Perhaps you imagine a golden pocket-watch swinging back and forth at the end of a chain, with a subject’s eyes following the steady movement. And then the voice of the hypnotist—seated on the stage—suggesting to the subject that they perform some strange activity. And then the oohs and ahs and laughter of the audience, as the hypnotized subject engages in that unusual, outrageous, or embarrassing activity.

Such depictions of stage hypnosis are common in cartoons and movies. And while they may hold a kernel of truth, such portrayals also contribute to many misconceptions about hypnosis. Subjects in hypnotic trance, for instance, are never slaves to the suggestions of the hypnotist. Rather, they retain absolute free will. And they’re not in a totally unconscious sleep state—but rather remain attentive, in a state of heightened awareness.

What Is Hypnosis?

Hypnosis is the induction of a state of consciousness—through relaxation and focusing exercises—in which a person is highly responsive to suggestion or direction. The hypnotic state is characterized by suggestibility, deep relaxation, and heightened imagination.

What Is Hypnotherapy?

Hypnotherapy is a healing modality that employs hypnosis for the purpose of recovering suppressed memories and/or supporting the transformation of belief systems and behavior via hypnotic suggestions.

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How Do Hypnosis and Hypnotherapy Work?

According to the predominant school of thought among psychiatrists, hypnosis works by accessing a person’s subconscious mind directly. Hypnosis moves the everyday conscious mind into the background, so that the hypnotist and client can communicate directly with the subconscious mind.

The subconscious mind is the seat of imagination and impulse. When the subconscious mind is functioning without the rigid filters of the conscious mind, a person tends to feel more intuitive, spontaneous, and creative.

The subconscious is also the storehouse for memories. While in hypnosis, subjects may be able to access past events that they have completely forgotten. A hypnotherapist can use hypnosis to bring up these memories so that a related personal problem can finally be resolved.

In this way, hypnotherapy can facilitate the release of old habitual beliefs and behavioral patterns; and the reprograming of the subconscious mind in ways that are in alignment with the client’s deepest aspirations. It’s as if the hypnotism process pops open a control panel inside the client’s mind—which allows beneficial reprogramming to happen.

In my work as a hypnotherapist, I use hypnosis not only to access the subconscious mind, but also to access and activate the spiritual dimensions—the higher self—of the client. This form of hypnotherapy can unveil the more expansive dimensions of being and reveal the inherent wisdom of the higher self.

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Common Myths and Misconceptions about Hypnosis

To help you feel more comfortable and confident in the power and integrity of hypnotherapy, it will be useful to debunk some common misconceptions about hypnosis.

A hypnotist is a person who is gifted with strange, unusual, or special supernatural/mystical powers.

Fact: A hypnotist is just a normal human being—without extraordinary supernatural/mystical powers—who has received training and become proficient in a specific healing modality. A well-trained hypnotist understands that they are just a facilitator: They skillfully employ hypnotic suggestions to facilitate an altered state of mind. But ultimately, clients hypnotize themselves. And the hypnotherapist can teach the client how to self-induce the hypnotic state.

A person may get stuck in a hypnotic state, i.e., not be easily awakened from the altered state, and perhaps remain that way for a long time.

Fact: No one has remained indefinitely in a hypnotic state. In fact, the hypnotic state can be terminated at will. It is as simple as opening the eyes. A person cannot get stuck in hypnosis.

Many people are not able to be hypnotized.

Fact: Nine out of ten people (a full 90%!) can be hypnotized.

Only gullible or weak-minded people can be hypnotized.

Fact: Actually, it’s nearly impossible to hypnotize a feeble-minded person. Why? Because accepting and deeply integrating hypnotic suggestions requires imagination and a conscious willingness to cooperate. The more intelligent, creative, and imaginative someone is, the easier it is to hypnotize them. 

Hypnosis tends not to be effective with people whose minds are not well-integrated. It’s also challenging to induce hypnosis in people who are rigidly analytical and/or controlling.

When in hypnosis, a person is out of control.

Fact: A person cannot be hypnotized against their will. They have to want to be hypnotized in order for it to happen. The best subject is a person who has a definite reason and motivation to be hypnotized. To be successfully hypnotized, a person must:

  • Want to be hypnotized.
  • Have confidence in the hypnotist.
  • Be willing to accept suggestion.
  • Be free from fear.
  • Be able to relax, and free from the need to be in control.

A person is under the hypnotist’s control and can be made to do or say anything. They could even be forced to commit a crime or do something else that would violate their moral principles.

Fact: While in hypnosis, a person will never abandon his or her moral principles. They will not commit antisocial acts. They retain the power to select only the suggestions they are willing to accept. They will reject any improper suggestions and will never commit a crime or immoral act.

