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Correcting Misconceptions

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A Warehouse Full of People Who Never Wake Up: Common Misperceptions about Hypnotherapy.


Despite the fact that hypnotherapy has been around for almost 200 years, misconceptions surrounding the work are still common.  Basically, hypnosis is a relaxed state of focused attention in which the subject experiences a heightened sense of suggestibility. It shares the same brainwave states as meditation and prayer. Prayer and self-hypnosis have a lot in common in that the subject is thinking while in a meditative state. Meditation and hypnotherapy can take a subject into a deeper level of trance. In hypnotherapy, the client is guided by a hypnotherapist, whereas meditation can be guided, solo or in a group. Hypnotherapy is a powerful tool for self-improvement and personal growth, offering individuals the opportunity to tap into their subconscious mind and harness its potential for purposeful positive change. It is not mind control. It does not erase memories. It is not magic. And it is not done only for entertainment.


The idea that hypnotherapy is mind control stems from entertainment, as do many other misconceptions about hypnosis. We see some ghoulish character wave a pendulum in front of the eyes of a vulnerable, young woman, and suddenly she is in his power. The truth is that hypnotherapy involves cooperation. The hypnotherapist cannot make you be anything that you don't want to be, or do anything you don't want to do. Were I to try, my clients would become uncomfortable instantly and even come out of trance. Trance is a natural state of mind, and it can feel a little bit like how you feel right before you hop out of bed. But you do hop out of bed. I've actually had a few clients ask what will happen to them if they don't wake up. And that's when I tell them I have a warehouse full of clients who are still in trance waiting for the zombie apocalypse. They instantly get the joke and realize they actually fell for a badly written, badly acted B movie. The truth is a hypnotherapist will continually check with you, asking permission or if it's OK to do a certain protocol. And I instruct clients to think of themselves as the co-therapist. After all, they are really healing themselves, and I am just the humble guide. If they feel at all uncomfortable in a session, they need to stay in trance and speak up.


A number of clients confuse hypnotherapy with stage hypnosis. From my background in theater, I actually have known a number of stage hypnotists. And while both kinds employ trance, one is therapeutic, and the other is for fun. A stage hypnotist is trained to examine the audience for people who are particularly suggestible. It is true that some people go into trance more quickly and easily than others. However, it's important to know that anyone who agrees to “bark like a chicken,” for example, wants to do that, or they wouldn't do it. It may be that the stage hypnotist gives a direction to the subject to forget having barked like a chicken, but it's unlikely the subject actually will forget. They will just feel comfortable saying they have, something that helps them navigate chiding from friends, and makes to have the hypnotist look pretty amazing.  A hypnotherapist, on the other hand, is trained to use therapeutic protocols to assist a client in overcoming perceived psychological obstacles in order to achieve specific goals.  Just as with stage hypnosis, the subject needs to want to achieve the goal, and the hypnotherapist cannot make the client fully participate without the client’s earnest desire.

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Hypnotherapy: Myths vs Reality

Some people I meet think that hypnotherapy is good only for weight loss or stopping smoking. In fact, it's highly versatile and can be used anytime you perceive the mind standing in your way. I have worked with clients with a daunting prognosis improve their ability to walk. I have worked with people to improve their personal relationships and their marriages. I have worked with people to achieve the life they've always dreamed of. And, of course, I have worked with people to lose weight, or stop some unhealthy habit like smoking. When I have the time and need, I do self-hypnosis. It's good, fast and, in my case, free. When I experience a block that has grown clearly from my subconscious, I seek out a colleague. Check out more blog posts or my e-book to learn all the ways hypnotherapy can help you.


Sometimes, people call me because they want to retrieve or erase a memory. Sometimes, hypnotherapy can, indeed help with memory recall, but with a caveat that memory is generally faulty.  It's well known that when police interview witnesses to an accident that the witnesses recall different aspects than each other, or even remember events differently. This is because the subconscious interprets what we experience as well as records it. My memory of an event is likely to be very different from yours, if only for the reason that we are all the heroes of our own story. So, hypnotherapy can help us recover what our subconscious initially recorded. But that doesn't mean it's accurate. And as for erasing memories, that is also untrue. Rather, hypnotherapy can help the client process a memory. It's particularly good with neutralizing the client's relationship to trauma. The client will still remember the trauma. In fact, it's healthy for the client to remember it because the memory is an important part of the life story. However, the client will be less negatively impacted by the trauma going forward.


Before I first tried hypnosis, I was one of those people who believed that only weak-minded people could be hypnotized. When people discover a hypnotist, they often tell me they can't be hypnotized with a look of defiant glee on their faces. I respond that of course they can't be – if they don't want to be. The truth is that the smarter and more creative people do best with hypnotherapy. The reason is they can visualize the outcome and they more easily recognize when they're in their own way. Some of my most successful clients have been doctors or have run big corporations. They know they are in their own way, and they can easily see how their behavior can be different. Hypnotherapy helps them make changes with ease. That there is a spectrum of hypnotizability has been shown in studies around the country. But in my practice, I have only had one client who insisted he couldn't be hypnotized, and he insisted these moments after he had been successfully hypnotized. In my opinion, it simply wasn’t the right time for him to do the work.  As I said above, if you don't truly want to do the work, you will have a much different experience than someone who does.


Many clients hope that hypnotherapy produces instant results. They have read about therapists who have cured someone of smoking, for example, in one session. This is possible, but very uncommon. Usually, clients need a session or two to get used to doing hypnosis and practicing self-hypnosis before they experience progress. It takes a while for them to learn to go into a trance state and feel comfortable talking. Moreover, most issues have layers of subconscious motivation. For example, a client might have trouble asking for a raise due to multiple experiences in the past that created personal lies around wealth. On the other hand, personality is fixed; some people are just more agreeable than others, or more extroverted. So, the reason another client fears asking for a raise may be very different than out of the first.  And the solution may require very different results.  Most clients see me an average of six times. But some may see me as many as 14 times or as few as three. Whether a client receives many sessions or just a few, all clients do self-hypnosis at home, keeping their goal front and center throughout the process. Hypnotherapy is not magic; it's a process, and for the right individuals, it can even become a lifestyle.


Done well and with an eager, open-minded client, hypnotherapy can be a terrific alternative to talk therapy. It can re-organize the mind in a matter of months, while talk therapy often takes years. Hypnotherapy is a more creative process in which the client and the therapist work together. Hypnotherapy is also scientifically backed, with major universities doing studies that have compared its efficacy to that of medicine and other therapeutic modalities.  Best of all, it's fun and relaxing. It produces results quickly and fairly easily. In sessions, you will learn more and more about how the mind works, and this knowledge all by itself is a useful tool for success.

Support and Comfort represents the role of a hypnotherapist in providing guidance and support.
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