How Hypnotisable Are You?

Your thinking style and imaginative capacity determines how easy or difficult it is for you to be hypnotised.


All hypnosis is self-hypnosis – Dave Elman

The Power of Autosuggestion

One of the most common fears people have about hypnosis is that their minds will be controlled. This is a huge misconception. “All hypnosis is self-hypnosis,” said legendary American hypnotist Dave Elman. What Elman meant is that in hypnosis, you always get to decide which of the hypnotist’s suggestions you accept and which ones you reject, so you are essentially choosing to instruct yourself using your inner voice while being guided by the words and imagery presented to you by your hypnotherapist. French pharmacist and psychologist Émile Coué referred to this type of self-instruction as autosuggestion and identified it as the mechanism that kicks in more powerfully than usual during hypnosis to help us achieve our goals for change. Hypnotism pioneer James Braid said that in our day to day lives, we all engage in some form of self-hypnosis, though often it is “negative self-hypnosis” – when our inner voice repeatedly tells us unhelpful things about ourselves, others or our present circumstances. According to Braid, hypnotherapy reverses negative self-hypnosis by supplanting unhealthy thoughts and beliefs with more helpful ones.


Only the Weak Get Hypnotised

Another commonly held misconception about hypnosis is that only people who are weak-willed, naïve or easily influenced are hypnotisable, and that if one is a strong-willed and rational-minded, then one will not “succumb” to hypnosis. This couldn’t be further from the truth. More than half of the population are considered moderately hypnotisable, about a quarter are highly hypnotizable and about a quarter cannot easily be hypnotize. Research on hypnotic susceptibility has shown that highly hypnotisable people are usually incredibly intelligent, imaginative and self-aware and more importantly, they tend to have a generally optimistic, curious and open disposition. People who are not easily hypnotised often have much stronger inner critics or inner cynics, and are either overly anxious about losing control or have an apathetic attitude towards novelty and change and a "you fix me" approach to therapy. The reason for the difference between the two groups can be traced to their different thinking styles.


The Conscious, Subconscious and the Critical Faculty

The conscious mind tends to take a more linear, convergent approach to information processing, which means it tackles problems in a logical step-by-step way, relying mainly on what it perceives through the five senses. The subconscious mind on the other hand takes a more lateral, divergent approach to information processing, engaging deeply with the faculties of memory, intuition and dreaming. While both linear and lateral thinking are necessary and useful for daily living, when it comes to seeing the big picture and finding inspiration and creative solutions to life’s difficulties, a lateral approach – a style associated with thinking our of the box – can be much more helpful.


Psychologists have theorised that the conscious and subconscious mind is separated by what’s called “the critical faculty”. This is our inner reality-checker/editor/critic, that little voice that tells us, “Don’t believe a word she says”, “Put on your seatbelt”, or “Are you crazy? You’ll never be any good at stand-up, you’re just not funny so don’t try!” When our conscious mind is running the show, almost everything we evaluate is censored or magnified by the critical faculty. But in hypnosis, the critical faculty breaks down and ideas that are perceived by the conscious mind through the voice of the hypnotist can then be accepted and acted upon by the more resourceful subconscious mind. Because highly hypnotisable people are much more imaginative and open-minded, their critical faculty can be by-passed much easier. This means that in highly hypnotisable people, positive messages are transmitted quicker and more vividly from the conscious to the subconscious. This enables highly hypnotisable individuals to more readily engage in self-hypnosis when guided by a hypnotherapist, and eventually on their own.

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