Most of us have some idea about hypnosis and hypnotherapy and as a professional clinical hypnotherapist I have come across many beliefs and misconceptions people hold. There are many phrases I hear time and time again when I speak to people about hypnosis, mostly fuelled by movies (think Manchurian Candidate), stage or comedy hypnosis shows and various other forms of media. Hypnotherapy is not a new concept.
In fact, the practice of hypnotherapy dates back to the 1700’s when Franz Anton Mesmer developed a technique known as ‘Mesmerism’. Historians believe that hypnosis has even earlier roots, dating back to ancient Egyptians and Greeks. Hypnosis can be linked to many world religious and esoteric activities such as exorcism, soothsaying and mysticism.
Modern hypnotherapy is extremely safe and very beneficial in achieving positive changes. The word ‘trance’ is often used and can be scary to some people, but we all experience trance like states naturally several times during a day. For example, have you ever experienced driving a familiar route not knowing how you got there? How about watching a TV programme and realising it is much later than you were aware of? The moment before you fall asleep and just before you are fully awake are known as trance states too, perfectly normal and natural.
Misconceptions often prevent people from seeking professional hypnotherapy.
It is time to dispel of some of the most commonly believed myths:
Getting stuck in Hypnosis
Some people worry that they will become ‘stuck’ in hypnosis. This is as likely as being ‘stuck’ in a daydream - it simply never happens. A common fear that is totally unfounded. Should the hypnotherapist go home, fall asleep, die or become suddenly unavailable for any reason (rather unlikely to occur in your session I must add!), the subject will gently drift back to normal reality. Whilst it is impossible to be stuck in a trance state, some people may take longer to regain complete consciousness because their subconscious mind is still performing the actions it needs to in order to create the desired changes.
I will lose control and reveal secrets
A hypnotherapist does not take over a person’s mind; nobody has the ability do that. You will be aware of everything that is said, and because you feel comfortable with it, you can let it happen and enjoy the process. If the fire alarm went off, or something else happened that threatened you in any way, you would immediately become fully aware of everything and be able to react appropriately.On the same token, you are not going to do something you do not want to do, nor will you reveal any secrets you do not wish to share unless you are ready to do so and it is beneficial for your therapy session.
This common misconception is often fuelled by stage hypnosis shows where the candidate performs silly acts to get the audience to laugh. It can be quite disturbing to observe your best friend jump up and down onstage and bark like a dog or cluck like a chicken. What is not commonly understood is that a person will NEVER do something they are not already inclined to do. So perhaps your friend had always wanted to be a little outrageous. Highly introverted people are very unlikely to find themselves before an audience doing Elvis impersonations or eating raw onions believing them to be apples!
Fact is that even during the relaxed state of hypnosis your subconscious will always act upon your morals, ethics and beliefs. A hypnotherapist, no matter how skilled, cannot get a person to rob a bank unless they are already inclined to engage in criminal activity.
Only unintelligent or weak minded people can be hypnotised
This may well be one of the most insulting misconceptions out there. In reality, anyone with sound mental abilities and a reasonable amount of intelligence can be hypnotised. Given enough time and assuming the individual is willing to cooperate, between ninety to ninety-five percent of all people are hypnotisable to some degree. Accounting for this, it is then most productive to speak about five to ten percent that seem to be resistant to hypnosis.
There are a number of conditions that may inhibit individuals from entering the hypnotic state. Individuals with a conditions such as Alzheimer’s, Down’s Syndrome, dementia or psychosis, who find it difficult to stay focussed long enough to mentally remain with what is taking place will find it difficult to go into hypnosis successfully.
Truth be told, experience shows that people who have a creative mind make the best hypnosis subjects because they can ‘think outside the box’ and do not limit their imagination about what is possible for them.
Hypnosis is like sleep
People who try hypnosis for the first time are often a little disappointed because of this myth. They say things like ‘I heard everything you said’ or ‘I felt like I could open my eyes anytime and walk out’. In reality, when in hypnosis you will be aware of everything that is happening around you and because you are always in control, you can open your eyes and walk away if you so wish. In hypnosis you are both relaxed and highly focused. When you sleep, your conscious faculties seem to disappear for a while and when you wake up, they return to you. Hypnosis is kind of the ‘middle ground’ between these two states. Hence, you are not asleep, nor are you awake.
Can you put me ‘under’ or can you put me ‘out’?
This is similar to the ‘sleep’ myth during a hypnotherapy session. People sometimes have the impression that whilst in hypnosis, the therapist will put them ‘out’ and perform some kind of miracle and they will ‘emerge’ as a new person. A professional hypnotherapist is not a magician and does not make claims for miracle cures or acts. Remember, hypnosis is not a form of sleep, you are not immobilised, nor is it a state of unconsciousness and therefore you will be fully aware of what is happening around you and what is being said to you.
Hypnotherapy is a gentle aid in helping people work through some issues and reach positive goals in a safe and secure environment. If you have any questions or misconceptions around hypnotherapy, please feel free to contact me:
Angela Winterton, Dip.Hyp,MHS,GQHP, AdDip.CP,MCSAcc,Dip.SMC Clinical Hypnotherapist & Psychotherapeutic Counsellor