Q. Can anybody be hypnotised?
A. Pretty much. The exceptions are: those who are educationally subnormal or suffering from senility, very young children, hard drug addicts, anybody under the influence of large amounts of alcohol.
Q. What is self-hypnosis? How do I do it? Is it safe?
A. Self-hypnosis is induced either by remembering an induction script or, preferably, by recording it onto a tape and listening to it. Read slowly, no faster than 130 words per minute, and use frequent pauses. You will not feel hypnotised because there really is no such thing as a hypnotised feeling. It's better if you also use a 'deepener' to follow the induction and the whole thing should last about 15-20 minutes at least. The 'quality' of self-hypnosis is sometimes not as good as that induced by an 'operator' (a better word for 'hypnotist'), but hypnosis comes from within you - it has as much to do with you as it does the operator, though a good operator will know many different methods of helping you focus and will be able to choose one that is exactly right for your thought processes.
Once into the hypnotised state, a good way of working is to simply see yourself looking exactly the way you want to feel, or easily doing whatever it is you want to do. If you want to quit a habit, for instance, see yourself with evidence that you've quite the habit, e.g. if you want to stop biting your nails, create a VIVID image of you with elegantly manicured nails and allow yourself to feel truly elated. This is probably a better way of working, for the beginner, than using direct suggestion - which means repeating to yourself over and again what it is that you want to happen. Suggestions must be phrased POSITIVELY - no 'not' or 'won't' or 'cannot' statements, etc. Self hypnosis is absolutely safe and you can exit the state whenever you want to - it is totally impossible to get stuck in any way. You can even set your own 'inner timer' first, so that you simply decide that you want to finish the session after, say, 30 minutes. Try it!
Q. How do you hypnotise somebody?
A. I only use a voice induction, although there are various other methods that can be employed such as strobe lights, rotating spirals and so on. Usually the voice is used as well, though. There is no special way of speaking, no 'incantations' or magical words, and the accent is quite often on producing a very relaxed state of mind. Mostly, a slow and soothing approach is taken but there are many therapists who use their normal speed of speech and may even step it up a bit or use a fairly 'crisp' delivery if they prefer the 'command' method of induction. Sometimes, too, they will employ - with permission - the use of touch in various different ways, commonly of the subjects hands or forehead. Mostly, the client will close their eyes fairly soon in the induction, but an individual can quite easily be hypnotised with their eyes open. After hypnosis is induced (usually in a matter of a few minutes) a deepener routine might be used to deepen the state.
Q. I've heard about instant inductions - what are they and do they work?
A. Instant inductions usually rely on shock or surprise and more often than not involve a jolt or jerk to the physical body - usually to the arm or hand. It is not dangerous, but its intrusive nature probably creates a situation where the operator is dominant for a few fractions of a second. Since there is then no further reason for resistance, if the hypnotised individual wishes to be hypnotised (and s/he would not be if s/he did not want to be), the state tends to persist.
Many therapists are uncomfortable with rapid or instantaneous inductions, while others scarcely use anything else. Stage operators often rely heavily on this type of induction.
Q. Can people be made to forget things, like suggestions or the session itself?
A. You cannot actually 'make' anybody do anything in hypnosis. Hypnosis gives nobody any power over the person who is hypnotised. Theoretically, you could suggest to a hypnotised person that they would forget the content of the session. But it is not reliable, by any means, and it is most unlikely that you could create a lasting and total amnesia, and certainly not of the session itself.
Q. Is it good for performance enhancement?
A. Hypnosis, with the right sort of adjunct work, EXCELS at performance enhancement of all types! Here are just a few of the things with which it can make profound improvement:
Q. Is there anybody who should not be hypnotised?
A. To a large extent, it depends on the sort of therapy being employed. Some say that anybody suffering from epilepsy should never be hypnotised, but I have never heard of an epileptic fit being triggered by hypnosis. Where psychotic individuals are concerned, care needs to be exercised and regression/analytical therapy should most definitely not be employed. This type of therapy is also best avoided with pregnant women. I also will not use regression or analysis with heart attack/stroke victims.
