What Is Hypnosis?
The word hypnosis comes from the Greek word "hypnos," which means sleep. However, hypnosis is not sleep. In fact, hypnosis is a state of mind that often encourages hyper-focus, heightened awareness, and increased suggestibility.
This article is intended to demystify hypnosis. Hypnosis is a useful, common state of mind that can be used to effectively work toward all kinds of goals, rather than some magical, mystical "trick". The more people that understand this, the better.
Below you will find a discussion of what hypnosis is, as well as answers to many of the most common hypnosis and hypnotherapy questions and an exploration of myths and misconceptions about hypnosis.
Here is a Short Video Introducing the Question: "What Is Hypnosis?"
Hypnosis Can Encourage Hyper-focus, Heightened Awareness, and Increased Suggestibility
What is Suggestibility?
Imagine that you are at a fancy dinner party, and someone down the table makes a request (i.e., a suggestion).
"Please pass the salt."
If the salt is right next to you and you're not using it, then you will likely follow this suggestion, easily and effortlessly, without much thought. However, what if you are using the salt? Or you think salt is VERY bad for people? Or the salt is in the kitchen, behind a heavy bag of flour, and you have an injured arm?
How likely, then, are you to pass the salt? It would be much harder to follow this suggestion with multiple obstacles and objections swimming around in your mind or environment, would it not?
In hypnosis, suggestibility is openness or receptiveness to an idea.
So, hypnosis is used to help the mind become more receptive to an idea - i.e. to clear the way, and make it easier to respond to a request. Hypnosis can make it easy and effortless to "pass the salt", by helping the subject's mind be more suggestible, removing anything blocking them from accepting a "request".
How Does Hypnosis Use Hyper-focus?
Once someone can clear their mind of objections and obstacles, and become more suggestible, then it's necessary to focus the mind on something. In hypnotherapy, that something is the goal of the session. Hyper-focus just allows the mind to focus clearly and deeply on the elements necessary to achieve the goal of a hypnosis session.
Hypnosis and Heightened Awareness
Using the state of hypnosis to achieve a mental state that is more suggestible may include a state of heightened awareness. This can mean heightened awareness of a specific stimuli, for instance, the feeling that leads to a desire for a cigarette, or a piece of cake. Or it can mean heightened awareness of a pleasant feeling or sound, so that it can be linked to a desired outcome.
What Is Hypnotherapy?
Hypnotherapy is the use of hypnosis to increase suggestibility to a beneficial idea, such as well-being, achieving a goal, being free from a bad habit, or developing a good habit.
Hypnosis can also be used to focus the mind intently on responding to a specific context with resourceful emotions, or feeling physical comfort.
Hypnotherapy can also be used to take the sting out of past, painful memories.
Stated in a different way: Hypnotherapy is a form of communication and interaction with a hypnotherapist that guides the hypnosis subject through a process of focusing the mind on a positive intention while in a suggestible state.
What Does Being In Hypnosis Feel Like?
As a general rule, hypnosis feels pleasant and relaxed. It's similar to that moment right after you wake up (on a day you don't have to get out of bed). Your mind might decide to get up, but your body is so relaxed it doesn't want to move.
Obviously, if there were an emergency, you could move. But anything short of that and you'll stay put.
That's what hypnosis feels like for many. You won't want to move unless it's really important.
It's not an unnatural feeling. You've experienced hypnosis many times before in your life. It's usually not paired with suggestion, however.
You will likely feel relaxation. Your limbs might feel heavy or light. Your skin might feel warm, tingly, or cool. These are all things you've felt before. Your eyelids may feel heavy, and/or your eyes might defocus as you relax.
As your hypnotist is giving suggestions, you might focus intently on their words, or your mind may wander. Either way is OK.
Some people report a changed sense of time -- believing the trance was either much longer, or shorter that they thought. Some have amnesia for the trance.
How Does Hypnosis Work?
