Many people are still very unclear about what hypnosis is and what it involves, often viewing hypnosis as a magical, mysterious practice.
This is unsurprising when you consider that for many decades the processes involved in hypnosis were unclear, and the role of ‘hypnotist’ was shrouded in mystery – the hypnotist was often seen as a cloaked, sinister figure with the power to control our minds.
Today however, there’s much more openness about hypnosis. The psychological processes involved in hypnosis are much better understood, and modern hypnotherapy is now a widely-accepted complementary therapy. In fact, the type of cognitive behavioural hypnotherapy that I practice is deeply ‘evidence-based’. It uses techniques based on the best clinical and experimental evidence about what works in bringing about long-term change.
Many myths about hypnosis and hypnotherapy still persist though, and below, I’ve addressed six of the most common ones. If you’re considering hypnotherapy as a possible treatment, hopefully this will help you to understand more about what it is and how it might be able to help you.
Myth 1: There’s something mystical or magical about hypnosis
No, there’s nothing mystical or magical about hypnosis. Hypnosis is a state of deep relaxation and focused attention where we’re more susceptible to suggestion. Hypnotherapists use this relaxed and focused frame-of mind to introduce suggestions that will help bring about positive change.
It’s important to remember that hypnosis is based on normal psychological processes – there’s really nothing mystical or magical about it.
Myth 2: The hypnotherapist has ‘special powers’
Hypnotherapists don’t have any special powers. We’ve just been trained to use certain techniques to help clients address their issues – whether that’s relieving anxiety, removing a phobia, building confidence, or addressing unhelpful habits.
As a hypnotherapist, I’m there to work with you – helping you understand your issue better and then guiding you through the process of using hypnosis to address it. A good hypnotherapist will be able to explain what they’re doing and why, and this should help make it clear that there’s a real logic and method to hypnotherapy.
Myth 3: You’re ‘asleep’ when you’re in hypnosis
Because people often go into hypnosis with their eyes closed, there’s an assumption that they’re ‘asleep’. In fact you’re awake and focused when you’re in hypnosis.
A good analogy is the times when you’ve been deeply engrossed in a movie or television programme, focusing on what’s happening on screen. You’re obviously awake, but you’re so focused on the screen that you’re not completely aware of everything that’s going on around you. However, if the telephone rings or there’s a knock at the door, you’re aware of it and respond to it. Being in hypnosis is a similar state – you’re awake but engrossed in and focused on being in hypnosis.
Myth 4: I might be made to do something I don’t want to do
This is a common myth, but the truth is that you’re in conscious control throughout the time you’re in hypnosis. You’re in a calm, deeply relaxed state, but are still aware of what you’re doing. A hypnotherapist provides suggestions to help you deal with your issue, but you can’t make you do things against your will.
Myth 5: I might get stuck in hypnosis
Because hypnosis is a state of relaxation and focused attention, it’s not possible to get ‘stuck’ in hypnosis.
Hypnosis is very relaxing though, so at the end of hypnotherapy sessions I go through a process to help my clients ‘emerge’ from hypnosis and regain their alertness before they leave. But even if this wasn’t done, they wouldn’t be stuck in hypnosis, they’d just gradually become more alert.
Myth 6: It’ll never work for me – I can’t be hypnotised
It’s true that some people are more ‘hypnotisable’ than others, but it’s still the case that almost anybody can be hypnotised. Hypnosis involves skills that can be learnt and improved on, so even people who have difficulty being hypnotised at first can be very hypnotisable after a while.
Of course, it’s also true that you can’t be hypnotised against your will – if you don’t want to be hypnotised, then you can’t be.