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No natural phenomenon is more misunderstood than hypnosis. As I have said elsewhere, hypnotherapists are constantly battling against the false preconceptions of their clients. Here, then, is a quick list – in no particular order of priority – of the 10 most popular myths or misconceptions surrounding hypnosis.

Myth number 1: The hypnotist has total control over the mind of the hypnotized person.

This is totally false. To begin with, the human mind is not a machine. You can’t just program it to do whatever you want. Secondly, you simply cannot use hypnosis to make people do things against their deepest instincts. It can’t be done.

Myth number 2: Being hypnotised is like being unconscious.

This is a very popular misconception. People sometimes think that hypnosis is like some sort of anaesthetic. People often wonder whether they were really “under” because they were aware of everything which happened. It is perhaps best to think of hypnosis as a change in the quality of consciousness rather than some very specific state of unconsciousness.

Myth number 3: Only certain people can be hypnotized.

It is true that there are some people who shouldn’t be hypnotized. People who are schizophrenic or delusional, people who are hearing voices, people with a very fragile sense of their own identity – such people certainly require treatment but such treatments should not involve hypnosis. Some people cannot be hypnotized simply because of the state they happen to be in. It is a waste of time trying to hypnotize someone who is drunk or otherwise intoxicated. People who are profoundly depressed or who are in some extreme emotional state or other may not respond at all to attempts at hypnotic induction. Almost everybody else can be hypnotized if they wish to be. Likewise anybody can resist suggestions which lead to hypnosis if they wish to do so.

Myth number 4: People who are easy to hypnotize have weak wills.

This myth is based on the same misunderstanding as the first myth. Being hypnotized is absolutely not about submitting to the will of another person. A hypnotist tries to work with the will of the person he or she is hypnotizing, not against it. And that is maybe the reason why some of the best hypnotic subjects I have ever worked with have had some of the strongest personalities.

Myth number 5: It is possible to get stuck in hypnosis.

Consider the following scenario: A hypnotherapist and a client are in a therapy room together. They will not be interrupted all day. The hypnotherapist leads his or her client into hypnosis – then silently dies! Highly unlikely, I know. But if it happened – what then? One of two things: either the client would completely fall asleep and wake up naturally after a nap, or the client would gradually become aware that something was wrong because of the lack of input from the therapist and would soon return to full waking consciousness.

Myth number 6: Hypnosis is bad for your health in some way.

Like absolutely any other therapy or treatment, hypnosis can be used inappropriately. I have already said that there are some people who shouldn’t be hypnotized – see Myth number 3 above. There are various ways in which hypnosis could be used in ways which are not helpful to the client. For example, a woman who is already way too thin may seek hypnotherapy for further weight loss. In this way, harm could be done with the person’s full consent. Against this I can only argue that most therapists with a grain of commonsense would not do anything so ill-advised. Properly trained and registered therapists are bound by strict ethical codes of practice and are required to act in the perceived best interests of the client in question. Hypnosis itself, as applied in most therapeutic situations, is simply a state of mental and physical relaxation. And for most people in a reasonable state of health, relaxation can only be a good thing.

Myth number 7: A hypnotized person can become dependent upon the hypnotist.

Again, this myth seems to have sprung from the idea that hypnosis is the exercise of one will over another. Certainly a needy or insecure person can become dependent upon a therapist and it doesn’t matter whether that therapist is a hypnotherapist, a CBT practitioner, a counsellor or a therapist of some other type. Any experienced and responsible therapist will spot the signs early and will act accordingly. The use of hypnosis will not influence the situation one way or another.

Myth number 8: Under hypnosis a person can remember absolutely everything which has ever happened to them.

This may be an exaggeration or a misconception rather than a myth. It is true that hypnosis can provide easier access to you memory and sometimes it is possible to “regress” to earlier times in your life and to re-experience many things. But the ability to do this varies greatly from person to person. It is certainly not true that hypnosis gives you total access at will to the whole of your memory.

Myth number 9: Hypnosis can take you back to previous existences on Earth.

In hypnosis it is sometimes possible to enter a dream-like state in which we are able to experience the workings of our imagination in much the same was as we experience dreams when asleep. Whether you think this relates to some kind of past existence on Earth will depend entirely on your religious, spiritual or philosophical viewpoint. Personally I do not believe in reincarnation or the transmigration of the soul and I have yet to see any substantial “hard” evidence which points in that direction.

Myth number 10: Hypnosis is a form of mysticism, is potentially evil and is contrary to the teachings of religion.

Hypnosis is a natural phenomenon, experienced by every single one of us in our day-to-day lives. When we go to sleep we do not switch instantaneously from a wide awake state to total unconsciousness. It is a gradual process. We travel naturally through hypnotic states when we go to sleep. Hypnosis is no more mystical or irreligious than sleep itself.

Most of the myths and misconceptions surrounding hypnosis arise from concerns about the way in which it is used. The antics of the stage hypnotists greatly feed these worries and misconceptions. But hypnosis is simply a natural phenomenon. In a therapeutic context it can be used effectively or ineffectively, well or badly. But in itself, hypnosis is simply a natural state (or states) of consciousness – nothing more, nothing less.

Horsham Hypnotherapy: serving clients from Horsham, Crawley, Burgess Hill, Haywards Heath, Guildford, Redhill and all parts of West Sussex, East Sussex and Surrey. Contact us today.

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