Hypnosis FAQ & Myths

Say the word “hypnosis” and many people immediately think about Hollywood’s portray of people with “special human powers” or people doing unusual things on stage. Other people think of pocket watches, or spirals twirling.

Needless to say this view of hypnotism is pure fiction and has little basis in reality. It is now much more common for hypnotists to use techniques which consist of soothing words and suggestions to focus patient’s attention.

Unfortunately, many of these myth and misconceptions about hypnosis cause unnecessary fear and apprehension in those who can benefit from the practice the most. The truth is that Hypnosis is a safe, effective and scientifically recognized intervention practiced all over the world. In the United States, the American Medical Association (AMA) formally recognized the benefits of hypnosis in 1958.

Yes, it’s real. Researchers have found that when someone is hypnotized, they actively respond to given suggestions. During hypnosis, it is as if the brain temporarily suspends its efforts to validate incoming sensory information, allowing new perceptions and thoughts to occur. And, some people are more hypnotizable than others, although scientists still don’t know why.

Hypnosis was first officially recognized as a viable therapeutic tool by the British Government through the Hypnotism Act in 1952. Then, in 1958 both the British and the American Medical Associations (AMA) sanctioned the official use of hypnosis by physicians. In 1958, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) also approved hypnotherapy for use by professionally responsible individuals.

Prestigious hospitals in the U.S. now use and teach hypnosis, such as Stanford University School of Medicine in San Francisco, the Beth Israel Medical Center in Boston, and University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. Since the AMA sanctioned the use of hypnosis, many insurance companies cover hypnosis for medical and dental uses, including major surgeries. Now, more and more people are choosing hypnosis over anesthesia for surgery. Some choose hypnosis simply because they fear not waking up from anesthesia. The fear-factor aside, however, there are definite medical advantages offered by hypnosis; less bleeding, faster recovery time, and the need for fewer post-operative medications.

Myths still abound regarding hypnosis, although it is becoming more widely accepted and trusted. Hypnosis cannot be used to control someone else’s mind, or their actions. By using hypnosis, people gain greater control over their own minds and their own actions.

Fact: You are in control at all times during the hypnosis session. Hypnosis is a natural state you have experienced many times and possibly even today, for example while watching a movie or a show on TV and concentrating very intently to the point you get involved with the story or immersed in the experience. The same goes for when you are driving a familiar rout only to reach your destination without a clear recollection of everything that has happened on the way. These are everyday occurrences that induce a trance like state otherwise called a hypnotic state.

Fact: The hypnotist cannot make a person do anything. Hypnosis is a state of consent. Hypnosis can only be successful if you willingly take part and allow yourself to become immersed in the process.

Fact: You may hear and remember everything about your session. Hypnosis is a state of focused attention, and as such, you are aware of the session. The bottom line is if you can’t hear me and remember what is said, how can I possibly help you achieve your goal. With that in mind, there are exceptions to this rule, for example, if you undergo surgery and do not respond well to the anesthesia, hypnosis can be utilized to induce a state of “comma”.

Fact: Some people experience such a profound state of relaxation that they may feel like they were asleep, but they were not. A professional hypnotist will check during the session periodically (for example, by having you signal with a finger or nod your head) to ensure you are not asleep.

Fact: Hypnosis for therapeutic purposes practiced in the hypnotist’s office is really a world apart from hypnosis done for entertainment, like shows are. Individuals that participate in stage shows are there for fun, and cooperate with the hypnotist with that agenda. Some of them may simply go along with the crowed or act just to be a part of the show. When working with a hypnotherapist to address or resolve an issue, clear boundaries are set respectfully to ensure your safety and any given suggestion is aimed towards achieving your desired outcome.

Fact: Not True! Your Mind will readily reject any suggestion that conflict or contradicts your value system or beliefs.

Fact: Hypnosis is not a “truth serum”, and you will not accidentally or otherwise reveal any secrets that you do not want to.

Fact: The Subconscious Mind simply does not succumb to the cultural notion of Immediate Satisfaction. It is important to remember that both behavioral and physical limitations have been established over a long period of time. It therefore necessary to allow any change to occur within the innate capacity of both the psyche and body to change.

Fact: you have to willingly participate and cooperate with the process for hypnosis to be successful. For example, if you hold the expectation that hypnosis will make it impossible for you to smoke or eat something you know is not conducive to your health but as soon as you live my office you set to test yourself and actively try to smoke or consume that food, you may be disappointed with your results.

Fact: You cannot get stuck in hypnosis, any more than you could get stuck daydreaming.

Fact: Anyone of normal intelligence who is willing to follow instructions can be hypnotized. Of course, anyone can resist being hypnotized also.

Fact: Hypnosis can be effective whether you are in a light or deep trance.

Hypnosis is not a state of deep sleep but one of focused attention and deep relaxation which may explain why someone’s eyes may be closed. There is a feeling of well-being, an ability to recall past events and the acceptance of new ideas that are not in conflict with personal values. There is also a higher threshold to pain. The hypnotic state is like meditation, where the body is relaxed but the mind has heightened awareness. The ability to vocalize is limited, and the limbs feel leaden or light, tingly or somewhat numb. The perception of time is also distorted where an hour might seem like just a few minutes.

Sometimes hypnosis is feared, because often the view of the subject surrendering their ‘will’ is reinforced by stage hypnotism. It is helpful to remember that stage hypnotists design their shows for entertainment purposes, which include participants doing strange things. What people don’t realize is that the stage hypnotist chooses only those who are highly suggestible, and may have a desire to have a “different” or less inhibited experience of themselves. In a hypnotic state, people can give themselves permission to do many things that they may not otherwise be able to do.

It is only in the last few decades that scientists become equipped with instruments, techniques and methods for accurately separating the facts of hypnosis from exaggerated claims. The study of hypnotic phenomena is now properly held within the domain of main stream cognitive science, with papers on hypnosis published in many major scientific and medical journals. Newest clinical research findings reveal, however, that hypnosis and hypnotic suggestion, when used properly, can powerfully alter cognitive processes as diverse as memory and pain perception.

Hypnosis is not talk therapy, and does not include advising, diagnosing or prescribing. That would be the domain of other professionals, usually licensed to counsel. The primary aim of hypnosis itself is self-healing, and self-change. The hypnotist’s job is to assist the subject to achieve those natural states of mind where healing and change best happen. Used correctly, hypnosis is especially useful for tapping into that awesome power of the human mind.

Hypnosis cannot, and should not, stand alone as the sole medical or psychological intervention for any disorder. Hypnosis should not be used instead of appropriate medical, dental, or psychological treatment, and any individual with a medical or psychological problem should first consult a qualified health care provider for diagnosis and professional advice. Hypnosis should only be practiced by those who have been appropriately trained, who practice appropriately, and within the scope of their training.