Frequently Asked Questions About Hypnosis and Hypnotherapy

Hypnosis 4 Health® | San Francisco Hypnotherapy

“What is hypnosis?”
It is not sleep, but a natural, normal, relaxed and focused state of attention characterized by:

  • Feelings of well-being
  • Increased muscle relaxation
  • Increased pain threshold
  • Predominating Alpha brain waves
  • Diminished ability to vocalize
  • Flashback access of stressful or positive memories
  • Literal, childlike understanding of ideas
  • Ability to accept new ideas and beliefs about yourself if they are sufficiently emotionalized and not in conflict with your values.

Simply put, hypnosis is focusing and amplifying technique used to employ either interactive guided imagery or applied meditation toward a specific goal.

“How do I know if hypnosis will work for me?”
If you are unable to attain your goals, you may actually be hypnotizing yourself to fail! Here are 3 ways we psychologically sabotage ourselves. Firstly, our subconscious will want to repeat the behavior with the strongest emotional charge associated to it. We will tend to do what we feel like doing or what feels most familiar whether or not it is good or bad for us. So often we invest more feelings in worrying about the problem and then switching to being in denial that the problem even exists. That is why bad habits are so hard to break.

Secondly, as Emile Coue once said, “when imagination and reason are at war, imagination always seizes the day.” This is how our greatest fears tend to be realized: we allow our imagination to stray into all that could go wrong. We usually do not consciously invest our imagination and feelings toward the solution, keeping us stuck in bad habits.

Thirdly, the subconscious part of the mind does not respond to negative thought. Telling yourself what “not” to do is like trying not to think of a pink elephant, trying “not” to smoke, or trying “not” to eat French fries; it brings up the wrong file in the subconscious part of the mind. That is why negative motivation strategy often fails. The subconscious part of the mind likes to be inspired.

HYPNOSIS IS NOT SLEEP! In hypnosis, you are more consciously in control of your emotions, imagination, intuition, and conscience. You can reclaim split off parts of the self and begin to intentionally associate and amplify stronger feelings to your goal in order to eclipse the feelings associated with the unwanted behavior. Just as an athlete gets “psyched up” to win, in hypnosis you are better able to imagine your success and emotionally motivate yourself to take action in a positive way without fear or guilt. Winners do not win by running away from failure. Fear and guilt are stressful and unhealthy motivators for change anyway! And who needs more stress or fear? Decisions made out of stress or fear are usually not good decisions. Realize you are going to go into hypnosis everyday anyway. You can either hypnotize yourself to succeed or hypnotize yourself to fail. The choice is yours!

“How do I know if I can be hypnotized?”
There are only three types of people that cannot be hypnotized:

  • A person in a psychotic process or with a thought disorder
  • A person with a low IQ
  • A person who really does not want to be hypnotized

The truth is: all hypnosis is self-hypnosis. Three conditions must be met for a person to benefit from hypnosis: the person must agree to be hypnotized, participate in the process with their full attention and be able to use their imagination or improvise. Actually, hypnotizability is a sign of intelligence and was used extensively by such brilliant artists as Aldous Huxley and Mozart. Learn to navigate in that “in-between”, dream-like state, which is part of the normal repertory of human consciousness, and you will be amazed at your hidden abilities and strengths! In a private 1:1 session, it just becomes a question of how deep are you willing to go in the presence of another person. Most people readily outsource their daily trance to the biggest hypnotizer of all time: television. And with 60% of TV commercials about junk food, it is no wonder why so many Americans are overweight.

“What does hypnosis feel like?”
It feels like in the morning when you hit the snooze button on your alarm, and you are aware of yourself lying in your bed with eyes closed, not quite asleep, but not quite awake either. The subconscious is the seat of intuition and creativity; that is why some writers or painters do their best work in the early morning. Their subconscious is closer to the surface then, especially after dreaming in REM sleep. (REM often occurs in hypnosis.) Even with eyes wide open some people go into “highway hypnosis” and drive right past their exit. Generally, you can feel hypnotic relaxation in your body in some way; either your limbs will feel heavy, like lead or light and tingly, almost numb. (You don’t need to get hooked up to some silly “biofeedback machine” to learn this about yourself!) Sometimes a good indicator of deep hypnotic relaxation is experiencing slight twitches in your body as your nervous system “reboots” and you shift to abdominal (parasympathetic) breathing. Recognizing these sensations is the best biofeedback you could ever have!
“Is hypnosis dangerous?”
Absolutely not. Hypnosis was approved by the Council of Mental Health of the American Medical Association in September of 1958 as a safe practice with no harmful side effects. To date, no one has been seriously hurt with hypnosis. Those concerned greatly underestimate the ability of the subconscious to protect us; it contains our very survival instinct. The only dangers are in misconceptions promoted by fundamentalist religious leaders who wish to frighten and disempower their followers. Fear and ignorance have caused more people to hurt themselves and/or others, even while wide awake, than would ever occur as a result of a clinical hypnotherapy session.
“Can I be made to do things against my will or could I be raped?”
Absolutely not. You could never be made to do anything against your will or contrary to your value system. For young people, peer pressure is much more dangerous! You would not unknowingly reveal your deepest secrets either; it is even possible to lie in hypnosis, which is why legal testimony using hypnosis is not permissible evidence in a court of law. A person will only act upon suggestions that serve them in some way or reinforce an expected behavior, anything else their subconscious will just ignore. Most people develop these misperceptions from seeing or hearing about a Stage Hypnosis show, or when used as a ploy for the plot of a movie, which, you must understand, are done for entertainment purposes only.
“How does Stage Hypnosis work?”