Q. How does it work?
A. Although there has been much speculation and theory over the years, all that is truly known about the phenomenon of hypnosis is that it allows the conscious critical faculty to be bypassed, allowing a 'gateway' to the subconscious mind.
Q. What is hypnosis anyway?
A. The answer is very similar to the above question. Some people believe it is nothing more than 'social compliance' (doing what you believe you should be doing) while others insist that it is a state of altered consciousness. There is no scientifically measurable change in brain wave patterns during hypnosis, as compared with normal consciousness. An individual in the hypnotised state usually feels very relaxed, but this is not necessarily the case. They will often feel as if they are half asleep, and at the moment they open their eyes at the end of a session there is sometimes an awareness, for a spilt second, that 'something' had been different.
Q. What does it feel like to be hypnotised?
A. Actually, it doesn't. For the vast majority of people there is actually no such thing as a 'hypnotised feeling'. After a few sessions, though, most people start to become aware of how the state feels to them. It may be that they feel excessively heavy or light. Their arms and legs may feel rigid, as if they have been moved into a different position, or are even absent. They can sometimes feel other strange phenomena, too - sensations of floating, whirling and/or spinning are not unusual, or of some part of the body being distorted in some way (I always refer to this as Hypno-morphing) or as if they have become very small or big. I always feel as if my hands are encased in concrete gloves - my signal that I am in self hypnosis. Most people experience some form of time distortion, usually in the ratio of around 2.5:1, so that after the session there is a feeling that it was much shorter than it actually was. Typically, a 50 minute session would feel like 20 minutes.
Q. How can you tell if somebody is hypnotised?
A. There are several external signs, though few people show all of them. Some of the most noticeable are: A facial flush, total immobility and relaxation, rapid eye movement, eyelid flicker, enhanced salivation (causing frequent swallowing), slowed respiration, drooping lower jaw.
Q. Can you make anybody do things they don't want to?
A. In my opinion, definitely not, but there is considerable conjecture about this. It is often said that hypnosis cannot breach the moral code, though there are therapists and hypnotists who claim otherwise - but of course, we cannot truly know what another person's moral code/values consists of. People will frequently do things they would not normally do, though this does not mean it is something they do not want to do; hypnosis lowers inhibition, so it could be just something that that individual was too inhibited to do in the normal way, even though he/she was not averse to it.
Q. Can it be used to control people?
A. See above answer.
Q. Can you get 'stuck' in hypnosis?
A. No, you definitely cannot! If you were hypnotised and the hypnotist just walked away and left you, you would simply bring yourself out of the state whenever you wanted to.
Q. Is it dangerous in any way?
A. Not at all, in the hands of a properly trained individual. There are some circumstances that would be undesirable with a non-trained or poorly-trained operator, but nothing serious could happen, in any case.
Q. How does hypnotherapy differ from stage hypnosis?
A. The hypnosis is the same, though many believe it is not. But it is the 'therapy' part that is different - the stage hypnotist is out to entertain others. The hypnotherapist is out to make somebody's life more enjoyable to live.
Q. What's the difference between hypnotherapy and psychotherapy?
A. Usually, psychotherapy makes changes to the subconscious by using the understanding and imagery of the conscious mind. Hypnotherapy attempts to bypass the conscious mind to a large extent, working directly with the subconscious. For this reason, hypnotherapy is often quicker than psychotherapy. But it's 'horses for courses' - there are some clients who will respond better to psychotherapy and for them, this would probably be a better form of treatment. Usually, these individuals are very analytical and guarded.
Q. How long does a cure produced by hypnosis actually last?
A. It depends on how much subconscious change was brought about in the first place. If a change has been made to a flawed fundamental belief system, then the cure will be permanent and last for a life-time. If only superficial changes have been made, then it might be only a few days or weeks. This is why direct suggestion therapy sometimes fails miserably. The best therapy is where an underlying cause has been resolved before any suggestion work is carried out at all.