Hypnosis works by using how our minds naturally operate, purposefully, and with intention. Hypnosis utilizes factors that move people deeper into suggestibility, and taking advantage of heightened awareness and hyper-focus, as mentioned above.
Look at it this way. In your daily life you move through different levels of suggestibility: Different levels of relaxation, focus, awareness, etc. Suggestibility can be thought of as your level of openness to ideas at a given moment.
You might notice these factors are all common occurrences in our day-to-day lives. That's why you'll hear folks in the field of hypnosis saying that hypnosis is a natural state that we experience many times each day.
- If an authority figure that you respect tells you something, you will probably be more open to it than if someone who you don't respect tells you. Authority is one factor in suggestibility.
- The more emotion you feel, the more suggestible you are. Many life changing moments are also moments that have intense fear or love involved.
- The more times something is repeated, the more likely you are to believe it.
- The more an idea aligns with your existing ideas, the more likely it is to be accepted.
- The more you use internal imagery and imagination, the more open to suggestion you are.
- The more intently you focus on an idea, the more likely you are to accept that idea.
- As a general rule, the more physically and mentally relaxed you are, the more you're open to suggestions.
- Boredom can be another gateway to suggestibility.
- The states immediately before sleep and immediately after awakening are very similar to hypnosis and may involve high levels of suggestibility.
A hypnotherapist is an expert at combining as many of these factors as possible, to help you achieve a state of high suggestibility. If your mind focuses intently on an idea while in this state, the idea more easily becomes a part of your way of being. This makes it easier to achieve goals and break habits.
So in short, hypnosis works by utilizing multiple factors to help your mind accept suggestions.
Hypnosis And Brain Waves
There's still a lot of controversy about how hypnosis affects brainwaves. Researchers at Stanford University have discovered 3 main areas involved in brainwave changes for folks successfully experiencing trance, as opposed to those who are not.
- a decrease in activity in an area called the dorsal anterior cingulate
- increase in connections between the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and the insula
- reduced connections between the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and the 'default mode network'
Let's take a look at these areas of the brain, and what the changes in activity might mean. might mean.
Dorsal Anterior Cingulate
The dorsal anterior cingulate is part of the brain that has to do with the focus of attention. In hypnosis, you’re absorbed largely with a single idea -- everything else may fade away. A decrease in activity in the brain area indicates this intense concentration.
Dorsolateral Prefrontal Cortex And The Insula
In hypnosis, there may be an increase in connections between two other areas of the brain — the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and the insula. These areas have to do with the brain processing and controlling what’s going on in the body. This may indicate increased body and emotional responsiveness.
Keith interjecting here. This increased body control may be different than the conscious body control we often experience. In hypnosis, we can perform automatic movements without conscious thought, in the way we usually do it.
In other words, in our daily lives, when we decide to drink from a cup, we mentally decide to pick up the cup and our muscles carry out the command. In hypnosis, we can decide one of our arms is lighter, and that arm might float up in the air, without the 'command' happening. We focus on the idea and a different part of our mind carries out the motion. It may seem like we're not deciding to move the arm -- it's just happening.
Whether this increased ability in hypnosis is related to increased connections between the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and the insula is beyond my area of expertise.
Reduced Connections Between The Dorsolateral Prefrontal Cortex And The Default Mode Network
According to David Speigel (one of the authors of the study) “When you’re really engaged in something, you don’t really think about doing it — you just do it,” In hypnosis, there may be a disassociation between action and reflection. This means less self-consciousness or judgment involved.
And that's what we're after. If we're going to focus on an idea intently, in order to program ourselves, we don't want to scatter our thoughts by having part of the mind judge the suggestions, or comment on whether or not they'll look good on us.
