Myth #1: Hypnosis is a therapeutic process.
Truth: Hypnosis as a process is not a therapeutic thing. It is not something done to a person. Hypnosis does not cure anything at all. It is what happens during hypnosis that causes change. In other words, the process is only a means of helping clients to achieve the internal subjective experience that is therapeutic. The combination of a skilful therapist, a motivated client and a good therapeutic relationship is what causes therapeutic change to occur, not the process itself.
Myth #2: I will lose my freewill.
Truth: You always have the power to choose. You are always free to overtly or covertly reject suggestions that do not fit you. In stage hypnotism, the subjects make a choice of going along with the hypnotist’s suggestions because of prior consent (by volunteering to be on stage), which is why you never see any unwilling participants being dragged on stage, because it will not work!
Myth #3: Hypnotic outcomes are caused by the power of the hypnotist.
Truth: The “power” of the therapist is actually given by the client. In other words, if the client has a good therapeutic relationship and trusts the therapist, better therapy outcomes might be expected. But this is not unique to hypnosis, but is inherent in all therapies, under the banner of “common factors” of therapy. The therapist therefore is only a guide for the experience of hypnosis but what the client experiences depends on how he/she permits the role of the therapist to function.
Myth #4: Not everyone can be hypnotised.
Truth: Hypnosis is a naturally occurring phenomenon. When you are driving on the highway and miss the exit because you are deep in thought about the holiday you just took, you are in a hypnotic state. Although many hypnotherapists still use formal induction techniques, these are found to be not necessary, although they can be helpful for clients whose expectations demand it. The American Psychological Association’s definition of hypnosis does not prescribe the necessity of formal induction.
Myth #5: One is asleep or unconscious during hypnosis.
Truth: Although the word hypnosis is derived from the Greek word Hypnos, meaning sleep, or the God of Sleep, hypnosis is not sleep. There is always some level of awareness of the current environment, even in deep hypnosis. Most people experience it as a relaxed state, although physical relaxation is not necessary for hypnosis to occur. They can hear the sounds of the surrounding environment, such as someone’s phone ringing next door, and so on.
Myth #6: Hypnosis is just relaxation.
This too is a myth. Although relaxation usually occurs in hypnosis, it is a distinct state from relaxation. It is an inwardly focused state that is defined experientially by the hypnotised person rather than by the process. In other words, one can go through formal induction and the whole gambit of “hypnosis” and the client is not hypnotised at all, because he/she had not gone into a deep state of absorption. Similarly, with eyes wide open, people can go into a hypnotic state, while being able to see the therapist and the surroundings (open-eye hypnosis) as they have a deep inwardly focused experience. The latest research shows that a glazed stare is a sign of a hypnotic state. Mind Renewal uses mostly this style of open-eye hypnosis, or waking hypnosis. Most people are more comfortable with this form of hypnosis, without undue worry of being “controlled” by the therapist, because they are fully conscious of what is happening.
Myth #7: Hypnosis cannot harm you.
Truth: Unfortunately, this also is a myth. However, the potential harm in hypnosis is not related to the hypnotic process itself, but rather, to the incompetency of the therapist, no different from any other form of psychotherapy. Sadly, there are forms of hypnotism that can be manipulative (usually using authoritarian style) or in which hypnotists practise from their own ideas rather than the clients, particularly in the case of hypnotists using “scripts”, since no two clients think or feel the same or have the same reasons for having the same problem! In any therapy, the client is in distress and in a vulnerable state, seeking help and relief of symptoms. Any inexperienced, insufficiently trained therapist may inadvertently (rarely intentionally), “misdiagnose a problem or its dynamics, offer poor advice, make grandiose promises, impose an anti-therapeutic point of view, or simply waste the person’s time and money”. In these respects, hypnosis, along with any other forms of psychotherapy, can be harmful.
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