Why Hypnosis Is Real — But Not In The Way You Might Think

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woman being hypnotized

You've probably either attended or heard about a stage hypnosis show during which seemingly "normal" people do completely ridiculous things in front of a group of strangers.

And like most people, this means you’re probably wary of hypnotism and the entire concept of hypnotherapy, because who wants to act like a chicken every time they hear the word "broccoli"?

But you may also be curious about whether a hypnotherapist can help you make positive changes in your life. And to truly see if it's a possibility, it's important to understand what hypnosis is (and isn't).

Is hypnosis real?

The answer is yes — hypnosis is real! In fact, it's a therapy process similar to cognitive behavioral therapy

According to the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis, modern clinical hypnosis dates back to the 1700s, but has grown since around 1958.

However, hypnosis for mental health, pain management, and use in other forms of therapy is often misunderstood and confused with hypnosis used for entertainment purposes. That's what stage hypnosis is.

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Any stage hypnotist worth their salt is going to make sure they are in control of what is happening onstage, and that starts with choosing the best subjects.

Hypnosis is not an all-powerful tool that can control your mind, nor is it as simple as using a pocket watch to send people into a trance-like state. It requires that its subjects agree to allow themselves to be hypnotized. The stage hypnotist asks for volunteers; no one is forced to be onstage against their will.

The next important step after agreement is an understanding of suggestibility. Hypnosis is a natural state of openness and suggestibility, and some people are more naturally suggestible than others.

The stage hypnotist does some form of pre-test in their explanation of how hypnosis works and is able to determine which people in the audience are more suggestible than others. When those people volunteer, they are the first to be brought up on stage.

Once onstage, the subjects are guided into a deep state of hypnosis, and what happens onstage is not fake. However, the participants are aware of what they are doing. They are not losing control, being controlled, or made to do something that goes against their core values.

And when the hypnotist suggests that they forget what happened, most people are more than willing to forget how they acted in front of everybody.

How does hypnosis work?

Now that you understand myths about hypnosis, how stage hypnosis is entertainment and not mind control, and that hypnosis doesn't implant false memories, let’s take a deeper dive into how hypnosis works and who finds it most effective.

Hypnosis is a process that guides a subject into an intentional state of suggestibility that we all experience naturally every single day.

You may have an understanding of the different levels of consciousness you experience every day, from being wide awake and aware, to be unconscious and sound asleep. You may also be aware of how you drift in and out of different levels of consciousness throughout the day.

For example, you probably have experienced the difference between:

  • Being wide-awake and present in the moment
  • Being focused on a task and unaware of your surroundings
  • Driving your regular route home from work and not paying attention to where you turned or how you got there
  • Watching a movie or reading a book and getting lost in the story
  • Feeling relaxed and allowing your mind to wander during a massage or at the end of a yoga class
  • Drifting in an out of sleep in the early morning

Consciousness works more like a dimmer switch, not an on and off switch. You don’t flip a switch in your mind and are suddenly unconscious and asleep. You drift in and out of various states of consciousness depending on what time of day it is and what you are doing.

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What happens during hypnosis?

A trained hypnotherapist uses various techniques to intentionally guide you into your most suggestible state of consciousness. This is necessary because in order to change behavior you have to have access to the part of the brain that controls your behavior.

You are not in conscious control of 85-90 percent of your behavior. According to what's known as Passive Frame Theory, "nearly all of your brain’s work is conducted in different lobes and regions at the unconscious level, completely without your knowledge."

Most of your behavior, from how you tie your shoes to your emotional reactions to daily situations, is not under your conscious control.

If you want to test this, just try doing a few of those tasks differently in a single day. You’ll find that you’re pretty exhausted after an hour or two from the effort and focus required.

Up to 90 percent of your behavior is controlled by your subconscious mind, so it makes sense that trying to change your behavior with your conscious mind is using the wrong tool, particularly if you want to be efficient about it.

Hypnosis allows you to bypass your conscious mind and gain access to your subconscious programming in order to change your behavior, including your habitual thoughts and emotional reactions.

Is hypnotherapy effective?

Hypnosis can be an effective tool for anyone who is seeking to make changes in their life. And because it makes changes at the subconscious level, it is much faster and effective than traditional therapeutic tools.

All that you need is a desire to change and a willingness to allow yourself to relax. Allowing yourself to relax and let a hypnotherapist guide you requires a certain level of trust, so take time to interview several hypnotherapists to find one who you feel comfortable with.

Hypnotherapy can be an extremely effective tool for behavioral changes like quitting smoking, overcoming anxiety, fears and phobias, and losing weight. You can also use it for deeper healing like releasing emotional wounds from childhood or traumatic events.

Hypnotherapy is also used for improving performance in sports, life, and business, and is an effective way to identify and remove subconscious blocks to love.

When you access your subconscious, which is the source of your behavior, you find it easier to align your goals and your behavior without fear of falling back into old patterns.

The reason hypnotherapy is so effective is that it brings about experiential learning.

When you have a new experience, you can’t un-have it or un-learn it. Just like riding a bike, once you know what it’s like to balance it all on your own, you won’t ever forget how to do it.

Our subconscious mind has the majority of control over our behavior so that we do not have to relearn how to do things every single day. We are all wired for survival, and so once we learn how to do something it is stored in the subconscious mind.

You can think of these stored items as a computer application or program. When you experience certain circumstances, you are programmed to respond with the appropriate learned behavior.

Think of how much small children learn in the first few years of life. Most of these took time and effort at the start — like talking and walking — and once learned those things simply occur without conscious effort

Because human beings are built to survive rather than thrive, hypnosis is the premier tool for you to create desired changes in your behavior quickly.

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Orna and Matthew Walters are soulmate coaches, with hypnotherapist Matthew focusing on NLP and therapeutic imagery, and Orna as a manifestation coach and professional hand analysis. They use hypnosis, along with many other transformational tools, to help their clients release habits.

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