“Brain Activity and Functional Connectivity Associated with Hypnosis” by Heidi Jiang, Matthew P. White, Michael D. Greicius, Lynn C. Waelde, and David Spiegel in Cerebral Cortex. Published online July 28 2016 doi:10.1093/cercor/bhw220
Your Hypnotherapist Is Your Guide
Now, you might realize that the success of this venture mostly depends on your participation. If the hypnotherapist asks you to think about your goal, and instead you focus on where you car is parked, you probably won't get the results you want (unless your goal is to find your parked car).
And this is why, in a hypnotherapist's office, it's very difficult to get someone to go against their morals or beliefs. It would require the client focusing on something that's against their beliefs.
In the vast majority of cases, should a hypnotherapist attempt this, the client would simply get up out of their chair and leave.
It's worth noting however, that any position of authority or trust has the potential for abuse. Just as counselors, religious officiants, police officers, doctors, government officials, coaches, and schoolteachers sometimes use their positions of authority to abuse those under their care, it's possible for a hypnotherapist to do so as well.
If you feel that a hypnotherapist is using sessions to get what they want at the expense of your goals, you should leave. Your best defense is you.
Any hypnotherapist who is a member of The International Hypnosis Association has agreed to abide by our Code of Ethics, which contains guidelines for the client/hypnotherapist relationship and keeping it professional.
How Does Hypnosis Work For Breaking Habits?
Let's examine why people have bad habits, or avoid good habits. Why does one person bite their nails, and another avoid exercise? It's partially because there are feelings attached to those activities.
The nail-biter might be trying to avoid feelings of anxiety. The non-exerciser might rather relax and not go to the trouble of exercising. They are perhaps after feelings of calmness and relaxation respectively (it varies for each person and situation).
They know they should exercise and stop the nail biting. They may even have positive feelings about exercising and having smooth, even nails. But they also have positive feelings about the bad habits.
So, these are people who are not 100% congruent about what they want to do. They are divided internally. One part of the mind wants one thing, and another part of the mind wants the other.
We've all had similar experiences, right? Maybe we have that report to do for work but the game is on. Maybe there's someone we don't like but we need to be polite because of work or a social situation. It's part of the human experience to have inner conflict sometimes.
You can think of hypnosis and hypnotic suggestion as amplifiers. We can amplify the positive aspects of what we want to do. With direct suggestion hypnosis, we can help attach feeling of motivation to exercise (or whatever else the client wants).
We can also attach negative feelings and emotions to a habit the client wants to break. We can suggest the fingernails taste like garbage, for instance.
The best hypnotherapists go a step beyond this, however.
Hypnotherapy To Resolve Inner Conflict
You see a lot of advice out there on being tough and doing things you hate, because it will improve your life. But this simply pits one part of your personality against the other. Yes, we can attach powerful, positive feelings to things we want to accomplish. Yes, we can attach powerful negative emotions to things we want to avoid. But let's do one better . . .
A good hypnotherapist can help align the previously conflicting inner motivations, so the personality is more congruent. For instance, the person who bites nails to avoid anxiety needs a better way to reduce anxiety. Hypnosis can help with that.
We do that by bringing the aspects of the personality that are running the current, problematic behavior on board, and making sure they get what they want, while still achieving the goals of the session.
Frankly, it's way too difficult to get someone to do anything against their will, with hypnosis, or otherwise. It's much better to help someone align themselves to their goals. Then the goals become much easier to achieve!
Different Theories of Hypnosis
There are several different theories of hypnosis. Each theory offers a different explanation for how hypnosis works, but agree that hypnosis is, or includes a state of heightened suggestibility.
The underlying mechanisms aren't completely understood and are often the subject of debate. Let's take a look at some perspectives that might help demystify hypnosis: the State Theory, the Non-State Theory, the Neodissociation Theory and the Social-Cognitive Theory.
First, let's tackle the State Theory. This perspective suggests that hypnosis induces a unique state of consciousness, often compared to sleep, meditation, or even daydreaming. When in this state, individuals supposedly experience a heightened sense of focus and relaxation, becoming more amenable to suggestions. This theory posits that under hypnosis, our brain functions differently, much like it would during daydreaming, etc.
