Your Brain on Hypnosis

In a previous blog entry I gave some definitions of hypnosis as an altered state, a dissociation of awareness, focused attention, etc. Here I’d like to define hypnosis by describing what takes place in the brain under hypnosis.

Humans have four basic states of awareness corresponding to four identifiable brain-wave patterns:

• Beta state (alertness, active thinking, and concentration)
• Alpha state (relaxed alertness and light hypnosis)
• Theta state (day dreaming, deep hypnosis, drowsiness, and light sleep)
• Delta state (deep sleep).

The brain passes through each of these four states as the electrical activity decreases on the way to sleep (theta and delta states) and increases on the way to wakefulness (beta state). In other words, we necessarily pass through the hypnotic states every time we go into and awaken from sleep.

We spend most of our waking hours in the beta state of alert awareness. In the beta state the mind analyzes, evaluates, judges, and makes decisions. This is the state in which we attempt to overcome problems with “will power,” often unsuccessfully.

In hypnosis the brain enters the alpha (light hypnosis) and theta (deep hypnosis) states, and one is highly focused on hypnotic suggestions and imagery while suspending the ordinary thinking processes of the beta state. In the alpha and theta states, hypnotic suggestions are integrated into the mind more easily, and memories become more accessible.

There are many techniques for inducing hypnosis, and most of them bring about the alpha and theta hypnotic states with the same basic method that you use to put yourself to sleep at night: you close your eyes, control the sound, and lie still. When you limit sensory stimulation in these ways, your neural activity slows down, taking you from the waking state (beta) into the states of hypnosis (alpha and theta). In these states the brain’s centers of awareness and imagining shift from cortex (where conscious, analytical thinking takes place) to the sub-cortical structures involved in unconscious and emotional processes, the stress response, and long-term memory. In simple terms, by limiting sensory input the brain slows down, and the unconscious mind is made accessible.


Hypnosis and Memory

“Can hypnosis make me forget about someone?”

“Can you help me remember where I put my diamond ring?”

These are common questions for a hypnotherapist. While hypnosis can’t wipe your ex from your mind like the neuralyzer from Men in Black, it could change the way you feel about your memories, or help you locate that important object you hid even from yourself. Amnesia (memory loss) and hypermnesia (memory recall) are two of the most characteristic and impressive phenomena of hypnosis.

Hypnosis can cause temporary amnesia, but it cannot erase memories permanently.
Amnesia can occur spontaneously (i.e. without the suggestion of the hypnotherapist) while in the deepest states of hypnosis. This type of amnesia can mimic psychogenic amnesia, where there is a loss of significant personal information and a gap in memory. However, when the subject is awakened from hypnosis the memory returns.

Amnesia can also occur after hypnosis, often in response to posthypnotic suggestions given by the hypnotherapist. It is usually amnesia of what took place during the hypnotic trance, not of the subject’s personal information and life memories. Unlike the more significant amnesia that can occur spontaneously in the deepest states of hypnosis, the amnesia produced by hypnotic suggestion is more like everyday forgetting, such as when you can’t remember someone’s name or what you were just going to say.

In either case, the duration of hypnotic amnesia is unpredictable, but it is not permanent. The hypnotherapist does not have to reverse the hypnosis for the memories to return. It appears that way in stage hypnosis because the hypnotherapist “removes” the suggestion quickly, before the memory returns on its own.

Can hypnosis help with memories?
Hypnosis can alter your interpretation of a memory and your response to it. With hypnosis you can dampen the emotional impact of a memory by changing its meaning, or by creating a sense of detachment from it. A memory is not only a thought in the mind, but also has a molecular component in the body (Dr. Candace Pert has described this extensively in her book Molecules of Emotion). Hypnosis cannot erase the thought form of the memory or make it inaccessible, but it can alter the physical form of the memory so that you no longer feel stuck, preoccupied, or obsessed with it.