Q. What is 'direct suggestion' therapy?
A. The therapist simply tells the client, in the state of hypnosis, that whatever it is they want to do they will now be able to. Or whatever it is that they want to stop doing, they now can. It can be effective with simple problems like smoking, nail-biting, confidence for an exam/test, etc. But generally, it is best to tackle the underlying cause of the difficulty first.
Q. Is it successful with real phobias?
A. Usually immensely so, if the right sort of therapy is employed.
Q. Does it always work?
A. No, no more than any other form of medicine, complimentary OR orthodox does. A responsible therapist will soon detect when it is not going to and discharge that client so that they may seek the help they need elsewhere. Another hypnotherapist might produce the desired result where the first one could not, because of the different client/therapist 'mix'.
Q. How long does it take to produce a result?
A. It depends on far too many factors to make a bald statement about this. It can be as few as one session for a simple problem, to as many as... well that depends on the ethics and skills of the therapist involved. A responsible, properly trained, therapist will not keep a client in therapy longer than necessary.
Q. Do you really go into a trance? If so, how deep? Are you in any way unconscious?
A. I don't actually like the word 'trance', because it is easily misunderstood; it is in common use, however, and a hypnotised individual is, technically, in a trance. But you are not aware of this trance state, anymore than you are aware of it when you intently watch something on TV or immerse yourself in a book or newspaper to the point where you don't hear someone calling you. These are both trance states in which you are aware of the object of interest only, and it is almost identical to the hypnotic 'trance'. It is MOST DEFINITELY NOT the trance you see on films and TV sometimes, where somebody is staring glassy-eyed with no idea of where they are or what they are doing. The depth of trance varies from one individual to another and it is often considered to be relatively unimportant from a therapy point of view. You are not unconscious in any way - unless you go to sleep, which is not unknown! Then, you would simply awaken when asked to by the therapist.
Q. Can somebody's mind be too strong?
A. No. The stronger the mind the better the ability to focus and concentrate, which makes the hypnotised state easier to achieve. The statement 'My mind is too strong to be hypnotised' is usually based on fear and the individuals who say this are often the best subjects of all! It is not difficult to resist being hypnotised and needs no specific strength of mind at all. It is getting into hypnosis that takes the mental work!
Q. Can anybody learn to be a hypnotist, or is it a 'gift'?
A. Forget those stories or articles where it is stated that somebody has the 'gift' of hypnosis! It takes hardly any time at all for anybody to learn how to hypnotise another, though some people are better at it than others, just as in any other skill. It is learning what to do with someone once they are hypnotised that takes the time and training; learning how to deal with different personality types, learning how to discover what really ails an individual (sometimes different entirely to what they say or believe is their problem), learning how to decide on the right sort of therapy, and learning how to terminate therapy responsibly when it becomes obvious that in any one case it is not going to produce the desired result.
Q. Can you learn it from books?
A. Yes - but you need and must have professional instruction if you intend to become a professional hypnotherapist. Anybody starting to work on members of the public without proper training is, in my opinion: stupid, arrogant, uncaring, unrealistic, scurrilous, a shyster, a conman (or woman)... add as many negative/deprecatory/insulting adjectives as you like.
Q. Where can I find out more?
A. There is much information available on this site and throughout the Internet. A search on any search engine with the key words hypnosis, hypnotherapy, hypnotism, etc. will give you enough reading material to keep you busy for weeks. Much of it, however, is of poor quality; the links on this site point to some useful pages.
Q. What is an 'induction', and what is a 'deepener'?
A. An induction is just a passage of text spoken to the client. Most of the time, a slow soothing tone will be used, but there are other occasions when a more dynamic style may be more suitable.
A deepener is more like a story designed to focus the hypnotised individual's attention to get him/her into a deeper state of hypnosis. Hence the name!