Next, we have the Non-State Theory. Quite contrary to the State Theory, proponents of this perspective argue that hypnosis isn't a unique state of consciousness but rather the result of normal psychological processes like focused attention, expectation, and suggestion. In other words, they believe that the phenomena observed during hypnosis don't require any special hypnotic state – they can be explained using concepts we already understand about the human mind.
The Neodissociation Theory of Hypnosis was proposed by Ernest Hilgard, a prominent psychologist, as an attempt to provide a comprehensive framework for understanding the hypnotic phenomenon.
The central concept in Hilgard's Neodissociation Theory is the idea of "dissociation." This term refers to a situation where a person's consciousness is split into multiple streams that function independently from each other. Imagine your mind as a control center with multiple operators. Under normal circumstances, they all work together, sharing information seamlessly. However, during hypnosis, according to this theory, these operators work independently, leading to a state of dissociation.
Hilgard believed that when a person is hypnotized, a part of their consciousness, the 'executive control system,' becomes separated from the rest of the mind. This portion, the executive ego, maintains control over behavior during hypnosis, while the hidden observer, another portion of consciousness, continues to observe and record experiences in the background.
For example, a person might not feel pain during a medical procedure while hypnotized, but a part of their mind – the 'hidden observer' – is still aware of the sensation. This concept was demonstrated through Hilgard's famous "hidden observer" experiments, where hypnotized subjects were able to describe painful experiences that they appeared not to notice during hypnosis.
While the Neodissociation Theory provides a model to understand hypnosis, it isn't universally accepted. I (Keith Livingston) and others argue that the existence of the 'hidden observer' could be an artifact of suggestion rather than evidence of a separate stream of consciousness. In other words, if we go looking for a hidden observer by asking if there is one, the mind may go along with the idea and create it (in our imagination)
Social-Cognitive Theory combines elements from both the state and non-state theories but places a significant emphasis on the social and interpersonal aspects of the hypnotic experience. It proposes that hypnosis is a form of collaborative role-playing where the subject's expectations, beliefs, and motivations play a pivotal role. Here, it's not about entering a unique state of consciousness, but more about fulfilling the socially constructed role of a hypnotized person.
Each of these theories offers a different perspective on hypnosis, contributing to a more holistic understanding. It's likely that truth lies somewhere in the interplay of all these theories.
The Role Of Hypnosis In Therapeutic Change
The purpose of therapeutic hypnosis is to access heightened suggestibility. Here's the way I look at it . . .
We all have lots of input from the world around us. We ignore most of it. People say things to us and we don't assign any particular importance to what they say. Things happen to us, but they don't alter our world-view, or way of thinking.
Yet, we've all had the opposite experience. Maybe there's an event that changed the way we think. Maybe someone said something profound, and it stuck with us. What's the difference between an event or dialog that affects our thinking profoundly, and one that bounces off of us and has little or no effect?
In other words, each situation carries with it a degree of suggestibility. It's similar to persuasiveness, or programmability.
- The more we focus and concentrate on an idea, the more likely we are to accept the idea.
- The more we utilize our imagination, the more suggestible we become to what we're imagining.
- If someone we respect tells us something, it carries more weight than someone we think has no expertise in the subject.
- If an event is highly emotional (positive or negative emotions), we have a better chance of remembering it, and having it affect us.
- The more an idea is repeated, the more likely we are to accept it.
- The more we see a new idea as in alignment with our current beliefs and moral structure, the more easily the idea is accepted.
A hypnotherapist is a professional who is an expert at bringing these, and other factors to bear in order to help create behavioral change.
The Techniques Used in Hypnosis
There are many different techniques used in hypnosis. Many psychological techniques can be used inside the hypnotic context. In a general way, hypnotherapy session usually consist of the following . . .
