Frequently Asked Questions
“We see the world, not as it is, but as we are – or, as we are conditioned to see it.” Stephen R. Covey
How can a treatment aimed at your mind affect your body?
The body responds physically to thoughts. For example, when we think a frightening thought, we can experience increased heart rate, shortness of breath, “butterflies” in the stomach, muscular rigidity, sweating, shaking, and so on. Similarly, when we think a pleasurable thought, we can experience reduced heart rate, deeper breathing, relaxation of muscles, and so on. These are autonomic nervous system responses that are involuntary, but they can be utilised to promote good health. When hypnotised, an individual is very open to suggestions that can enhance positive and diminish negative physical reactions.
Can anyone be hypnotised?
Yes. Some people find it easier to relax than others. By the same token, some people are able to go into trance more quickly and more deeply than others. About 85% of people can go into at least a light trance. For most therapeutic goals, light trance is enough to enable almost everyone to benefit from hypnotherapy to some extent.
In a relatively small number of situations, (say, when hypnosis is being used instead of a general anaesthetic, e.g., as in labour and childbirth), a deeper level of trance may be needed. For these purposes, it is helpful to determine the trance capability of a given person, before making a decision about the advisability of using hypnosis as an anaesthetic.
Even for those people (approximately 10-15%) who do not enter into even a light trance state, hypnosis may still be helpful to assist their relaxation and improve their suggestibility to constructive comments and suggestions.
Can children be hypnotised?
Yes. Because children are naturally imaginative, they naturally and easily engage in hypnosis and respond well to hypnotic suggestion for a wide variety of problems, e.g., self- esteem issues, anxiety, behaviour problems, habit change, and certain medical issues. It is important that your child’s therapist be competent and experienced in dealing with your child’s particular issue or problem.
Will I be asleep or unconscious?
The word hypnosis comes from the ancient Greek word ‘hypnos’ meaning sleep, but it is mis-named. Hypnosis is NOT sleep. Sleep and hypnosis may seem similar since we may be relaxed and have our eyes closed (although not necessarily), but there are many differences. One main difference is that we tend to be in a relaxed state, but with heightened awareness! If a person were to fall asleep during a session, they would return to normal consciousness when asked to, or simply awaken after a short nap. They would feel refreshed, relaxed and would have no ill effects at all.
“I don’t think I was hypnotised–I heard every word you said!”
Some people, after a session of hypnosis, don’t believe that they were hypnotised at all. This likely comes from misconceptions about just what a ‘trance’ really is. There are differences between the brain waves of people who are asleep and those who are in trance. In practice, people who are hypnotised often talk with the hypnotherapist, and can both answer and ask questions, hear everything that is said very clearly, and are perfectly well aware.
There is no mysterious feeling to being hypnotised and our minds are not taken over nor controlled. This expectation and perhaps a demand to have some mysterious experience beyond conscious control or awareness seems to leave some people disappointed and even denying they had any experience at all. These same people may actually have received substantial results and unconscious change.
Will I lose control of myself?
No, there is no loss of control. Hypnosis allows the person to be more focused and less distracted and more skillful in using their own mental abilities constructively. In this way, they can achieve more of their goals, and consequently, actually achieve more (not less) control of their personal comfort, health, and well-being. The ‘control’ misconception appears to originate from stage hypnosis which actually involves people doing what they want to be doing in a social agreement to be entertaining.
Can I get stuck or trapped in the hypnotic state?
No. At any time a person can re-alert or choose to ignore suggestions. No one stays hypnotised indefinitely – you will always “come out” of trance within a short time.
Will hypnosis make me remember things accurately?
No. Hypnosis can improve our recall of events that we believe happened to us. But hypnosis is not a way to find out the truth (whatever that may be) about events that are in dispute. That is, under hypnosis you may re-experience events, but there is no guarantee that you are remembering them correctly. Hypnosis only assists the person in recalling perceptions, not truths.
Courts recognise this, and sometimes take the position that being hypnotised influences your ability to later testify in court on those matters. You should get legal advice before attempting to use hypnosis to improve your recall of events when there are, or might be, court matters involved.
Myth 1: When you wake up from hypnosis, you won’t remember anything that happened when you were hypnotised.
While amnesia may occur in very rare cases, people generally remember everything that transpired while they were hypnotised. However, hypnosis can have a significant effect on memory. Posthypnotic amnesia can lead an individual to forget certain things that occurred before or during hypnosis. However, this effect is generally limited and temporary.
Myth 2: Hypnosis can help people remember the exact details of a crime they witnessed.
While hypnosis can be used to enhance memory, the effects have been dramatically exaggerated in popular media. Research has found that hypnosis does not lead to significant memory enhancement or accuracy.
Myth 3: You can be hypnotised against your will.
Despite stories about people being hypnotised without their consent, hypnosis requires voluntary participation on the part of the person.
Myth 4: The hypnotherapist has complete control of your actions while you’re under hypnosis.
While people often feel that their actions under hypnosis seem to occur without the influence of their will, a hypnotherapist cannot make you perform actions that are against your wishes.
Myth 5: Hypnosis can make you super-strong, fast or athletically talented.
While hypnosis can be used to enhance performance, it cannot make people stronger or more athletic than their existing physical capabilities.