In order to “hypnotize” a person into performing silly or bizarre behavior on-stage, the circumstances must warrant the behavior, like in a first year acting or improv class. The charismatic or “kingly” Stage Hypnotist takes the stage with much flourish and a microphone, sets his agenda in motion in front of an inquisitive audience and relies on the emotionally charged atmosphere to motivate his “subjects” to conform and act out his “commands”. It is all done in the name of good fun; there is much laughter and clapping present to spur on the silliness. But the Stage Hypnotist most certainly does not have “control” over the participants. He or she is giving adults an excuse or permission to act silly, and they take the bait. Remember, the Stage Hypnotist always asks for volunteers (no, they are not planted) and usually the volunteers have seen a show before so they know what to expect. After the initial hypnotic induction the Stage Hypnotist will then reinforce compliance by asking all noncompliant volunteers to leave the stage as he rearranges the chairs. The people left up on stage are having all the fun, while the rest of the audience grapples with the projected fear of embarrassment or losing control. That is why the Stage Hypnotist does little in the realm of educating the audience on how it all works, thus creating a state of surprise, wonderment, and awe (like any good magician can) because their agenda is to book more shows, not to help people. So essentially he is actually hypnotizing the audience into thinking he has magical powers. Take for example, the guy onstage who is hypnotized to think he is given x-ray glasses that supposedly enable him to see through people’s clothing. He opens his eyes, peers into the audience, and starts smiling from ear to ear. Is he really seeing nude people? Of course not! He sees the woman in the front row cover her breasts with her arms in fear, and it is hilarious! So who is really hypnotized? Clinical Hypnotherapy differs greatly from Stage Hypnosis in that it serves the client’s agenda exclusively and does not serve to promote the illusion that the Clinical Hypnotherapist possesses “magical or occult powers”. Most importantly, remember this: if you really believe you can change or heal yourself, you can! And a good Hypnotherapist can help you achieve your goals more easily.

