Hypnosis Myths and Misconceptions

Abstract illustration of the myths of hypnosis

Hypnosis has been prominent in the public eye, on and off, for a couple of centuries or so now, and during that time it has attracted far more than its fair share of myths and fantasies, which have been exacerbated by the media, both in fiction and news reporting. Most people have encountered the urban myth about the individual who was hypnotized so deeply that he was unable to ever be brought up out of it, in spite of the efforts of the world’s best doctors to break the “trance.” Or, perhaps you might be told about the person who was transformed into a zombie and became so responsive to a trigger word, to which no one could find the antidote, that he became stuck in this trance state and had to be kept locked up, so that he could not harm anybody.

Demonic possession, losing one’s mind, the entire loss of personality, the inability to think for oneself, being permanently in the control of a madman… all these things have something in common and that is that they are all just sensationalist rubbish, every one of them. They simply have never happened and cannot ever happen, as anybody who has ever been in the state of hypnosis, however deep, would instantly recognise.

Ten myths about hypnosis

Let’s take a look at ten common myths about hypnosis. I will do my best to explain the truth behind each one. If some of what you read goes against something you have heard or read about, just recognise that I have been using hypnosis at a professional level for many years and I have absolutely no reason to tell you anything other than the established truth.

#1 – Hypnotists have special powers

Wrong! The thought that hypnotists have “special powers” originates from a Hollywood movie belief. The truth is that hypnotists do not have any special powers, not even the stage hypnotists you may have seen. We have special skills, a deep knowledge of psychology and the human psyche, experience of working with people, but no special powers. With sufficient effort and practice, most people could induce a formal state of hypnosis in someone else, but only with the person’s permission. Of course, the real skill is in the way we can use the hypnotic state to help people.

#2 – Hypnosis will only work on certain people

Wrong! Whilst it is true that some people are more suggestible to hypnosis, it very often comes down to the person’s motivation, willingness and ability to concentrate. Everyone is suggestible to a certain degree. If you are interested in something and it is something that you want, then you will be open to its effects. It is the same with self hypnosis — if you want it to work and you co-operate, then you will reap the rewards.

#3 – People who get hypnotized are weak minded

Wrong! In fact, it is the opposite. Without doubt, it is the people who can concentrate well and have a creative imagination that make the best hypnotic “subjects.” People with these valuable attributes can enter a state of hypnosis with ease. We are all susceptible to suggestion, but it is just a matter to what degree. If someone is offering me something which is useful, then I will work toward achieving it. It would be quite stupid to work against something that can help you, don’t you think? It is therefore totally incorrect to say that people who become hypnotized are gullible or weak minded.

#4 – When in hypnosis, you can be made to say or do something against your will

Wrong! The truth is, hypnosis cannot make people do anything that they really do not want to do. It can definitely help somebody achieve something that they do want to do, and it can help somebody to stop doing something they want to stop doing. But it cannot make anybody do anything against their will, whatever you may be told to the contrary. If a suggestion was made to anybody in the state of hypnosis, which truly offended his or her ideals or sensibilities, then that person would simply break the hypnotic state and walk away from the entire situation.

#5 – Hypnosis can be bad for your health

Wrong! It is quite the opposite. My guess would be that all medical practitioners would agree on the health benefits of deep relaxation. Relaxation helps to bring about a homeostatic balance – a balance within the system, of mind, body and soul, emotionally and physically. The problem is that a lot of doctors say to people “you need to learn to relax”, but they never really give them the tools for knowing “how to relax.” As far as I am concerned, self hypnosis can never be bad for your health. Hypnosis is a naturally occurring state, so if you want to feel in balance within yourself and the world around you, it is the best state to be in.

#6 – You can get “stuck” in hypnosis and be unable to wake up

Wrong! No one ever gets “stuck” in hypnosis. It is impossible. Hypnosis is a natural and normal state that we all enter into on a daily basis, so it is not a state which is completely alien to us. Of course, hypnosis is a subjective experience and everyone will experience it differently but the worst that could possibly happen is that you drift into natural sleep and wake up soon afterwards. I have had people fall asleep during my private hypnotherapy sessions. It is not a problem, other than being a bit inconvenient. But do not worry, no one has ever gotten stuck in hypnosis.

#7 – You are asleep or unconscious when in hypnosis

Wrong! You are not asleep and you are not unconscious. You are fully aware of what is happening around you. Of course, everyone’s experience of hypnosis is different and there is no such thing as a hypnotized feeling. Generally, when people are in a state of hypnosis they feel as if their body has gone to sleep but the mind is still alert, awake, and aware. If you do fall into a natural sleep, then do not worry. I have always maintained my belief that if people feel they are drifting off to sleep when listening to a self hypnosis session, then it is fine, it will still do its work.

