Busting 5 Common Myths about Hypnosis

Hypnosis has a weird reputation, though said reputation is largely undeserved. To a lot of people, the word “hypnosis” conjures things like: someone swinging a gold medallion and chanting, “You’re getting very sleepy”; a diabolical therapist in Get Out clinking her spoon on the edges of a tea cup; people quacking their way across a stage. Like many of you, my first exposure to hypnosis involved (very misleading) pop culture scenarios such as these. But in a therapeutic setting, hypnosis is not like this at all. So, *drum roll*! Welcome to my first MYTH BUSTERS: HYPNOSIS EDITION.

Myth #1: Hypnosis is weird.

Truth: There is certainly a lot of stigma around hypnosis in the mental health community and in broader pop culture. However, hypnosis itself isn’t a super strange or uncommon phenomenon. Hypnosis is simply a state of hyper-focused attention coupled with relaxation. You fall in and out of hypnosis on a daily basis. For example, have you ever been so engrossed in something that you tune out the sounds or distractions around you? That’s hypnosis. What about driving down the highway and forgetting the last few miles? That’s also hypnosis. What about the moment before you fall asleep when you’re conscious but very, very relaxed? That’s also hypnosis—and mostly how hypnosis feels in session.

To reduce the general weirdness around hypnosis, I like to compare hypnosis to meditation. Meditation is becoming increasingly popular in the United States and so it’s a nice in-road for people who are interested in hypnosis. Hypnosis and meditation happen in the same brain wave called Theta; Theta waves are associated with states of deep relaxation. So, imagine that hypnosis and meditation are like siblings. They both occur in the same brain wave, but you’re doing different things in your brain while in hypnosis versus while meditating.

So in summary, we fall in and out of hypnosis everyday. It’s a really normal state of mind and it’s quite pleasant.

Myth #2: A hypnotherapist might make me quack like a duck, reveal personal secrets that I don’t want to share, and/or [insert some other wild act here that the client can’t remember or control].

Truth: You’re probably thinking of stage hypnosis. Stage hypnosis is very different from therapeutic hypnosis: it’s theatrical, and it’s for entertainment. In hypnotherapy, you are in complete control of your experience and you will remember what happens during the session. It is also impossible for you to be hypnotized against your will or without consent. As your therapist, I guide you through your experience, and you are in control of how relaxed you are and the places you explore in therapy.

I should also mention my social work ethics. As a social worker, I have strict ethical guidelines that I have to follow when treating a client—I ethically cannot and will not make you say or do anything you don’t want to do. Therapeutic hypnosis is meant for healing and you are in control of your experience.

Myth #3: Hypnosis will feel like a completely altered state of mind.

Truth: This is more like an expectation about how hypnosis will feel. Frequently, people are surprised at how “normal” the experience felt and worry that they weren’t really hypnotized. And it should feel normal! You go in and out of hypnosis everyday; you experience it regularly. So, you’ll most likely feel super, super relaxed—your arms and legs might feel heavy; you might feel like time moves slowly or quickly. If you don’t feel something outrageous or unusual, it doesn’t mean you’re not hypnotized, or you’re doing it wrong, or you’re not good at it. It simply means that sometimes hypnosis just feels like being really relaxed and that’s okay.

Myth #4: I might not be able to be hypnotized.

Truth: You are hypnotized at least twice a day, specifically when you’re falling asleep or waking up and you most likely were hypnotized today in some other capacity, as you can see under Myth #1. Whether it was doing something and tuning out all other distractions, or daydreaming at work. All of these are examples of hypnosis.

You have the power to choose how deeply hypnotized you become. At the end of the day, all hypnosis is self-hypnosis because it is completely in your power.The key to hypnosis is focusing on the sound of the therapist’s voice and letting go. Somedays you might feel more relaxed than other days, but you are most likely more relaxed than you think.

Myth #5: Hypnosis will fix all of my problems—and quickly.

Truth: Therapeutic hypnosis certainly can’t fix all of your problems, but it is one of the best tools in mental health right now for addressing a wide range of symptoms and diagnoses. And while the protocol I use typically takes between 12 and 20 sessions for a client to reach their goal, it still takes time. Like any therapy, therapeutic hypnosis takes commitment and work. One of the biggest keys to successfully completing therapeutic hypnosis—and getting done faster—is practicing self-hypnosis outside of sessions. People’s problems took time to develop, and it takes time to resolve them.

A question for my readers

Do you have any other fears/worries/stereotypes about hypnosis? Let me know in the comments for my next myth-busting post!