Memory recall
Just as we have moments of amnesia in everyday life, we also have moments of sudden memory recall. The recovery of memory, being the opposite of amnesia, is known as hypermnesia.

Hypermnesia under hypnosis can take on different forms. The most common form is regression, where the subject is generally aware that he or she is reviewing the past from the current perspective. For example, to end an unwanted habit a hypnotic subject might return to a time in his life when he acquired the behavior. Hypnotic regression is also used to help remember details of crimes and find misplaced objects.

Regression is different from the more dramatic state of hypermnesia known as revivification. In revivification the subject appears to relive the incident as if it were actually occurring, and may even exhibit such characteristics as the personality, vocabulary, and handwriting of the earlier period. Most strikingly, the memories following the age to which the subject is regressed become inaccessible. Because of the drama of television and the movies, many people who think about hypnotic regression have in mind this most dramatic form of revivification. In reality, most people who recover memories under hypnosis experience age regression primarily, with some moments of spontaneous revivification.

Hypnosis can also improve memory for people taking tests, memorizing lines, or seeking a mental edge professionally. This usually involves both posthypnotic suggestions from the hypnotherapist along with stress reduction, since stress hormones affect memory and critical thinking negatively.

One final note regarding hypnosis and memory recall: with both age regression and revivification, the material recalled may be inaccurate. A hypnotic subject can fabricate false memories on his or her own or at the suggestion of the therapist, intentionally or unintentionally. Sorry, but you can’t use hypnosis like a lie detector or a truth serum. Yes, I get that question too.


Hypnosis for Asthma

Asthma is one of the most common chronic childhood disorders, affecting over seven million children under 18 years.[1] Over 30 years of medical research has shown that the mind and therapies like relaxation and hypnosis can have a profound effect on the severity of asthma, with no side effects.[2]

Many of the recent studies on mind-body therapies for asthma focus on hypnotic relaxation techniques and self hypnosis. When asthma has a physiological cause, simple relaxation training can be very helpful to get the breathing to relax.

Sometimes asthma is not only physiological, but has a psychosomatic component. One indication that there might be a psychosomatic cause is if stress precedes severe attacks. Common characteristics noted among some children who suffer from asthma are high anxiety, high dependence on others, low confidence, and they may suppress emotions. Exhaling has deep unconscious meaning related to self expression. We express ourselves while exhaling, as infants by crying and yawning, and later by speaking on the exhale. Emotional conflict can manifest itself in the smooth muscles of the bronchi.[3]

Often, the psychosomatic component to asthma is fear or anxiety over the asthma itself. The sufferer fears he or she is choking to death. Doctors, nurses, and especially overly protective or highly anxious parents can be trained to avoid language that can triggers or worsens this thought (calling it an asthma “attack” is an example). Instead of calling attention to breathing, suggestions should be given to reinforce a sense of being protected, and to give positive reassurance that relaxation can occur.

One should always see a doctor before using hypnosis or any other alternative therapy for asthma. And though some people object to them, inhalers can save lives.

[1] Asthma & Children Fact Sheet - American Lung Association (American Lung Association)

[2] Hypnosis therapy can affect childhood asthma (Daily Herald)

[3] Kroger, W. (1977). Clinical and experimental hypnosis in medicine, dentistry, and psychology (2d ed.). Philadelphia: Lippincott.


Defining Hypnosis

Hypnosis is difficult to define precisely, like many concepts relating to the mind and consciousness. Webster defines hypnosis as “a trancelike state that resembles sleep but is induced by a person whose suggestions are readily accepted by the subject” and “any of various conditions that resemble sleep.” This definition is consistent with how most people think of hypnosis, but it’s only part of the picture.

The question of whether hypnosis is an altered state or a continuum of our normal state of awareness has been debated. You can see this reflected in the following contradictory definitions of hypnosis:

“Hypnosis is an altered state of consciousness. It is characterized by an increased ability to produce desirable changes in habit patterns, motivations, self-image and life style. Alterations may be produced in physiological functions, such as pain, that are usually inaccessible to psychological influence.” – Clinical Hypnosis Principles and Applications by Crasilneck & Hall.

