By Hervé Boisdé
Ever since I began doing hypnotherapy professionally almost 3 years ago I was aware that many people are bit nervous about trying hypnosis for the first time. I usually always insist on doing a free phone consultation before booking the appointment so that the client can ask me any questions about my background or my approach to hypnotherapy and just let me know what's on their mind. And then I usually ask them "so what do you know about hypnosis?" Most people will say something to the effect, well I haven't formally researched it but I assume it will be different from what the stage hypnotists do and I don't have to worry about clucking like a chicken...haha. And I will usually join in on the joke and let them know that it's ok to make fun of stuff like that.
But even if people pretty much know that clinical hypnotherapy is different from hypnosis for entertainment I always feel like it's necessary to have a pre-talk about the reality of hypnosis during the first session. In that pre-talk I try to hit on the following 4 points:
- Hypnosis isn't mind control - No one can hypnotize you against your will or make you do anything that goes against your personal beliefs. In fact you can always come out of hypnosis voluntarily just by opening your eyes, and you can never get "stuck" in hypnosis.
- Hypnosis isn't sleep - You aren't unconscious when you go into hypnosis. That's why I will never use the expression "going under" - instead I say going "into" hypnosis. It's a comfortable altered state, similar to meditation, but you are always aware and present. You know that you are sitting in a chair in my office and that I am talking to you the whole time.
- Hypnosis isn't scary - In fact for most people it's deeply relaxing and calming to be in hypnosis. One of the benefits of hypnosis is that your nervous system automatically goes into parasympathetic mode, which is a fancy way of saying that you experience the "safety response". It's the opposite of your stress response and fight-or-flight.
- Hypnosis isn't what you see in pop culture - Almost every movie or TV show that uses hypnosis in the plot is trying to make hypnosis seem like magic or dangerous. That's because it's an effective means of making stories more exciting, because most people haven't experienced the real thing first hand. The truth is that hypnosis is safe and natural, especially when being conducted by a qualified professional.
So what is hypnosis then?
Here's what I tell my clients: Hypnosis is a natural altered state that we experience all the time without even realizing it. It's simply relaxed, focused concentration. Whenever we are working on an interesting project and we become completely focused on that task, to the point that we lose track of time, we are experiencing hypnosis. It can also happen when we become sucked into a movie or tv show. Have you even become so engrossed in something that someone will say something to you and you don't even hear them? That's hypnosis. So if we do it all the time, and it's natural, why are we so nervous about it? Well for one thing, it's a fear of loss of control. But since hypnosis is NOT mind control, that's not something to be fearful of. In fact, like meditation, hypnosis can allow you to be more focused and "in control". Which is why I like to teach my clients self-hypnosis, so that they can get the benefits of meditation but without the hang-ups of sitting in a pretzel position and trying to be like a buddhist monk.