Some (very) Common Misconceptions about Hypnosis

Hypnosis can help …a growing body of research supports the ancient practice as an effective tool in the treatment of a variety of problems, from anxiety to chronic pain.” -Newsweek, September 2004

Although hypnosis or hypnotherapy has been used successfully in medicine, sports, dentistry, personal development, education and many other areas, there continue to be a number of common misconceptions about what hypnosis is and what it can and can’t do.

As a hypnotherapist that uses both hypnosis and Neuro Linguistic Programming or NLP to help my clients make quick and permanent shifts in their behaviors, I get many people who come into my San Diego office with some very interesting ideas about what hypnosis can and cannot do. In this article I’d like to explore some of the most common misconceptions and give you the answers about them based on what my experience has taught me.

Let’s look at the most common misconceptions about hypnosis:   

 1) The hypnotist can make you do things you don’t want to do.

This common misconception about hypnosis is a result of the entertainment industry. Most people that come into my San Diego office with this misconception have this idea as a result of either watching a hypnosis show in person or seeing a television show where people seem to be ‘controlled’  by the hypnotist.

While these hypnotists make it seem that they have these people under their control if a hypnotist could actually control other people I imagine that we would hear of more cases where a not-so-good hypnotist was found trying to rob a bank using hypnosis or taking other types of advantage of people.  This simply can’t happen. The facts are even though hypnosis can be used to allow people to let down some of their conscious defenses and act childlike on a stage, your subconscious mind will not respond to suggestions that are against your most deeply held moral beliefs. Any attempt to force you to do something against your strongly held beliefs would cause you to immediately come out of the hypnotic state.

For example, if a hypnotist would try to suggest that you do something that your subconscious mind felt was inappropriate, such as taking off all your clothes and running around naked on stage and you, like most people, felt that this was inappropriate behavior, your subconscious mind would immediately allow your conscious mind to take back control. You would then come out of the hypnotic state and slap the hypnotist for making such an inappropriate suggestion.

Here’s the long and short of it, under hypnosis you will not do anything that you normally wouldn’t do in your normal conscious state.

2) Hypnosis Knocks You Out and Makes You Become Unconscious

Here is another misconception about hypnosis that I hear all the time. I hear hypnosis knocks you out and makes you fall asleep. Again this is caused by the entertainment industry, especially the movies where you hear the hypnotist say things like “You are getting sleepy” or “You are falling into a deep, deep sleep”.

This simply is not the case. You do not get ‘knocked out” or “fall asleep”.  If you were to compare hypnosis to anything it is more like daydreaming or when you are reading a book or watching a television show and someone comes into the room and asks you a question and you either don’t hear or don’t want to hear them. This is known as an altered state of mind but you are definitely not unconscious, asleep or knocked out.  While ‘in hypnosis’ you are at all times conscious and aware and in control of what is happening to you. You can also come out of the hypnotic state anytime that you choose. That leads us to number 3…

3) You can get stuck in hypnosis

Many people believe this to be true. In fact, this is the premise of the movie ‘Office Space’.

For the few of you that haven’t seen this movie, the premise goes like this; Peter hates his job and his abusive boss.  His girlfriend, who is cheating on him, convinces him to visit a hypnotherapist.  The hypnotherapist hypnotizes him causing him to go into a state of ecstasy. However, the hypnotherapist dies immediately after giving the hypnotic suggestion to Peter and he remains in this state of ecstasy traveling though his life in this new, ecstatic state.

Now while this makes a great storyline this scenario is impossible. You cannot be ‘stuck’ in hypnosis.

If you are in a hypnotic trance and the hypnotist dropped dead after inducing the trance you would either come out of hypnosis by yourself or drift off to sleep and then wake up later. By the way, you would be shocked to find a dead hypnotherapist in front of you. As a rule, we don’t die in front of our clients. It’s just not good for business.

 4) If you can be hypnotized you have a weak mind

Since some people believe that the hypnotherapist “takes over your mind” they also believe that only a weak minded person could allow this to happen. Again, purse science fiction.

First, as you read above, no one “takes over your mind” in hypnosis. Second, it’s actually the opposite. If a person trusts the hypnotherapist the more intelligent they are the easier they are to hypnotize. The theory behind this is because hypnosis is the use of visualization and visualization is the use of the imagination. Since more intelligent people have better imaginations they are slightly easier to hypnotize. That’s it.

5) Hypnosis acts like a truth serum and can make you tell the hypnotherapist anything they want to know

Since you are not really unconscious and for the reasons above, hypnosis can’t make you do or reveal anything.

During your hypnosis session you are aware of what is happening at all times and can not be forced to do things against your will. You cannot be made to divulge embarrassing secrets, humiliate yourself in any way or disclose where the gold bullion is hidden in your back yard (but you can tell me, I promise not to tell anyone else).

6) If you are hearing the hypnotist you aren’t in a hypnotic state

As you read before, you are not knocked out, asleep or made unconscious while in a hypnotic state. Although people do experience hypnosis in different ways, and some people may not remember what is said to them, in most cases people remember at least part of what the hypnotherapist tells them. This is completely natural, because hypnosis is an altered state of consciousness, not unconsciousness. Although you may not have ‘felt’ (whatever that feeling might be) hypnotized, the hypnotherapist can usually see physical changes, and of course your new, modified behavior is your ultimate proof.

Hypnosis is safe and can help

As the Scientific American magazine reported in its July of 2001 issue, “Though often denigrated as fakery or wishful thinking, hypnosis has been shown to be a real phenomenon with a variety of therapeutic uses.”

So if you are looking to make quick and lasting behavioral shifts, hypnosis can help you too. It is a very safe way to help you achieve your goals and live the life of your dreams.

Related articles

History of hypnosis 

The Most Frequently Asked Questions About Hypnosis

Hypnotherapy what is it and how does it work? 

About the Author

Wil Dieck is a hypnotherapist who helps people make quick and lasting behavior shifts using advanced hypnosis and Neuro Linguistic Programming or NLP inSan Diego,CA. He is the founder of Total Mind Therapy, a system that fuses these two very powerful therapies and is the author of the report “Discover the Secrets of Your Subconscious Mind”. If you would like a complimentary copy of “Discover the Secrets of Your Subconscious Mind” (usually $29.97) then follow this link…

If you would like more information about how Total Mind Therapy can help you make quick and lasting behavioral shifts call (619) 293-3255 for a complimentary, risk free phone assessment that will answer all your questions.