The Truth about Hypnotism - Part 2

April 4, 2019

Pass the popcorn, but take what you are seeing with a grain of salt. The Truth about Hypnotism could more accurately be titled, "How Media is Killing the Art of Hypnotherapy." As discussed in 'The Truth about Hypnosis - Part 1', some of the misconceptions people have about hypnosis include being made to do things against their will or reveal their darkest secrets, or that hypnosis is mind-control. Sadly, many far-fetched media portrayals have perpetuated the idea that hypnosis is something to doubt or fear instead of embrace.

 

In 1999's comedy classic "Office Space" by Mike Judge, the main character Peter Gibbons gets stuck in a hypnotic state after his hypnotherapist suffers a heart attack in the middle of their session. While it certainly made for a funny premise (I recommend anyone who has ever worked in a lifeless, soul-sucking job watch this, if they haven't already), it is yet another woefully inaccurate depiction of what hypnosis is. While such hypnosis fallacies can make for some darn enjoyable entertainment, the misconceptions it creates unfortunately do a disservice to those who may actually benefit from hypnotherapy but are now too afraid to try it or doubt it has any therapeutic value thanks to what they have seen. So, following in the footsteps of The Truth About Hypnotism - Part 1, I am going to put to bed some more hypnosis myths created by the movies, TV, comics, stage hypnotism, and so on, starting with the predicament poor Peter of 'Office Space' found himself in.

 

I can get in stuck in hypnosis.

Reality: Hypnosis is not a "fixed" state, so you can't get stuck, even temporarily. At the end of your hypnosis session, your hypnotist is always going to bring you out of your hypnotic state. We refer to this as "emerging" you and it is one of the first things you learn to do as a hypnotist. You would have to have a really inept hypnotist for them to neglect to, or forget to, emerge you at the end of your session, and that isn't going to happen because you are going to make sure you only go to trained hypnotists!

 

 Say you don't do your due diligence and end up with a painfully unqualified hypnotist who forgets to emerge you, or decides to walk out in the middle of your session to grab a sandwich, or even worse, drops dead in the middle of your session. You can either emerge yourself or simply wait to return to your natural state. Throughout your session, your hypnotist is going to be continually reinforcing the relaxed hypnotic state you are in with suggestions and/or directions. If the hypnotist was no longer there to reinforce the hypnotic state, you would eventually awaken to your natural state (in minutes, not days!). It is actually more effort to keep most people in a hypnotic state than it is to have them come out of it.  

 

You actually have the ability to emerge yourself anytime, not just if you aren't emerged at the end. You can stop following the hypnotist's instructions and emerge yourself at any point during the process if you aren't comfortable. You can open your eyes and get out of your chair at will. Your head might feel a little funny and you may have a bit of a mild headache if you were really deep and emerged yourself too quickly (it is recommended you count yourself up from 1 to 5 rather than just opening your eyes), but things will return to normal quickly. As mentioned in Part 1, your hypnotist can't make you do or say anything you don't want to do. You can simply decline a particular suggestion and move on, or if it is all too much, ask to be emerged or emerge yourself. You are never stuck.

 

Hypnosis is evil/supernatural/occult/black magic.

Reality: While hypnosis has sometimes been referred to as, "the devil's work", black magic, sorcery, or the dark arts, there is nothing evil, paranormal, or unnatural about hypnosis. It is a natural state of mind that everyone already experiences in some form on a daily basis. Hypnosis simply helps access that state in a more controlled manner.

 

It is understandable some people have a negative impression of hypnosis. For many, hypnosis conjures images of Dracula seducing his victims by putting them into a trance, or some nefarious villain hypnotizing people into committing crimes as heinous as murder, or a cult leader ensnaring members with hypnosis.

 

Even real-life hypnosis can cause a sense of fear or wonder. It is certainly something to witness  a group of people all falling into a trance at once; or a hypnotized person's eyes rolling back into their head so nothing but the whites are showing, making them appear like they are possessed (this only happens with a select few people); or the zombie-like nature that

some people exhibit while in trance; or the almost impossible feats people have demonstrated while under hypnosis (such as stage hypnotists making the person stiff as a board while suspended across two chairs then standing on them); or even the fact alone that hypnosis is able to help alleviate physical symptoms without medical intervention seems to some like it must be unnatural in some way. Some of the more colourful practitioners over the years have not really helped the cause (yes, I am referring to you Mesmer).


While there are certainly some more controversial elements in hypnosis, at its heart and soul hypnosis is simply accessing a normally hidden part of the mind to help change thoughts, perceptions, and behaviours. It is about personal growth and change, and its roots are in psychological principles, even if the origins of hypnosis did have some occult influences.

 

The history of hypnosis and the aspects of it that you don't believe in do not need to deter you from trying hypnosis. Remember, like you, hypnotists all have their own beliefs as well. While one might believe in past life regressions, remote viewing, or astral projection, many others will not. Some are religious, some are spiritual, some are agnostic, some are atheist. Find a hypnotist who shares your beliefs that you feel comfortable with; don't seek out the types of sessions that you would find too woo woo, out there, or paranormal (re: past life regression); and don't be afraid to ask your hypnotist to either include or avoid spiritual or religious references during your session.

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