Common misconceptions of hypnosis:
What does hypnosis in movies do to the public’s perception of hypnotherapy?
Despite hypnotherapy gaining ground as a respected therapy, there are still some common misconceptions of hypnosis that affect the public’s perception of hypnotherapy. What does the thought of being hypnotised do to you? Do you imagine that you are going to be put into a deep trance-like state of sleep and then commanded to do things against your will? And if you are considering consulting with a hypnotherapist to help you conquer your phobia, stop smoking or lose weight, do you believe that you could get locked into your hypnotic state and my never come out of it? Well, if you do then I doubt that you are alone in this belief; misconceptions of hypnosis are still widespread.
Misconceptions of hypnosis: “Get Out!”
Where do these stereotypes come from that create this perception of hypnotherapy? If you’ve never reliably researched something or had numerous experiences of it to enlighten you, it’s easy to accept hearsay or be influenced by the media. With limited knowledge of something you may believe that what is being portrayed in the media is factual. There are still some modern films that want to send those shivers down your spine and show hypnosis as mind-control. Get ready for a spoiler alert! Take for example in the thriller film “Get Out”, in which the star Chris is hypnotised by his girlfriend’s mother in order to imprison him. The film is worthy of a view for the suspense (if you like that sort of thing), and very deserving of its Oscar award, but don’t take the hypnosis too seriously. The portrayal of hypnosis is exaggerated on many levels, but let’s just looks at one of those.
Sowing a seed of belief
In the film, Chris is tricked into being hypnotised against his will. The portrayal of hypnosis assumes that hypnosis can be used to overpower the subject and make him do things that he doesn’t want to do. If only it could! Wouldn’t everyone learn hypnosis to have this power over people? This misconception often entices the novice hypnotist to read a book on hypnosis and then fantasise that they can impress their friends with hypnotic powers. It might also encourage those who have been convinced by the mass media to sign up for a stage hypnosis training course and learn “hypnotic secrets” to control the mind of others, particularly if they somehow missed some essential points from that hypnosis book. Again, like the media, stage hypnosis shows are similar situations in which the public are given the impression that the stage hypnotist has power over their subjects. But this is very far away from reality of hypnosis; the power that the stage hypnotist has over their subjects it that which is given over to them by their subjects. Should I have mentioned another spoiler alert before you book your stage hypnosis training course? Oh, well! Too late!
The power trip
When you enter the hypnotherapy clinic, the “handing over of power” exists on the same level; the only power that the hypnotherapist has over you is that which you are ready to give to them. When this “power” has been given openly, a therapeutic relationship (or team) is formed and you are open to accept the hypnotherapist’s suggestions. You are then in a position to collaborate further with your hypnotherapist and be helped to achieve your goal.
There are many stages in the client-hypnotherapist interaction that can affect the readiness to hand over this “power”. Even before the appointment, it can include seeing convincing advertising literature that draws your attention and in the rapport that is built up during your initial enquiry e.g. in the telephone conversation that you have with the hypnotherapist before making a booking. Then during the consultations, the hypnotherapist’s expertise (qualifications, knowledge, experience, style of communication etc.) is used to further convince you that they can help you achieve your goal. (More information on the many factors that build client expectation can be found in this hypnosis test and the article that follows it.)
Misconceptions of hypnosis discussion: Power in hypnotherapy
Does this mean that this hypnotic “power trip” created by the films and stage hypnosis is all negative for the perception of hypnotherapy? I think that there may be situations where that “power” can be worked into the process for short-term therapeutic gains. In other words, if (as a prospective client), you are so convinced that hypnosis “makes you do things against your will” and the hypnotherapist is prepared to tactfully play along with your beliefs, the hypnotic experience could create that massive jump-start for you to achieve your goal just because you believe that you have been “hypnotised to do it”. And it could have long-term benefits depending on how much you believe in the magical “power” of hypnosis that is so often portrayed in those movies.
I’m not suggesting that creating this “hypnotic power trip” situation is appropriate for every client and hypnotherapist. It might suit the “authoritative-styled” hypnotherapists who want to use hypnosis to portray that they have “power” to change clients against their will. And when they have a “hypnosis film believer” client in front of them, the outcome can be very effective. But when used as a “power-trip”, the situation is unlikely to build long-term self-confidence in the client’s own beliefs; confidence remains pinned to hypnosis or the hypnotherapist. But this comes back to establishing fundamentals in the whole treatment process. What is the precise nature of the client’s goal? Do they want a short-term fix or long-term fix? Is building “self” confidence part of that goal? Then consider, what are their underlying beliefs (about the power of hypnosis) that support the goal? If the client has just seen the film “Get Out”, as a hypnotherapist you may have some idea about their beliefs and how you want to employ those beliefs during the treatment.
There are many other misconceptions of hypnosis. What has shaped your beliefs about hypnosis and hypnotherapy? Enjoy your next hypnosis movie!