“Hypnosis is not a ‘state,’ but rather a ‘descriptive abstraction’ referring to a number of interrelated and overlapping processes.” –Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis by Kroger.

Also, hypnosis does not always resemble sleep. Waking hypnosis and conversational hypnosis, for example, are not like sleep at all. This idea that the hypnotic subject goes into a sleep-like state or loses consciousness is the most common misconception about hypnosis. People do sometimes enter such profound states of trance that they appear asleep, but not always. In many cases a subject in hypnosis is actually more awake, more focused, and concentrating intensely.

The word “hypnosis” doesn’t help. It comes from the Greek word “hypnos,” meaning sleep. The person who coined the term (James Braid, the father of modern hypnosis) attempted to change it later to “monoideism” (meaning focus on one idea), but “hypnosis” had already gained popularity. Braid’s notion of “monoideism” is descriptive of what many people experience in hypnosis. The following definitions of hypnosis from some of my favorites are more in line with Braid's idea of singular focus.

“[Hypnosis is]…an increase in focal attention to one aspect of the total situation and a concomitant constriction of peripheral awareness of other aspects.” – Trance and Treatment: Clinical Uses of Hypnosis by Spiegel & Spiegel.

“Hypnosis is “a dissociation of awareness from the majority of sensory and even strictly neural events that are taking place.” – “Personality and Hypnotic Susceptibility,” Am. J. Clin. Hypnosis, by Weitzenhoffer & Weitzenhoffer.

“Hypnosis: A state of consciousness involving focused attention and reduced peripheral awareness characterized by an enhanced capacity for response to suggestion.” - The Society of Psychological Hypnosis

Hypnosis is well-studied, but as in many fields of science, theories are debated. These definitions at least give a glimpse of hypnosis from the scientific perspective, and a more balanced understanding of one of the most fascinating phenomena of the human mind.


Hypnosis in Animals

I know it may sound strange, but one of the most fascinating phenomena of nature is the fact that you can actually hypnotize animals. I’m not talking about playing a recording with positive affirmations for your dog. Apparently that’s a thing. By animal hypnosis I mean inducing the state of immobility known as 'catalepsy,' which is also observed in humans in some states of hypnosis. Here’s how you do it.

Chicken Hypnosis
Grasp a chicken by its neck and place it in a horizontal position with its head flat on a table. With chalk or a marker draw a line two feet directly out from its beak and the eye that is closest to the surface. Carefully remove your hands, and the chicken will remain motionless in a trance. To awaken the chicken, clap your hands loudly and move its head away from the line. You can also let it emerge from hypnosis on its own. Strangely, if you hypnotize several chickens together and leave them to awaken on their own, they will awaken together.

Guinea Pig Hypnosis
To hypnotize a guinea pig, roll it over a few times, then lay it on its back. It will remain still. To awaken the guinea pig from hypnosis, blow on its nose and turn it onto its feet.

Rabbit Hypnosis
Lay the rabbit on its back, and part its ears with one hand so that they are both laying flat on the table. With the other hand hold the rabbit’s legs down to the table so that it is completely stretched out on its back. Hold it in this position for about thirty seconds. Remove your hands carefully, and the rabbit will remain in position. To awaken the rabbit, blow on its nose and push it onto its side.

Pigeon Hypnosis
Grab hold of a pigeon and turn it upside down. Now wave it back and forth in a circle, then place it on the ground on its back. It will remain there. Clap your hands to awaken the pigeon.

Alligator Hypnosis
If you are unlucky enough to be on top of an alligator, hold its jaws shut, turn it onto its back, and extend its neck. As long as the alligator is upside down it will remain motionless. To awaken the alligator, flip it back over onto its feet. After emerging from hypnosis alligators tend to be a lot less relaxed than people, and may want to kill you.

