The truth is that there are many misconceptions about hypnosis and most of those come from its portrayal in films, in the media and through shows.

So, in this post, it is my intention to identify and debunk some of the most common misconceptions about hypnosis that I have come across during my work.

Stage Hypnosis

You are not going to make me cluck like a chicken, are you?! The question. The number one question. The question that I can almost guarantee I will get asked when seeing a patient for the first time who has never experienced hypnotherapy before. This is also one of the most common misconceptions about hypnosis.

Stage hypnosis is worlds apart from clinical hypnosis. Stage hypnotists utilise hypnotic phenomena to put on a show. It is for entertainment and that’s a wonderful thing. The hypnotist will spend some time putting the audience through suggestibility tests which then allows them to identify those that are highly hypnotisable.

It is estimated that 10% of the population are (this figure is an estimate and different studies will tell you different figures). Within this group of highly hypnotisable individuals, the hypnotist is looking for the extroverts, those that would be happy to be up on stage being a bit daft. Once they have identified those that will be ideal on stage, they will give them suggestions to act out a range of different things.

Building up suggestions

The hypnotist will start small. Suggesting to an individual that they will act out the opening music number from Les Mis right from the off isn’t likely to get many takers and will most likely bring the individual out of hypnosis.

But, by starting small, suggesting that an individual won’t be able to use their legs when they try and stand up or that they will shout out a certain phrase when the hypnotist clicks their fingers is a good start.

Once an individual has acted out one suggestion, they are more likely to act out another slightly more outrageous suggestion. The hypnotist then builds up with more wild suggestions each time until eventually, you get to the opening number of Les Mis.

I do not know if that has actually ever been achieved but I think it would be a wonderful thing to make happen.

Mind Control

Sticking with the chicken question, hypnosis is not mind control. Those that are chosen to take part in a stage hypnosis show are still fully in control and would not do anything they didn’t want to do.

If they act like a chicken, it’s because they are comfortable with doing so.

Hypnosis has often been associated with mind control, but it is simply not true. You cannot make anyone do or say anything that they do not want to do or say. At all times during a hypnosis session, the patient is fully in control.

Similarly, a person will only go into hypnosis if they want to go into hypnosis. I have heard no end of people tell me I won’t be able to hypnotise them. Guess what? They are absolutely right because they don’t want to be hypnotised.

Only Gullible, Weak Minded and Uneducated People can be Hypnotised

Again, this is simply not true. There is evidence to suggest that in terms of education, it is actually those that are quite intelligent that make the best hypnotic subjects.

Those that have above average intelligence are more capable of concentrating and have a greater capacity for creativity as well as for utilising their vivid imaginations. Everyone fits somewhere on the scale of hypnotisability.

It is estimated that 10% of the population are highly hypnotisable. 10% are not hypnotisable and everyone else fits in between. But again, it comes down to some simple facts, if you are resistant to being hypnotised then you won’t be hypnotised, if you are open to the process then you are more likely to do so. 

Can everyone be Hypnotised?

There is debate as to whether everyone can be hypnotised. Some hypnotherapists will tell you everyone can be hypnotised, others will tell you that is not true.

Personally (and my opinion can be changed with the right evidence), I think that everyone can experience hypnosis, or a state similar to hypnosis (daydreaming for example) but the level of suggestibility obviously varies greatly. I think that there are those that simply do not respond to hypnotherapy.

As a therapy it does not work for everyone, no one therapy does. Of course, the effectiveness of any therapy can be influenced by an individual’s beliefs, their motivation, the timing for seeking out help, etc.

However, if there was a single therapy that worked for everyone then that would be the only therapy we would do. We would be mad not to, right? The best way to find out if hypnotherapy will work for you is to go for it. If it works great, if it doesn’t then at least you can say you tried and move on to trying something else.  

If you prefer to listen rather than read, then you are in luck! We have made a video on the 12 most common misconceptions about hypnosis we have identified in this post.

Get stuck in Hypnosis

To date the best question, I have ever been asked by a patient has been what happens if I (the hypnotherapist) have a heart attack whilst they (the patient) is in hypnosis. The simple answer of “Well I hope you’d call an ambulance”!! usually puts them at ease.

You cannot get stuck in hypnosis. If I were to have a heart attack whilst conducting hypnosis, the patient would simply reawaken in their own time, probably quite quickly as they would most likely be curious as to why the voice guiding them has suddenly stopped.

Sleep

It is not sleep…. Oh, you want more? There are many reasons why someone may think that a person in hypnosis is asleep.

Physically they have their eyes closed, they have slower breathing, their muscles are relaxed. However, they are very much awake, conscious of what is going on around them and highly focused.

They may have their eyes closed but could open them at any point if they chose to do so.

Magic Bullet

To make it very clear, for some individuals presenting with certain conditions, results can be achieved in a single session. I have seen patients that required a single session to recover from their condition and have been fine ever since.

