I Can’t Be Hypnotized

This article deals with a common misunderstanding about hypnosis. As a hypnotist, you will often hear people who claim they cannot be hypnotized. Usually, it’s because they have tried hypnosis, and it didn’t feel like they expected it to handle, or that they don’t like their idea of hypnosis. This article clears many common misunderstandings about hypnosis and the hypnotic state.

Well, no, you’re probably mistaken. Well, anyway, you might be wrong. You may be much more capable of being hypnotized than you think. You probably mean you have a hard time letting go when you expect that someone else may be about to “do something” to your mind. Or you’ve tried hypnosis but didn’t feel like you were in an altered state of mind.

Going to the movies, a good play, a good sermon, a good lecture — someplace somewhere along the lines — you’ve probably already experienced the experience of hypnosis. You probably were hypnotized. You didn’t feel hypnotized.

“Hypnotized” is just a state of profound focus where you’re a bit more open to thoroughly embracing specific ideas — like when at a movie something scary happens and you jump as if you were there in the situation on the screen. And then you remind yourself you’re in the audience, not in the happenings on screen. That’s the experience of hypnosis — into thoughts presented and then out and reminding yourself where you are, and then back into thoughts presented. (Actually, people should probably try to be more resistant and self-aware when at the movies — more like you would be if you were thinking about someone intending to suggest thoughts to you in a hypnotherapy session. Many people don’t realize how hypnotized and how many attitudes and ideas are presented when watching a movie.)

Believing you can’t be hypnotized has more of a flavor of thinking someone else can’t “make you” do something against your will. Assuming you can’t experience a hypnotic trance believes you can’t focus your mind on a particular thought. Some people can’t, but most people can. And when guided, they can focus more intently than they may have believed they were capable of.

Believing you can’t be hypnotized can also mean not feeling anything different when you try hypnosis. If you feel profoundly additional — more relaxed or somehow changed — after hypnosis, you can easily recognize having been hypnotized. However, though it is possible not to have any effect of hypnosis, many people benefit from it even though they believe nothing happened. Sometimes this is because the depth of trance may not have been very “deep,” and sometimes, this is just because our memories and awareness of altered states are a bit distinctive.

About depth of trance, studies have found that how deeply hypnotized has NO RELATIONSHIP to how well the hypnotic suggestions worked afterward — at least about psychotherapeutic uses (i.e., motivation, self-control, self-esteem, relaxation, fears and anxiousness, depression, stress relief). (Depth of trance is considered more important when it comes to Hypno-anesthesia or post-hypnotic suggestions that are common with stage hypnotists — like the suggestion that you feel like a chicken or that you will want to pat your head when you hear the word “broccoli.”)

About feeling the experience of being hypnotized, the most common two experiences are feeling like you fell asleep or feeling profoundly relaxed. But these effects are not always there, even for people who often feel them. I have been hypnotized many times and have often felt profoundly simple and once felt as if I was emerging from a massive sleep as it ended. But I have also been shocked when I have been hypnotized and felt like nothing had happened at all and then found out that something had. For example, there was the time in graduate school when I was the demo subject for a Hypno-anesthesia demonstration and didn’t think anything had worked and had my heart jump into my throat as the hypnotist dramatically drove a long needle through the back of my hand as I, in horror, readied myself to deal with a terrible amount of pain. I was astonished — to put it mildly — when I saw the needle slide in and pass through without feeling anything.

Hypnosis recordings offer several pluses regarding concerns about having something “done” to oneself by someone else. First, the listener can pick time and place and can take it very carefully or dive in — whichever they seem to prefer — and can listen over and over and over, letting go more of objective attentiveness with each listening. This can be done with a hypnotherapist but at a higher cost. Second, all suggestions, implied or directly given in the hypnosis recordings, are indirect and permissive (e.g., “can you imagine being able to…”). There are no direct suggestions (e.g., “you will…”) Third, to be extra sure of what is to happen and be heard, the transcript of each recording is available for any potential listener, parent of a potential listener, or therapist of a potential listener. Reading the transcript of hypnosis audio before listening to its recording will not reduce. It may, in some cases, actually increase the efficacy of the listening experience.