The first question most people ask when it comes to hypnosis is: can I be hypnotised?And the answer to that depends on what your definition of hypnosis is.
If you’re asking if your mind can be “taken over” in some sort of Twilight Zone-esque phenomena and you be forced to wander in a zombie-like state doing the bidding of your evil hypnotist master, then the answer, of course, is no.
However, if you’re asking if you can enter a mindset in which you are able to uncritically welcome official suggestion and then react accordingly at a later date, then the answer is yes.
Hypnosis is not magic. Instead, it is the process of bypassing your critical faculty in order to wholly accept new positive ideas. What that means is this: normally, we have bias that instigate mental knee-jerk reactions whenever we are exposed to a new thought. Unfortunately, if these bias are negative reflections of ourselves, they will impose limits what we are able to achieve. For example, it is a mantra of many athletes that the game can be won or lost before it even begins. If you are asked, “How are you going to play today?” and you automatically respond with, “I’m going to lose, I’m a horrible player,” then it is probable that you will not perform very well. However, if you enter the event thinking, “I’m going to win, I am the best player out here, I am incredible at this,” then it is almost certain that you will do much better. This is because an incredibly large part of our success in life has to do with our beliefs about ourselves.
Having said that, one may argue that all you have to do to achieve your goals is to believe that you can—but evidently, it is not that easy. This is because our beliefs dwell in two different hemispheres of our minds: the conscious and the subconscious. We have authority over our conscious mind and are able to alter ideas which reside there based on logic and reason. However, for the most part, we do not have access to our subconscious mind, which is largely governed by emotion instead of rationale. As a result, changing what we think can be more difficult than it sounds.
Enter hypnosis. The main objective of hypnosis is two-fold. The first is to gain access to your subconscious. The second is to induce a state where your prior bias are withheld and you are accepting of new ideas. To continue with our example: let’s say that you are an athlete whose poor performance is the result of the subconscious prediction of poor performance. Henceforth, when someone suggests that you are a good player, your subconscious automatically rejects this idea and instead believes, “No, I am absolutely awful, I will never play well.” And even if you consciously tell yourself, “I can win this, I have talent,” your performance will not change because of your subconscious ideas. Through hypnosis,
it is possible to enter your subconscious and eliminate that bias by replacing it with something positive such as, “I have great skills and abilities in this sport, when I play I will win!”
Again, this is not achieved through any kind of mystical Harry Potter who-do voo-doo business. Instead, the hypnotherapist induces a state of deep relaxation through breathing and focus exercises. This induction is similar to guided meditation—for those of you who are yoga enthusiasts, it is comparable to shavasanna. When entering a very relaxed state, your mind becomes open and easy to work with. If this is hard to imagine, try the following exercise: tighten up all the muscles in your body. Now, try to bend and stretch. Most people will find this to be difficult because your body is working against itself. However, if you relax, you will discover that you have a far greater range of flexibility. Our minds operate under similar principles. By relaxing, we are able to “reach” new levels of our mind and “bend” our perceptions and preconceptions.
At this point, let’s re-evaluate the question: can I be hypnotised? And the answer, now that we have contextualised hypnosis, is yes, you can be hypnotised. However, that is not the question you need to be asking. What you really want to know is: will I be hypnotised? And that answer depends on you.
As previously mentioned, hypnosis has two parts: accessing your subconscious through relaxation and repairing negative thoughts that linger there. The latter part of the process is almost guaranteed to follow naturally if the first past is achieved. Unfortunately, not everyone allows themselves to enter the state of deep relaxation. And the two reasons for that are fear and doubt.
The most common fear that people have is based on the misconception that hypnosis is mind control. Despite what Las Vegas stage shows and Saturday morning cartoons may lead you to believe, a hypnotherapist can never make you say or do anything against your will. While you are very relaxed during the session, you are still completely conscious and aware of your surroundings at all times. Even if the hynotherapist tried to “implant” strange ideas into your head, you would immediately recognise it. This is because you are just as aware of the content of the conversation as you would be if it were to be taking place in any other context.
The second fear that inhibits relaxation revolves around the idea that you could potentially become “stuck” in a hypnotic state. This is impossible, because it is simply a state of incredibly deep relaxation. Imagine that you are in a hammock on a beach, swaying gently in the shade, while the sound of the waves soothes away your worries. While you may experience a sense of relaxation unlike anything you achieve during your day-to-day life, it is still impossible to become “stuck” in that state. The same is true for hypnosis.
Thirdly, people are afraid that they will accidentally “let something slip” and reveal a terrible or embarrassing secret. Again, it must be re-iterated that you are aware of everything that is going on around you and while you may discover ideas within your subconscious that you did not previously know that you held, there is no risk of you revealing anything you wouldn’t feel comfortably admitting normally to any kind of therapist. Hypnosis is not a truth serum. While you are encouraged to share as much information as you are willing with your hypnotherapist in order to ensure greater success, it is not possible for the hypnotherapist to “get something out of you” that you do not willingly share.
However, not everyone who fails to become hypnotised is afraid. Often, people simply doubt the process. After all, one of the most fundamental ideas that hypnosis is based on is that if you do not believe yourself to be capable of something, you probably won’t be. And this applies to becoming hypnotised as much as it does to anything else. If you were to sit in a chair and proclaim, “I don’t believe this will work, and I dare you to prove me wrong,” then obviously you will not be hypnotised. Even if you were to say, “I don’t know if this will work or not, let’s find out,” then the results may not be that powerful. However, if you want to be hypnotised and are actively taking part in what the hypnotherapist says, it is impossible for you not to enter hypnosis. Think if it like you and your hypnotherapist are playing catch in the park. If the hypnotherapist throws you the ball and you make no effort whatsoever to catch it, it will hit the ground. Likewise, if the hypnotherapist throws the ball and you merely hold out your hand but do not run for it, it is also quite probable that it will miss you. However, if the hypnotherapist throws and you do everything you can to get that ball, odds are that you will be able to catch it.
And so that brings us back to the question: will you be hypnotised? Throughout the course of this booklet, we will do our best to provide you with all the information you need to maximise your hypnotherapy experience and achieve the results you desire. But ultimately, your success depends on you.