Hypnosis myths, there are loads… Like seriously, loads of myths out there about hypnosis (and hypnotherapy). Some myths are seemingly believable and others are completely outrageous. Anyway, if you do hypnosis (or you’re looking to become a hypnotist or hypnotherapist), then it behoves you to familiarise yourself with all of the common hypnosis myths that people might come to you with. By doing this, you’ll be ready to educate people on whether or not what they’re saying is true, or whether it’s a misconception. Educating people about whether a hypnosis myth is true or not can help your hypnosis process be way more effective. How? Well, take a look at this first myth and I’ll tell you…
Hypnosis Myth: ‘Hypnosis is sleep’
One of the most widely believed myths about hypnosis is that hypnotists ‘put you to sleep’ and also that ‘hypnosis makes you black out or go unconscious’. Fortunately, this is totally false! Hypnosis is not sleep, in the same way that sleep is not hypnosis (that’s a simple little sentence that can easily prove hypnosis isn’t sleep, so do remember it). Although it may look like people are ‘going to sleep’ when they get hypnotised, they aren’t, they’re simply closing their eyes (and probably relaxing). You could see anyone close their eyes and relax and assume they’re going to sleep, whether on a sofa, at the movies, laying on the grass at a park… but they might just be closing their eyes and relaxing! Just because something looks like sleep, doesn’t make it sleep. So, no, hypnosis is not a way of creating sleep on demand (that said, hypnotherapy can help people to sleep better… but that’s another thing entirely).
The main thing to understand here is the ‘subjective experience’ of the person being hypnotised (i.e. what’s happening in their head). It may not seem like it, but when in a state of hypnosis, people are often much more focused and aware of their surroundings than they are when they’re not in hypnosis. People do not ‘black out’ or go unconscious… have you ever tried telling someone that got knocked out that they’re now a chicken or that they no longer smoke? …it doesn’t work, because they’re UNCONSCIOUS – meaning, they are unresponsive! Hypnosis is a conscious state of focused attention, so although they may look really chilled out with their eyes closed, hypnotised people are still consciously aware, and could open their eyes at any point if they wanted to (but usually, they choose not to, because hypnosis feels so good)!
Hypnosis Myth: ‘You can get stuck in hypnosis’
So many people worry about ‘getting stuck in hypnosis’, but again, it’s a myth! It is impossible to get stuck in hypnosis, as all hypnosis is self-hypnosis. The person being hypnotised is in control of whether they stay in hypnosis or not. This means, and evil hypnotist cannot put someone in hypnosis and hold them there at ransom until they get paid to wake them up (damn it, lol). So, what about if you were hypnotised and the hypnotist were to, I don’t know, drop dead of a heart attack in the middle of the session? You’d wake yourself up! True story. It might take a few seconds, it might take a few minutes, but eventually you’d realise something was up, and you’d re-alert yourself, coming out of hypnosis completely. This is contrary to some media portrayals of hypnosis (that like to sensationalise it, for entertainment purposes), such as the hypnotherapy scene in the movie Officespace:
Hypnosis Myth: ‘Hypnosis is mind control’
Many people believe that ‘hypnotists can control people’s minds’, that ‘hypnosis requires you to surrender your will’ and even that ‘you can be made to do things you don’t want to do whilst hypnotised’, but again, they are mistaken. As with the previous myth, you’ve got to remember that all hypnosis is self-hypnosis. The media wants you to believe that hypnosis can do all this stuff because it sells movies! In reality, hypnosis isn’t a ‘mind control technique’ and a hypnotised person can choose not to participate in hypnosis, even when they’re already hypnotised. If a hypnotherapy session became too uncomfortable for a client, they might just open their eyes and ‘wake themselves up (…even though it’s not sleep, we still use the same terminology). If a comedy hypnotist told you to something that you were morally opposed to doing, such as getting your naughty bits out and waggling them in front of a huge audience, then you’d either open your eyes and refuse, or do nothing and just remain in hypnosis. That said, if you’re the kind of person that would waggle your bits at the audience whilst not hypnotised, then hey, the jury’s out on whether you’d do it or not, lol!
So no, hypnosis won’t make you give out your deepest, darkest secrets. A hypnotist won’t make you give away your bank details or commit a crime under hypnosis… unless you want to that is! A good way of thinking of hypnosis is like a driver and a navigator. The hypnotist is navigating and the person being hypnotised is the driver. They can follow the hypnotist’s directions or they can take a totally different route if they’d prefer to… You always have control when in hypnosis.