“Is there any difference between Clinical Hypnosis and Medical Hypnosis?”
No there is not. Medical Hypnosis is Clinical Hypnosis and vice versa. The US Department of Labor makes no distinction, a hypnotherapist is a hypnotherapist, whether or not they have a license to practice medicine or psychology. Some medical professionals are using the term “Medical” Hypnosis so they can simply charge more for the same service. I would recommend checking how long the person has been in the practice of hypnotherapy and whether or not they teach self-hypnosis or record personalized sessions as part of their practice so you can get your money’s worth from whomever you choose. “Several years ago, the Mayo Clinic published a comprehensive article by James Stewart on the efficacy of hypnosis in medicine. “Hypnosis in Contemporary Medicine” includes documentation of the value of hypnosis shown in clinical trials for a wide variety of medical uses. Studies are detailed on hypnosis for pain relief, allergies, anesthesia for surgery, dermatology, gastroenterology (including IBS), healing from surgery or injury, hematology (hemophilia), hypertension, neurology (including for headaches), obesity, obstetrics, oncology, otorhinolaryngology (tinnitus), pulmonary medicine (for asthma and smoking cessation), rheumatology (for fibromyalgia), and urology (sexual functions like erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, and urinary incontinence). You can download this excellent 14-page article from the Mayo Clinic website now as a PDF
“How do I know I’ve been hypnotized?”
As you allow yourself to become absorbed in the imagery, you will experience a distortion in your perception of time. 30-40 minutes will seem like five minutes. Buried feelings are more accessible while entranced, as well as memories from long ago. This sets the stage for the experiential learning process or what we term a “corrective emotional experience”. As your awareness phases in and out, and thoughts parade on by, there may be parts of the session or MP3 you won’t remember consciously, but your subconscious will. (People who fall asleep while watching TV often start dreaming about what they are hearing on TV.) You will awaken out of hypnosis with very pleasant, somewhat euphoric feelings of well-being. Remember that hypnosis is a normal, natural state of mind, not a state of being unconscious or drugged, so don’t expect a radical, unnatural change in awareness. Consistency is more important than hypnotic depth.
“How long will it take before I notice a change?”
In one session, you can expect to become more relaxed than you are right now. That in itself can be a big change! If you can agree that the ability to intentionally relax yourself is an important first step towards improving your health and mental focus, then in one session at least you will learn how to do that. The inherently hypnotic and creative “positive imaging” process helps lift your goal out of the ineffectual, hazy, “just a concept” realm and focuses your goal into a more decisive aim. Hypnosis can bridge that gap between the head and the heart, making your goal much more emotionally compelling, since information or logical thought is not what is lacking. Not enough motivation is usually the problem. Depending upon the intensity of your session or the number of times you have listened to your MP3, (you should expect to listen to a reinforcement MP3 daily for at least a month), you will notice suggestions for the desired behavioral changes spontaneously popping into your conscious mind almost immediately. The subconscious part of your mind will attempt to prompt you out of your old patterns with these cues. In other words, your conscience will “wake up” to the habit. This is the first step in reprogramming yourself. Next, it is up to you to get real with yourself and consciously act upon these new cues. “To be or not to be, that is the question”, wrote Shakespeare. In many respects, hypnosis is about being more awake, but in a relaxed, low stress way. Ever notice how just talking about a weight problem usually creates lots of tension and anxiety?
“Does hypnosis weaken the will?”
Absolutely not. You will not develop a dependency on the Hypnotherapist, either, since hypnotherapy is best practiced as a short-term, goal-orientated therapy. These misperceptions are sometimes expounded by unenlightened Yoga teachers or fundamentalist preachers which play upon a person’s fear of loss of control; they do not understand that hypnosis is in fact a tool to gain more self-control and can actually help improve and deepen one’s meditation practice!
“What if I don’t wake up?”
You would simply fall asleep, and soon wake up like after a nice nap. (If you think about it, I would have to store all the people that didn’t ever wake up in a warehouse or something, which by now would have been discovered, and you’d have heard about it on the tabloid news shows!) Falling asleep during hypnosis probably just indicates you are stressed out and could use more hours of sleep in your life. Self-hypnosis is best practiced at lunch or dinner time, unless you need help getting to sleep or back to sleep, in which case bed time is best.
“Can hypnosis make me want to eat right or stop smoking?”
When a person asks me this, I question their desire to change. Hypnosis cannot make you want do something that you really don’t want to do. A person could not be hypnotized out of the blue to run a marathon; but hypnosis could definitely serve to improve a runner’s performance. Hypnosis is a tool, like a hammer. You don’t expect the hammer to drive the nail in for you by itself. But it is a whole lot easier using a hammer to drive in a nail than using your hand. There is no easy substitute for making efforts. In other words, hypnosis could give an athlete the mental edge that could make the difference between a bronze and a gold medal. It’s all about focus, aim, and how you choose to motivate yourself…either reactively (away from a negative) or proactively (toward a positive). Personally, I prefer amplifying the positive.
“Why not just use the patch, gum, ‘Zyban’, or ‘Chantix’ to quit smoking?”
