You know, that is a question I get asked often when people find out that I’m a hypnotist. I think to myself, “Do people really think that I go around bragging that I’m a hypnotist knowing that it’s all fake?”. Would I have paid thousands of dollars to learn something that is a hoax? Would people continue to see me and send referrals to me if this was all false? Was the person who asked if I practice witchcraft correct? Was my family right when they called my office the ‘voodoo room’?
OK, maybe I’m getting a bit carried away. (Or should be carried away) But this is a legitimate question. To tell you the truth, most people don’t know what hypnosis really is, and out of the ones who think they do know, a lot of them have false impressions. How can people know if hypnosis really works if most people don’t even know what it really is?
First off - The Myths - The myths of hypnosis have been created by TV, movies, and entertainment hypnosis. If I mention the name Svengali, you may recognize that as a name of a famous hypnotist, He was famous for being evil and manipulative. He was also a fictional character, created in a novel back in 1895 and in a play in the same year. And was recreated in a movie first in 1927 and many times since. A controlling, dominating, evil hypnotist - If hypnosis really works, you better hope that it doesn’t work the way it did for him. A hypnotist cannot fully control anyone. In the profession we say that “all hypnosis is self-hypnosis.” What we mean by that is that you have to be willing to follow the suggestions of the hypnotists’ in order for it to work. Can people be manipulated? Sure. Con men do it all the time but they do not use hypnosis. They build trust in many ways, and then take advantage.
I know what your thinking now. “How about making me ‘quack like a duck’ (from my favorite and most consistent request that I get from children when they find out that I am a hypnotist) and do crazy things in front of people that I wouldn’t normally do?” Yes, that great form of entertainment known as stage or comedy hypnosis can seem to do allow for this. The only way this really works is that the people attending these shows and volunteering to go up on stage, want to have a good time and a great experience. Their willingness allows them to play along at a deep level. It’s not too different from role play when we are kids, like cops and robbers. We can get so into the role, that we can forget we are playing. This happens on stage. Imagination comes right to the forefront and the ‘boundaries’ go down. What I mean by that, is whatever apprehensions you might have about acting silly in front of people, go completely away. Hence you do things that you might never do in public, and have a ball doing it.
Hypnosis can facilitate some quick and deep change, that someone’s behavior and personality could change. This ‘miraculous’ change might have some people believing that this had to be some sort of magic. If it is some sort of magic, then it is not to be played with. This is where I was before and even after I first learned hypnosis. I had been a student of ‘magic’, witchcraft, and other things occult when I was younger. I had wondered away from and came back to my Christian faith, which warned about things that could open you up to evil. It took some research to realize that hypnosis is quite the scientific and psychological based modality. Hospitals, doctors,and dentists have been using this with their patients for years.
So, does hypnosis really work? Here’s where I ask, “Work on what?” After all those myths, this question could be coming from many places. Does it make someone like (or love) you? Does it make you a rock star or millionaire? Will it cure you of a terminal disease? Will it help you stop eating bad foods? Will it make you lose weight? Will it make you stop smoking?
First of all, with several questions, hypnosis cannot ‘make’ you do anything. It can give you choices that were not there before, like choosing not to eat something or choosing not to smoke? In the case of all of those questions above, hypnosis can increase the odds in many cases. If you want to start thinking of yourself as successful, you may even change your behaviors to increase the odds of being successful. If you want to see yourself as healthy, you will definitely increase the odds of living a little longer or a better quality of life, as opposed to seeing yourself in horrible pain as you die. (Hypnosis can and is used in pain management for terminally ill patients and could very well extend the time they have left.) Hypnosis is not a panacea that works on anything and everything for everyone. But it can be used to help with almost anything on most people.
So, how does it work? The reason why it works in the first place, and sometimes seemingly miraculous, is because it works at a subconscious level. All of your behaviors, the control of the immune system and autonomic system, as well as the emotions, are controlled at a subconscious level. If these were controlled at a conscious level, we would never have issues - either physical or emotional. We’d just ‘will ourselves’ to health. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. The issue is much deeper than the conscious mind. That’s why cravings and urges can’t usually be controlled because they stem from issues or controls at a subconscious level. When we are in trance ( the state that hypnosis utilizes), our subconscious mind is much more easily accessible to suggestions and to change. That is where the hypnotist can help.
So, “Does Hypnosis Work?” Yes it does! A well trained hypnotist can guide a client through the processes they need to do, to make the appropriate changes to get the results they want. Are these changes permanent? Most of the changes a hypnotist will help you make are lasting. If the changes are just for symptoms, the client would be given some processes like self-hypnosis to help you with a problem but not get rid of it altogether. Pain management is such a process. It helps you relieve pain in the moment but does not get rid of the root problem. Hypnosis however, in a lot of cases (certainly in my practice) can be used to find and eliminate the root problem, therefore making the changes
Find a good practitioner that works on the kind of issues that you want resolved. Go into the process ‘full on’ doing what is needed and having a belief that this can work for you. You most likely will find the ‘magic’ of hypnosis for yourself. And, the correct answer to the above question.