This is not the norm; these individuals are very much in the minority. It is not a magic bullet!

Hypnotherapy seems to have gained a reputation for single session miracles. I quite often have to explain to patients that it requires a build-up of sessions.

The amount needed depends on the individual and the condition they are presenting with. Hypnotherapy works quickly and, in comparison to other therapies, it only requires a handful of sessions to make a lasting change.

It just isn’t and this misconception really works against hypnosis as a therapy.

It seems that there are a lot of hypnotherapists out there promising rapid transformations and that they can cure afflictions in a single session.

Personally, I find these claims to be dangerous and it just feels like inflated egos. I have seen patients who have felt like failures because they saw another hypnotherapist who promised rapid results which they didn’t get. It is dangerous to make these claims especially for those presenting with serious conditions such as anxiety, depression, PTSD, etc.

These grandiose claims also work against hypnosis being taken seriously within the medical community.

Placebo

Many people believe that hypnosis is simply a placebo and that it works because a patient believes it will work. Well, beliefs are an incredibly powerful thing and the mind is incredibly powerful too.

There is a school of thought that if you believe in something enough it will work. This is simply because you believe it will.

On the flip side, if you believe something won’t work then it won’t because you believe it won’t. To a certain degree, this can be said about most things. However, hypnosis is not a placebo.

Advances in science and technology have allowed scientists to observe the brain during hypnosis and debunk this commonly held misconception about hypnosis.

Recent studies have shown that there are observable changes in the brain during hypnosis in hypnotisable patients when compared to non-hypnotisable patients. Hopefully, in years to come, the evidence will continue to grow and legitimise hypnotherapy as a genuine tool for medical use.

There are also those that argue that hypnosis doesn’t work. Well, again changes in the brain have been observed so it does work. The number of scientific studies showing the effectiveness of hypnosis in managing a range of issues is quite staggering.

Meditation

Although it can seem very similar to meditation, it is not meditation. Both are wonderful practices that each bring their own list of benefits. Meditation and hypnosis are both about bringing relaxation to the body and mind.

Hypnosis then uses this relaxed state to communicate with the unconscious mind utilising suggestions, visualisations, affirmations, etc. Self-hypnosis and meditation can seem very similar, but to look at hypnosis in a stage show, for example, you can see that they differ in many ways.

Meditation differs from self hypnosis but comes with many of it’s own benefits. Self hypnosis can easily be added on to an already established meditation or mindfulness routine.

No Memory of the Session

This is an interesting one and certainly it varies from person to person. There are those that will remember everything that has been said.

Then there are also those that will remember words had been said but wont remember what the words were. There will be some (the incredible hypnotisable subjects who experience amnesia) who will remember nothing about the hypnosis session.

However, they will remember going into and coming out of hypnosis.

If you think about it, yesterday you had a conversation with someone. Can you remember everything that was said word for word?

I know I can’t, but I know that I had the conversation and I could tell you the context and quite a bit of what was said. This is often what it feels like when thinking back to a hypnosis session.

Reveal my Deepest Darkest Secrets

Again, it comes down to the mind control misconception. The individual in hypnosis is conscious, aware and in control.

They simply will not say or reveal anything they did not want to say or be revealed.

Be able to Recall Every Single Detail of your Life

Hypnosis can help you relive a certain memory or to help recall a memory. However, it does not give an individual access to every moment of their life.

It is also important to remember that memories are not exact recollections. A memory is a reimagined interpretation which is distorted by a number of factors.

Dangerous

Another one of the most common misconceptions about hypnosis is that it is dangerous.

Guess what, it’s not!

Hypnosis is not dangerous, there are no known side effects. The worst thing that can happen during a hypnosis session is that you suffer an abreaction. This can be upsetting but it is not dangerous in any way.

Danger - hypnosis misconceptions
Another common misconceptions about hypnosis is that it is dangerous. It is not dangerous at all and there are no known side effects.

Having an abreaction can often be helpful as it is an emotional release. Considering that hypnosis is being used for therapy, therapy often must deal with troubling memories.

Some patients come out of hypnosis and feel very tired. This is mainly because they have had the opportunity to relax, something that we don’t get much chance to do in this day and age.

In my personal practice, I have worked with a patient who felt a little light-headed because they had naturally low blood pressure. Relaxing quite deeply made them feel light headed. After a minute and a glass of water, they felt fine again and enjoyed the hypnosis.

Conclusion

So, there are 12 of the most common misconceptions about hypnosis. I hope that this article has helped debunk these misconceptions and put your mind at ease.

If you are considering hypnosis then please don’t be put off by how it is commonly portrayed. Any qualified clinical hypnotherapist would be more than happy to discuss with you how it can potentially help you.

My philosophy is that there is an answer for everything, hypnotherapy might be the answer for you, it might not, but by trying it the worst that can happen is that it doesn’t work and you can rule it out.

Humans are a wonderfully diverse species and as such, there is no one therapy that works for us all. The more options we have available to us the better.


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