My question to you is: what happens when you stop using the patch or the drug? You will tend to relapse because you haven’t made any real changes subconsciously where your Habit Center resides! Remember, don’t think that if you are “addicted” to nicotine that you have no choice in the matter. Many, many people have come to see me after failing with the patch and then have succeeded using hypnosis. That’s because hypnosis is self-empowering, while considering yourself totally addicted is not. The “addiction model” is what weakens the will, not the substance itself! Have you noticed how expensive the patch or gum is? Nicotine “addiction” is good business! You’ll just keep coming back for more. And Zyban, FYI, is not new, it is a repackaged anti-depressant, AKA, Wellbutrin, which may in fact cause the very symptoms it is supposed to ‘fix’: anxiety and nervousness! Also bear in mind that millions of people on anti-depressants still smoke, they don’t suddenly stop craving nicotine by taking a pill! It’s just not that simple. I question the wisdom of chemically manipulating a person’s dopamine levels or messing with the brain’s pleasure center. From Wikipedia: “Pharmacological blockade of brain dopamine receptors increases rather than decreases drug-taking behavior. Since blocking dopamine decreases desire, the increase in drug taking behavior may be seen as not a chemical desire but as a deeply psychological desire to just ‘feel something’.” People still do things out of habit that they don’t enjoy. How is the chemically-treated new non-smoker supposed to derive pleasure from other activites like walking that would help them stay a non-smoker if they are dulling their pleasure center with a drug? It is no wonder there is such a dismal success rate with these products (20-30%). And according to recent article covered by the Associated Press, the FDA is investigating reports suggesting “increasingly likely” links with the new anitsmoking drug, Chantix, and “depression, agitation, and suicidal behavior.” Why? Chantix doesn’t just inhibit the pleasure derived from smoking, it inhibits the pleasure derived from EVERYTHING! For more information on how my Stop Smoking NOW!™ Program will work for you without the need of harmful medications click here.
“Do I need to see a Hypnotherapist or do audio MP3s work as well?”
That depends on several factors, including the nature and depth of your problem. General self-hypnosis recordings will give you only general results. I have found that individuals do better when they are treated as individuals, so I think you’ll agree that the personalized approach is better. Also, there may not be a good Hypnotherapist in your area, in which case my personalized, custom made audio session MP3s are the second best choice. To order your Personalized Session MP3, the instructional, secure order forms can be found on my site. If you think your problem necessitates a private session, shop around; in order for you to feel safe enough to seek resolution of the underlying cause(s) of the problem, you must feel your Hypnotherapist listens to you and understands your needs. You must also feel comfortable about your Hypnotherapist’s techniques, level of experience, and professionalism. You must also like the sound of their voice. If you live in the SF Bay Area, and would like to set up your FREE 1/2 hour consultation to learn more click here.
“What about ‘False Memory Syndrome’?”
For the average person, this is not a concern at all. False Memory Syndrome can possibly occur only when a poorly trained therapist (usually a Psychotherapist) uses hypnosis with an emotionally unstable client to supposedly “uncover” repressed memories. The unskilled therapist asks leading questions in an effort to “uncover” theorized child abuse, or find “proof” of the therapist’s own conspiratorial notions of satanic rituals, or UFO abductions. This can confuse the unstable client and is serving the therapist’s agenda, not the client’s. The average person would quickly begin to suspect something was inappropriate and simply either terminate the hypnosis session by opening their eyes or not return to therapy afterward. Generally speaking, hypnosis should not be used with an emotionally or mentally unstable person anyway. A good Hypnotherapist is trained to refer such a person to another Mental Health Professional. Make sure your Hypnotherapist is currently certified by a well-established hypnotherapy certification association (and therefore accountable) like the American Council of Hypnotist Examiners, and has had at least 200 to 300 hours of specific training in hypnosis. Bear in mind that having an advanced degree in psychology or medicine may give a practitioner the right to claim that they can do hypnosis as part of the services they offer, but that is no guarantee that they have had specialized training or adequate experience in the holistic art of Hypnotherapy. In fact, the most notorious and well documented case of False Memory Syndrome occurred with a very manipulative American Psychiatrist who also put their emotionally unstable patient on powerful psychiatric medication and used coercive techniques in “psychotherapy” to forcefully suggest the patient had experienced something in childhood they had not. (It was later revealed that the Psychiatrist needed support for their pet theory of wide-spread satanic rituals taking place in America so they could write a book about it.) Throughout the ordeal, which lasted over the course of several years, the patient periodically expressed their disbelief, only to be overridden by the doctor acting as an authority figure and prescribed more brain-numbing medications. It took a great deal of time, constant duress, and the use of powerful drugs for this Psychiatrist to establish this false memory syndrome in their patient, which was very painful for the patient, but ultimately not permanent. Although this makes a great tabloid news story, it could never happen in short-term, goal oriented Hypnotherapy, even with a poorly trained Hypnotherapist. As far as memory serves us, no two people have the exact same memory of the exact same event that actually did happen anyway!
“What the heck is ‘NLP’?”
“NLP” or Neuro-Linguistic Programming is a generic form of hypnosis and one of many techniques that a qualified Hypnotherapist may use. Don’t be fooled by fancy words. Often those who exclusively practice NLP do not have the in-depth training in hypnosis techniques as does a ACHE Certified Hypnotherapist. (“Interactive Guided Imagery” practitioners fall in the same category.) NLP is a useful tool in building rapport with friends or potential sales clients, but without traditional hypnotic inductions, in many cases it does not attain the hypnotic depth that profound inner healing necessitates for longlasting results. Also, “Hypnoterapist” is a legally recognized profession by the US Department of Labor, “NLP Practitioner” is not.
“How can I learn more about how hypnosis works?”
To find out more about hypnosis and view a list of recommended reading, click here.

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