According to the Collins English Dictionary, hypnosis is:
“an artificially induced state of relaxation and concentration in which deeper parts of the mind become more accessible: used clinically to reduce reaction to pain, to encourage free association, etc.”
That doesn’t sound scary to me! For a long time, however, hypnosis has been seen as a ‘dark art’, used to create fantastical stories in books and movies, and even in national newspapers and magazines. And it’s easy to see why – hypnosis is absolutely fascinating, with a history stretching back thousands of years. Even the Ancient Egyptians used ‘Sleep Temples’ to cure everything from insanity to headaches!
As a clinical hypnotherapist, I hear more than my fair share of ‘concerns’ about hypnosis, and so I have attempted to answer the top five hypnosis myths that new or prospective clients have shared with me.
Common Hypnosis Myths
Myth # 1 – Hypnosis makes you fall asleep
No it doesn’t! Being in a trance state is very relaxing, comfortable and floaty, but is very different to being asleep. At all times, you will be completely aware of what’s going on. You may find your mind wandering, but that’s fine, it’s all part of allowing yourself to gently drift into that lovely place. Many clients feel nervous at first, but in the hands of an experienced hypnotist, drifting into trance is easy and pleasant.
Myth # 2 – Hypnosis is ‘mind control’
This is a very common myth – it’s been the subject of lots of books and films, but, thankfully, it’s simply not true! You have a built in ‘moral filter’ – if you wouldn’t do something in real life, you wouldn’t do it in (or after) hypnosis – it really is that straightforward. Ah! I hear you cry – what about stage hypnosis shows? Well, that’s an article in itself, but I will say that generally, stage hypnosis is real, but the audience members involved generally ‘want’ to cluck like a chicken or ‘forget’ their name!
Myth # 3 – You can get ‘stuck’ in a trance
As you know, hypnosis is not sleep (see Myth 1), but it is closely related (the word hypno comes from hupnos, which means ‘sleep’ in Greek). And, just as you always wake up in the morning, even if the therapist left the room, you would (after around 30 minutes) simply ‘wake up’, with no ill effects, or lingering trance.
Myth # 4 – It’s ‘airy fairy’ nonsense
Well, your opinion is your own! I actually encourage everyone to be sceptical – some of my best clients were sceptics – but the fact remains that there has been much scientific research done on hypnosis, and continues to this day. And the research is getting better and better, as with modern techniques it is now possible so actually observe the brain during hypnosis, and note how it behaves differently than in a ‘waking’ state. A properly trained, experienced therapist will be aware of all this research, and use the findings in his own clinic. Hypnosis is not a ‘magic wand’ (no matter what certain people may want you to believe), but simply a well-researched, useful therapeutic technique.
Myth # 5 – When the sessions stop, I’ll just go back to having my problem
A good hypnotherapist will devote a portion of the session to Psychotherapy, a complicated name for a simple explanation of how the brain works, and why we feel the way we do. This part of the session is vital to the long-term outcome of the therapy. In my clinic, it usually takes the form of a very informal, positive chat, which allows the mind to relax and see answers instead of problems. And, just like learning to ride a bike, feeling and thinking in a more positive way becomes easier and easier each time it is repeated. The best part is, the more often this positive thought is practised, the more likely it is to become part of a new, better, thinking pattern for you – one that allows you to be happier and more positive in all situations.