Debunking the Myths of Hypnosis

By: Celine Chin

When you think about the word hypnosis, you might picture a therapist dangling a pocket watch back and forth in front of a person, or in an illusionary spiral. In reality, people aren't usually hypnotized through this method. Hypnotherapy is often misunderstood and there are many myths about the treatment that lead people to think of it as brainwashing or something similar to mind control.

So what is hypnosis and how exactly does it work? When someone is hypnotized, they are put into a relaxed, “trance-like” state where they have increased responsiveness and concentration. As a result of being hypnotized, the client will become more open to suggestions from the therapist. Hypnosis is often used as treatment for purposes such as pain and anxiety relief, improving sleep disorders, helping clients go into a state of relaxation, or changing undesirable habits and behaviors like smoking.

Although there are many ways to induce hypnosis, hypnosis is usually induced through a therapist using their voice and mental images to make suggestions that provoke involuntary responses from the client. Some people are described to have higher suggestibility than others, which means that they are more able to accept suggestions that are given to them during hypnosis and actually experience changes from those suggestions. Rather than the therapist using an authoritative approach such as telling the client, “You will do _____,” the therapist would usually use an approach where suggestions are made, not commands.

While hypnotherapy can be an effective treatment, it does come with some risks and symptoms may arise as a result. Hypnotherapists that aren’t trained well can end up creating fake memories that were never there in the first place in the client’s mind and end up doing more harm than good. After a hypnotherapy session, the client needs to be completely dehypnotized, as leaving without having been dehypnotized may result in the client returning home dizzy or confused and possibly ending up in an accident. Hypnosis is also unsuitable for people with disorders like schizophrenia or other conditions that cause hallucinations or delusions, nor is it for people that abuse substances like drugs or alcohol. Although very rarely, side effects may result from hypnosis as well and make the client anxious, dizzy, drowsy, or have a headache.

There are many misconceptions about hypnotherapy that cloud people’s perspectives on it, such as the myth that it causes the person being hypnotized to be under the permanent control of the hypnotist, or the myth that somebody could become forever “stuck” in a hypnotic state. A lot of these myths are based on the idea that those who get hypnotized lose their free will and control of their actions, when in reality hypnosis cannot make someone do something they don’t want to do. If a suggestion against the client’s sense or values was made, they would be able to reject that suggestion and break out of hypnosis. Another myth is that weak-minded individuals are easier to hypnotize, but that isn’t the case at all. Hypnosis works best with individuals who are able to focus and imagine easily since therapists often guide people to use mental pictures to achieve success in solving whatever the original problem was. Since the suggestions would be made with the positive intention of helping the client, it would be incorrect to assume that those who become hypnotized have weak minds because the therapists are attempting to help people, not target those with fragile minds. A common misconception about hypnosis is that a client would be asleep or unconscious while they are in a hypnotic state. However, being in a hypnotic state would mean that they are still aware of their surroundings although it may feel like their body has fallen asleep.

Ultimately, hypnosis can be an effective treatment in many situations if it is used correctly and can prove to be very useful in modern medicine despite all of the controversy around it.


Q: What is hypnosis?

A: Hypnosis is a state that a person enters in which they become deeply relaxed but also more focused on their surroundings. Treatments that use hypnosis are also known as hypnotherapy in medicine, and can be used for purposes like relieving pain, anxiety, or changing a person’s behavior.

Q: What are some myths about hypnosis?

A: Some misconceptions about hypnosis include:

  • Hypnosis will cause somebody to lose free will and be controlled by the hypnotist permanently

  • When someone is in hypnosis, they are always asleep or unconscious

  • Everybody who gets hypnotized has a “weak” mind




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