Myths & Misconceptions About Hypnosis

Hollywood, entertainment, and stage hypnosis have led to many myths and misconceptions about hypnosis.

Here are just a few examples:

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Myth #1: "Hypnosis is like truth serum." or "Under hypnosis, I might be forced to divulge my deepest secrets."

Fact: It's important to know that the ego is present during hypnosis. It serves as a protection mechanism for the individual. That said, you can lie while in hypnosis just as easily as you can lie in the waking state. While in hypnosis you are in complete control of what you chose to reveal or conceal. This is known as the psychological Law of Dominant Effect. The strongest emotion wins. So if you want to lie you will. If you choose not to lie, you won't. It's that simple.

Something to note, the rapport between the hypnotherapist and client aka co-therapist is key. Feeling comfortable and building rapport can lead to some wonderful changes and help you achieve your goals.


Myth #2:  "I won't remember anything that the hypnotist says." or "I'll be completely under the hypnotist's control and will do something that I wouldn't normally do."

Fact: Everyone experiences hypnosis differently, and the experience may vary from session to session, or as you become more hypnotically sophisticated.

Sometimes people experience hypnosis as a state in which they are focused on the hypnotherapists words and are simply listening more intently. Other times they may experience it as being more like a day dream as their attention may drift and wander from one thought to another. In addition, there may be times when the person is not paying any conscious attention to what the hypnotist is saying at all, but rather focusing their attention on the images being created in their subconscious mind. Each hypnosis experience is unique and centered around the goal that the client wishes to achieve. This is why in hypnotherapy it is very important to work with a qualified hypnotherapist who knows how to guide you through a protocol, with your predetermined goal and outcome in mind, as determined in your pre-talk discussion.

As for "being completely under the hypnotist control", again this is a misconception that stems from the fictional world of entertainment.  As we discussed in myth #1, the ego, which serves as a protection mechanism, is always present. Doing things against someone's will is a commonly held myth derived from stage shows and Hollywood sensationalism that capitalize on a "power" held by the hypnotist.

So the question is, “Can someone be hypnotized to do things they wouldn’t normally do?” Well, the answer to this question would be...YES! After all, the purpose of hypnotherapy is often to change a habit or do things differently from what was being done in the past. To "correct" an old pattern that no longer serves the individual. These changes are not against the client’s moral code and are predetermined between the hypnotherapist and the co-therapist.

It's important to note that Ernest Hilgard, an American psychologist, and professor at Stanford, demonstrated in his 1977 writings a principle known as “The Hidden Observer”.  This principle indicates that there is a part of the client which monitors the hypnotic process and which will protect them from responding in a manner that violates their ethical and moral standards. This is the part referred to above as "Ego".

Myth #3: "I may be hypnotized against my will."

The hypnotherapist is merely a guide or facilitator and cannot "make" you do anything against your will. In fact, a well-trained hypnotherapist will ask you if you are ready to go into hypnosis prior to each induction. During a hypnotic session, you are completely aware of everything that is going on. You are the co-therapist. Therefore, if you do not like where the hypnotherapist is guiding you, you have the power to reject any of the suggestions that don't fit your needs and move on to the next one. Being open and honest with your hypnotherapist, defining clear goals and objectives, and building rapport will help the hypnotherapist to design a customized session that focuses on your desired outcome.

Myth #4: "Some people can’t be hypnotized."

Fact: Although there are some individuals who claim that not all people can be hypnotized, the truth is everyone has the ability to be hypnotized just as they have the ability to breath. This is because hypnosis is a natural, yet altered, state of mind. It's a normal state of mind that each of us enters at least twice a day when waking and again when falling asleep.

Have you ever gotten totally engrossed in a story of a movie or TV show and began to laughed or cry? As we follow a storyline, and begin to imagine the characters coming to life in our minds, we are hypnotized. Another example, for instance, is  highway hypnosis. Have you ever pulled up in the driveway and realize you don't remember the actual commute home? You know you were paying attention as you drove along, but it's as though you were on autopilot. This altered state is referred to as highway hypnosis. It's a mental state in which a person can drive short or long distances, respond to external situations (e.g. traffic) and react in an expected and correct manner (hopefully) with absolutely no recollection of having consciously done so.

Another reason people may have the misconception they can't be hypnotized may be due to an unsuccessful experience with a hypnotist. As stated in Myth #2, individuals are unique and therefore, may respond differently to certain approaches or inductions. So, if a particular method was unsuccessful in the past, it's a matter of finding a way that works best for that individual. This information should all be discussed in your pre-interview with the hypnotherapist. It's the job of the hypnotherapist to test each client's responsiveness, and determine which technique(s) that individual responds best to, and determine what may be inhibiting the clients responsiveness to hypnosis if necessary.

Myth #5: "A person can get stuck in a trance forever."

Fact: No one has ever been stuck in a hypnotic trance. Hypnosis is a naturally occurring state that we easily enter and exit naturally throughout the course of a day. There are no known, or reported, dangers associated with hypnosis while working with a trained practitioner. Should the hypnotist fail to completely bring a client out of hypnosis, the client will return to a fully alert state on their own just as if waking from a nap. A trained hypnotherapist utilizes certain techniques for de-hypnotizing clients, and then monitors and interacts with the client to assure that the client is fully awake and alert.

While in a state of hypnosis, our brainwaves progressively move through the four main brain states know as Beta, Alpha, Theta, and Delta. When you choose to emerge from hypnosis, regardless of the reason, you can simply open your eyes and become fully alert. Should you decide you no longer want to be in hypnosis during a session, however, it's best if you allow the hypnotist to count you up and out of hypnosis so that you return to a waking state more fully alert.

When practicing self-hypnosis, if your intention is to fall asleep, your brain state will end in the Delta state. The final statement of the recording should have instructions for you to rest peacefully and wake in the morning fully alert. You can then end your session and simply fall asleep.

Note: Should you need to wake for an emergency situation during any hypnosis session, you can simply open your eyes and respond appropriately to the emergency.