10 Frequently Asked Hypnosis Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

Perhaps you’ve often wondered about hypnotism - what it really is, how it works, how it feels. If you’re curious about it, here are 10 frequently asked hypnosis questions, which may clear up some of the mystery for you.

1. What is hypnotism? How does it differ from self-hypnosis?

Hypnotism is defined by Merriam-Webster Online as “the study or act of inducing hypnosis” – which, in turn, is “a trancelike state that resembles sleep but is induced by a person whose suggestions are readily accepted by the subject.” The person being hypnotized (“the subject”) is asked to focus full attention on the hypnotist, who then creates the sleeplike state by a series of suggestions. While the subject remains in the trance, he or she is very receptive to further suggestions made by the hypnotist, and may, in fact, be influenced by them.

Self-hypnosis resembles hypnosis in that both exhibit a total focus of the mind, as well as a gradual fading of the normal orientation to general reality. While hypnosis by another person requires concentrating on an outside source (the hypnotist) and being receptive to stimuli coming from that source, self-hypnosis requires “expansive, free-floating attention and ego receptivity to stimuli coming from within.”*

*Fromm, Erika, et al. “The phenomena and characteristics of self-hypnosis.” International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, July 1981, 29:3, pp. 189-246.

2. Does a hypnotist have some kind of special psychic power? Will the hypnotist control my mind? 

No “psychic power” or other mystery is involved in hypnotism. Many hypnotists are people who are especially observant of others. A hypnotist is able to “induce hypnotic trance” simply because he or she knows how to create an environment conducive to total relaxation on the part of the subject. When you are completely relaxed, the hypnotist encourages your subconscious mind to come forward, so to speak, and take over some of the functions normally performed by the conscious mind. Usually, the conscious mind – which comprises only about 10% of the mind, while the subconscious makes up about 90% -- is “in charge.” The conscious does the thinking, the planning, the directing, and the acting; and all the time, the subconscious is taking care of business, actually running the show. It is the subconscious that’s addressed by the hypnotist, when the conscious is set aside for the time being.

It has often been asserted that all hypnotism is ultimately self-hypnosis. Only if you agree to allow a hypnotist to assist you into the trance state, only if your subconscious mind is willing to respond to the suggestions given in hypnotism, will it be successful. You are the one who is always in control of the situation. Hypnotism is a cooperative situation between you and the hypnotist.

3. How does it feel to be hypnotized? Will I be asleep?

It feels wonderful! You’re super-relaxed and comfortable – much like those few moments just before you fall asleep at night. Although your eyes may close while you are in the hypnotic trance, you won’t be sleeping. In fact, you will be very relaxed, attentive, and closely focused on the subject at hand. If you were asleep, how could you have a dialogue with your hypnotist? You’ll be fully conscious, but tuning out most of what is going on around you. This state feels more like daydreaming than sleep-dreaming. Think of how you feel when you are engrossed in reading a book, or watching a good movie. That’s the feeling of being hypnotized.

4. Is hypnotism safe? Will I be able to “come out of it” without harm?

The truth is that hypnosis resembles nothing so much as daydreaming. How difficult is it for you to “come out of” a waking daydream, when you recall yourself to your ordinary reality? Hypnosis is a state that is natural and normal to human beings. We are “in hypnosis” many times every day, as we become absorbed in reading, writing, listening to music, or watching a movie on television. We change our focus easily and naturally if we are interrupted, if the phone rings or someone speaks to us. The possibility of “getting stuck” in hypnosis is no greater than the possibility of not being able to “come out of” reading your book.

If you were hypnotized by someone who suffered a heart attack in the middle of the process, what would happen to you? Well, most likely is that you would subconsciously realize that the hypnotist’s voice was no longer speaking to you, and you would simply open your eyes and wake up naturally, feeling relaxed and refreshed. If you had gone into a deeper trance, you would drift off into natural sleep for a few minutes – and then wake up naturally.

5. Who can be hypnotized? Is anyone susceptible, or only people with certain characteristics?

It’s estimated that 95% of people can be hypnotized. Anyone who wants to be hypnotized and is willing and cooperative, can be. Exceptions are young children, people who are psychotic or neurologically impaired, people taking certain medications, people with extremely low IQs, or people who really don’t want to be hypnotized.

6. I’ve heard that hypnotism is sometimes used in modern medicine. Is this the truth? If so, how is it used, and why? 

Some psychiatrists use hypnotism in treating their patients. Most of these have special training as hypnotherapists, and many are members of the National Guild of Hypnotherapists, Inc. (NGH). Although these certifications are not required by law, hypnotists can work toward certification from the International Association of Counselors and Therapists (IACT) or the American Board of Hypnotherapy. Some of the best hospitals in the United States have Departments of Integrative (or Alternative) Medicine, and in most of these, hypnosis and self-hypnosis play a significant part. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) are mandated by the American government to investigate the efficacy of various alternative and complementary therapies. Hypnotherapy is among the therapies being studied.

Hypnotism is viewed by many as a complementary adjunct for obstetrics, dentistry, and various kinds of surgery. It has been used successfully with many cancer patients who are undergoing chemotherapy or radiation therapy, to alleviate the pain and general discomfort associated with these procedures. Before and after surgery, hypnosis can be very useful in reducing anxiety and moderating pain. Hypnotism is totally non-invasive, and has no dangerous side effects as do many pain-relieving drugs. This is why it is often the method of choice for pain relief, cessation of smoking, weight-loss management, stress relief, and other medical situations. As stated by Complementary and Alternative Medicine, a publication of the National Cancer Institute: "Hypnosis puts you in a deeply-relaxed state that can help reduce discomfort and anxiety.”

7. What about hypnotism shows on stage? Are they real? 

Yes, they are real. The people on stage are volunteers who agree to be deeply hypnotized. If they are responding to hypnotic suggestions to do silly things, like barking or clucking, then they’re subconsciously willing to do those things. If they found any of the suggestions objectionable, they would come out of the trance spontaneously. Hypnotism cannot make you do anything against your own moral or belief system, anything that your subconscious really doesn’t want to do.

8. What other uses are there for hypnotism, besides the entertainment value of stage hypnotism shows?

Hypnosis can be beneficially used in medicine. It is also useful for helping you to change old patterns of behavior that no longer serve you well. For example, if you’ve been an overeater all your life, and are now much heavier than you want to be and than you ought to be, hypnotism can help you change the messages your subconscious sends to your conscious mind. In this way, you can change your attitudes about food and eating in general. Hypnotism has been very successful in helping thousands of people worldwide stop smoking, as another example.

9. Can hypnotism make me tell secrets, or reveal confidential information?

No. Remember, you are the person who is in control. You won’t say anything you do not wish to say while you are hypnotized. In fact, if you want to, you can even lie when you are in a hypnotic trance. If you are engaged in hypnotherapy, though, be aware that deliberately lying may interfere with the hypnotherapist’s work of helping you reach your goals. Be aware, too, that a certified hypnotist or hypnotherapist is bound by a code of ethics set up by the certifying organization, and that anything said during therapy will be kept in confidence.

10. Is there any guarantee that hypnotism will be successful in helping me quit smoking (or whatever the problem may be)?

Yes and no. Remember that hypnotism cannot make you do something you don’t want to do. If you subconsciously really do not want to quit smoking, then you won’t quit.

However, when you are ready to quit, hypnosis will make it easier for you to make the transition between being a smoker and being a non-smoker. Your chance of success in accomplishing a goal like stopping smoking or losing weight is definitely increased with hypnotism.

We hope that these hypnosis questions have been helpful to you. If you still have more hypnosis FAQs that need answers, please write to us for more information.


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