The Top 10 Myths About Hypnosis — Is Hypnosis Real?

woman being induced into a state of hypnosis

Did you know hypnosis has been scientifically studied by such renowned institutions as Stanford University Medical School? Or that it has been proven to be an effective therapy for a variety of conditions, from weight loss and difficulty sleeping to anxiety and depression?

Despite the evidence available, hypnosis still remains a bit of a mystery to many people who haven’t explored it.

Below, we debunk the 10 most common myths about hypnosis.

Myth #1: People Can Be Controlled and Made to Do Things Against Their Will Under Hypnosis

Fact: Hypnosis is not a magic spell, and it can’t make you do anything you don’t want to do. A largely deceptive form of entertainment known as “stage hypnosis” exists in the public sphere. And while the shows can be entertaining, they’re also responsible for much of the public skepticism about hypnosis.

Medical hypnosis is a widely practiced, very effective therapy for a variety of conditions from anxiety to weight loss. In this form of hypnosis, the power of suggestion is used to rewire the subconscious mind and replace unhelpful or self-defeating ideas with healthy ones.

So while hypnosis can help plant seeds of intention, achieve goals, and alter unwanted behaviors, it cannot make you do anything against your will.

If a suggestion was made during a hypnotic session that you found unacceptable or wrong, you would be able to recognize it, break the hypnotic state and end the session.

Myth #2: I’ve Never Been Hypnotized Before

Fact: Hypnosis is a state of consciousness during which the mind is focused on a particular idea or other stimuli, which causes us to develop a reduced peripheral awareness.

Hypnosis is a natural and normal experience that we as humans experience all the time. If you’ve ever been so enraptured by a book or a movie that the outside world seems to disappear—or if you’ve driven somewhere but can’t remember precisely how you got there—congratulations! Those are light hypnotic states.

So while you may not have sat with a hypnotherapist or listened to self-hypnosis audio, you’ve almost certainly been hypnotized (likely without even realizing it).

Myth #3: Hypnosis Isn’t an Effective Medical Therapy

Anxious woman smoking a cigarette on a rooftopFact: The truth is that hypnosis is a scientifically-proven method for treating a variety of conditions from anxiety to insomnia, as well as changing unhealthy behaviors, like overeating or smoking cigarettes.

The world-renowned Stanford University School of Medicine has a unit centered specifically on stress and health that teaches hypnotic techniques as a treatment in medical settings. It’s part of an integrative medical approach, commonly used to augment other aligned treatments, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

A recent study by Stanford’s School of Medicine found certain areas of the brain are altered during hypnotic trances. Studies like this one—and the practical results hypnosis fosters—reflect the efficacy and demonstrable power of hypnosis as a sound medical therapy.

Myth #4: Hypnosis Is Simply Regular Sleep

Fact: Hypnosis is a state of human consciousness involving focused attention, reduced peripheral awareness, and an enhanced capacity to respond to suggestion.

While hypnosis can be similar to the state our minds enter just prior to sleep—slower breathing, closed eyes, reduced awareness of peripheral stimuli—a person in a hypnotic trance is not asleep in the way that we understand it. They may be relaxed and comfortable, but they’re also alert, awake, and able to clearly think and communicate as needed.

It is possible to drift into a state of traditional sleep during hypnosis (particularly if you’re tired when starting a session) but sleep is not the natural outcome of the process.

Myth #5: Hypnosis Works Instantly (It’s a “Miracle Cure”)

Fact: Hypnosis has great advantages over traditional therapies, including medication, and it remains a relatively quick method to make progress toward personal improvements. But the results you experience will depend on a wide variety of factors, including the issue you’re trying to address, your level of susceptibility to a hypnotic state, and how often you are treated.

There are rare cases where a particularly potent hypnotic suggestion can work after a single session, and you may notice some changes right away. But it typically takes several weeks for the desired result to take a firm hold.

Myth #6: I Can’t Be Hypnotized Because My Mind Is Too Strong and Disciplined

Strong-willed manFact: It’s true that some people are more susceptible to hypnosis than others, but everyone is susceptible to a certain degree. The effectiveness of hypnosis almost always comes down to motivation, willingness, and your ability to concentrate.

When you start a hypnosis program believing that it will work, you’re reducing internal resistance and becoming more open to its positive effects.

Myth #7: People Who Get Hypnotized Are Weak-Minded

Fact: This is the flip side of myth #6 (I’m too strong or aware to be hypnotized), and it’s another archaic belief propped up often in popular culture. In point of fact, people who can concentrate well and have a fertile imagination make the best hypnosis subjects.

When you’re willing to participate and have the ability to focus with ease, you’re more likely to absorb hypnotic suggestions in the subconscious mind and achieve the results you desire.

Your strong will and ability to concentrate are valuable attributes that make you strong-minded, not weak.

Hypnotized woman floating above the ground

Myth #8: Hypnosis Is “Supernatural”

Fact: Stage hypnotism has nothing to do with medical hypnotism. Con artists and stage hypnotists often make references to supernatural powers and “animal magnetism.”

But hypnosis is a completely natural state that has been studied scientifically for many decades. Lauded psychologists like Dr. Sigmund Freud and Dr. Carl Jung, as well as celebrated institutions like the Stanford University School of Medicine, have all studied hypnotherapy.

Myth #9: You Can Get “Stuck” in a Hypnotic State and Not Be Able to Wake Up

Fact: You can’t get “stuck” in a hypnotic trance. Throughout the process—whether you’re working with a hypnotherapist or listening to hypnosis audio recordings at home—you are fully awake and aware of what is happening.

Hypnosis is a natural state of consciousness that all humans enter and exit on a regular basis, sometimes daily. The only difference with hypnotherapy is that a therapist is guiding your experience. Any person can exit the hypnotic state at any time by simply choosing to do so.

Myth #10: Hypnosis Is a Great Tool to Elicit a Confession

Fact: Hypnotherapy sessions are kept private and cannot be used for court testimony. They are also not an alternative to lie detector tests. A person in a hypnotic state cannot be forced to “tell the truth” or confess to anything.

How Can Hypnosis Help You?

We hope this article helped dispel some of the myths that may have been preventing you from seeking hypnosis (or causing you to resist hypnosis as a method of self-care).

And we invite you to explore our website to connect with additional self-help resources and learn more about how hypnosis can help you lose weight, sleep better at night, and overcome a variety of personal challenges.