Frog and Lizard Hypnosis
The alligator method also works on lizards and frogs. To hypnotize a lizard or a frog, put it on its back and hold it still for a few seconds. Remove your hands, and it will remain motionless. To remove the hypnosis flip it back over.

Snake Hypnosis
Though they can sense vibrations, snakes are deaf. Cobras are not hypnotized by the sound of the snake charmer’s music, but by the back and forth movements of the instrument and the charmer.

Lobster Hypnosis
Believe it or not, you can hypnotize a lobster by standing it on its head, using its claws to support it in that position. Hold it that way for a few moments, and it will go to sleep. To awaken the lobster just set it back onto its legs. This is actually in some cookbooks.

Spider Hypnosis
The female spiders that kill their mates often hypnotize the male into immobility before mating by stroking its belly.

In most of these examples, the catalepsy is produced in the animal by physical manipulation, such as forced immobility, movement, or touch. This is usually an instinctual response. Because predators can spot movement, freezing is an inborn survival mechanism. In general, a sudden fright or shock can cause certain animals, including humans, to have a death-feint, or to ‘freeze.’ Some theories assert that hypnosis in humans triggers this primitive response when the procedure demands so much focus that the rest of the environment is reduced or eliminated. Though some of the earliest oriental methods of hypnosis used a loud gong to shock the person into trance, modern hypnotherapy uses physical relaxation and the symbolic meanings of words to limit the attention and focus the mind.

As a final note, one interesting difference between hypnosis in humans and animals is that repetitive hypnosis decreases susceptibility to future hypnosis in animals, but increases susceptibility in humans. Humans tend to go deeper and deeper into trance with repeated hypnosis, then plateau at a particular depth specific to them.

So now it’s time to experiment. Does anyone know where I can find a chicken in New York City?


A History of Hypnosis: from Ancient Times to Modern Psychology

Hypnosis is surrounded by many myths and misconceptions. Unfortunately, despite thorough scientific research and wide clinical use, some people are scared off needlessly by the stigma that hypnosis is a mystical or esoteric procedure. As a hypnotherapist I have found that some people assume hypnosis is a recent innovation of the New Age movement, which spread through metaphysical communities in the 1970s and 1980s. Actually, hypnosis has been used in the United States since the mid-1800s, and was advanced by pioneers of modern psychology like Sigmund Freud, Pierre Janet, and Alfred Binet among others. This installment considers the history of hypnosis from ancient times to its eventual investigation by modern psychologists, physicians, and researchers.

Hypnosis in Ancient Times
The origins of hypnosis are inseparable from those of western medicine and psychology. Practically all ancient cultures, including the Sumerian, Persian, Chinese, Indian, Egyptian, Greek, and Roman, used hypnosis in some form. In Egypt and Greece, the sick often went to healing places known as sleep temples or dream temples to be cured by hypnosis. In ancient India, the Sanskrit book known as The Law of Manu described different levels of hypnosis: “Sleep-Waking,” “Dream-Sleep,” and “Ecstasy-Sleep.”

Some of the earliest evidence of hypnosis for healing comes from the Egyptian Ebers Papyrus, dating to 1550 B.C. Another Egyptian papyrus (Pap. A. Nr. 65) describes the laying of hands on the patient, hand passes, and eye-fixation.

Magnetism, Fluidism, and Mesmerism
For many centuries, especially during the Middle Ages, kings and princes were believed to have the power of healing through the “Royal Touch.” Their miraculous healings were attributed to divine powers. Before hypnosis was well understood, the terms “magnetism” and “mesmerism” were used to describe these healing phenomena.