- Information gathering
- Therapeutic intervention with suggestions
- Emerging from trance
In the information gathering part of a session, the hypnotherapist finds out what the client wants to achieve. They may also identify stumbling blocks and resources that might help. The hypnotherapist works with the client to come up with suggestions that meet the client's goals.
The Hypnotic Induction
An induction is a process used to hep the client achieve a sufficient level of trance and raise the level of suggestibility. There are thousands of different inductions and induction styles. They range from long, slow inductions in which the client progressively relaxes each part of their body, to rapid inductions that happen in a few seconds.
Each technique is designed to help the individual achieve a state of relaxation and suggestibility, allowing them to better respond to positive suggestions.
Often, following and induction the hypnotherapist may use a form of suggestion called deepening. Deepening suggestions are often aimed at the client relaxing further and experiencing a deeper level of trance.
Therapeutic Intervention With Suggestions
At the simplest level, the hypnotherapist will give direct suggestions aimed at wrapping your mind around your goal. For instance, "You are free from cigarettes." Suggestions may be repeated and compounded. Compounding is suggesting that the suggestions grow more powerful with time and repetition.
Beyond direct suggestion, there are a multitude of other therapeutic interventions available. A good hypnotherapist can help you via hypnotic metaphor (storytelling with a purpose), revisiting past events with a new perspective and new resources, or resolving inner conflict through 'parts work'. Each hypnotherapist has unique training and experience.
The Benefits and Risks of Hypnosis
Like any form of therapy, hypnosis comes with both benefits and risks.
The Benefits of Hypnosis
Hypnosis has been shown to be effective in treating a wide range of conditions, including anxiety, depression, chronic pain, and addiction. It can also be used to improve performance in sports and other activities. Hypnosis is widely used for breaking habits.
Here are a smattering of studies and references showing the efficacy of hypnosis. It's important to note that one study does not constitute absolute proof. These studies and reference materials are suggested as a starting point.
"We found that the self-administered audio-recorded hypnotic intervention significantly decreased the intensity and interference of pain and fatigue, as well as the depressive symptomatology."
Hypnosis and hypnotherapy John F. Kihlstrom
"Clinical studies, including randomized trials, indicate that hypnosis can effectively relieve pain in patients suffering pain from burns, cancer, and leukemia (e.g., bone marrow aspirations), childbirth, and dental procedures. In such circumstances, as many as half of an unselected patient population can obtain significant, if not total, pain relief through hypnosis."
Hypnosis For Habit Control
"Smoking patients who participated in one hypnotherapy session were more likely to be nonsmokers at 6 months compared with patients using nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) alone or patients who quit "cold turkey.""
Hypnosis For Peak Performance
Hypnosis-induced mental training improves performance on the Fundamentals of Laparoscopic Surgery (FLS) simulatorGideon Sroka 1, Zahi Arnon, Monica Laniado, Elad Schiff, Ibrahim Matter
"Hypnosis-induced MT significantly improves performance on the FLS simulator, which cannot be attributed to its relaxing qualities alone. This study contributes evidence to the effectiveness of MT in surgical skills acquisition and suggests that hypnotic techniques should be used in mental preparation processes. There is a need to further study these effects on operating room performance."
Dr. David Spiegel: Using Hypnosis to Enhance Mental & Physical Health & Performance
Stanford's Dr. David Spiegel along with professor of neurobiology and ophthalmology at Stanford School of Medicine, Dr. Andrew Huberman.
The Risks of Hypnosis
While hypnosis is generally safe, there are some risks associated with the practice. These include the possibility of creating false memories, as well as the potential for emotional distress in individuals with certain mental health conditions.
Things we imagine while in hypnosis can be vivid and detailed. Hypnosis can also attach strong emotions to what we imagine. This can mean that what we imagine while in hypnosis can seem very real.
That's part of the point.
The mind tends to move us toward things we concentrate on and that feel real. So if we concentrate on how great it feels to be in shape, we are more likely to exercise. But while you're imagining being in shape, you aren't in shape. If your mind takes it as real, it will move you toward that goal with a thousand little decisions you make.
