Get Out Movie

Don't be scared! Of hypnosis.

By Hervé Boisdé

‘Get Out’ actor  Daniel Kaluuya

‘Get Out’ actor Daniel Kaluuya

Since I’m writing this blog on Halloween I want to address something that we can all relate to. Fear. Fear is so universal that Hollywood has been able to capitalize on the horror movie genre since the beginning of movie making. One of the most successful scary movies in recent years was ‘Get Out’ starring Daniel Kaluuya. He plays the lead character “Chris” who is a black man dating a white woman (Rose). The couple visit Rose’s parents and things start to get creepy. One night when Chris is having trouble sleeping, Rose’s mother, who is a therapist offers to hypnotize Chris to cure him of his smoking addiction. He has a horrifying experience while in hypnosis and appears to be stuck in the “sunken place” which is kind of his personal hell and is powerless to escape. After Chris comes out of hypnosis things go from bad to worse and it seems like he’s being groomed to be part of cult where other black people are being mind-controlled through hypnosis to have no free will and do the bidding of the white family.

Pretty spooky stuff.

Except that like most Hollywood movies involving hypnosis, it’s complete nonsense. You would probably note that almost all pop references to hypnosis in movies and TV are based on goofy stereotypes about hypnosis. The script writers know that most people don’t know much about hypnosis and have never tried it in real life. And since we are naturally afraid of the unknown its very easy and convenient to use an evil hypnotist as a character to add drama and fear to any plot.

So what’s the reality? Should people be scared of trying hypnosis? In a word: no.

Let’s break down all the stereotypes that are usually depicted in Hollywood.

1) Hypnosis is mind control

2) You can get stuck in hypnosis

3) You’re unconscious and won’t remember what happened afterwards

4) Hypnosis is like a truth serum. You’ll reveal all your secrets

5) Hypnosis is dangerous

All of these stereotypes are false. These are the common misconceptions about hypnosis that the writers exploit to create the fear factor. Hypnosis isn’t dangerous. Just like meditation hypnosis is a natural altered state that is actual very beneficial to the body and nervous system, as well as the mind. Hypnosis is naturally relaxing and because of the mind/body connection, when you are physically more relaxed, your mind also benefits from that by becoming more relaxed.

And no, hypnosis is not mind control. You can never be forced to do something that goes against your personal beliefs and moral code while in hypnosis. In fact, you cant even be hypnotized against your will. So in a sense all hypnosis is self-hypnosis. And don’t worry about the sunken place. No one has ever been “stuck” in hypnosis. All you need to do to come out of a trance state is to simply open your eyes. Easy peasy.

When someone is hypnotized they are in a relaxed altered state but they are not asleep or unconscious. Most people remember everything that happened after they come out of hypnosis. The exception is if they go deep into a somnambulistic state. That’s a very deep state of hypnosis that could actually be used for anesthesia to perform surgery without drugs. It’s super rare that someone will go that deep without an extended amount of effort and the person would also want to achieve that state voluntarily.

And finally, hypnosis isn’t a truth serum. You'd be more likely to say something embarassing the next time you go out drinking.

So to sum up, don’t believe all the myths about hypnosis. Hypnotherapy can be extremely beneficial for a large variety of issues such as phobias, anxiety, behavior modification and medical problems. The only thing to fear is fear itself.

Happy Halloween!

Common Misconceptions About Hypnosis

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.