, it was probably for the sake of religious ceremony. Further, there is a more mystical side of the hypnosis world that many work within today. However, it is safe to say that hypnosis is both scientifically valid and clinically reliable.
The American Psychological Association has endorsed hypnosis since the 1960’s. In fact, before Freud’s psychoanalysis developed so much popularity, hypnotherapy was a mainstream clinical intervention. Now magicians, mediums, ministers, politicians, and marketers all employ various hypnotic techniques in their trades of choice whether they know it or not. There is plenty of scientific literature available on the subject. Remember, as described in the earlier definition, hypnosis is basically changing the way a person thinks. To a degree, all learning is a form of hypnosis.
2. Not everyone can be hypnotized.
To be blunt, show me someone who thinks he or she can’t be hypnotized, and I’ll show you someone who doesn’t really understand what hypnosis is. First of all, it’s not entirely accurate to assume that all hypnosis happens within the realm of a trance state. Many might propose that whenever a person accepts a suggestion or changes his or her mind, s/he has a hypnotic experience. Secondly, it is erroneous to assume that not everyone can inter a trance state. If you can daydream, you can go into a trance. If you have ever pulled your car into your driveway without remembering anything about your trip home, you can go into a trance state. In that state, your mind is even more comfortable with being reframed and learning new information.
Further, I believe it’s important that I clarify that hypnosis doesn’t only work well on the weak-minded. In fact, studies have shown that the best hypnosis clients are usually more intelligent and more creative. However, if being able to go into a hypnotic state is still a concern for you, the 2 variables that will make the biggest difference are your willingness to comply and your ability to allow yourself to relax. Whether consciously or unconsciously, you have a say in both of those variables.
3. Hypnosis is amnesic sleep.
While in trance, you may find your mind in a very light, sleep-like state. However, most studies show that trance occurs when your brain waves have move past relaxed but haven’t quite slowed down to deep sleep (a state known as Theta). This state would feel similar to how you feel when you’re about to fall asleep, yet you’re still aware of what’s going on.
Hypnosis also doesn’t always cause you to lose your memory, although if you are able to go deep enough, it is a possibility. Many hypnotherapists want their clients to be able to recall their experiences to some conscious degree. However, should you fall asleep completely during a hypnotic experience (or down to the state known as Delta), your unconscious is still able to take in auditory information. That’s actually a good reason to not fall asleep with the television on.
4. Hypnosis is all about making me do or say things.
I have to confess, there is a little bit of truth behind this myth. There is somewhat of a dark side of hypnosis that can be used for ill intent. In fact, to say you can’t be hypnotized is to say that you can’t be manipulated. Of course a certain amount of conscious or unconscious submission is necessary. However, if the conditions are right and the person can be motivated enough, anyone can be persuaded to do anything. For example, most people believe that stealing is wrong, but most would steal food to keep their family alive if they had to. As mentioned before, marketers and cultural leaders have been using hypnotic methods for years to sway the masses. In many ways, you’ve already been hypnotized. Wouldn’t you benefit from using those same techniques to get what you want out of yourself rather than what some one else wants?
That’s where the therapeutic part of hypnotherapy comes into play. When a client asks me “Are you going to make me bark like a dog?” I usually respond by saying, “How would help you for me to make you bark like a dog?” Any hypnotherapist worth his salt is capable of doing a few party tricks, but suggestions will stick more tightly to your mind the more the suggestion can potentially benefit you. Hypnosis, when utilized to its highest potential is about empowerment and self-control. Because at the end of the day, a hypnotist can drop a suggestion, but it’s up to you and your unconscious to pick it up. Learn hypnosis, and learn to use your mind to its fullest capacity.