Hypnotherapy: The Truth beneath the Myth
Truth or Myth?
The first official experience with Hypnosis and Hypnotherapy dates back to the 18th Century with Franz Anton Mesmer, a German physician and the creator of Mesmerism. Because the scientific community believed hypnotism made use of an occult force termed 'Animal Magnetism' he was discredited. This magnetic force allegedly moved trough the hypnotist into the client, which allowed the hypnotist to help the client. With a start like this, you can imagine how hypnotherapy became something strange, non-conventional and to be feared, right? Especially when you think of all the entertainment value hypnosis has in shows and on T.V. the stranger it looks, the better it sells! Later on, we came to the conclusion that hypnosis involved no physical forces and no physiological processes but was a combination of psychologically mediated responses to suggestions. Hypnotherapy usually consists of creating the right setting, providing direct and indirect suggestions to change in a way that the clients is able to accept these without their sense of self being threatened. In simple words, we change because we identify with our new self and not because we're being told or forced to. Today, various specialist have described different theories of hypnosis and how it could be explained, but none of them is generally accepted for the phenomenon. Personally, I always invite anyone to be a true sceptic when it comes to hypnosis or any technique for that matter. Start off by questioning it, dive in to explore and discover what really works and finally make your own conclusion. Have a read below how different misconceptions and myths can be easily explained if we look a little further. To demonstrate the ins and outs I will often compare hypnotherapy with hypnosis on T.V. or during shows.
When I'm hypnotised I will be fast asleep
If you've ever attended a hypnosis show or have seen someone being hypnotised on T.V. you will have seen people standing, sitting or lying in a 'weird' pose. Often these people seem to be sleeping, non-responsive to anything happening around them and totally out of this world. Despite what we see, nothing can be further from the truth! Being hypnotised can best be described as being extremely focussed and in a receptive state of higher learning. A hypnotic state can be best compared to that moment just before we fall asleep. In that moment we are not actively thinking about something, do not have any questions and are just allowing to happen whatever happens. Usually this means we fall asleep, but in this case this is the perfect time to make change happen. Think about any time where you have been so focused that people had to say your name multiple time before you reacted. This could have been while watching T.V., reading a book or in 'the zone' when working. That is you in a hypnotic state. The only reason why people think hypnotised people are asleep is because we can't see what's going on in their mind and they just look like it. I prefer people to process everything during a hypnotherapy session, just so they really experience what happened.
I will lose total control
Another myth about hypnosis is the idea that we will lose total control when being hypnotised. When people think about hypnosis they often think about shows where they see people cluck like a chicken or bark like a dog. You really must have lost control if you do that, right? Not at all! Let's use another example, think about someone who is terrified of heights. Every person I have spoken to described this fear as a total loss of control. They would like to remain calm and react differently but seem to to be unable to. They're taken over by these intense feelings of fear and respond with a fight, flight or freeze. Hypnosis can help these people regain control over their emotions and behaviour so they can react just as they want to. So in a sense, it is actually the opposite to losing control, people regain control over feelings and situations that they've lost before. Of course when we think about barking and clucking it looks funny, but again if you're convinced you're a chicken or a dog that must be some control you have over your own mind.
Somebody will take over my mind
This is one of my favourite myths about hypnosis, the idea that someone else will take control over my mind. Someone will make me do things against my will and know my darkest secrets! It seems so scary and unreal, which of course it is. A good example comes again from hypnosis shows, people go on stage and do the craziest things. Some of us will be sitting in the audience and say things like 'thank god that's not me' and 'I would never want to do that'. Although people are doing the craziest things on stage, they are not doing anything against their will. At the start of any show the hypnotist asks 'Who wants to come on stage and be part of the show', or anything in that sense. So this means, everyone on stage voluntarily chose to be there and we all know that entertainment happens on a stage, so be ready for it. The simple fact is that people who do not want to be hypnotised do not get on stage, and therefore close themselves off to being hypnotised. To summarise, everyone on stage or everyone in my office knows they will be hypnotised and have chosen to go for it.
My biggest fear is that I'll get stuck in hypnosis
Fear is the biggest barrier to achieve success from hypnosis. Fear often is the biggest barrier to anything in life. This is not because fear is a bad thing but simply because it is trying to protect us from the unknown. A good hypnotherapist will help you feel safe and will gain your trust before doing any hypnotic change work. As mentioned above, hypnosis has been around since the 18th century and no one ever has gotten stuck in a trance. The only thing that will happen after starting a hypnotic trance is you will fall asleep and will wake up whenever you're ready. You'll even feel well rested on top of that, kind off nice isn't it?
Only the weak can be hypnotised
Another favourite response to hypnosis is 'I cannot be hypnotised' and 'hypnosis only works on the weak-minded'. As mentioned above, nobody will be hypnotised if they don't want to. That does not mean that you cannot be hypnotised, it simply means you have chosen not to be. I like to challenge the idea that hypnosis is for the weak-minded and say that even you have been in a hypnotic trance before. If you've ever been so focussed on work, into reading a book or watching a show that you weren't completely aware of what happened around you, then you have been in a hypnotic trance. A hypnotic trance is a natural state of being that allows us to learn and be in the moment. When it happens in daily living we often refer to it as 'in the zone' or 'autopilot'. If you've ever driven home without consciously knowing how you got there, you were in a hypnotic trance. Everything happened automatically without you needing to think about it. Everything went right and you got home safely without you needing to actively process everything because your subconscious already knows where you live, how to get there and what to do.
Hopefully this article has helped you understand hypnosis a bit more and has eliminated some of the myths and fears around hypnotherapy. If you still have any questions, are interested in being hypnotised or even want to learn to hypnosis yourself, reach out and let me know.
Sander M.L. Sollie