An introduction would not be complete without addressing various misconceptions and mistaken beliefs about hypnosis. Such misunderstandings are often the result of lay and stage hypnotists performing for purposes of entertainment. Also, culture and media often portray hypnosis being performed by an evil villain, a Svengali, who casts a cult-like spell to subdue then control it’s subject for malevolent purposes.
Myth 1: The hypnotherapist casts a spell onto and exerts power over a vulnerable subject.
During hypnosis, the subject focuses on the sound of the hypnotherapist’s voice and the suggestions that enhance the success of a task or performance. However, the trance experience is generated by the subject. The power of entering into a trance state comes from the subject. Of course, the environment that a hypnotherapist provides can certainly enhance and utilize the subject’s talents for entering into a hypnotic state. Nonetheless, the power of hypnosis lies within the subject. The subject is the person in control. In fact, it is from the hypnotic experience or trance state that the subject learns just how much control he or she does have over a particular goal or outcome.
Myth 2: Hypnosis is sleep.
The word sleep is often used during hypnosis. In most cases the subject’s eyes are closed, and appear to be asleep. However, hypnosis is a heightened state of concentration and awareness. Hypnosis is an altered state of attention, or a heightened state of concentration, and not actual sleep. In fact the brainwaves of a subject in hypnosis is nothing like brainwaves of a person asleep. The person is actually quite alert, awake and responsive.
While in that hypnotic altered state, some subject may focus very deeply and not recall part of all of a session. However, a majority of subjects remember the entire session. Hypnotic trance is a unique experience for each individual, with varying degrees of similarity.
Myth 3: People who are hypnotized are weak-minded.
As stated in Myth 1, the subject is in control of entering into the hypnotic state, or trance. Therefore, being hypnotizable is actually a talent or skill and in no way implies weak-mindedness. Contrary to weak-mindedness, the goal of hypnosis is to help the subject increase awareness of his or her own inner resources. Hypnosis aims to empower the subject to take control of his or her own life.
Myth 4: A hypnotherapist can cast his or her will over you and make you do things against your will to act and look foolish.
Myth 4 likely stems from stage hypnotists, movies, or television where a person is casts under a spell and does the bidding of the hypnotist. Stage hypnotist are very sensitive to reading a person’s willingness to be on stage. Any person must want to and agree to go along with a suggestion for that suggestion to be carried out. Myth 4 is connected with Myth 3 in that it suggests the person is weak-minded.
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Linda M. Guhe, MSW
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All conditions that may be helped using Hypnotic Techniques also require the commitment of the patient or client.
Hypnotherapy is not magic and can only help you to make changes if you have a strong desire to change and are willing to put in a maximum effort.