Hypnosis-myths abound, and it is with the question of what does hypnosis feel like? that most misconceptions arise.
So what does it feel like to be in hypnosis? Perhaps the best way to answer this is by reference to some of the commonly held ideas.
A definition of Hypnosis
Some people talk about “going under”, or being “put under”, which rather sounds as though the person being hypnotised is somehow subject to the hypnotist, asleep or anaesthetised. Once upon a time it was thought that there was some hidden fluid. vapour, or magnetism – some emanation – from the hypnotic operator towards the subject (person being hypnotised). However one of the first surgeons to study and pioneer the use of hypnosis in surgery – James Braid defined hypnosis as
“the powers of the mind are so much engrossed with a single idea or train of thought…… to render the individual unconscious of, or indifferently conscious to, all other ideas, impressions, or trains of thought”.
This is a rather useful definition – because it shows that there is nothing in hypnosis that is remotely similar to sleep or anaesthesia – though indeed hypnosis can lead to deep and refreshing sleep and anaesthesia. During a hypnotherapy session the client remains aware of all that is happening all of the time. But things such as road noise, or sounds within the building or other physical sensations in the body are much less distracting.
During a hypnotherapy session the client will always respond to an emergency – there is no danger.
Misconceptions of Hypnosis
My mind is too strong. This is a common objection and sounds as though there is some kind of power struggle between hypnotherapist and client. If this were true, however, then the strong-minded client would have no need of the hypnotherapist’s help with smoking cessation, or overcoming an addiction, habit or anxiety. It is sometimes the case that, for whatever reason, the subconscious mind of the client rebels against the conscious attempts by the client or hypnotherapist to make changes. This is known as resistance. It might arise because a different approach is required, or there is other preliminary work still to be done. Occasionally it is the result of “secondary gain” in which there is a hidden or obvious reason for keeping the status quo. This is something that can be worked around.
I’m too intelligent to be hypnotised. Actually you are not. The most intelligent people are quite often the easiest to lead into hypnosis
I’m too highly strung. The person who is in a heightened state of stress or anxiety is to used Braid’s phrase “much engrossed with a single idea or train of thought”, and therefore it arguable that such a person is already in a state of hypnosis. In fact some hypnotherapists will talk about dealing with depression and anxiety by waking the client up out of self-induced hypnosis – therein lies a topic for a longer and separate blog post.
I don’t know how to relax. This isn’t the difficulty it seems to be. If a trio of masked men were to kick down your front door right at this very minute, point guns in your face and demand all the cash you have the likelihood is you will comply with their demand, rather than fight back. You will not be at all relaxed. In this scenario you will not be robbed of your ability to think, though it will be difficult to think as you normally would. You will be completely conscious and totally aware of the danger to yourself. You are not under the control of the masked gunmen, but you are coerced by the threat of death at worst and injury at best. However you mind will be “much engrossed with a single idea or train of thought” – and therefore you are arguably in a certain state of hypnosis.
I often meet clients who don’t know how to relax but it isn’t a problem. A lot of work for positive change can be effected without the need for formal hypnosis, and indeed often only light hypnosis, or concentration is required for most of the work. Relaxation is something that can be taught, in fact I teach it to the majority of my clients.
What do hypnosis feel like?
So, now that we have cleared up a few misconceptions we can agree that hypnosis
- doesn’t feel like something is being done to you by another person against your will
- doesn’t feel like you are being rendered insensible
- doesn’t feel like sleep or anaesthesia
- doesn’t have to be relaxing
If your mind wandered during this blog post and took you to some place in the future or the past, or to a present moment quite different from this one in which you were deeply engrossed; if you have ever daydreamed – then hypnosis is just like that. It feels as clear, as vivid, stimulating and real as dreams and daydreams. Many hypnotherapists do utilise relaxation techniques, and so for many clients hypnosis is a deeply relaxing and enjoyable process. Whilst hypnosis feels entirely natural, upon returning to the normal state of conscious awareness many clients feel like that have learned much about themselves in a very short space of time. Some have a feeling of “coming to”, or of “bringing back” feelings of confidence, calm and serenity as if they have “been away”.
It is also natural for clients to lose track of time – “it only seemed like a few minutes” – time flies when you’re having fun!