The Swiss physician Paracelsus (1493-1541) was the first to use magnets for healing, instead of the divine touch or a holy relic. This method of healing was still around into the 18th century, when Maximillian Hell, a Jesuit priest and the Royal Astronomer in Vienna, became famous for healing by using magnetized steel plates on the body. One of Hell’s students was Franz Mesmer, the Austrian physician from whom we derive the word “mesmerize.” Mesmer discovered that he could induce trance without magnets, and concluded (incorrectly) that the healing force must come from himself or from an invisible fluid that occupied space.

One of Mesmer’s students, the Marquis de Puysegur, became a successful magnetist and the first to produce a deep form of hypnosis similar to somnambulism (sleep-walking). Followers of Puysegur and the Paracelsus-Mesmer fluidism theory called themselves “Experimentalists.” The work of Mesmer and the Experimentalists was a step in the right direction to recognize that the cures they observed came not from a magnet or object, but from some other force.

The Power of Suggestion – Faria, Liebeault, Bernheim, and the Nancy School
In 1813, an Indo-Portuguese priest known as Abbe Faria conducted research on hypnosis in India, and returned to Paris to study hypnosis with Puysegur. Faria proposed that it was not magnetism or the power of the hypnotist that was responsible for trance and healing, but a power generated from within the mind of the subject.

Faria’s approach was the basis for the clinical and theoretical work of the French school of hypnosis-centered psychotherapy known as the Nancy School, or the School of Suggestion. The Nancy school held that hypnosis was a normal phenomenon induced by suggestion, not the result of magnetism. The Nancy school was founded by Ambroise-Auguste Liebeault, a French country doctor who is considered to be the father of modern hypnotherapy. Liebeault believed that the phenomena of hypnosis were psychological and disregarded theories of magnetism. He studied the similarities between sleep and trance, and saw hypnosis as a state that could be produced by suggestion.

Liebeault’s book Sleep and its Analogous States was published in 1866. His writings and the stories of his cures attracted the prominent physician Hippolyte Bernheim to visit his clinic. Bernheim (1840-1919) was a renowned neurologist who was at first skeptical of Liebeault, but after observing Lieubault he was so amazed by that he abandoned internal medicine to become a hypnotherapist. Bernheim brought Liebeault’s ideas about suggestion to the attention of the medical world with his book Suggestive Therapeutics, from which hypnosis emerged as a science. Liebeault and Bernheim are the innovators of modern psychotherapy. Their views prevailed, and to this day hypnosis is still seen as a suggestion phenomenon.

Pioneers of Psychology
Some of the pioneers of psychology studied hypnosis in both the Nancy and Paris Schools. Pierre Janet (1859-1947), who developed theories of unconscious processes, dissociation, and traumatic memory, studied hypnosis with both Bernheim in Nancy and the rival school of Charcot in Paris. Sigmund Freud also studied hypnosis with Charcot and later observed Bernheim, and Liebeault. Freud began practicing hypnosis in 1887, and hypnosis was crucial to his invention of psychoanalysis.

Hypnotic Anesthesia
During the period of intense psychological investigation of hypnosis , a number of physicians developed the use of hypnosis for anesthesia. In 1821, Récamier performed a major operation using hypnosis for anesthesia. In 1834, the British surgeon John Elliotson, who introduced the stethoscope to England, reported numerous painless surgical operations using hypnosis. James Esdaile, the Scottish surgeon, performed over 2,000 minor and 345 major operations using hypnosis in the 1840s and 1850s.

Modern Hypnotism
The Scottish ophthalmologist James Braid is the father of modern hypnotism. It was Braid who first coined the term neuro-hypnotism (nervous sleep), which later became “hypnotism” and “hypnosis” (1841). Braid had visited a demonstration of a French magnetist, La Fontaine in 1841. He scoffed at the ideas of the Mesmerists, and was the first to suggest that hypnosis was psychological. Braid is perhaps the first practitioner of psychosomatic medicine. In 1847 he tried to explain hypnosis by “monoideism” (focus on one idea), but the term “hypnosis” had advanced in the work of the Nancy School, and is still the term used today.

