Not all the misconceptions about hypnosis can or need to be presented here. Those will be discussed which most often seem to concern prospective subjects and patients, or which serve as sources of difficulty during the induction process. Much of this material can thus be used in the orientation of new subjects.
THAT MEDICAL OR DENTAL HYPNOSIS CAN BE LEARNED FROM A STAGE HYPNOTIST
The first misconception has to do with the belief that medical or dental hypnosis can be learned from a stage hypnotist. One can learn hypnosis in that manner for work on the stage. If the purpose is medical, dental, or psychological work, however, one cannot learn from the stage hypnotist. A great deal of professional study and earnest, sincere effort arc primary requisites. Tire knowledge of hypnosis here is oriented about a patient's needs and reactions rather than audience entertainment.
Another misconception is to the effect that anyone who uses hypnosis must have very special powers, special knowledge, special ability. Actually, hypnosis is a common phenomenon in all human living. Anybody who can communicate with anyone else can learn to use hypnosis.
A third mistaken idea, prevalent among lay persons, is that hypnosis works miracles. Hypnosis does riot work miracles. It is genuine, honest, and earnest discipline of learning and effort. Anything that is accomplished depends upon work and attention given to the task in hand.
Many persons believe that to become hypnotized one must become unconscious. That impression is a very serious error. The subject does not need to be unconscious. Hypnosis requires him to utilize his ability to hear, to see, to think, to understand, and to feel in a certain directed way, but it does not require unconsciousness. The hypnotic subject is a responsive creature and the operator who employs hypnosis is a responsive creature. No unconsciousness is required.
There is no surrender of the will. Hypnosis is a dual effort, with cooperation between the subject and the operator. One does not necessarily surrender his will when he lets someone else drive his car, but there can be Cooperation and there can be permission given for someone else to drive the car. It is a matter of assignment of roles in a given situation.
There is no question of hypnosis weakening the mind any more than there can be a weakening of the mind from ordinary everyday living. The operator lacks the power, as an operator or practitioner of hypnosis, to reach into the skull of his subject and alter the brain cells in such manner that the mind becomes weakened. One can only effect a stimulation of the subject's thinking and his feeling, enabling him to function more adequately or less adequately, as the situation demands.
There is a common confusion between hypnotizability and gullibility. Suggestibility may be defined as the uncritical acceptance of an idea. By "uncritical" is not meant any abandonment of an intelligently critical attitude. Suggestibility may be further defined as the capacity of a person to respond to ideas. In the individual's capacity to respond there is necessarily the implication that he is utilizing all his understandings, both critical and associative.
Another misconception is that one will talk and tell secrets, as with drugs. Hypnosis, as already noted, is a cooperative venture. There is no undue or miraculous disclosure of secrets. Anybody who has had practice with hypnosis in psycotherapy knows how extremely difficult it is to get the patient who comes seeking therapy, who "wants to tell you everything," to overcome his reluctance to tell it. Hypnosis can aid him in telling what he needs to tell, but hypnosis cannot force him to tell anything that he does not wish to tell. There is a general lay misconception about the hypnotic subject being at the mercy of the operator. This is most certainly incorrect.
One should again bear in mind the fact that hypnosis is a cooperative venture. Two persons are involved, two persons with perhaps divergent purposes. The subject goes into a trance state. That subject has purposes known to that personality, or perhaps not known to that personality. There will be no difficulty in awakening, because the trance is contingent upon the achieving of purposes and that includes awakening as an integral part.
One may encounter the possibility that a given subject is unwilling to awaken from the trance, but that is the patient's own choice. Patients who want to remain in the trance may sometimes attempt to defy the hypnotist to awaken them. In cases of such recalcitrant subjects, one simply reverses the technique of trance induction. This matter will be discussed in greater detail in the section on "Maintaining the Trance."
The question has been asked many times: "Suppose you hypnotize someone and have him in a deep trance and then you drop dead of heart failure. What would happen?" Actually, of course, if the hypnotist were to drop dead, that would terminate any cooperative, interpersonal relationship between the subject and the operator, and that would eliminate the entire situation. The subject would probably awaken to find out why the hypnotist was not more attentive.
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Hypnosis is a capital instrument for relaxation and alleviating stress. It helps calm down both the brain and body, giving a useful rest. All the same it can be rather costly to hire a clinical hypnotherapist, and we might not always want one around when we would like to destress.