In the 18th Century, Frank Mesmer was the first to develop a consistent method for hypnosis. Previously, it was an occult practice that was based on magically transferring properties from an animal to a person.
Over the centuries, hypnosis became more and more practical. It began to be used as a tool to help with psychological distress and making difficult changes.
Today, many people still believe many of the myths surrounding hypnotherapy that are founded on ridiculous pop culture references.
Here we debunk 10 common hypnosis myths and set the record straight.
What is Hypnotherapy?
Hypnotherapy, often called hypnosis, is a technique of guided relaxation that results in a higher level of awareness that focuses on one thing. This state is called a trance.
Trained hypnotherapists can use hypnosis in 2 ways to help their patients.
This approach takes advantage of the relaxed state of patients in order to change certain behaviors. In this hypnotic state, people are more open to suggestions. Suggestion therapy can be used to help people stop smoking, lose weight, or stop biting their nails.
It has been used to treat chronic pain as well. Hypnosis allows people to change their perceptions and sensations and re-wire how pain is experienced. You can’t be coerced to do things you don’t want to do. We’ll explore this fear in more detail later on in this article.
The mind is an incredibly complex entity. Sometimes, the psychological root cause of certain beliefs, behaviors, and fears are buried deep in the subconscious mind. Some memories are repressed even when a person wants to uncover them.
Patients may be blocking the memory of trauma that they experienced as children for example. With hypnosis analysis, these roots can be uncovered. Then, psychotherapy can be used to deal with the issues.
As you can see, hypnosis is used to treat patients. Like physical and emotional therapy, hypnotherapy aims to identify problems and find ways to heal and move forward. It has nothing to do with making someone quack like a duck.
Here are 10 myths we are eager to debunk.
1. People Give up Their Freewill Under Hypnosis
Nope. This common belief stems from all those county fairs and TV shows that show people acting silly on stage while hypnotized.
In fact, when those people are not acting, they are willingly engaging in their trance. The mind is completely aware during hypnotherapy. Patients can pull out of the trance at any time. In other words, they use their free will to stay in the hypnotic state.
2. People Reveal Deep Dark Secrets
Hypnotherapy is sometimes viewed as a sinister trick that can be used to manipulate people to reveal secrets they don’t want to share. This is false.
During hypnosis, clients might learn things they weren’t consciously aware of or had forgotten. However, this digging deep is done to assist people in unknotting complicated emotions and actions.
These clients want to find out why they always sabotage a relationship when it gets serious or why they are severely claustrophobic. No one is prying information out of them unwillingly.
In fact, clients only expunge what they are ready to reveal and handle. The mind is completely conscious and aware during treatments. If the line of questioning and exploring goes to something the client is not ready to talk about, they would say so.
3. Hypnotherapy is Not a Medical Treatment
Another myth about hypnotherapy is that it’s a mystical, frou-frou, practice that is not based on science.
In fact, hypnotherapy is a clinical practice, just like any other form of psychotherapy. It is used to treat various mental, physical and emotional issues by a trained clinician.
Many medical and psychological associations endorse hypnotherapy and have done since the 1950s.
The British Psychological Society stated that hypnosis is a proven therapeutic medium. The United States’ National Institute of Health confirms that hypnosis is effective in alleviating chronic pain.
Hypnotherapy is a treatment option that can be used alone or in conjunction with various other treatments. Discover more about hypnosis for healing.
4. Hypnotherapists Have Special Powers
There is nothing mythical about hypnosis. And not just people with certain magical gifts can become hypnotherapists.
You don’t need a certain type of voice to become a hypnotherapist. And hypnotherapists are not experts in mind control. They are trained clinicians, who often have a Master’s or Doctorate degree.
Like any profession, a hypnotherapist is educated in trained in their field. Most hypnotherapists have a background in psychology. Many are therapists who have hypnotherapy as one tool in their toolbelt.
The real magic happens in a person’s subconscious mind. In this space, huge transformations and personal discoveries are possible.
