Have you ever been hypnotized? Most people’s answer is “no”. They think they have never been hypnotized. They have the misconception that hypnosis is a sleep-like state where you are completely unaware of anything and totally under the influence of the hypnotist.

Before we can explain what hypnosis really is, we need to understand what it is not:

• Hypnosis is not a question and answer session

This is the biggest misconception. People want to know what the therapist is going to ask them while hypnotized. He or she is not going to ask you anything. He or she will ask in the clinical interview everything they want to know about you. Hypnosis is used as therapy where they leave suggestions or will ask you to perform certain actions in your mind, without having to tell them anything about it.

The only time they might ask questions, is when you need to recall information you may not remember – whether it be events that happened long ago which they can’t remember and need to remember.

• Hypnosis is not dangerous

The hypnotic state is no more dangerous than the sleep state, and on the whole there are no dangers when practiced by ethical and qualified practitioners.

If hypnosis was dangerous, we would have to tell ourselves not to slip into another state of consciousness, not to daydream, not to concentrate deeply, not to be completely compelled and absorbed by certain topics.

Consider this: going to a hairdresser is one of the most dangerous experiences there can ever be. She is working with a dangerous weapon, a pair of scissors, close to your neck. One stab could end your life! Then never go to a hairdresser again! Hypnosis is a powerful tool, but it should be practiced ethically.

• Persons in hypnosis are not asleep

The word hypnosis is derived from the Greek word “Hypnos”, the god of sleep. Nothing is further from the truth. Hypnosis is everything but sleep.

Anyone in a state of hypnosis is constantly AWARE of themselves and their environment. The person does not lose consciousness for a single moment, although in a deep trance, noises and disturbances in their environment will seem to be so remote from them that it will not bother them, as long as they don’t pose a threat. When something threatening happens, the person will then simply wake up, in order to take the necessary steps to secure themselves.

• Hypnosis is not like sleep

Studies have shown that hypnosis and sleep differ. Studies of brain activity have shown that although there are characteristic patterns of brain activity associated with sleep, the same is not true for hypnosis. To observers hypnosis might appear to be like sleep because suggestions of relaxation are commonly given as part of a hypnotic routine, but hypnotized people are in a state more similar to wakefulness.

• Hypnosis is not similar to anaesthesia

The hypnotized subject is aware of sounds, touch, smells, taste and visual input. They are even able to speak while in hypnosis. They will always be able to awake from a trance. They cannot remain in a permanent trance. All they need to decide on is to wake up, and once this decision has been made, the hypnotized person will wake up.

• Hypnosis is not the work of the devil

As everyone on earth has experienced trance in the form of daydreaming, it is a natural God-given talent, which can be used positively in the person’s interest. Like anything else, untrained charlatans can also abuse hypnosis.

Some people think that you are vulnerable to the devil/evil when you are hypnotized. This is just not possible. The Scriptures teach us that God protects us at all times. How can the devil ever be stronger than God?

• “Weak people” are not the most susceptible to hypnosis

On the contrary, strong-willed, intelligent and creative people are better subjects than “weak willed” people. There is a misconception that only the weak ones are able to be hypnotized and that a hypnotherapist has therefore unlimited control over that person, while in fact the hypnotized person is always in control. He (or she) will decide to allow it, or not. They will even decide how deep into a trance they will go and at no time is the person ever under the control of the hypnotist. The person is in control of the session and of themselves and therefore more in control of themselves than otherwise.

• People who are in a hypnotic trance will not reveal secrets or say things they will regret

The person in trance always remains in full control. When you see “hypnosis shows” on television and audience members are jumping on the stage clucking like chickens – remember that they volunteered to do that in full knowledge that they would be expected to do something “crazy”. Sometimes hypnotherapy is used for the purposes of revealing repressed memories or information. Persons undergoing hypnosis for those reasons choose to go into a deeper trance states than usual. They are actively seeking to reveal the repressed information. A hypnotherapist cannot make someone reveal any information if they don’t want to.

You may begin to realize that hypnosis is actually a state of mind power. A client once phoned me and said: “I think my husband is cheating on me, will you be able to find out the truth?” My answer to her was: “If he is lying this well, just imagine how well he will be able to lie whilst hypnotized! Hypnosis is a state of mind power, and he can utilize this to lie even better!”

No hypnotist can compel you to do anything in violation of your moral or ethical code.

• You cannot be hypnotised against your will.

All hypnosis is actually self-hypnosis. You have to want to be hypnotised before a trance state can be achieved. There are methods for inducing a trance (deep relaxation) when working with resistant subjects; however, none of these methods will be effective unless you want to be hypnotised.

This is very important. The hypnotist cannot hypnotise you. The hypnotherapist can only assist you in hypnotising yourself. To get hypnotised is the ability of the client, not the ability of the hypnotist.

You can’t be forced to do anything you don’t want to do in hypnosis. You retain power over your ability to act upon suggestions, although if you do allow yourself to act upon a suggestion you may feel as though the effects are happening spontaneously.

• You cannot get ‘stuck’ in hypnosis

There is no evidence that anybody can become stuck in hypnosis. The worst that might happen could be that you may fall asleep – and wake up unhypnotised! Studies have been conducted where participants have been hypnotised, and the hypnotist then leaves the room under the pretence that there is a problem he has to attend to. The participant is then observed (without their knowledge) to see what happens. The result in all cases was that participants spontaneously woke up.

• You will not remember anything afterwards

You will remember everything afterwards because you are awake and alert. Some people don’t remember certain things, simply because their minds strayed during the trance. And that is okay, because we are addressing the subconscious mind, not the conscious. You are free to let your thoughts wander as we go. Some people even fall asleep, and there is nothing wrong with that either.

It seldom happens, but occasionally clients have no recollection of what had happened. Sometimes it might be so traumatic that the subconscious may choose for you to forget. When this happens, clients never ask the therapist what happened because they don’t want to know.

It has nothing to do with being in a deep trance. Deep trances are not required. Anything can be done in a mild trance.

• Nothing is going to be revealed

Many people are scared about what may surface whilst hypnotized. First of all: the days of going back to the past and reliving the trauma are over. Nowadays we have techniques of dealing with trauma without having to re-traumatize the client by making him or her relive the experience. As you have already experienced the trauma in real life, this time you will only see it as a memory, and as you are older, wiser, more experienced, and you are not alone, it will never be as bad as it was in real life.