But that's a goal, and not a memory.
What happens if someone imagines they are an alien living on Venus? What if the imagining is vivid, detailed, and feels real? A percentage of people would become convinced that it really happened. They might even go through a series of mental gymnastics to try to make their theory plausible.
For instance, I've seen hypnotherapists who suggest past lives or alternate universes as an explanation for these kinds of imaginings. But the simpler and much more likely explanation is that the person being hypnotized simply imagined the scenario. There is no evidence for them being aliens on Venus except they had thoughts and the thoughts seemed real.
Building a false narrative like this is possibly detrimental to the subject. But what about cases in which someone imagines abuse occurring in their past? A person can easily imagine this and believe it to be true. In hypnosis, the 'memories' might seem real and they might have very real emotion attached to them.
This is why hypnotically refreshed testimony is often thrown out in court. Undergoing hypnosis to refresh the memory of a crime can even taint the other testimony of the person testifying.
Let me be clear. Abuse exits. Abusers should be caught and dealt with. Also, false memories can be created. And hypnosis in the case of abuse is fraught with legal pitfalls. There are forensic hypnosis procedures which lessen the chances of false memories. But there are few, qualified forensic hypnotists.
Essentially, forensic hypnosis follows procedures which avoid asking leading questions.
Professor Elizabeth Loftus at the University of Washington has done groundbreaking work covering False Memory Syndrome (trigger warning -- extreme mental and physical violence discussed in this link).
Hypnosis Questions Answered and Common Hypnosis Myths and Misconceptions Dispelled
How Is Hypnosis Different Than Meditation?
In meditation, the state is usually the goal. With hypnosis, the goal is in addition to the state.
A meditative state has many benefits in and of itself. Hypnosis adds something akin to goal setting and affirmations to meditation. Because of the increased suggestibility and focus during hypnosis, suggestions are much more likely to be absorbed than in a non-hypnotic state.
This is not to say that the hypnotic state and the meditative state are identical. After all, there are many different meditations and many different hypnotic induction styles. But broadly speaking, meditation procedures are designed to maximize the physical and mental benefits of the process and hypnotic procedures are designed to maximize suggestibility.
Is Hypnosis Mind Control Or Brainwashing?
When I think of brainwashing, I usually picture a secret organization, authoritarian government, or a cult, locking someone in a room and repeating some message over and over again until the poor person being forced to listen to it accepts the idea.
Is that hypnotic? Well, yes it is. Is it therapeutic? No way!
Hypnosis is a tool. It is neither good nor evil. It's like a screwdriver. You can use a screwdriver to help build an orphanage for underprivileged children. Or you can flatten your neighbor's tire with it.
But I haven't answered the question. Is hypnosis brainwashing or mind control? Let me ask you this. What is the point of setting goals? Why do people use affirmations? It's to align their brains toward an achievement, right? They're trying to control their own minds. Mind control.
Hypnosis is similar. It's a way to focus the mind on an achievement to make it more likely to happen. In that sense, it's mind control -- but not in the cult sense. The difference is that a cult programs you for their purposes. You can use hypnosis to program yourself for your own purposes.
And a good hypnotherapist will sit with you to make sure they understand your goals and then make suggestions toward achieving those goals.
Can a Hypnotist Make You Do Whatever They Want?
No. Maybe you've seen a stage hypnosis show and the stage hypnotist gave someone a suggestion that they do something silly and the participant does the silly thing. It looks as if the stage hypnotist can make them do anything they want.
But that's not the way it works.
The stage hypnotist typically selects the stage show participants very carefully. They're the most animated and responsive folks available. And they are typically either outgoing, or would love to be outgoing but are too shy.
For the shy folks, being in hypnosis provides the cover for them to be able to respond outrageously. For the natural hams, it's business as usual.
