Hypnosis is not what you probably think it is

Hypnosis the way Hollywood sees it

When most people hear the word “hypnosis” it immediately conjures up the image of the evil doctor who waves a pocket watch in front of some hapless victim. He then “makes” the victim do unscrupulous things he wouldn’t otherwise do. Much like the news media likes to sensational its headlines, Hollywood likes to sensationalize its plot… or in the case of most movies involving hypnotism, lack of plot.


The truth is hypnotism has been around for centuries. For instance the word “mesmerize” came from a German physician by the name of Franz Mesmer. He lived in the late 18th and early 19th centuries and believed there was a magnetic field or aura about us. He referred to this as “Animal Magnetism”. Dr Mesmer would attempt to cure many of his patients by waving his hands in front of them.

Used in surgery

During the civil war they used hypnosis for anesthesia during amputations. When chemical anesthetics became prevalent, hypnosis fell out of favor. Chemicals were quicker and easier to use and easier to have on hand than a hypnotist. Modern hypnosis has come a far way from those days. Today, hypnosis has been successfully used as anesthesia for brain surgery. Frequently hypnosis is used for controlling pain and fear when the patient is undergoing dental procedures. It’s a very common practice to go to a hypnotist for help in relieving stress, anxiety, grief, overcoming fears, losing weight, and to stop smoking.

A comfortable process

The process does not “make” you do anything, but it can release blocks that prevent you from achieving your goals. While some releases can be somewhat emotional, the experience is almost always a very relaxing, comfortable feeling. Clients simply sit in a very comfortable chair and listen to a narration designed to guide the client’s imagination. The client is not asleep, but very relaxed like in meditation. Clients remember the narration the same way they would any normal conversation. While the conscious mind can follow along listening very closely to every word, in most cases it’s common for the attention to drift and come back. The hypnotist speaks directly to the subconscious so it is unnecessary for the conscious to follow along, even though it can and sometimes does.

What does it feel like?

Relaxing and listening is not very difficult for most clients. The conscious mind can hear every word the hypnotist says, but it doesn’t always listen. On the other hand, the subconscious hears everything and listens too. For an example, say you were to bump into two friends at a party, “A” and “B”. Now “A” and “B” have been together for a very long time and are never apart. “A” likes football and “B” likes needlepoint. You start talking to them and they both hear and listen, but when you start talking about needlepoint, “A” is looking engaged and hearing everything, but probably thinking about football.

“A” is only hearing and not listening. If you were to mention something football related or something not congruent to the conversation, “A” will suddenly listen again and focus on the conversation. In this metaphoric example “A” would be the conscious mind and “B” the subconscious. This happens to all of us all the time. This is what a session is like for a client. Sitting relaxing and listening to the hypnotist talk, then thinking about other things while the hypnotist talks directly to the subconscious which is hearing AND listening.