5. There’s No Proof that Hypnotherapy Works
This is probably the most common myth about hypnotherapy. And it’s also the most untrue one out there.
The effectiveness of this technique has in fact been proved again and again. Many respected psychologists and psychoanalysts use hypnosis in their practice.
As we mentioned in myth #3, many medical and scientific associations endorse and support hypnotherapy as a valid treatment option.
A study done by Harvard University showed that hypnosis increased the rate of recovery on patients who had undergone surgery. The study used two groups of people who had broken ankles.
One group had hypnosis treatments and the control group did not. The study showed that after 6 weeks, those who had received hypnotherapy treatments presented with 8.5 weeks of healing.
In some cases, hypnotherapy is the most successful treatment option. This is because changing behaviors requires more than just desire and willpower. Hypnosis can tap into root causes, suppressed memories and past experiences that can all contribute to the struggle to quit a habit.
6. Not Everyone Can Be Hypnotized
A popular myth is that you have to be susceptible to hypnotism and that not everyone can be hypnotized. Hypnosis is not a battle of mental power between the therapist and the client.
Having a strong will doesn’t mean you can’t be hypnotized. In order for the process to work, there must be full cooperation by the patient.
So if you say to a hypnotist, “I bet you can’t hypnotize me”, you’re right. You can’t be hypnotized against you will. Anyone can resist the trance.
If you’ve ever wanted to be hypnotized and it didn’t work, chances are were working with an untrained hypnotist.
Some people say that intelligent people can’t be hypnotized. Not true at all. Studies suggest that those with above-average intellect and who are extremely creative and imaginative are prime candidates for hypnosis.
7. Hypnosis Cures Everything and Anything
Here’s a myth that goes to the other extreme. This one is also false. Not everything that is undesirable about a person can be fixed by hypnosis.
Hypnosis will never cure baldness or restore your eyesight to 20/20. Physical features that you have no control over are all outside of the realm of hypnotherapy.
Overcoming habits like overeating, smoking, and so on are some ways that hypnosis can help you.
8. You Can Be Stuck in Hypnosis Forever
This myth is a big reason why some people are afraid to seek out therapeutic hypnosis. It is not possible to remain in a trance-like state indefinitely.
Let’s say you had the unfortunate experience of being put in a hypnotic state by an amateur. Even if you aren’t brought back to an open conscious state by the hypnotist, you will return to it on your own.
Don’t believe that you can go through your whole life thinking you are an English milkmaid in the 1900s because of hypnosis. Just like when you daydream or read a book and are completely engrossed, pretty soon you snap out of it and revert to full consciousness.
9. Hypnosis Is Instant
False. Hypnosis is not a miracle cure.
Hypnosis should be seen in the same light as any kind of therapy. You don’t go in for one physical therapy treatment and emerge healed.
The issues that require hypnosis are deep and require time to unravel and resolve. One session cannot fix your concerns.
Whether you need help with insomnia or fear of public speaking, hypnotherapy will take time to address the underlying issues behind these psychological concerns.
10. Being in a Trance is Unnatural
People who are suspicious of hypnosis say this all the time. In reality, we spend a lot of time in our lives in a hypnotic state.
Have you ever driven somewhere on “auto pilot” and had no memory of how you got there? Or have you ever been in mid-conversation when you discover you have no idea what the other person is saying?
In these examples, your subconscious was more present than your conscious mind. The result is that you were in a trance.
We go in and out of trances all the time. During boring PowerPoint presentations at work, watching TV and reading books, and even sitting and looking out the window.
There is nothing unnatural about this state of being. The only difference is that in hypnosis treatments, your therapist will guide you to this state purposefully. And for a specific reason.
If you find that you want to be more mindful during the day, check out these 5 ways to improve your mindfulness skills.
We hope you walk away from this article a lot more educated about hypnotherapy. Most of the myths we’ve debunked here are founded in the fear of the unknown. Instead, by looking into credible sources, you can get a true sense of the benefit of hypnosis treatments.
Next, check out top 10 meditation tips for beginners.