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.