By Ben Liston, Hypnotherapist, Lifestyle Hypnosis – Adelaide.
I’m sure most of us have by now seen hypnosis portrayed in movies and television. A lot of us have probably gone to see a hypnosis stage show; you know the ones where they get the people to cluck like chickens? We hear the word hypnosis used in songs and when we think of trance we get a vision of people walking like zombies with their arms stretched out and eyes closed blindly following whatever order their evil master has given them. These cultural references to hypnosis are everywhere if you look out for them but how close to reality are they really?
The main misconceptions that people may have about hypnosis might include:
- loss of control
- being unaware of what is happening
- being made to do things they don’t want to do
- hypnosis is a power like mind control
- trance is dangerous
- you let the hypnotist know your every thought
- you will say or do embarrassing things
- the hypnotist will get inside your head and mess with you
A quick Google search of “what does hypnosis feel like” will quickly reveal to you that while many different people feel different things the one thing they all have in common is that nothing from the list above is true! Whenever I’m watching a fiction show that somehow manages to stumble into the territory of hypnosis my friends and family often complain that watching these shows with me is like trying to watch a hospital drama with a nurse or a crime show with a police officer. “That’s not how you do it!”, “That would never happen!”, “A client would never say that!”. Given the misconceptions and inaccuracies of these programs is so often very high it’s easy to understand why people may not really know what to expect with hypnosis.
All that I’ve said may be fair enough when it comes to TV and movies, but what about those stage shows? You’ve been there. You’ve seen the people on stage do crazy things. You may have even been that person yourself. Surely they can’t be wrong? Well the answer is no, they’re not. The people who volunteer for these shows often are not actors, they are everyday people who have come along to see the show. The answer to the misconceptions don’t lay with the volunteers though, they lay with the hypnotist. The hypnotist will use words like “sleep” to ask the volunteer to relax their body and close their eyes. To someone not in the know it looks like they are actually going into some kind of sleep. The reality is though that the volunteer has simply slumped their head and closed their eyes. They are still wide awake and fully aware of what they are doing. During the induction (the bit where the volunteers are being hypnotised) the hypnotist is trying to make the show look mysterious and interesting. The reality is hypnotising someone is usually not visually interesting and ultimately the hypnotist is putting on a show to entertain an audience and so they make it look mysterious. If you took away the lights, music and smoke the hypnotist would be equally as successful at placing the volunteers into hypnosis. These distractions are for your benefit as the audience, but they do tend to create the wrong idea. The other element to remember is that the people who volunteer do so because they want to have fun. They don’t mind being on a stage with everyone looking and want to make the most of their experience. When they respond to the silliest of suggestions the hypnotist gives them, its because they want to, not because they have to.
So what is the reality of hypnosis? What does it really feel like? How is it different in a therapeutic environment? The best way to answer this is to do a little experiment. What I want you to do is get comfy in your chair. Take nice, slow, deep breaths and close your eyes. Count down from 50 while maintaining your deep breaths in a slow, rhythmic fashion and when you get to 0, open your eyes again. Do this now.
How did it feel? Did you notice you became more relaxed the longer you went on? Did you notice background noises? Were you aware of what you were doing the whole time? Did your mind wander for a couple moments before you continued with your countdown? All of these things are normal and what you experienced was the early stages of hypnosis. That’s right. It wasn’t mysterious, it wasn’t over powering, it wasn’t stressful. That’s what hypnosis is. Relaxation that allows you to feel better. In a therapeutic setting you will likely feel even more relaxed and the depth of that relaxation is often more intense but essentially it feels the same. During the experiment you had full control, you were able to respond to the outside world if you needed and it probably felt really good right?
Hypnosis is a natural state of mind that we all go in and out of every single day of our lives. Daydreaming, the moment before falling asleep, watching tv and realising you have no idea what’s been happening in the show are all examples of this. Because it is natural and because we all experience natural episodes of trance (that’s what being in hypnosis is, a trance) throughout our day we find that actually hypnosis is comfortable and even a little bit familiar to us. While we are in trance we are naturally more open to new suggestions, new ways of thinking and new ways of feelings. This is why we as hypnotherapists utilise hypnosis to make change. We ask that you relax to a point where you will be more able to accept our therapeutic suggestions and because you are so relaxed your unconscious mind just opens itself to these suggestions.
Everyone is different and experiences hypnosis and relaxation in their own ways. The only way to find out exactly how you respond to hypnosis is to try it. The few things that are true for absolutely everyone is that hypnosis is relaxing, it feels good, it is safe and it is natural. I hope that knowing this information will help you to decide to try hypnosis for yourself very soon.