The ego never totally dissociates when in hypnosis. Because the ego is present when in hypnosis, a person will never act outside of their code of ethics.

Hypnosis is an unconscious state like sleep, and so when hypnotized a person is unaware of their physical surroundings.

Fact: Hypnosis may in certain ways resemble sleep, yet it is not sleep—and is in fact a state of heightened and expanded awareness. If a client falls asleep then they are not in hypnosis. In hypnosis, a person is aware of everything that is going on around them. They hear sounds in the general vicinity and remain fully aware of what is being said to them. In fact, the senses are often enhanced when a person is in the hypnotic state. This is known as hyperacuity.

A person must be deeply hypnotized to be helped.

Fact: A person does not need to be in a deep state of hypnosis to benefit from hypnotherapy. Beneficial results can also come while in a light trance.

Hypnosis is unnatural and artificial.

Fact: Hypnosis is an altered yet completely natural state of mind. It is a natural hypnotic trance state, which is very similar to daydreaming, or the feeling of “losing oneself” in a book or movie.

Hypnosis is merely relaxation and nothing more.

Fact: You can be relaxed and yet not be hypnotized—and you can be hypnotized and not fully relaxed. Relaxation is only one aspect of one type of hypnosis.

Hypnosis is equivalent to catalepsy—and a person cannot move when in that state.

Fact: Catalepsy can occur in or out of trance and is not equivalent to hypnosis. The apparently catatonic state known as the hypnotic coma is not an unconscious or cataleptic state, but rather is a state of profound relaxation in which the person does not wish to move, think, or speak. However, he or she is fully conscious and can terminate that state anytime they want to.

The eyes must be closed for hypnosis to be happening.

Fact: Closing the eyes does not imply hypnosis. And the eyes can be open in a hypnotic state.

Hypnosis is brainwashing.

Fact: According to the American Heritage Dictionary, brainwashing is defined as “intensive, forcible indoctrination, usually political or religious, aimed at destroying a person’s basic convictions and attitudes and replacing them with an alternative set of fixed beliefs.” 

Brainwashing involves an altered state where some form of deprivation is present. A hypnotist cannot make someone do something that they would not do normally. Furthermore, a skillful hypnotist empowers clients to access the hypnotic state themselves and to initiate their own beneficial transformations.

Hypnosis is a surrender of one’s will to the hypnotist, in which the hypnotic subject is under the power of the hypnotist. It is a case of one “stronger being” having power over a “weaker being.”

Fact: A hypnotist does not have power over another person. Modern hypnosis uses the word “in” when describing hypnosis, rather than “under.” A person is said to be “in” a hypnotic state, rather than “under” hypnosis—which may imply the hypnotic subject being “under” the power of the hypnotist.

In modern hypnotherapy, the hypnotist and his or her client are seen as equals: The hypnotist facilitates process but does not control it. Ultimately, clients resolve their issues by accessing their own inner resources, from their subconscious mind and higher self.

Hypnosis is a kind of truth serum. A person who is hypnotized can be forced to reveal secrets or to say unkind or embarrassing things.

Fact: A person can lie in hypnosis. They can edit and withhold information in hypnosis. They do not have to reveal secrets. When hypnotized, a person will not do anything against their will. They have the power to reject any suggestion that is given to them. A client will never divulge or do anything that he or she would not say or do in a regular waking state.

Hypnosis is anti-religious.

Fact: There are no religious connotations associated with hypnosis. Its benefits are available equally to people affiliated with any and all spiritual or religious traditions—as well as to people with no such affiliations.

When hypnotized, repressed memories of trauma always emerge.

Fact: Hypnosis can be used to uncover repressed memories, but the hypnotic state itself does not, by default, bring them to the surface. A client will never see something that he or she is not ready to see. And such memories will only come to the surface if the client and/or the hypnotist intends to bring them up.

How Do I Know If Hypnosis Is for Me?

Now that we’ve clarified what hypnosis is and what it isn’t, you may feel newly comfortable and open to exploring hypnotherapy. And this is wonderful! But you may also be wondering: How do I know whether it will work for me? Luckily, there’s a simple way to experience your mind’s receptivity to this healing modality.

As mentioned above, around 90% of people have minds that are receptive to hypnosis. To find out if you are one of these people, you can complete a couple of simple exercises, which are used to assess a subject’s response and receptivity to hypnosis. If you respond to these exercises, chances are excellent that a hypnotherapy session will be a beneficial and powerful experience for you.

I invite you to access these exercises here, to see for yourself how your mind responds to my suggestions.

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