Hypnosis in America
In America, the use of hypnosis for rapid treatment of injuries and trauma in WWI, WWII, and the Korean conflict led to a renewed interest in hypnosis in the fields of dentistry and psychiatry. The next installment on the history of hypnosis will look at the further development of hypnosis in America.


Hypnosis and the Placebo Effect

The placebo effect is that remarkable phenomenon where an inactive substance or otherwise fake treatment has a real effect on a patient’s condition. The placebo effect has been investigated since at least 1799. Some of the foundational research on the subject suggests that placebo effects occur in about 35% of people. (“The Powerful Placebo,” Henry Beecher, 1955.) Placebos have documented effects on pain, asthma, tension, anxiety, depression, blood pressure, heart rate, sexual arousal, skin conditions, nausea, vomiting, gastric motility, and angina. Under some circumstances placebos even produce effects that are stronger than those of active drugs. (“Hypnosis and Placebos: Response Expectancy as a Mediator of Suggestion Effects,” Irving Kirsch, 1999.)

While the placebo effect can be powerful, it is sometimes stated incorrectly that hypnosis works as a placebo, and that the effects of hypnosis are merely a placebo effect due to the patient’s beliefs and expectations. While positive expectancy is an important part of hypnosis, hypnosis is not the same as the placebo effect in terms of responsiveness, physiological effect, or administration.

Efficacy, or responsiveness, is the most important consideration from a practical standpoint, and there are significant differences here between hypnosis and the placebo effect. One study found that for subjects insusceptible to hypnosis, some pain reduction may be achieved with hypnosis, but it corresponds to the reduction by placebo. However, for subjects highly susceptible to hypnosis, pain reduction with hypnosis is far greater than by placebo. For these subjects, the average placebo response is negligible or even negative (“The nature of hypnotic analgesia and the placebo response to experimental pain,” McGlashan, Evans, & Orne, 1969). A further difference in responsiveness is that responses to hypnosis are notoriously trait-like , while responses to placebos are comparatively unreliable. There does not appear to be a “placebo reactor” comparable to the “hypnotizable subject.” (Kirsch, 1999.)

In terms of brain activity, there are similarities between hypnotic and placebo when used for analgesia for pain. Both hypnosis and placebo activate the somatosensory cortex, insula, thalamus, anterior cingulate cortex, and prefrontal cortex. However, there are also major differences in brain activity between hypnosis and placebo effects. With placebo, decreased pain is associated with changes in several parts of the limbic system (such as the amygdala, hypothalamus and hippocampus) as well as in the periaqueductal gray and the nucleus accumbens. Instead, hypnotic pain relief is accompanied by changes of activity in the occipital cortex and basal ganglia. (“Brain activity during pain relief using hypnosis and placebo treatments,” Svetlana Kierjanen, 2012.)

Hypnosis is different from a placebo in an important regard, which has to do with ethics. The administration of placebos requires that they be presented deceptively as pharmacological treatments. The use of placebos in medicine is therefore a controversial topic. Hypnosis does not require deception in order to be effective. Hypnosis is a non-deceptive means of exploiting the therapeutic power of suggestion. Doctors and patients can benefit from understanding hypnosis and the power of suggestion. As Voltaire once stated, “there is probably more cure in the doctor’s words than in many of the drugs he prescribes.”


Hypnosis Myths

Stage hypnotism and the portrayal of hypnosis in the entertainment industry have contributed to many misunderstandings of the true nature of hypnosis. Here are some of the more popular hypnosis myths:

“A person under hypnosis is asleep or unconscious.”
This is probably the most common misconception about hypnosis. You never lose your full sense of awareness or fall asleep in hypnosis. On the contrary, you are actually more fully awake. All levels of hypnosis are characterized by increased attention, and it’s this heightened concentration that increases your receptivity to suggestion.