#8 – You’ll become dependent on the hypnotist

Wrong! Remember, you have conscious awareness during hypnosis and are in full control at all times. If a hypnotherapist were to ask you to do anything inappropriate then you would pull yourself out of the hypnotic state, spontaneously. The best, most professional and ethical hypnotherapists work in a way that the makes a client feel empowered rather than working in an authoritarian way where problems may result.

#9 – In hypnosis you’ll be able to recall everything that’s ever happened to you

Wrong! Some hypnotherapists use certain methodologies (such as hypnoanalysis) that may help a person recall things from their past, if that is going to be useful for them. Normally there is no real need to go back into a personal memory or personal history, particularly on a self hypnosis CD or download session. It is more a case of sitting or laying down, relaxing and enjoying the session.

#10 – Hypnosis is dangerous and is the devil’s work!

Wrong! I have heard some religious people talk of hypnosis as the “devils work.” Not only does this demonstrate total ignorance of the subject, but there is some irony in this, because the action of prayer could easily be described as a hypnotic state. To repeat, hypnosis is a naturally occurring, beneficial, positive state and nobody can be made to anything they do not want to do. We are most certainly not in league with the devil.

A quick word on stage hypnotism

After reading some of these myths you might well be wondering what on earth it is that the stage hypnotist does. You might even be thinking that perhaps they use a special sort of hypnosis, that is reserved purely for that specific situation. After all, you have seen with your own eyes, those people on stage being completely out of it and not knowing what they are doing, right? Well… wrong, actually. The stage hypnotist’s act relies on an extraordinarily potent mix of razzamatazz, showmanship, audience belief and expectation. Plus, of course, there is the very important fact that the volunteers want to be in the show. They know what is expected of them and they are eager participants.

If you are interested to learn more then we have an article dedicated to stage hypnosis and how it works, which you might find interesting.

A few more misconceptions about hypnosis

We have covered a number of myths about hypnosis, but it may also be worth mentioning the apparent link between hypnosis and paranormal activities. Well, I am going to be boring again, I’m afraid.  There isn’t one. Some clairvoyants claim to become more clairvoyant via hypnosis, but there is nothing to suggest that this is actually the case. Others claim that telepathic abilities are enhanced or enabled, but it just does not stand up to testing.

Let us look at some other examples of hypnotic phenomena that you might have heard about:

Past Life Regression

I personally do not consider Past Life Regression, where people go back using hypnosis and claim to visit experiences they had in a previous life, to be a real hypnotic phenomenon. I do believe and know that people have experiences in hypnosis that they often think are past lives. They are undoubtedly experiencing something, but I believe it is the subconscious mind playing out the scenario for them, and not a real “regression.” Even the best PLR therapists or researchers point out that they do not claim that an individual will visit his or her own past life, just a past life. It is a little enigmatic is that, but it is an interesting concept.

Remote viewing

Remote viewing is a somewhat mysterious sounding concept where somebody is supposedly able to use hypnosis in order to observe events somewhere on the other side of the world. Observing a plane crash in America, while they are comfortably seated somewhere in London, for example, or seeing a volcanic eruption on some remote island somewhere that they cannot quite identify. Well, if they can do that, why not go the whole hog and remotely view Mars or Jupiter? That would save the world’s governments the most amazing amount of money, wouldn’t it? Of course, really, it is just so much bunk again. It is usually peddled by individuals who do not actually know what hypnosis truly is, or maybe by people who want to make money out of teaching other people how to supposedly do whatever it is they are claiming.

Astral projection

To me, remote viewing has about as much credibility as the claims that hypnosis can allow you to go out of body and travel on the Astral plane – whatever that might or might not be. I will say again something that I do wholeheartedly believe in. Hypnosis is a totally normal function of human thought processes, there is nothing weird or paranormal or even extraordinary about it, and it cannot confer any special or superhuman powers on anybody whatever you might hear to the contrary and however vehemently or persuasively those claims may be made.

The word “hypnosis” usually conjures up certain images in people’s minds and these stereotypes are sometimes hard to overturn. I hope we have helped you to understand a bit more about hypnosis and successfully debunked some of the myths and misconceptions that surround it. The real truth, which I have mentioned several times in this article, is that hypnosis is a perfectly natural occurring state. It is a tool that we hope you embrace for your own personal growth and personal empowerment.