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Myth-Conceptions About Hypnosis

by Linda-Ann Stewart

Much of my initial work as a hypnotherapist is to dispel some of the myths about hypnosis. Many people, even when they come in to see me, have a lot of misconceptions about the process. They think I'm going to wave my hand in front of their face, and they'll go into never-never land. Then they think I'm going to take control of their mind, and erase all their problems in one session. 

Some people want me to do this, and some are afraid of having me in control. So the first thing I do is explain what hypnosis is, what it isn't, what it can and can't do. Periodically, I even hold a free hour long mini-class, open to the public, to educate about hypnosis.

Some years ago, I was at a party. A man came up and we started talking. What do you do? he asked. I'm a hypnotherapist, I replied. Oh. Well, you can't hypnotize me, he said, as he began scanning the party for someone else to talk to. You're absolutely right. I can't hypnotize you. I don't hypnotize anyone. By following my instructions, they actually hypnotize themselves. That got his attention.

That's the first thing I tell my clients. All hypnosis is self- hypnosis. If they don't follow my instructions, they won't be hypnotized. And if they try too hard, they won't be hypnotized. It's sort of like falling asleep at night. If you try to will yourself to fall asleep, you'll just wake up even more. Hypnosis is a letting go. Letting go of the details of the day. Letting go of the concerns. Letting your analytical mind let go of its hold on you. Just being in the here and now.

Some people are afraid of letting go. They think it means that someone else will be in control. I reassure them that they are always in control of the process, and that they only go as deeply as they feel safe doing. Generally, a client will drift into a light state the first time. The second time I see them, they go deeper because they realize that I'm not going to do anything weird, like make them cluck like a chicken.

In hypnosis, I'm merely a guide. I can lead a client where they want to go, but only if they want to go there. If they're not dedicated to the change they want, then I can't help them.  I've had smokers come to me and say, I'd really like to want to quit. But I still love smoking cigarettes, even though I know I should quit. Take away the craving. I send them on their way and tell them to come see me when they've decided to quit. Hypnosis is a tool that can help them through the process of quitting, but it can't make them quit. It's not a magic wand.

I can help a client move from point A to point B, but they're the one that gets to walk the path. Hypnosis can make it infinitely easier. It can make a mountain into a molehill, and make changes happen very quickly. But the person has to really want the change, and be willing to deal with all of the other aspects of that change. 

For instance, a woman wanting to lose weight decides to reduce her consumption of sweets. After hypnosis, she loses her desire for them, but finds that it was an enjoyable part of the meal with her husband. She gets mad at me because I took away the enjoyment.

Many people erroneously think that hypnosis is some other dimension of consciousness. It's not. It's a very normal, natural awareness that we're moving in and out of all the time. When you're driving down the road on autopilot, and your mind drifts off, and all of a sudden you're aware that you've driven past your turnoff. 

Or when you're at the movie theater, and get so involved with the action on the screen that you're barely aware of the rest of the people in the audience.  Or if you're an artist or writer, and when you get so focused on a project that time just speeds by, and outside distractions fade away. These are all examples of the state of mind that we call hypnosis. It's just that I know how to help a person reach that level of consciousness deliberately, and know what to do once we get there.

Hypnosis is really just being able to focus on one idea. Back in the mid 1800's, Dr. James Braid coined the term hypnosis after Hypnos, the Greek god of sleep. But after more experience with it, he realized that the word hypnosis was inaccurate. Dr. Braid then tried to rename it to mono-ideaism, for one idea. But it was too late. Hypnosis had already caught on, and the other really is a mouthful to say.

So many people think that hypnosis is magic. Strange things happen with hypnosis. If a subject is told that an ice cube is a hot coal, a blister appears. A person is told that they're stiff as a board, and their head is placed on one chair, and their feet on another. Then several people stand on the person's stomach, and he doesn't collapse. These things look like magic. They aren't. All that happens in hypnosis is that we access abilities we naturally have, but that we don't seem to be able to connect with while in our normal analytical state. 

For instance, a stage hypnotist may ask a shy woman to perform by singing "Over the Rainbow." Generally, she'd shrink into a corner. However, because her self-imposed inhibitions have been circumvented, she belts out the song.  The critical part of us that says, "I can't do that" moves onto a shelf in the corner, and lets the power within us come out to play. Hypnosis simply frees us from self-imposed limitations.

Hypnosis is a process of allowing the subconscious to be more in control than our conscious mind. Our subconscious is the storehouse of all our thoughts, actions, beliefs, attitudes, memories, decisions. In other words everything. It's been programmed like a computer. We've been conditioned with our beliefs that "I can't." 

Our conscious mind is the logical part of us. It sifts and analyzes information, draws a conclusion on that information, and then passes the conclusion to the subconscious mind. The subconscious then processes the information, comparing it with all the other information it has. Then the subconscious takes the strongest, most powerful idea, and acts on that.

For instance, two smokers want to quit. The first one decides, "That's enough. I don't want to do this anymore. I have a lot of reasons to quit.  No matter how difficult it becomes, I'm done smoking." He's made a final decision to quit, and knows that nothing is going to talk him out of it. He throws out his cigarettes and that's that. He has very little trouble. We've all heard of people doing this. The second smoker wants to quit, but thinks "I want to quit, but I really like to smoke. And it's going to be so difficult. I don't know if I can do it." He puts his cigarettes in a drawer. As soon as the craving hits, he's digging them out.

