Article: article-what-is-hypnosis

You're driving down the road, lost in a daydream, and you suddenly notice that you've driven past your exit, or you are miles farther than you remember driving. Welcome to the wonderful, normal, every-day experience of hypnosis!

Although hypnosis is often portrayed as being a sleep state (which it isn't), hypnosis is actually a state of heightened awareness -- an experience of focused attention. A normal tool in our consciousness toolbox.

And, although it might be fun to remember scenes of stage hypnosis -- which fall into the category of entertainment -- where people were clucking like chickens or wearing bags on their heads or taking their clothes off or howling like wolves, those things have little to do with the art and craft of hypnotherapy. And, since one can't be compelled to do something in hypnosis that one wouldn't ordinarily do, there is always an element of choice at work.

Some of the other definitions of hypnosis used in the past are: Hypnosis is guided daydreaming; Hypnosis is a natural, altered state of consciousness; Hypnosis is a relaxed, hypersuggestible state; Hypnosis is a twilight state; and Hypnosis as a process of influential communication.

And even though a pleasant by-product of hypnosis is profound relaxation, being relaxed isn't necessary for hypnosis to occur.

Misunderstandings (Myths) About Hypnosis

Hypnosis is caused by the power of the hypnotist.

False: All hypnosis is self-hypnosis, the client is in total control and chooses to follow the hypnotherapist.

Only certain kinds of people can be hypnotized.

False: Everyone can be hypnotized. As with everything, trance comes easier for some than others. As Milton Erickson said, there are no resistant clients, only unskilled hypnotists.

Anyone who can be hypnotized must be weak-minded.

False: Ability to be hypnotized is not correlated with any personality traits.

Once someone has been hypnotized, one can no longer resist it.

False: If a client chooses not to go into trance, she/he will not.

One can be hypnotized to say or do something against one's will.

False: The conditions necessary to effect such powerful influence (such as brainwashing via torture, etc.) do not correspond to the typical therapeutic encounter.

Being hypnotized can be hazardous to your health.

False: Hypnosis itself is not harmful, but an incompetent practitioner can do some damage through sheer ignorance about the complexity of each person's mind or through a lack of respect for the integrity of each human being.

One inevitably becomes dependent on the hypnotist.

False: Hypnosis as a therapeutic tool doesn't in and of itself foster dependencies of any kind.

One can become “stuck” in trance.

False: Trance is a state of focused attention, either inwardly or outwardly directed. It is controlled by the client, who can initiate or terminate trance as she/he chooses.

One is asleep or unconscious when in a trance state.

False: Trance is not sleep. The client is relaxed yet alert.

One must be relaxed in order to be in trance.

False: Trance is concentrated attention. Relaxation is not a prerequisite.

Hypnosis may be used to accurately recall everything that has happened to you.

False: The mind is not a computer. Memories are stored on the basis of perceptions, and are subject to the same distortions as perceptions. Memory is not reliable.

Hypnosis is different from daydreaming, guided imagery, visualization, meditation.

False: Those are different words for the same phenomenon.

Deep trance is necessary in order for hypnosis to be effective.

False: In process-oriented hypnotherapy (as opposed to stage hypnosis or medical-model hypnosis) powerful transformation is experienced in light, medium and deep trance.