Can I Be Hypnotized?
In my experience, anyone can be hypnotized, at least to some point. Some can be hypnotized to a deeper level than others, but everyone can to some degree. That is unless you do not wish to be. It is very easy to resist a trance. Sometimes people will think that it is a sign of weakness if you go into a trance. This is the wrong way of thinking about it. A hypnotherapist is like a guide. His job is to help you go into the natural hypnotic state. It is usually the more open minded and braver people that will allow themselves to deeply relax. Anyone can resist it – it’s nothing special. In fact new research, developed by board-certified hypnotist Gerald Kein, claims that everybody is equally hypnotisable and that "people accept hypnosis in direct relationship to the amount of fear they have". I am not sure whether this is entirely the case, but fear is definitely a far greater barrier than scepticism. I have very successfully treated many sceptics of hypnotherapy, and changed their minds. So my words of advice are to relax and go with it, and you will have a very pleasant hypnotic experience.
What is a hypnotic trance?
There is no precise definition, probably because it is experienced differently in every one of us, and is difficult to explain. The American Society of Clinical Hypnosis's web site says "Hypnosis is a state of inner absorption, concentration and focused attention." It is a normal and natural state that most of us experience several times a day. Have you ever driven somewhere and not really remembered the journey? It also often occurs when reading a book or watching TV. Sometimes you can be so absorbed in the book or TV programme that you are not consciously aware that someone is talking to you. Hypnosis is the focussing of the conscious attention in such a narrow corridor of influence. The conscious mind is so intensely focussed that other influences are not being critically analysed by the conscious mind. We still hear them, although we are not always aware. Will I be asleep when hypnotised?
You will not be asleep when in a hypnotic state. The word hypnosis comes from the ancient Greek word 'hypnos' meaning sleep. Hypnosis is generally a very relaxed state but it is not sleep. James Braid came up with the term, but sought to change the name to "monoideaism" ("single-idea-ism"), when he realised that it was not a form of sleep. However the term "hypnosis" had stuck. Many people after a session of hypnosis don't believe that they were hypnotised at all.
What does hypnosis feel like?
Usually when in a trance you feel more mentally and physically relaxed. It is a very pleasant experience, and you can tell that you are still in control. You can still hear exactly what is going on around you, unless you choose to drift your attention away. You become aware that you can easily stand up, talk, or move whenever you want. A lot of people (me included) when they first experience a hypnotic trance move their fingers or hands in order to test whether they can move at will. It is comforting to know that you can!
Sometimes a patient can be a little difficult to wake up. This is not a sinister thing as it has been portrayed. No one has ever been stuck in trance. It is more a case that a patient just “can’t be bothered” to wake up as it feels so pleasant. However they soon become bored and will wake up pretty quickly. One trick the old hypnosis pro’s use is to tell the patient that they are charging for the time. It’s amazing how quickly they then wake up!
Is hypnosis dangerous?
A hypnotic trance is actually a very natural state that almost everyone goes into several times per day. In 1955 the British Medical Association set up an inquiry which favourably reported hypnosis as a therapeutic tool. It even recommended that it should be taught at medical schools. Hypnosis was also approved by the Council of Mental Health of the American Medical Association in September of 1958 as a safe practice with no harmful side effects. Since then there has been acceleration in the establishment of hypnosis societies for doctors, dentists, and psychologists. No one has been seriously hurt with hypnosis. If it were dangerous, then we would all be in potential trouble each time we watch a film, or read a book, since it is common to go into trance in these situations. However a poor hypnotherapist might word suggestions in a way that your unconscious mind would not accept, rendering the therapy useless.
Are meditation and hypnosis different?
Yes. Meditative states are similar, but the practice of hypnosis is significantly different. Meditation aims to ‘empty’ the mind, whereas hypnosis aims to add ‘post hypnotic suggestions’. These are suggestions that are taken away from the session, and used when out of trance. They might be ‘eat healthily’, ‘stay motivated’, ‘keep calm and relaxed’ etc. With hypnosis there is usually the aim of a specific change. It is not uncommon for people who do both to keep them separate. Hypnotherapists often employ meditation techniques to get their patients into ‘trance’. They then extend this by ‘deepening’ the subject, and offering them suggestions they have previously agreed on.
Can I be made to do things against my will?
You could never be made to do anything against your will or contrary to your value system. If this was actually possible, would there not be criminals learning the art of hypnotherapy in order to hypnotise their bank managers to opening the vaults and handing over a large sum of cash?! In a trance, you would not unknowingly reveal your deepest secrets. You can even lie when in a trance, which is one reason why testimony in hypnosis is not permissible evidence in a court of law. It is only used by police to help with the investigation. A person will only act upon suggestions that serve them in some way or reinforce an expected behaviour, anything else their unconscious will just ignore. Most people develop these misperceptions from seeing or hearing about a Stage Hypnosis show. However they largely achieve their results from showmanship, selection of the more extrovert people, and peer pressure.
A hypnotherapist is more like a guide. He can influence your mind, but cannot control it. When you watch a film, you usually go into a natural hypnotic state. The film is not controlling you, as you can get up and walk away whenever you choose. It’s just that we often choose not to!
How long will it take before I notice a change?
This varies from person to person. However in one session, you can expect to become more relaxed than you are right now. Most people do not relax enough, and some people never seem to relax! Being more relaxed can help most mental and physical problems that you may have, even before we get to the therapy part of the session. I have often had patients report back to me that people noticed that they seemed more relaxed after just one session. In the past I have significantly helped problems such as IBS, skin complaints, and addictions, simply by doing relaxation work.
Hypnosis can bridge the gap between your head and your heart, making your goals much more compelling, and therefore increasing your chances of permanent change. Depending upon the intensity and number of sessions, you will notice suggestions for the desired behavioural changes popping into your conscious mind almost immediately.
Please keep an open mind when deciding whether to use hypnotherapy. I have been a clinical hypnotherapist, trained by the London College of Clinical Hypnotherapy (LCCH), for several years. During this time I have witnessed many things that, quite frankly amaze me at times! I have helped so many people in so many ways, that I feel it would be such a shame for people to opt out simply due to unfounded fear and misinformation.
Make sure you find a therapist that has received good training from a well respected body, and you will not be disappointed. It is not perfect. Hypnosis does not solve everything all the time. However it does help almost all of the time, and can create amazing changes some of the time. With a well qualified practitioner, you are pretty much guaranteed a comforting, relaxing, and enjoyable therapeutic experience, as well as a shot at gaining very good ground towards your goals.