Whether you’re doing hypnotherapy, stage hypnosis or street hypnosis, there will always be people who have unfavourable opinions or unhelpful beliefs about hypnosis. Also, there are those who have had less-good experiences with hypnosis in the past (such as, where ‘it didn’t work’), and now have a negative view of hypnosis, or believe they ‘can’t be hypnotised’.
Pretty much all practising hypnotists will encounter people like this, and it’s up to you to decide what approach to take with them, because as you probably know, beliefs can be changed, including beliefs about hypnosis and hypnotherapy. So there are ways to get past these initial issues with hypnosis, and though this blog is technically designed for hypnosis practitioners, if you’re a non-hypnotist, and someone who believes ‘hypnosis doesn’t work’ (or that it can’t work for you), read on, because you might find that the information below will help you out, meaning you too can benefit from (and perhaps even enjoy) the hypnosis process!
Before we get into the nitty-gritty, there’s an important thing that you need to remember, and that a hypnotist needs to be able to explain to the people they’re going to hypnotise, which is:
All hypnosis is self-hypnosis
It is important to clarify that hypnosis is a ‘collaborative process’, meaning that the person being hypnotised is not having hypnosis ‘done to them’, but that the hypnotist is guiding them into a self-generated state. Kind of like a yoga instructor using a ‘guided meditation’, the instructor is not ‘putting you into meditation’, but instead, guiding you to generate that state in yourself. Just like you cannot be made to meditate, you cannot be forced into hypnosis against your will, and to do it, you need to cooperate and follow instructions!
You can explain this to your ‘hypnotic subjects’ (clients/volunteers) in a similar way, using the yoga example above, or perhaps using the metaphor of a driver and map reader. The subject is the driver of the car, meaning they can choose which routes to take and where they go. Meaning they can choose to travel into hypnosis, or they can choose not to go into hypnosis, because they are the one driving the car. The hypnotist is simply the map reader, telling them which route is best, and guiding them towards reaching that hypnotic state.
It’s true that people can generate hypnosis in themselves (by learning/using self-hypnosis), without even needing a hypnotist to do it for them, and, as with most things, some people are naturally more proficient at going into hypnosis than others, though pretty much everyone is able to go into hypnosis to some degree, and people can get better at ‘being hypnotised’ with practice!
Past unhelpful experiences
Some people have been to a hypnotherapist before, or tried a ‘hypnotherapy mp3’, and didn’t get the experience that they had expected from it. Now, whether ‘it didn’t work’, or they didn’t ‘feel hypnotised’, or something else, if a person’s expectations about hypnosis are not met, this can certainly affect someone’s ability to allow themselves to go into hypnosis, or to respond to a hypnotherapy session at a later date.
If this is the case with someone you’re going to hypnotise, it’s worth letting them know that ‘not all hypnotists are created equally’. Unfortunately, there are some poorly trained hypnotists out there, with little knowledge and experience. This means, they may not be great at doing hypnosis, and ensuring that their subjects are adequately informed, primed and ready to engage in the process. It is super important to prepare the people that you’re hypnotising, by giving them a bunch of information about hypnosis (during the ‘pre-talk’), as well as making sure they are fully engaged in, and committed to the process. It’s so important in fact, we have a whole online course on the topic of ‘engaging your therapy client‘ (and it’s not just for ‘therapy clients’, engagement is also super important for entertainment hypnotists too)!
Talking of stage hypnosis, some people may think they ‘can’t be hypnotised’ because they were dismissed from stage at a stage hypnosis show. It’s worth telling such people that stage hypnotists only tend to choose the most highly responsive hypnotic subjects to work with on stage, and just because they weren’t chosen, it doesn’t mean they can’t be hypnotised. It simply means that the stage hypnotist was picking the ‘easiest’ people to work with, or those who would respond in the most dramatic ways in order to get the show going ASAP. This is because, not everyone responds in hypnosis in quite the same ways. Some people are more prone to moving in hypnosis (such as dancing around on stage), whereas others are better at using their imaginations and visualising things (such as hypnotic stories within the hypnotherapy session). Similarly, some people respond better to different methods of hypnosis. One subject may go into hypnosis easily with a fast ‘rapid hypnotic induction‘, whereas another may prefer a slower more ‘progressive’ induction where the hypnotist simply ‘talks them into hypnosis’. It’s different strokes for different folks!
It might be that the person who says ‘hypnosis doesn’t work’, or ‘it won’t work on me’, is quite simply resisting the process. Think back to the first point (all hypnosis is self-hypnosis). If someone is resisting the hypnotist, what do you think will happen? Will they allow themselves to go into hypnosis? No, of course they won’t! So, it’s then down to educating that person about what hypnosis is, as well as potentially addressing and of their fears about hypnosis. Fears generally relate to some of the ‘myths about hypnosis’. It’s worth familiarising yourself with these, so that you can address them with your subject, helping them to move beyond their worries and concerns. If you’re not sure about the different types of myths that people believe about hypnosis, we have a great blog on the topic of hypnosis myths that will help you out with this!
As well as resisting due to concerns about the hypnosis process, it might be that the subject is afraid of ‘failing’. That if they can’t do what the hypnotist or hypnotherapist asks, they’ll look silly, so they resist the process before it’s even started. It might also be that the subject is defiant, or wants to prove that they are superior to the hypnotist, or too ‘strong minded’ to go into hypnosis. This is interesting, because actually, the smarter/more strong minded a person is, the better a hypnotic subject they tend to make!
Maybe they’re resisting because they’re in a crappy mood, or they’re physically uncomfortable and therefore distracted. Hypnosis is a state of focused attention, meaning if they’re distracted, it usually won’t work so well! Maybe they don’t yet trust you as a hypnotist, or you haven’t built enough rapport with them? Maybe there is a lack of ‘prestige’ (perhaps they were expecting you to be wearing a suit, and swinging a pocket watch in front of their eyes), which is causing them to resist. There are so many potential causes for resistance, this is why your ‘pre-talk’ process is so important. Check out our blog on ‘how hypnosis works’ to get more info about why the pre-talk is so important, and how you can deliver a fantastic hypnosis process overall!
Fundamentally, you need to know where your subject is at, in terms of belief about hypnosis and belief about their ability to go into hypnosis. As well as that, find out whether they’re actually comfortable doing it, and if there are any reasons that they might prefer not to. For example, a hypnotherapy client might resist the therapy work, because resolving their problem might cause another different problem to occur – this is known as a ‘secondary gain’ (such as losing weight might mean they’ll have to help around the house more, and they don’t want to do that, so they resist the change). With entertainment hypnosis, a subject may be worried that they’ll be ‘made to look stupid’, when in fact they’re likely to have a fantastic time and lots of fun, as most stage/street hypnotists are highly respectful of their volunteers.
By following the instructions in the last paragraph, and you’ll find that your subjects will respond much better! We hope you’ve enjoyed this blog about how ‘hypnosis doesn’t work!’ (and other things resistant subjects say), and if you have any more questions about this topic, or anything else for that matter, do please get in touch, because we’re always happy to help!
– written by Rory Z Fulcher