For some of us, topics we don't fully understand often become what we fear.
Hypnosis is one of those topics that gets a bad rap. It is hard to define, even by leading experts today, and therefore hypnosis has a certain level of mystique.
Unrealistic beliefs and expectations of hypnosis and what it will feel like have been further fueled for decades by Hollywood. The Hollywood-Hypnosis relationship began in very early movies like the silent movie drama, Hypnotized, dating as far back as 1910, or the 1942 cartoon classic, The Hair-Brained Hypnotist starring Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd that frightened a generation of children off hypnosis, and the 1949 Orson Wells classic, Black Magic also suggesting further links of danger with hypnosis to a willing audience. Hypnosis was written into movie scripts as the modus operandi used by villains and evil psycho-killers. This subconscious connection nurtured has potentially influenced our modern beliefs and expectations of hypnosis.
Since its inception, Hollywood has used hypnosis's mystique by showcasing villains and madmen wielding 'hypnotic power' in thrillers, horrors, and psychological dramas. No wonder our modern perception of hypnosis is marred by confusion, ‘fake news’ and myth.
What will NOT happen
Fueled by decades of popular culture, contrary to belief:
- you will not be 'knocked unconscious' when you go to a hypnotherapist
- nor will you be forced to do things you don't want to do like in the movies
- you will not 'wake up' at the end of your appointment with no recollection of what happened in the session
- nor will you 'bring up' suppressed, unwanted memories that upset you.
What will happen
What will happen is a natural state of healthy relaxation. Even if you've never been to see a hypnotherapist or have never been to a hypnosis stage show, you are more familiar with hypnosis than you think. The average person drifts into a hypnosis-trance state 7 to 10 times per day. And if you are in a trance state, you are hypnotised, well to be more precise; you hypnotised yourself.
Yes, that's correct, you hypnotise yourself every day, multiple times. While reading an enthralling book or being captured by the plot of a good movie, whenever you are intensely focused on a specific task and time seems to 'fly by.' If you've been driving a car for years, I guarantee you've put yourself into a hypnotic trance at some point called 'white line hypnosis,' where you don't remember the entire trip.
From a therapeutic perspective, when seeing a hypnotherapist to achieve a goal, everyone has a different hypnosis experience. The most common explanation is, "I feel very relaxed, I was consciously aware of what was happening, and I felt safe."
A sign that you're hypnotised
The easiest sign of being in a hypnotic state is when you try to estimate the time that passed, I guarantee you'll be way off the mark. Most people feel like they're in a time warp, it could have been 10 minutes, or it could have been an hour, just like if you're entranced by a good book or focused on something you love doing like sport, or art, time seems to stand still. Sound familiar?
Some Hypnosis clients even wonder if they have fallen asleep because time seems to have 'passed.' That means that their brainwaves slowed or 'drifted' near to what's called 'delta' brainwaves. Delta is the brainwave state you naturally fall into when you are asleep.
With today's pressures, we multi-task. We often think about the next thing on our to-do list, so learning how to go into a hypnotic state allows us to be present and quiet our minds.
Just as meditation is known to bring about many health and wellness benefits, hypnosis does the same. Still, it can also bring about substantial transformational changes to a person when the power of suggestion is used because the brainwave state is our natural 'learning state.' Hypnosis allows us to break unwanted habits, learn new ones, heal trauma, release negative emotions, and create new patterns and "programming."
As stated by one of the most famous and influential Hypnotherapists of the 20th Century, the psychiatrist Milton Erickson (1901 – 1980), "Your patients will be your patients because they are out of rapport with their unconscious minds."
Being in a state of hypnosis is very healthy and healing. Milton Erickson also believed that a person's unconscious was a positive force that could help in the healing process. He accepted a hypnotherapist could harness a person's unconscious healing power by providing the space and time for that person to enter a hypnotic trance learning state.
That seems very accurate, considering clients feel lighter, freer, rejuvenated, happier, purposeful, and focused after a Hypnotherapy session.
Considering hypnosis is such a powerful, life-changing modality, it would be wonderful to see it become the first option that people turn to for the change they seek, rather than a last resort when everything else fails.
Author and Clinical Hypnotherapist
Trainer FastTrack Clinical Hypnotherapy
Activate Hypnotherapy and the Academy of Therapeutic Hypnosis