But notice that no one is doing anything that runs against their deeply held beliefs or morals. It's very difficult to convince someone to go against their morals, in or out of hypnosis. It's even quite difficult to get people to go against something they just want.
Is Hypnosis Magic? Is It Occult? Does It Give You Psychic Powers, Or Wisdom?
Hypnotherapists who have been in business for any significant amount of time know that public perception of hypnosis is a double-edged sword. People come to us because they think we can 'make' them change their behavior.
But some folks are afraid that hypnosis is mind control or might let demons in the mind!
As hypnotherapists, what we can do is help focus and align the mind and emotions toward achieving a goal. We can generally make new behaviors feel easier and more natural. But we can't force you to do something.
Hypnosis is more like a lever or amplifier.
As near as I can tell, hypnosis does not give you access to other dimensions, or give you psychic powers, or do anything else other than give you better and more focused access to information you've already taken in.
For instance, hypnosis can't manifest more money by beaming it in like a Star Trek transporter beam. But hypnosis can help you see more of the financial opportunities that might exist. And hypnosis can help you engage in behaviors that might result in making more money.
Hypnosis can help you shift your beliefs about money, too. This isn't magic, yet it opens the door for many good things to happen.
If your belief system is that demons exist, and that hypnosis might somehow let them into your mind, I'd suggest you avoid hypnotherapy.
Hypnosis As Truth Serum
Another common misconception is that hypnosis can be used as a truth serum, forcing individuals to reveal their deepest secrets. It's difficult to compel someone who is in hypnosis, to answer a question they don't want to answer.
And yes, people can lie when in hypnosis.
Will I Be Unconscious During Hypnosis?
You'll be able to hear. As a general rule, hypnosis is increased awareness and increased focus. So, some things may drop out of your awareness while in hypnosis. For instance, you might concentrate intently on the hypnotherapist's voice, and not notice the hum of the ventilation system.
But rest assured, if anything important happens, your mind will bring it to your attention.
Can I Get Stuck In Hypnosis?
Hypnosis is physiologically similar to that state you go through right as you're drifting off to sleep. Have you ever heard of someone getting stuck in that state? Frankly, I'd love it if I could get stuck there!
But you move through hypnotic or semi-hypnotic states all day long (ultradian rhythms). There are occasional cases of people who find hypnosis so pleasurable and relaxing that they don't want to emerge. But even in those cases, or if the hypnotherapist decided to go on vacation, you'd simply emerge on your own after a bit.
Who Should Avoid Hypnosis
Individuals with certain mental health conditions, such as schizophrenia or borderline personality disorder, should avoid hypnosis unless hypnosis is recommended by a qualified mental health professional. Additionally, hypnosis should not be used as a substitute for medical treatment.
Hypnosis can be used in many medical situations, but a referral from a physician or other qualified health professional is best in these cases.
Hypnosis to recover memories should not be used in any situation in which a legal case is, or could be brought. At the minimum, consult a legal professional first.
How to Prepare for a Hypnosis Session
Unless your hypnotherapist has tasks for you to complete before your session, don't prepare beyond a few basics. Wear comfortable clothing. If you wear contacts, or have any physical issues, make sure to inform your hypnotherapist. You should also avoid alcohol and drugs before your session.
In my (Keith Livingston's) experience as a hypnotherapist, potential clients tend to think that hypnotherapy is going to be something akin to Freudian psychotherapy. They may show up with copious notes or complex theories about their situation and its causes. I've rarely found this useful.
Unless your hypnotherapist requests a history, I wouldn't spend any time writing one down.
Hypnosis is a fascinating phenomenon that has been used for centuries to treat a wide range of conditions. While it is often shrouded in mystery and misconceptions, it is actually a scientifically recognized form of therapy that can be incredibly effective.
By understanding the history and science behind hypnosis, as well as the benefits and risks associated with the practice, you can make an informed decision about whether hypnosis is right for you.