Hypnotherapy Myth #1: I can't be hypnotized
Before we go further into this series of articles on the myths and misconceptions of hypnosis, it’s important for us to define the term.
The Institute for Interpersonal Hypnotherapy defines hypnosis as “A natural, yet altered, state of mind where communication and responsiveness with the subconscious mind is present.”
For this article, the key word that I will focus on from this definition is “natural.” You have probably experienced this state without being aware of it. Later in this article you’ll be presented with an illustration of everyday hypnosis that may resonate with you.
As mentioned in my first article in this series, one of the most common responses that I receive when I tell someone that I am a hypnotherapist is, “I don’t think I can be hypnotized.”
When I casually ask them why they believe that, I discover that there are two common replies.
The first group says that they have tried hypnotherapy, or maybe have been part of a stage hypnotist’s show, and the practitioner was unable to “put them under.” (Their words, not mine – I am not a fan of that language and will discuss it in a later article.)
The second group becomes defensive.
They say that they never have been hypnotized and just don’t think that it could be done to them. Their tone and body language become defiant and defensive, as though they need to ward off some magical trick that I could use to break down their defenses.
Their conviction seems to come from the misunderstanding that the hypnotherapist has some sort of mystical power, and therefore control over them. They believe that their will to resist entering the hypnotic state is more powerful than the hypnotherapist’s “mystical” abilities.
At least on that point they are partially correct: If they don’t want to go into the hypnotic state, they will not enter the hypnotic state. They are incorrect in assuming that I have mystical powers.
To reduce their defensiveness, I ask them about their experiences. With each objection, I simply say, “I understand where you are coming from. That’s a common misconception about what I do.”
I explain that I, as a hypnotist, have no power over them; that if they are not willing to enter into the state, I can’t make them do it.
I begin to frame the conversation in a way that resonates with them: Have they ever gone to see a specialist for anything? Maybe a physician, a mechanic or a lawyer… they went to that provider with a specific goal in mind. They went there to solve a problem.
I explain that my clients are doing the same thing. They come to me as people seeking help and believe that hypnotherapy is the tool that will aid them in solving their problem. I am there to provide this tool and facilitate solutions for them.
When I further the conversation and ask this person if they have ever experienced driving to a familiar location, maybe leaving work to go home. Instead of remembering the entire trip, they suddenly find themselves pulling into their driveway with no recollection of how they got there.
They typically say that they have had that experience. Possibly more than once.
They are shocked to learn that what wrote off as being distracted or day-dreaming, is actually a form of hypnosis.
Their conscious mind stepped aside while they were driving. All was safe, their subconscious was in full control. Had an emergency occurred, maybe a car cutting them off, they would have snapped back immediately, been in full control and able to respond consciously to the need-at-hand.
Maybe as they started their drive they were distracted by a problem or had other things on their mind such as creating a presentation, their child’s birthday or they forgot that day was their anniversary. As their mind wandered to focus on that issue, they continued to drive home, returning to full waking awareness when they arrive at their door.
This discussion begins to soften their demeanor. They become more interested in learning more – after all, if they’ve become hypnotized by themselves, it can’t be all that bad, right?
It is estimated that between 75% and 90% of the population can be hypnotized. A variety of reasons exist for the range that cannot reach the state – variables from mental limitations to physical limitations such as deafness. But if a person is willing, and they trust the hypnotherapist, they most likely can be hypnotized. It may take a few sessions for them to allow themselves to reach deeper states for more advanced techniques, but as they learn to trust the provider, their experience with, and the effectiveness of, the sessions will grow.
I’ve found that effective hypnotherapy is all about rapport. The willingness of my client to pick up the phone, type an e-mail and/or walk in my door shows that they are interested in making a change to their life. My job is to understand their goals and provide the tools to help them achieve that outcome.
The more rapport that I build with them through my intake interview, the more trust I create. Increased trust leads to increased willingness.
I also build belief and a “yes mindset.” The client must believe that hypnotherapy can help them and be willing to move forward at each stage of the process.
All of these steps lead to more effective inductions, deeper healing and increased success for my clients in reaching their goals.
Before we end this discussion, do you remember the other group I mentioned at the beginning of this article? The group that had tried hypnosis, but did not “go under”?
I have worked with many of them after our impromptu discussion. I have yet to find one that could not reach the hypnotic state. They just needed to trust and believe in the person with whom they were working.
Let’s talk about your experience with hypnosis and hypnotherapy. Send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.