The Myths About Hypnosis


Q: ‘Will I lose control of myself under hypnosis’?  A: No.

Many of my clients want me to use hypnosis to reduce anxiety, but ironically one of their anxieties is that during hypnosis they are under the mysterious spell of the therapist. Those who try hypnosis usually find it one of the most empowering things they have ever done.

People generally prefer to feel in control of their lives, and although we voluntarily give up control in many aspects of our lives (e.g. when we go under general anaesthetic, or when we are a passenger in a plane) there can be something a bit sinister about the idea of our minds being under the control of another person.

The idea that the hypnotised person is under the control of the hypnotist is so alluring that it features in many works of fiction. For example, in the classic Ipcress Files, brainwashing is used to manipulate spies into committing assassinations. The actor Michael Cain is kidnapped by enemy spies, beaten up, sleep deprived, locked in a basement, strapped to a chair, injected with mind-altering drugs, and bombarded with flashing lights and loud commands for days on end. Although some people think of this as a misuse of hypnosis, this scenario is definitely much more about cold-war brutality and brainwashing rather than hypnosis. Readers will be very relieved to find out that nothing like this happens at my hypnotherapy clinic. Far from it – many people find it the most relaxation experience they have had in years.

‘But’ you might be asking ‘can the hypnotised person be made to do something they don’t want to?’ This is an interesting question, and indeed there have been many studies over the years which have tested this idea. The overall conclusion is that people don’t do anything under hypnosis that they wouldn’t do in their everyday waking state.

Take comfort in the fact that the unconscious mind is very self-protective and will only accept suggestions in hypnosis that are aligned with what you want. For most people, this means the unconscious will accept suggestions of feeling happier, more confident, stopping smoking etc, but it will reject any malign or embarrassing suggestions. If you give permission to the hypnotherapist make positive suggestions, your unconscious mind will accept these and move very effectively to make these suggestions reality.

In summary, most people enjoy the experience of hypnosis and find it a very positive experience. My advice is: if you want to stop smoking, don’t get kidnapped by enemy spies. Much better to see a hypnotherapist who is qualified, experienced and a member of a recognised body (e.g. the BSCAH). They will help you feel relaxed and you will be glad you took control of your life by finding the help you need.

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