The first smoker made a determined decision. It was stronger than the desire to continue smoking, and he committed himself to it, no matter what. His subconscious mind picked the most dominant thought. His choice to quit was stronger than his outdated choice to smoke, therefore his subconscious made the process relatively painless. 

The second smoker's belief that it was going to be hard set up a self-fulfilling prophecy. And he wasn't dedicated to quitting smoking. His subconscious recognized that he hadn't decided to quit no matter what, so it figured that the old programming was what was really desired. His cravings were overwhelming, and he gave into them, to the familiar path and to his old conditioning.

Our subconscious goes wherever our attention is. Just like driving a car. When our intention is to drive straight ahead, then our reflexes aim the car along that course. If our attention wanders to look at the beautiful mountains to our right, and continues to gaze at them, the instinctive impulse is turn the car in the direction of where we're looking. 

With the smokers, their subconscious minds delivered to them whatever their attention was fixed on. The one smoker had decided to quit no matter what, so he got to quit. The other smoker was afraid it would be difficult, that he wouldn't succeed, and he was giving up something he liked. His subconscious gave him what it thought he wanted, to continue smoking.

With hypnosis, we focus on one idea, such as giving up something we don't want anymore, and keep our attention on what we do want. This is a process that we use in our daily life all the time. Whenever we break new habits, learn new skills, change the way we think about life, are creative, we are focusing on what we want. Hypnosis just makes use of the process that we're already using. 

It's like inputting data into a computer. We use the keyboard (conscious mind) every day to enter new information into the hard drive  (subconscious mind) of the computer. The hard drive has all the old information, and the new information, in it. Hypnosis is simply an auxiliary keyboard that bypasses the conscious mind to place new data into the computer.

Sometimes, a client may be afraid that hypnosis means that my will, my mind, dominates and overpowers theirs. That no matter what I say, they'll have to dance to my tune. Hypnosis doesn't unplug their will. With hypnosis, the conscious mind, which is the willpower, and the subconscious mind, which is the processor, co-operates to bring about a desired result. If the will, which filters all information, doesn't agree with a particular suggestion, change won't occur.

For instance, I may tell a client that if she smokes, her cigarette is going to taste absolutely awful, and the subconscious complies by making the smoke taste vile. But if she really wants to continue puffing on a cigarette, then her conscious decision can counteract my suggestions, no matter how disgusting the tobacco might taste. 

However, if that same client really wants to quit smoking, then she must make a conscious commitment to follow my instructions. Such as taking three deep breaths, and getting involved with something else, to take her mind off smoking. Her decision reinforces the suggestions to carry out the result she's chosen.

Hypnosis balances the conscious and subconscious. The conscious, analytical part of us quiets down and quits picking things apart, while allowing the subconscious to come out and play. Have you ever looked for the answer to a problem, and started throwing out solutions, no matter how silly they were? Many times, there's a seed of an answer in one of the silly ideas. That answer would never have been found if the critical part that says "That's nonsense" had been involved. 

There's a time for the logic, and a time for unrestricted thought. Writer's and creative people are very aware of the analytical part versus the creative part. Our critical aspect sabotages our work by tearing down every idea we come up with. When we get immersed in our project, and set the critical voice aside, we are able to be innovative. This is hypnosis. Later, we use the critical part to assess what we've done, and decide how to make it better.

Hypnosis helps a person get in touch with abilities they have that they haven't been able to contact consciously. A person can quit smoking cold turkey, but hypnosis makes it much easier. We all know of people who have put down their cigarettes and never gave them another thought. They've convinced themselves that when they quit, that was it. The subconscious mind knew that, and it followed their decision. 

Another example is that everyone has the ability to block pain. Consider the person who was in an accident, and saved others without realizing he was injured, too. Only later, when the crisis was over, did he begin to hurt, and discover that he had a broken leg. With hypnosis, a person can access that natural ability that we all have. Usually, our conscious, critical I can't get in the way. Hypnosis moves that self- defeating thought aside.

We've been hypnotized all of our lives. "You're stupid," "I'll never succeed at anything," "Life is hard," "Quitting smoking is almost impossible," Every time I even pass a bakery, I gain weight," "I'm a klutz," and on and on. We've been using hypnosis to program ourselves every day of our lives.

Review the beliefs and attitudes you have. You probably accepted them without question, without your logic evaluating whether those concepts were true for someone else with your abilities. All hypnosis does is de-hypnotize a person of self-limiting beliefs, and impress the ideas they choose. Hypnosis is simply a process that we're already using anyway. Why not use the process to achieve the results we want?

Copyright © 2009-2023 Linda Ann Stewart
All Rights Reserved

As a focus coach, hypnotherapist, and speaker, Linda-Ann Stewart motivates women to focus and transform their business through deliberate actions that break through distraction and overwhelm to greater success, freedom, wellbeing and prosperity. Watch her FREE training video on Set Your Course to Success: 4 steps to strategically achieve your goals with confidence and ease. Register for the video and accompanying action planning guide at You can contact her at or 928-600-0452.


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