In 2014, the American Psychological Association defined hypnosis as, "a state of consciousness involving focused attention and reduced peripheral awareness characterized by an enhanced capacity for response to suggestion." Hypnosis then, is more akin to our normal waking state than sleep yet it allows more direct access to our uncritical mind or subconscious. Hypnosis can be used to make rapid and sometimes instantaneous gains for many conditions including:
Habit Change - stop smoking/nail biting/studying
Performance Improvement - learning/test taking/sports/golf/sales
Fear - public speaking/sales presentations
Hypnosis is an evidence based practice. It has been the subject of many studies employing modern technology such as functional MRI (fMRI). The general concensus is that hypnotic trance is a safe, distinct, healing state of consciousness.
Common Fears, Misunderstandings and Questions about Hypnosis
I might do crazy things, lose control or reveal secrets I want to keep private
Therapeutic hypnotherapy is not entertainment. People do crazy things for stage shows because they choose to participate in a show. Therapeutic hypnotherapy is a tool to improve one's life and you commit to engaging in a healing or growth process. The hypnotherapist serves as a guide by assisting you to enter the hypnotic state and to voice suggestions that meet your goals. However, you remain in control which extends to what you say in a session. You will not spontaneously reveal intimate secrets that you would not disclose while in your normal or “waking state”. You cannot be made to do anything against your will or core ethical, moral or religious beliefs.
I might get stuck in hypnosis
Hypnosis could be described as an intentionally relaxed focus that bypasses your critical mind. However, you actually enter the trance state yourself and you can readily revive yourself if needed. Further, the body always takes care of itself. Sometimes people simply shift into a sleeping state while enjoying the experience of relaxation and awaken naturally in a short time feeling rested and energized.
I’m too intelligent to be hypnotized; repeated hypnosis will weaken my mind
There is some correlation between intelligence, mental state and hypnotizability. Virtually everyone with average mental abilities can be hypnotized including children and adolescents. Often the greater an individual’s intelligence, the better the hypnotic subject they are. For most people then, willingness to be hypnotized is the most important factor for a successful outcome. Exceptions are associated with those suffering from severe psychosis, paranoia, or detachment issues as well as those with a very low IQ. The literature on Hypnosis indicates that subjects undergoing repeated hypnosis while participating in research studies do not experience harm to their cognitive abilities.
Hypnosis is a magical process that instantly cures or changes any condition of life
Depending upon the condition being addressed, hypnosis has been proven to be successful in one session. However there are often facets of a person’s mental makeup that do not present during the first session. In addition, current literature has demonstrated that changing habitual brain patterns may take time because once neural pathways are created; they must be “rewired”. There is a saying that, "What wires together fires together." Follow up sessions are frequently recommended because they can be very useful to firmly anchor the change process and address any resistance or needs not identified during the first session.