PTSD Treatment: Busting Hypnosis Myths
Friday, April 17th, 2009 • PTSD Guest Post: Professional Perspective •
In order to dispel some of the misconceptions surrounding hypnosis, here is a run down of the top ten popular myths surrounding hypnosis.
1- A hypnotist might turn you into a chicken (or pull some other silly or embarrassing tricks on you).
An ethical, clinical hypnotherapist would never do this. This is confusing a stage hypnotist with a therapeutic or clinical hypnotherapist. A stage hypnotist will do this because that is what is expected of them. You agree to this by stepping on stage and joining the show and you will easily return to your normal state at the end. However, in a clinical setting you only agree to the therapeutic goals for the session, so that is all that will occur.
The majority of clinical hypnotherpists (me included) would not know how to do these tricks even if they wanted to. Stage and clinical hypnosis are two very different disciplines.
2- You must be weak-minded if you can be hypnotised.
This is the wrong way of looking at the situation. A hypnotherapist simply guides or helps a person into trance. He does not ‘make’ them go into a trance. A hypnotic trance is a normal and natural mental state that most of us slip into several times a day. It occurs when you are daydreaming, or so totally absorbed in a book or film that you forget what is happening around you.
Actually, it is a skill to go into a deeply relaxed trance when you want to. The hypnotherpist helps you, but ultimately it is how you use your mind that determines how deep into a trance you go. People often find that the more experience they have of going into a trance, the easier and deeper they go. So ‘being hypnotised’ is actually a skill on the part of the subject, that can be improved over time.
3- You are asleep when in a hypnotic trance.
Many years ago hypnotherapists did use suggestions of ‘sleep’ when guiding someone into a hypnotic trance. However, this is rarely done now as most hypnotherapists agree that this can confuse the subject as to what state of mind they are aiming to achieve. Most now use suggestions of deep relaxation rather than sleep. Unfortunately, the media seem to still continue to portray a very outdated image of a hypnotist.
4- Hypnotists swing a watch in order to hypnotise a subject.
Although this is one technique that can be used out of thousands of others, hypnotherapists rarely do this. I personally do not use a watch as I wish to distance myself from the stereotype of a stern and sinister hypnotist, with a thin black moustache, wearing a tall dark hat, and a manic stare in his eyes.
5- People sometimes become stuck in hypnosis.
This is simply not true. On rare occasions a subject may not come out of the trance straight away. This is usually because he is enjoying the relaxing state so much that he doesn’t want to come out. A few gentle prompts is always sufficient to wake him!
6- You will become stuck in hypnosis if something happens to the hypnotist.
Again this is not true. A person will eventually become bored and will just get up when he feels like it. The hypnotist holds no special power over the subject whatsoever. In fact, a person can hypnotise himself. This is called self-hypnosis, and then you wake whenever you choose.
7- Hypnosis is dangerous in the event of a fire or another disaster.
A person in a hypnotic trance is just as aware, if not more so, of potential danger. If a fire broke out during a session, a person would easily come out of the trance and deal with the situation immediately, and in an appropriate way.
If you drive a car, then you might be able to understand what I am about to say. When driving we often slip into a trance, especially when we are driving routes that we often take, such as to and from work. We can slip into a trance and daydream, and barely remember the journey at all. Sometimes we may even wonder how we managed to get to our destination at all! Sound familiar? In the event of danger, we instantly snap out of this state and deal with the situation. In fact we probably deal with it quicker and more effectively as our minds do not have chance to ‘over think’ with the conscious mind and slow down the response.
8 – You are not hypnotised if you can hear the hypnotist.
This is also not true. Each person has a unique experience of hypnosis. Some people consciously hear the hypnotist, whereas others do not. This has no bearing on the success of the session whatsoever. It is usually down to choice. You can choose to allow your conscious mind to drift away, or you can choose to listen carefully to what the hypnotherapist is saying. Some people simply cannot resist allowing their minds to drift away, as they gain so much relaxation pleasure from it.
9- You can be made to reveal your deepest secrets when in a hypnotic trance.
Since your mind is fully aware and awake during a hypnotic session, this is not possible.
If you really do not want to talk about something you are under no compulsion to do so. A person can easily lie and is more likely to be creative with the truth when in a hypnotic trance, which is why courts will not accept the testimony of witnesses who are in hypnosis.
10- Hypnotherapists have special powers.
So there you go, hypnosis and hypnotherapy is not magical or mysterious when you know the true facts. It is simply a group of techniques for focusing the mind so that the unconscious can absorb pre-agreed suggestions in order to facilitate change.