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Hypnotherapy: Myths & Facts

Updated: Aug 15, 2022

Mind-control, past life regression and other hypnosis myths debunked.

Hypnosis – separating fiction from fact.

There are many misconceptions about hypnosis. Stage hypnotists who have people acting like chickens in front of a live audience or psychics who speak of reincarnation have caused many people to develop healthy skepticism with regards to efficacy of the very old and scientifically-back, psychotherapeutic technique of hypnotherapy.

Here’s a quick guide to help you separate fiction from fact.

Myth: Hypnosis involves mind control and a hypnotist can make you do whatever he/she wants.

Fact: You retain complete control over all your faculties and your ability to choose what to do or not do in hypnosis. All hypnosis is self-hypnosis, which means that you get to accept or reject what the hypnotherapist suggests before you decide whether or not to act on those suggestions. The hypnotists simply guides you so you can better respond to suggestions of physical relaxation or visualise the positive changes that you desire.

Myth: You become unconscious when hypnotised.

Fact: You remain fully conscious in hypnosis, though it’s possible to get so relaxed that you might snooze for a bit or experience a distorted sense of time.

Myth: You forget everything once you emerge from hypnosis.

Fact: Your memory remains intact and unless you dose off, you will remember almost everything that you experienced during hypnosis.

Myth: Stage hypnotists have magical powers.

Fact: Many stage hypnotists are well-versed in the art of smoke and mirrors. In his book "New Encyclopedia of Stage Hypnosis", magician and stage hypnotist Ormond McGill explains how stage hypnotists use various tricks to create the illusion of hypnotism. These include using group suggestion tests to select extraverted and highly-suggestible subjects from the audience or using deceptive tricks such as “private whispers” where the stage hypnotist whispers off microphone, privately to his chosen subject: “we are going to have some good laughs on the audience and fool them - so when I tell you to do some funny things, do exactly as I secretly tell you. Okay? Swell.”

Myth: Hypnosis can help you recall “loss” traumatic memories from childhood.

Fact: There has much controversy around people recalling unpleasant but false memories of abuse from childhood. While hypnosis can help you to recall memories, imagination which is heightened in hypnosis can sometimes cause people to recall incorrect details about their past. This has resulted in high profile court cases involving witnesses giving false testimony, and now forensic psychologists are extremely careful about using hypnosis in criminal cases.

Myth: Some people simply not hypnotisable.

Fact: Different people have different levels of hypnotisability and some are more responsive to hypnotic suggestions than others. However, through training and practice, most people can be hypnotised. The most well-known hypnotic suggestibility scale used for research purposes is the Stanford Hypnotic Susceptibility Scale (SHSS) designed by Andre Weitzenhoffer and Ernest Hilgard in the late ‘50s. Experiments done with this scale showed that 95 percent of test subjects responded positively to at least one of the 12 administered hypnotic suggestion tests, and that the trait observed in high scorers for hypnotisability was imaginativeness.

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