James Braid, the “Father of Modern Hypnotism”, coined the term “hypnosis” after the Greek word “hypnos,” meaning sleep. Braid later tried to use the term “monoideism” to explain hypnosis as a state of concentrated focus on one (mono) idea (ideism), but the term “hypnosis” had stuck.

Along these lines, there is no such thing as a "hypnotized feeling." It’s most likely you will enjoy a feeling of deep calmness and relaxation.

“A person doesn’t remember anything that happens while under hypnosis.”
You’ll be aware of everything while hypnotized and afterward, unless specific amnesia is suggested for a therapeutic purpose. It’s possible that you’ll have a "dreamy" feeling, or feel as if you are drifting back and forth between sleep and wakefulness throughout hypnosis. It's normal for your mind to wander at times. After hypnosis it’s likely that you’ll probably have a fading memory of the session, similar to emerging from a deep daydream or a nap.

“A person can be hypnotized against their will. Once a person has been hypnotized they can no longer resist it.”
Most stage hypnotists are skilled at creating the illusion that they possess a magical and mysterious power over other people. There is, in fact, no such "power." Hypnosis is a state of consent and cooperation. The only control the hypnotherapist has over you is the control you allow him to have. The normal amount of control is to allow the hypnotherapist to guide you into a state of relaxation, and then suggest the thoughts and imagery for your concentration. Throughout the process you can end your state of physical relaxation and mental concentration at any time.

“A person surrenders their will once they go under hypnosis, and can be made to do things he or she does not want to do."
You are capable of making normal decisions at all times under hypnosis. You can't be ‘made’ to do anything under hypnosis that you would find objectionable under normal circumstances.

"Not everyone can be hypnotized.”
It’s not a matter of whether you can be hypnotized, but whether you’ll allow yourself to be helped to enter hypnosis. Most people go into hypnosis easily once they understand that you remain conscious and do not surrender your will. Fear of loss of control, which is just a myth, is the main reason some people won't allow themselves to be hypnotized, but if a person is comfortable with the process and with the hypnotherapist and knows what to expect, it's surprisingly easy.

Everyone has the ability to be hypnotized, because it’s a natural, normal state that each of us enters at least twice each day – upon waking and falling asleep. We enter a state similar to hypnosis when daydreaming, meditating, driving on the road and arriving at our destination “automatically,” or being so deeply engrossed in a project or conversation that time seems to fly. A hypnotherapist helps you to enter this receptive state purposefully, and then uses the state to impress suggestions and imagery on your mind.

People seem to be able to achieve different degrees of hypnotic depth, but everyone can be hypnotized to a sufficient depth to accomplish most therapeutic goals. Repetitive hypnosis can increase the depth of hypnosis, but doesn’t necessarily make you more suggestible.

“Only weak-minded and gullible people can be hypnotized.”
Suggestibility - the capacity for impressions to imprint upon your subconscious mind - is not related to gullibility, weak-mindedness, or submissiveness. To the contrary, studies suggest that people of above average intelligence who are capable of concentrating and who have a capacity for creativity and vivid imagination usually make the best subjects.

“A person has to relax deeply to be in a state of hypnosis.”
Your level of physical relaxation doe not necessarily impact the effectiveness of suggestions given during the session. There are methods of hypnosis that don’t even rely on physical relaxation.

Most people who are concerned about their ability to relax physically under hypnosis are very pleasantly surprised after a much needed mental rest.

“A person under hypnosis might reveal his or her deepest secrets.”
You don’t lose control or reveal personal secrets under hypnosis unless you wish to do so.

“Hypnosis can be used to accurately recall everything that has happened to you”
Hypnosis can be very effective for capturing lost memories, but you can also lie when under hypnosis, or even have false memories. Hypnosis isn't a truth serum.

“A person can get stuck in a trance forever.”
This is impossible. No one has ever been stuck in a hypnotic trance. Hypnosis is a natural state that we enter and exit all of the time. There are no known dangers with hypnosis when working with a normal patient.