Hypnosis is a state of relaxation combined with imagination. It’s just like reading a novel or watching a film, but in a safe and easy way hypnosis takes you much more deeply into this imaginative state.
Here’s a quick imagination experiment you can do. Imagine your favourite food – that’s easy. Now – a bit more work – focus your imagination on it systematically for a full, timed five minutes. Say to yourself over and over “As I eat this food I smell …. and I see … and I taste …. and I feel … and I hear …. and I smell … see … taste … feel … hear ….”, slowly, over and over. Ignore any boredom. The imagination doesn’t get bored. Just let yourself imagine that food more and more fully and vividly. As you do, you are already beginning to enter a hypnosis-like state. It’s just that in everyday life, we don’t normally focus our imagination like this. [>> Don’t be worried if you only get one or two of the senses, that’s normal. >> And, obviously, not while driving or similar activity!]
What does hypnosis feel like?
There is no one single experience to wait for and it differs a lot between people. Most people feel a dreamy state of relaxation, perhaps with the body feeling light or heavy or floaty, perhaps with vivid imaginations, perhaps a marked feeling of peace or safety or calm.
Think of it as a delightful relaxed feeling, entirely natural to you. It’s often rather like lying on the beach … or in a meadow or lawn … half asleep … half awake … hearing the birds … feeling the sun …. so warm, so pleasant and safe … all cares a thousand miles away …. and then there’s the muffled sound of a mobile ringing … and you think “that’s my phone …. oh … I can’t be bothered … I’ll just leave it …it’ll stop in a minute …”
Is hypnosis a quick fix?
No. Some websites present the idea that hypnosis makes problems vanish. It is indeed very helpful. But as with any therapy at all, small problems vanish quickly, major problems take time, and it is in the end your responsibility to make life be different. That said, there certainly are some situations where hypnosis-based therapy can be very much quicker than non-hypnosis therapy.
Is it safe?
Hypnosis is completely safe and has no negative side-effects. It is exactly the same as relaxing in an armchair or meditation.
Clearly in situations like stage hypnosis care needs to be taken that people don’t, for example, fall off the stage, but even then the actual experience of hypnosis is safe.
Can everyone be hypnotized?
In laboratory tests the vast majority of people can be hypnotised, though some can’t. In therapy this is never a limiting factor, so don’t worry that “I can’t be hypnotised.”
What is depth of trance? Does it matter how deep I go?
A small number of people go so deeply into hypnosis that they can anaethetise themselves and undergo surgery without pain. At the other end of the scale, hypnosis has hardly any effect on some people and they don’t enter an altered state at all. Most people are in the middle. For therapeutic purposes it doesn’t matter; for the few that really can’t go into hypnosis, I just use another method.
Am I unconscious or asleep?
Neither. You remain present, somewhere between dreamy and very alert. Your everday thoughts continue, more or less, in the background, commentating about what is going on. We simply ignore the everyday mind and focus on the imagination mind.
Will I lose control?
No. If we are talking, you know perfectly well what I am saying and what reply you choose to make. All that hypnosis means is that you are giving a very relaxed reply.
No-one can make you say or do anything you don’t want to and should you choose, you could wake up at any time. In any case, if someone seriously fears losing control, they won’t go very far into hypnosis in the first place.
How much will I remember?
You remember normally, which means you mostly remember most things, and forget some, as with any other event.