What does hypnosis feel like?
Imagine having a conversation where your judgement is suspended, your self-conscience is lowered so you don’t question your every thought, and your mind is allowed to express itself fully and honestly. Metaphorically, hypnosis may feel like intoxication - except you don’t have the harmful effect or withdrawal symptoms of alcohol. Plus, since hypnosis works with your subconscious, you won’t remember much of it afterwards, as if it was a dream.
How can a treatment aimed at your mind affect your body?
Your body responds physically to thoughts. For example, when we think a frightening thought, we can experience increased heart rate, shortness of breath, "butterflies" in the stomach, muscular rigidity, sweating, shaking, and so on. Similarly, when we think a pleasurable thought, we can experience reduced heart rate, deeper breathing, relaxation of muscles, and so on. These are autonomic, involuntary nervous system responses - and they can be utilized to promote health. When hypnotized, you are very open to suggestions that can enhance positive and diminish negative physical reactions. This is true for both common habits like smoking or ongoing conditions like stuttering.
Can anyone be hypnotized?
It depends on your ability to go into a trance. About 85% of people can go into at least a light trance. For most therapeutic goals, light trance is enough to enable almost everyone to benefit from hypnotherapy to some extent.
In a relatively small number of situations, (say, when hypnosis is being used instead of a general anesthetic, e.g., as in labour and childbirth), a deeper level of trance may be needed. For these purposes, it is helpful to determine the trance capability of a given person, before making a decision about the advisability of using hypnosis as an anesthetic.
Even for those people (maybe 10-15%) who do not enter into even a light trance state, hypnosis may still be helpful to assist their relaxation and improve their suggestibility to constructive comments and suggestions.
Can children be hypnotized?
Because children are naturally imaginative, they naturally and easily engage in hypnosis and respond well to hypnotic suggestion for a wide variety of problems, e.g., self- esteem issues, anxiety, behavior problems, habit change, and certain medical issues. It is important that your child's therapist be competent and experienced in dealing with your child's particular issue or problem.
Will I be asleep or unconscious?
The word hypnosis comes from the ancient Greek word 'hypnos' meaning sleep, but it is misnamed. Hypnosis is NOT sleep. Sleep and hypnosis may seem similar since we may be relaxed and have our eyes closed (although not necessarily), but there are many differences. One main difference is that we tend to be in a relaxed state, but with heightened awareness! If a person were to fall asleep during a session, they would return to normal consciousness when asked to, or simply awaken after a short nap. They would feel refreshed, relaxed and would have no ill effects at all. "I don’t think I was hypnotized--I heard every word you said!"
Some people, after a session of hypnosis, don't believe that they were hypnotized at all. This likely comes from misconceptions about just what a 'trance' really is. There are differences between the brainwaves of people who are asleep and those who are in trance. In practice, people who are hypnotized often talk with the hypnotist, and can both answer and ask questions, hear everything that is said very clearly, and are perfectly well aware.
There is no mysterious feeling to being hypnotized and our minds are not taken over nor controlled. This expectation and perhaps a demand to have some mysterious experience beyond conscious control or awareness seems to leave some people disappointed and even denying they had any experience at all. These same people may actually have received substantial results and unconscious change.
Will I lose control of myself?
No, there is no loss of control. Hypnosis allows clients to be more focused and less distracted and more skillful in using their own mental abilities constructively. In this way, they can achieve more of their goals, and consequently, actually achieve more (not less) control of their personal comfort, health, and well-being. The 'control' misconception appears to originate from stage hypnosis which actually involves people doing what they want to be doing in a social agreement to be entertaining.
Can I get stuck or trapped in the hypnotic state?
No. At any time a client can re-alert or choose to ignore suggestions. No one stays hypnotized indefinitely - you will always "come out" of trance within a short time. Will hypnosis make me remember things accurately?
No. Hypnosis can improve our recall of events that we believe happened to us. But hypnosis is not a way to find out the truth (whatever that may be) about events that are in dispute. That is, under hypnosis you may re-experience events, but there is no guarantee that you are remembering them correctly. Hypnosis only assists the subject in recalling perceptions, not truths.