What is hypnosis?

Often at events, people ask me if I know how to hypnotise people? The answer to this is yes. 
80% of the time then people will say something like "Oh god don't look at me, please don't hypnotise me". Then 10% of people will say with folded arms "bet you can't hypnotise me" and the final 10% will say "oooh can you hypnotise me now?"

Many performing magicians who dabble in a bit hypnosis don't actually understand what it is they are doing, in fact after having some conversations with various performers they greatly misunderstand what hypnosis is. 

Why am I any authority to talk about hypnotism? Well, 2 years ago I decided that I would get trained as a Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapist (CBH). This is a form of therapy that combines hypnotherapy and cognitive behavioural therapy. It was one of the hardest and most challenging things that I've done, but I did it and even set up a small practice for a while. 
Our school taught us what's called evidence-based hypnotherapy. This essentially means that everything that we learnt had to have evidence to support it, i.e. supported by medical journals, or scientific studies. Because of this, my understanding of hypnosis and hypnotherapy became very blunt, I gained an understanding that allowed me to know the real truth behind what is going on. 

I've listed below some things you may want to take into consideration next time you meet a hypnotist. 

  • Hypnotists can't at will control or take over your mind unless you let them. It's impossible to be hypnotised unless you are going to be open and willing to be hypnotised, end of story. Even once the hypnotist has started his/her process if you want it to end, all you've got to do is open your eyes! Yup, it's that simple. If the hypnotist asks you to bark like a dog and you don't want to then guess what, you're not going to. The people who do usually on a subconscious level are seeking attention or have had a little bit too much to drink and are up for a bit of fun! 
  • There is a difference between a stage hypnotist and a hypnotherapist. A stage hypnotists number one priority is to make an entertaining show, and the people are his props. I personally don't like this approach to entertainment. This type of performer is relying on the embarrassment of others as his show. Using people to do silly things to make others laugh at them is just tacky. Right on the other end of the spectrum, you have Hypnotherapists. Hypnotherapists are (mostly) trained professionals who hold qualifications to help people overcome various issues within their life, such as, smoking, anxiety, fear etc.. These people want to do good and don't want to embarrass you. Everything is private and confidential and will usually have a consultation with you in person or over the phone explaining to you what to expect before jumping into things. They defiantly won't be trying hypnosis on you in a bar or a pub... remember they are professionals! 
  • There is no such thing as a trance! This really bothers some people as there are two schools of thought on this. A lot of the NLP crowd believe in trace based hypnosis, as a lot NLP talks about being in different 'states' i.e. when you enter hypnosis you enter into a new state, 'a trance-like state'. Problem is, there is no scientific evidence to support this, as in none. What we do know is this - by taking someone through the hypnotic process we find some interesting things. The subject/client will relax on a much deeper level having the therapist as a guide, whilst in the relaxed condition, they will maintain a level of high concentration where they become more open and receptive to suggestions given by the therapist. This is not a trance but just a form of guided relaxation and suggestion. 
  • It's not a simple a saying "you are now no longer afraid of flying!" I see this time and time again. Someone who has learnt a little bit of hypnosis from youtube or from a blog and now they believe they can cure ANYTHING! I could talk for a really long time about this, but I'll try to sum it up in a few lines. Essentially any good therapist will not just give their client a command and then send them out into the world. They will give the client an MP3 to take home to listen to, this helps to reinforce any suggestions given over the sessions, there will also be exercises given to the client in case of any emergencies (things to if they feel fear or anxiety..), and often they will have the therapists number or email to contact them if they feel like they are slipping back into old habits.
    Lastly, the suggestions that they give in the sessions will not be bad suggestions like the example above. When you say to someone 'You are now no longer afraid of flying' the words 'afraid of flying' is in that sentence. There will be a good chance that if the person is afraid of flying, this is all they will hear! A better suggestion 'You now feel calm and at ease as you sit on the plane' or 'Your body and mind relax, you feel calm, at ease, as you settle into your seat for a comfortable flight.' Or simply if someone says "I'm afraid of dogs" don't suggest 'You are now not afraid of dogs'.
  • Anyone can be hypnotised. If you want to be hypnotised then it's going to happen, if you are resistant to it then it's not going to happen. The important thing is that whoever is about to hypnotise you really explains what is going to happen and that there is trust between you. If there isn't this will really affect the quality of the hypnosis. Sometimes it really doesn't matter how much you explain to people that they are in control, you're not going to embarrass them, that they are not going to go into a trance, that it's just a form of relaxation, that it's just a guided visualisation... They will still open they're eyes half way through and say 'I don't think it's working' or 'I don't think I'm the best person to do this on' or 'I don't think this will work on me'! 
    The reason being is partly down to the media and how hypnotism is presented. With some people I don't think it matters how much you explain to them what it is or isn't, they will think what they think, and because of this they have certain expectations. Often these expectations are for them to not remember anything and to wake up with all their problems solved. Sadly it doesn't work like that. 

As I've been writing this blog I'm realising that I could probably write for a very long time on this subject. But I think this is enough for now for you to digest! 
Hopefully, this has opened your understanding a litter wider when it comes to hypnosis. 
If you have any questions in regards to hypnosis or hypnotherapy feel free to email me directly at alex@themindartist.co.uk

Alex WardComment