Myths & Misconceptions
Public exhibitions by stage hypnotists and the portrayal of hypnosis in the entertainment and media industries have contributed to a wide misunderstanding of the true nature of hypnosis. The following section will address some of the more widely held misconceptions about hypnosis:
“A person under hypnosis is asleep or unconscious.”
This is probably the most common misconception about hypnosis. You never lose your full sense of awareness or fall asleep in hypnosis. On the contrary, you are actually more fully awake. All levels of hypnosis are characterized by increased attention, and it’s this heightened concentration that increases your receptivity to suggestion.
“A person doesn’t remember anything that happens while under hypnosis.”
You’ll be aware of everything while hypnotized and afterward unless specific amnesia is suggested for a therapeutic purpose. It’s possible that you’ll have a “dreamy” feeling, or feel as if you are drifting back and forth between sleep and wakefulness throughout hypnosis.
“A person can be hypnotized against their will.”
Most stage hypnotists are skilled at creating the illusion that they possess a magical and mysterious power over other people. There is, in fact, no such “power.” Hypnosis is a state of consent and cooperation. The only control the hypnotist has over you is the control you allow him to have. The normal amount of control is to allow the hypnotist to guide you into a state of relaxation and then suggest the thoughts and imagery for your concentration. Throughout the process, you can end your state of physical relaxation and mental concentration at any time.
“A person surrenders their will once they go under hypnosis, and can be made to do things he or she does not want to do. “
You are capable of making normal decisions at all times under hypnosis. You can’t be ‘made’ to do anything under hypnosis that you would find objectionable under normal circumstances.
“Not everyone can be hypnotized.”
It’s not a matter of whether you can be hypnotized, but whether you’ll allow yourself to be helped to enter hypnosis. Most people go into hypnosis easily once they understand that you remain conscious and do not surrender your will. Fear of loss of control, which is just a myth, is the main reason some people won’t allow themselves to be hypnotized, but if a person is comfortable with the process and with the hypnotist and knows what to expect, it’s surprisingly easy.
Everyone has the ability to be hypnotized, because it’s a natural, normal state that each of us enters at least twice each day – upon waking and falling asleep. We enter a state similar to hypnosis when daydreaming, meditating, driving on the road and arriving at our destination “automatically”, or being so deeply engrossed in a project or conversation that time seems to fly. A hypnotist helps you to enter this receptive state purposefully, and then uses the state to impress suggestions and imagery on your mind.
People seem to be able to achieve different degrees of hypnotic depth, but everyone can be hypnotized to a sufficient depth to accomplish most therapeutic goals. Repetitive hypnosis can increase the depth of hypnosis but doesn’t necessarily make you more suggestible.
“A person has to relax deeply to be in a state of hypnosis.”
Your level of physical relaxation does not necessarily impact the effectiveness of suggestions given during the session. There are methods of hypnosis that don’t even rely on physical relaxation.
Most people who are concerned about their ability to relax physically under hypnosis are very pleasantly surprised after a much needed mental rest.
“A person under hypnosis might reveal his or her deepest secrets.”
You don’t lose control or reveal personal secrets under hypnosis unless you wish to do so.
“A person can get stuck in a trance forever.”
This is impossible. No one has ever been stuck in a hypnotic trance. Hypnosis is a natural state that we enter and exit all of the time.
“Hypnosis is contrary to religion.”
The only major religious groups objecting to hypnosis are the Christian Scientists and the Seventh-Day Adventists. Pope Pius XII approved clinical hypnosis as a valid tool for healing in 1956. Most religious objections are based on the idea that hypnosis deprives humans of freedom of the will. This is an outdated view of hypnosis formed when hypnotic phenomena were still in their earliest stages of understanding. Today we know that hypnosis is not surrendering of the will at all.
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