What is hypnosis?
What is hypnosis really? Few therapeutic procedures are less understood, or more plagued by misconceptions and misunderstandings than hypnosis.
Before considering what hypnosis is, perhaps it would be appropriate to establish what it is not! Hypnosis is not sleep, magic or mental surrender.
A person cannot be made to do something that is against their integrity in hypnosis. Most hypnotists, on interviewing a new client, will ask such client what he or she thinks hypnosis is. Replies range from sleep, to unconsciousness, to surrender of mental powers and control, to magic, to voodoo. All are wrong!
First, hypnosis cannot be sleep. In most cases the subject is fully aware of communication and is able to respond on request either verbally or by signal. Neither is unconsciousness involved. A subject asked to make a specific movement will comply with the request unless it is objectionable, in which case there will be a refusal.
Also, there is no surrender of mind or control. A person who does not want to be hypnotized cannot be hypnotized or be induced to do or say anything which violates personal standards of behavior or integrity.
While stage shows may seem like voodoo magic to many people, any hypnotist can explain the actions or behaviors seen in stage, film or television shows, where the subject seems to follow directions mindlessly.
Actually, hypnosis is better described than defined. It is often considered an altered state of consciousness featuring “selective perception”, a process in which the subject (who is in control) chooses to see only what is relevant to his task, blocking out everything else. Hypnosis involves guided concentration. The guidance, however, may be provided by a qualified practitioner or, in the case of self-hypnosis, by the individual subject.