There are a lot of myths about hypnosis and have been created due to all sorts of weird associations from stage hypnotists, the media and superstition. It’s such a shame really, as some of these myths can prevent people from using hypnosis to make some very positive changes in their lives. The practice of hypnosis has been around for a very long time. I hope this helps you to understand a bit more about hypnosis, and hopefully uncover the truths behind each myth.
Myth #1 – Hypnosis will only work on certain people.
Wrong! The truth is that everyone can be hypnotised. Whilst it’s true that hypnosis can be more useful for some people, it’s mainly down to the person’s motivation and their willingness; everyone can be hypnotised providing they want to be! As a matter of fact, each one of us are using hypnosis in some form every single day of our lives either consciously or unconsciously. We are experiencing some form of a trance-like hypnotic state each time we engage our imagination, daydreaming, each time we engage our emotions, each time our attention is focused upon our subjective experience. The goal of a hypnosis session is the successful installation of desired outcomes deep into the subconscious mind from where it eventually expresses automatically without any further conscious activity.
Myth #2 – You can get stuck in hypnosis and be unable to wake up.
You are not asleep and you’re not unconscious, you’re fully aware of what’s happening around you. Of course everyone’s experience is slightly different, some people feel light, some people feel heavy, but almost everyone feels extremely relaxed. Generally, when people are in a deep state of hypnosis, they feel as if their body has gone to sleep but the mind is still alert, awake, and aware. At times you may feel as though you are drifting off to sleep, but no one ever gets “stuck” in hypnosis. Many people enjoy deep trance so much that they don’t want to come out. Imagine being in a state where your body feels so deeply relaxed that you may not need to pay any attention to it, and your mind is completely free of any stresses associated with your daily life, but you are in full control. Remember that hypnosis is a natural and normal state to be in from time to time. It’s not a state which is completely alien to us. Of course hypnosis is a subjective experience and everyone will experience it differently, but the worst that could possibly happen is that if you do drift into natural sleep, after 5 or 10 minutes you will wake up naturally. But remember, you’ll never get stuck in hypnosis and be unable to wake up.
Myth #3 – A hypnotherapist has complete power over you when you are hypnotised and you can be made to say or do something against your will.
Absolutely not! Hypnosis requires voluntary participation on the part of the client. You can never be persuaded against your own will. Usually, a person in the hypnotic state already determines his/her own level of participation in the process. Hypnosis is a state of heightened suggestion. You can’t be made to do something that is against your personal values or beliefs. What you have to remember about hypnosis is that it’s not sleep and you’re aware of everything that’s happening around you. If someone tells you to do something that is really against your core values or beliefs, then you won’t do it. You’ll come out of the state of hypnosis, and in fact you would almost be shocked out of it! If a hypnotherapist was to ask you to do anything inappropriate then you will spontaneously pull yourself out of it. The role of a hypnotherapist in a therapeutic setting is to help you establish a communication channel with your subconscious mind in order to overcome your inner obstacles and reach your goals. Ultimately all the power is right in your mind and it is only a matter of accessing it so that you can accomplish anything you desire. Professional and ethical hypnotherapists work in a way which makes the client feel empowered rather than working in an authoritarian way where you may feel uncomfortable.
Myth #4 – If you can hear the hypnotist, you were not hypnotised.
This misconception has probably come about due to the other common misconception which equates the state of hypnosis with sleep. A lot of people believe that when they are hypnotised they will not be aware of anything that is happening around them. Yet, if you lost all connection with the hypnotherapist, how could you follow the instructions? While the level of awareness of your surroundings may shift to some degree, you will still be aware of the hypnotherapist and their voice. The better you are able to play the game of “let’s pretend” and immerse yourself in your subjective reality (inner world experiences), the less will you be aware of your surroundings in the way that you are accustomed to, but you will still be aware of the hypnotherapist voice.
Myth #5 – Hypnosis makes me helpless.
During the trance you are not immobilised or paralysed. You know exactly where you are at all times. You can change your sitting position, scratch yourself, sneeze or cough. You can also hear sounds around you, for example the phone ringing. You can open your eyes and leave the trance at any moment if required.
Myth #6 – In hypnosis you’ll be able to recall everything that’s ever happened to you.
Certain therapists use certain specific techniques that may help a person remember certain things from the past if that’s going to be useful for them. Normally there is no real need to go back into a personal memory or personal history, to make positive changes moving forward.
Myth #7 – Hypnosis can be bad for my health.
It is quite the opposite. Hypnosis is a safe and natural process. One fact that most people are unaware of is that we undergo hypnosis several times in our daily lives. For example, whilst driving along a highway, very often, people suddenly discover that they have lost consciousness for several minutes. This is actually an example of momentary hypnotism. It is out of the question for anybody to in any way be hurt by hypnosis. Relaxation helps to bring about a homeostatic balance – a balance within the system, of mind, body and soul, emotionally and physically. The problem is that a lot of doctors say to people “you need to learn to relax” but they never really give them the tools for knowing “how to relax”.
Myth #8 – Hypnosis is dangerous, and could damage my mind.
Electrical activity in the human brain is measured as brain waves by an electroencephalogram (EEG). The measurement is described in terms of “cycles per minute” or hertz. Here is a brief explanation of how brain waves are related to hypnosis, as well as to the conscious, subconscious, and unconscious mind.
- Beta brain waves (14-30 hz) = conscious, waking, alert. The “filters” of your beliefs, ethics, values, and all your past experience and conditioning are too active in the Beta state to allow you to accept hypnosis.
- Alpha brain waves (8-13 hz) = creativity, inspiration, daydreaming. The conscious mind is no longer dominant, and the subconscious is becoming active. Your brain waves register in the Alpha region when you are in a light trance state. Hypnotic suggestions are readily accepted in the Alpha state.
- Theta brain waves (4-7 hz) = subconscious, dreaming, hypnosis, meditation, “in the zone” with sports. Here the subconscious mind is dominant. The Theta level is where past experiences and emotions can be relived. It is also the level at which hypno-anaesthesia occurs: for example, dental or surgical procedures can be carried out without pain, and childbirth can take place painlessly, with the assistance of hypno-anaesthesia instead of physical anaesthesia.
- Delta brain waves (0.5-6 hz) = unconscious, asleep, deep sleep. Your brain waves would register as Delta if you fell asleep during hypnosis.
Hypnosis is no more dangerous than sleep-dreaming, meditation, or being “in the zone”.
Myth #9 – Hypnosis is dangerous and is the devils work!
I have heard some religious people talk of hypnosis as the ‘devils work’ or is part of the occult. Remember that anything can be used positively and negatively. It’s not the hypnosis that is at fault, it’s the operator. It’s whether a person is professional and ethical. After all, hypnosis is a naturally occurring, beneficial, positive state. Hypnosis has nothing to do with magic wands and occult abilities, even if some people consider it pure magic how their symptoms simply vanished, and huge insights gained. Hypnotherapists have no special or supernatural powers. The competent hypnotherapist has been educated in the nature, history and practical uses for hypnosis. He/she has been thoroughly trained in safe and effective techniques to guide a person into hypnosis and using methods to affect positive change in that person’s life.