If you are curious about hypnosis, you might wonder if it’s real because of stage shows and movies you may have watched. In these cases, hypnosis is used as a tool with the purpose of entertaining. That’s a normal response to get stage hypnosis mixed up with hypnotherapy, in my opinion, because you lack knowledge and have never thought about seeing a hypnotherapist before.
In some ways, hypnotherapy is a bit like going to the doctor or dentist for the first time because you don’t know what to expect, and this leads you to observe others and come to conclusions that might not be true.
Before I trained as a hypnotherapist, I was sceptical about hypnosis, so this question about hypnosis being real doesn’t surprise me. Consequently, I have heard many versions of the question, such as ‘Does it work? Will I go unconscious? Or is it all pretend?’
There is so much misinformation about hypnosis that it can resemble today’s fake news.
Let’s take a few moments to examine fake news.
When you first read something, say on social media, your attention is drawn to it because it is different or it connects to something that you are interested in. Words, pictures or videos may also stir up some emotions. On the surface and when you first look, any images might look real. But if you do some research, you will find that they can be traced back to other situations or people, and there is no evidence to support what is written. Nevertheless, some people believe fake news because it’s so convincing, and some people don’t critically analyse what they are reading.
Fake news is just what it states; it’s fake as there is no evidence to support it, whereas there are many layers of evidence to know that hypnosis is real.
I suppose hypnosis is a bit like electricity because we can’t see electricity, and years ago before people learned about electricity, it was considered magic.
What makes hypnosis look like fake news?
Hypnosis is very different to fake news, although some things related to hypnosis look fake.
For example, people look like they are asleep, but it is not about going to sleep. People get the idea of sleeping or going unconscious if they hear stage hypnotists and hypnotherapists using the word ‘sleep’ when working with people. But if you ask people who have been hypnotised if they were aware of things, they would say yes.
Another related misleading fact about hypnosis is that the word hypnosis is derived from the Greek word for sleep, Hypnos.
Hypnosis is not about falling asleep, although some people who are sleep-deprived might get so relaxed in hypnosis that they want to fall asleep. Furthermore, studies have shown that people can be hypnotised during sporting activities.
In stage hypnosis shows, when you see people doing crazy things, you might think that the hypnotist has taken control of the person’s mind. Through good communication techniques, it is possible to build great rapport and pace and lead someone to think about something or do something. But this happens in everyday life, such as with sales techniques.
But let’s get back to the shows. Remember, it’s voluntary to buy a ticket for the show. It is also voluntary to go up on stage and be hypnotised. No one forces people to join in. They choose to do it so it can’t be mind-controlling. Rather, the person wants to play the role and expects to be hypnotised.
Of course, there are some people who try to fake being hypnotised on shows, but the hypnotist can usually notice that because of body reactions. Notice how sometimes you will see some people being asked to leave the stage either because they are pretending or because they are not hypnotisable.
However, once hypnotised, if you like a laugh, you will go along with the suggestions and do things that you wouldn’t usually do. Yet, there is still a level of resistance, and some people will not follow suggestions that go against their inclination.
People think that you need to visualise things to be hypnotised, but this isn’t true.
This blog will help you to demystify hypnosis and hypnotherapy, as many misconceptions have impeded the progress of hypnosis into mainstream treatment.
What is hypnosis?
Hypnosis is a process of focused attention and imagination where the person becomes more susceptible to suggestions. They move their conscious mind from the environment around them to inner feelings, thoughts and behaviours to find solutions. People often relax when hypnotised, but it’s not necessary to relax to achieve hypnosis.
Hypnotherapy is a mind-body complementary therapy that uses hypnosis with therapy, such as counselling (CBT), Neurolinguistic programming (NLP), or Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT).
It can be delivered with the help of a hypnotherapist as a recording to listen to at home or remotely via a webcam. It is also possible to do self-hypnosis and download audio recordings and videos.
What is hypnosis useful for?
Hypnosis is a tool that can help people with a range of conditions.
It helps medical conditions such as chronic pain, anxiety, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
It helps with behavioural issues such as nail biting, quitting smoking, teeth grinding, etc.
Hypnosis assists in performance, such as planning a career path, decision-making, or sports enhancement.
And it helps people with emotional issues such as fears, phobias, worries, bereavement, and relationship issues.
Hypnosis is real because…
1. Hypnosis has been around for centuries.
History gives us the first line of evidence.
According to Ann Williamson (2019)
Hypnotic states have been used for healing since humankind has existed, but because hypnosis can be misused for so-called entertainment and has been portrayed in the media as something mysterious and magical, supposedly out of the hypnotic subject’s control, it has been viewed with distrust and scepticism by many health professionals.
It hasn’t always been called hypnosis or been practised in the same way. Before hypnosis, which we know today, there was animal, magnetism and mesmerism. But the ancient civilisations also acknowledged hypnosis. For example, in Egypt, there are pictures of sleep temples.
2. There are many scientific studies demonstrating its effectiveness.
Studies from all over the world exploring the physiological and psychological effects of hypnosis provide evidence of its effectiveness.
Modern research methods began with Dr Clark Hull.
Scientifically, to prove hypnosis, the researchers had to measure it. Various measures are now available but started with the Stanford Hypnotic Susceptibility Scales in the 1950s. One such test asks a person to hold their arm out while hypnotised and not to let it fall. If someone is not hypnotised and pretending to be hypnotised, they will drop their arm down as the muscles feel tired and gravity continues to pull the arm down over time. But with hypnotic subjects, they can keep their arm raised for hours with no difficulty.
Another test relates to pain. If a hypnotised person is pinched or pricked with a needle in an experiment, they do not feel the pain.
Cognitive studies, randomised control trials, and meta-analyses superseded behavioural studies. However, there are still clinicians with limited knowledge of hypnotherapy, so they don’t recommend its use. Added to this, most hypnotherapy is provided through private practice.
3. Hypnosis can activate different parts of the brain
With the development of PET scans and fMRI scans, when someone is hypnotised, different parts of the brain are activated and light up, showing that a person is not faking a behaviour or thought.
Specific areas of the brain are now demonstrated to be activated when someone is hypnotised.
4. Leading organisations support hypnosis.
Hypnosis is a recognised area in the British Psychological Society, the American Psychological Society, and the British Medical Society. and the American Medical Society.
In conclusion, hypnosis may seem like fake news, but there is overwhelming evidence that it isn’t fake. The myths and misinformation that continue to flow will always make people sceptical. The answer is to find out more, be critical and speak to a qualified hypnotherapist to have your questions answered. Then make the decision if it will help you.
Williamson A. What is hypnosis, and how might it work? Palliat Care. 2019 Jan 31;12:1178224219826581. doi: 10.1177/1178224219826581. PMID: 30728719; PMCID: PMC6357291.