Hypnosis Myth: ‘Only weak-minded people can go into hypnosis’
This hypnosis myth is often believed by those people who think (or hope) that they’re ‘above’ responding to hypnotic suggestions. That they’re too smart to be influenced in such ways by a hypnotist… Whereas, the opposite is actually true. To be a good hypnotic subject, you need to be at least of average intelligence or above. If your IQ is too low, then you’re unlikely to be a good candidate for hypnosis. Now, when I say low, I mean someone with cognitive deficits or learning difficulties, not just being ‘a bit thick’ (lol). So, the majority of people with ‘normal human intelligence’ can be hypnotised, having more intelligence doesn’t negatively influence the hypnosis process in any way whatsoever, in fact sometimes it even helps!
There is the argument that if you’re highly analytical, you may question or doubt the efficacy of hypnosis (especially if you have no personal experience of hypnosis upon which to properly base your beliefs). Doubting or disbelieving hypnosis will often hinder the hypnosis process, because (I’m sure you remember by now) all hypnosis is self-hypnosis (it’d be the same as going to bed ‘believing you won’t be able to sleep’, it becomes a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy). That said, even people with unhelpful beliefs about hypnosis can still be great hypnotic subjects, if they give themselves an opportunity to engage in the process without doubting it will work or trying to over-analyse it!
Hypnosis Myth: ‘Hypnosis isn’t real’
Yes it is.
(we’d be out of a job if it wasn’t)
Hypnosis Myth: ‘You won’t remember being hypnotised’
The majority of people remember being hypnotised. The thing about memory is that different people remember things differently. If you read 10 people a shopping list, some will remember most of the items on it, some will remember about half, others will remember barely any at all. Similarly with hypnosis, some people remember the entire hypnosis process, almost word for word, whereas others remember very little. Generally, if something exciting or really interesting happens, you’ll tend to remember it (similar to watching a movie and remembering the key plot points), and disregarding the rest of the information as there’s no need to remember it. That said, sometimes people do spontaneously create amnesia on themselves to forget a hypnosis session (but this is very uncommon), and sometimes a hypnotist/hypnotherapist will directly suggest that the client/subject doesn’t remember the session (either to stop them from ‘unpicking the therapy work’ or as a final gag at the end of a hypnosis show). The problem with giving such suggestions is that some people just won’t respond to them and will remember the whole thing regardless of what the hypnotist asks them to do. So, while it’s possible to forget a hypnosis session, it’s more common that you’ll remember it.
Hypnosis Myth: ‘The hypnotist will turn you into a chicken’
Oh dear, the infamous chicken routine. As a hypnotist (and hypnotherapist) we often get people say ‘yes I want to be hypnotised, but you’re not going to make me cluck like a chicken, are you?’ Now, if you’re going to see a hypnotherapist to work on a serious issue, do you think it’s likely that they’ll want to mess around and make you think you’re a chicken before they get on with the therapy work? No, probably not. However, if that’s something you want, I’m sure a good hypnotherapist could incorporate it into your session (for instance, if you want to give up smoking they might suggest ‘you are now a chicken, which means you’re a non-smoker as chickens don’t smoke’ lol). Stage hypnotists (these days) are also highly unlikely to make you act like a chicken, because there are so many more funny things that can be done with hypnosis, the chicken gag is a bit… overdone (no pun intended).
Hypnosis Myth: ‘Hypnosis is the work of the Devil’
Some God-fearing folks believe that hypnosis is Satanic and that all hypnotists (and hypnotherapists too) are in league with the Devil. A similar version of this myth is that ‘hypnosis is magic’ or ‘hypnosis is witchcraft’. The funny thing is, that some of the purveyors of these myths are equally against using ‘visualisations’ (i.e. using your imagination) and also ‘meditation’ (yes, seriously). So. hypnosis is not evil, nor are hypnotists in league with Lucifer himself (well, I mean some might be, hypnotists are allowed their own religious preferences too I guess, lol). As a matter of fact, hypnosis is a normal, natural ‘brainwave state’ and it’s something that we all experience every day (even the people that believe it’s the work of the Devil). We go through the brainwave state of hypnosis when transitioning from being awake to being asleep and vice versa, we go through the brainwave state of hypnosis when we daydream, when we imagine things intensely, or when we just drift off deep into our own thoughts… So, hypnosis is a natural thing that most people experience on a daily basis. The ‘skill’ of doing hypnosis is equally natural (though some are naturally better at it than others), and like any skill, it’s a set of learned behaviours and techniques. Nobody is ‘born a hypnotist’, and almost anyone can learn how to do it, so fear not, you don’t need to sell your soul to the Devil in order to become a hypnotist (save your soul for something important, like a Lamborghini or something).
So, all in all, hypnosis is not quite as weird and scary as it at first might seem. You’re able to go into and out of hypnosis of your own free will, you’re aware of what’s going on whilst you’re hypnotised, you have the choice as to whether you respond to the hypnotist’s suggestions and it’s highly unlikely that you’ll be turned into a chicken along the way!
We hope you’ve enjoyed this blog on hypnosis myths. 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