Hypnosis: Stage Magic or Psychological Therapy?

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Hypnosis: Stage Magic or Psychological Therapy?

Most psychologists agree that hypnosis is a psychological phenomenon grounded in reproducible results and has valid uses / Photo by Andriy Popov via 123RF


The concept of being able to snap your fingers and command someone to do something with them being aware of it is the stuff mostly associated with entertainment media. Hypnosis, if anything, is often depicted as a supervillain’s power.

In reality, hypnosis is not only factual but it also has many practical uses and is nothing like what most media portray it.


About Hypnosis

LumenLearning.com describes hypnosis as a state in which people experience heightened suggestibility. It is actually a state of high attention and concentration, which manifests in many as a relaxed state wherein people are more prone to accept suggestions. It can be used for a number of different goals, such as pain management, reducing addiction, and helping those with difficulty falling asleep. It is even thought that ineffective or harmful behaviors and beliefs can be weeded out while people are under hypnosis or, as what’s usually portrayed in popular media, hypnosis can be used to draw out suppressed and painful memories or those from childhood.

It is no secret that not everyone believes in the methods of hypnosis. It remains one of the most controversial and misunderstood psychological treatments that exist today. However, most psychologists agree that hypnosis is a psychological phenomenon grounded in reproducible results and has valid uses. Hypnotherapy has been used in addressing fears and phobias and even has a part in treating mental illnesses, such as PTSD, anxiety, and depression, when medications and other conventional treatments are proving ineffective.

Components and Theories

There are supposedly three components that make up hypnosis. Absorption is how invested a person can become or how susceptible they are to hypnosis and to the task at hand. A hypnotized person can experience dissociation, which is when one’s control is separated from their conscious awareness and given up to autonomic or reflexive behaviors. Suggestions can then be made to one under hypnosis. This is when a point person (i.e. the hypnotist) guides the subject through various thoughts, feelings, and memories in order to focus them toward an idea or goal. One entering a trance can be told various instructions or suggestions that will be easier to follow.

A few different theories exist that attempt to explain how hypnosis works. One is called the altered-state theory, wherein one enters a different state of mind due to hypnosis. Another is the dissociation theory that explains that through the act of hypnosis, one can actively or voluntarily split their consciousness. Finally, there is the role theory, which claims that those hypnotized are not actually experiencing hypnosis but take on the role of a hypnotized person.

Limitations of Hypnosis

Of course, hypnosis does not work as a cure-all, nor is it like a mystical power that can seemingly command people to do things that they have no control over. Many stage hypnosis performances and popular media attempt to show hypnosis in over-exaggerated ways, which is completely false. Those under true hypnosis are still able to control themselves and would not do anything offensive or objectionable in normal circumstances. Also, positive suggestions given to people under hypnosis are post-hypnotic suggestions, which means that the effect is taken after the trance is over and not during the experience. Those who were hypnotized do not immediately perform the suggestions like they were upfront or direct commands, but they do have an effect on the behavior on a subconscious level.

Aside from this, hypnosis does not work on everyone, no matter how experienced or masterful the hypnotist may be. One cannot be hypnotized unless they voluntarily accept the process. Despite many depictions in movies and the like of persons being forced into a trance-like state, hypnotisms are always a cooperative interaction between the person and the hypnotist.

Everyone also has an innate level of “hypnotizability,” with some being more susceptible to it than others. Even those who are highly susceptible to hypnotism may not benefit from hypnotherapy sessions, at least not in a single one. It will take multiple sessions for hypnotism to produce long-lasting results, as explained by Psychology Today. However, some people have shown positive results from even short sessions, so it is highly subjective depending on the person.

Many stage hypnosis performances and popular media attempt to show hypnosis in over-exaggerated ways, which is completely false / Photo by Wavebreak Media Ltd via 123RF


Debunking Myths

There are still a number of myths that come into our minds first when we hear words, such as “hypnotist” and “trance.” Many wrongly believe that one will be able to remember the exact details of an event, such as a childhood memory or a crime if they are under hypnosis. In truth, hypnosis can only enhance memory a fraction, VeryWellMind.com explains.

There are also myths that one will not be able to recall anything from the time they were hypnotized, or that hypnotism can greatly increase one’s strength or speed if they are put under that suggestion. These are false. Any amnesia that happens after hypnotism is often brief and temporary, and there is no way to improve anything but a person’s concentration when they are hypnotized.

If you are experiencing any mental or psychological troubles and the psychologist suggests hypnotism, you shouldn’t simply shirk off the idea or become fearful. It may be the help that you need.



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