When we think of hypnosis, we generally tend to think of the popularized picture of a magician like man with a goatee and a gold pocket watch on a long gold chain who swings the watch from side to side in front of his subject (victim) guiding them into some zombie-like, semi-sleep state in which they have no power but to obey every command they are given.
In reality, hypnosis bears little resemblance to this stereotypical image. Hypnosis is often described as a sleep-like trance state, but it is better expressed as a highly focused state of attention, heightened suggestibility and vivid fantasies. It is said that everyone goes in and out of trance all day long.
Famous Hypnotists include Sigmund Freud, Franz Mesmer (from whom we have the term mesmerized), and Ivan Pavlov (yes, the Pavlov dog scientist).
“Hypnosis” comes from the Greek word hypnos which means sleep. The words hypnosis and hypnotism both come from neuro-hypnotism (nervous sleep) coined by the Scottish surgeon James Braid around 1841. The American Psychological Association describes hypnosis as a cooperative interaction in which the subject responds to the suggestions by the hypnotist. Hypnosis, hypnotherapy or hypnotic suggestion, is a trance-like state in which the participant has a heightened sense of focus and concentration. Hypnosis helps to bypass the “conscious” mind (and it safeguards and defenses) and get into the subconscious and unconscious mind to effect pattern and behavior change. The conscious mind typically just replay and reruns the stored programs, and that is why behavioral change at the conscious level only is more difficult.
You will be asked to make yourself comfortable and the hypnotherapist will use verbal repetition and mental images. When hypnotized you will generally feel relaxed, calm and are generally more open to suggestions for behavior changes.
The hypnotic experience varies from one person to another. Some hypnotized individuals indicate feeling detached or extremely relaxed while in hypnotic state, yet others feel that their actions occur outside of their conscious volition. Some individuals remain fully aware and able to carry out conversations while under hypnosis. Each person has a different experience of the hypnotic experience.
If you wish to be hypnotized, approach the experience with an open mind; individuals who hold a positive view of hypnosis tend to achieve better responses.
NOTE: Although you are more open to suggestion during hypnosis, you don’t actually lose control over your behavior. No one can make you do something you don’t want to do.
There are generally four main stages to a hypnosis session (#4 below being rarely used in general hypnosis or therapeutic treatments):
Hypnotic techniques have been clinically proven to provide medical and therapeutic benefits for reduction of pain and anxiety, to help a subject gain control over undesired behaviors. Below is a short list of some of the instances in which hypnosis has been demonstrated to be effective:
Research has shown that a large number of people are more hypnotizable than they believe. 15% of individuals are very receptive to hypnosis, and individuals who are easily absorbed into fantasies are much more responsive. Children tend to be more susceptible to hypnosis, while about 10% of adults are considered difficult or impossible to hypnotize.