People sometimes wonder whether they can be hypnotized. Incredible, but true – there are professional hypnotists and hypnotherapists today who still seem to believe that only certain percentage of people can be hypnotized, and that is what they are teaching through their books, courses, websites and seminars. The origin of these misconceptions may be traced to several hypnotizability scales. Two of the more popular are Stanford Hypnotic Susceptibility Scales (created in 1959) and Harvard Group Scales (created in 1962).
Based on the tests performed, the researchers involved in creation of these hypnotizability scales have concluded that 5% of people cannot be hypnotized and that only about 10% can experience deep trance phenomena like auditory and visual hallucinations, and the ability to remain deeply in hypnosis with eyes open.
If you are unfamiliar with hypnotic phenomena, visual hallucinations can be “positive hallucinations” – if you happen to see something that doesn’t belong to consensus reality; or “negative hallucination” – if you don’t see something which may be right in front of you. And it’s good to keep in mind that we often see what we expect to see. It works the same way with auditory hallucinations, which happen when what you hear subjectively is different from the consensus reality.
Now I would like to ask you a question : Did it ever happen to you to look for something, perhaps car keys, which were right in front of you, but you just didn’t see them? That is an example of deep trance phenomenon called “negative hallucination”. Of course, if you were looking for the keys, your eyes were most certainly open, and according to these hypnotizability scales, you were in a very deep trance. Did you feel like you were in a deep trance?
Or maybe you have had an experience of someone calling your name, but you happened to be so deeply absorbed in other thoughts that you simply didn’t hear the person calling you. It often happens with children. They get so absorbed in playing “let’s pretend games” that for a while they lose awareness of the external world, or rather the external world becomes a part of their subjective reality. And that’s hypnosis.
Let’s go over few more hypnotic phenomena:
Time Distortion – you experience time distortion when you subjectively experience the passage of time as if the time is passing slower or faster than the consensus time. In a way, because it takes much less time to think of an action than to do it, you can accomplish more in your mind in less time, then it would take to perform the action physically. You can be anywhere with your mind in an instant, and you can accomplish anything with your mind in an instant.
We have all had experiences when time seemed to drag or to fly. If you just stand beside a pot waiting for a water to boil or you’re waiting in line at a bank or at a post office, it may seem that time stretched almost into foreverness. And when you’re very busy or are having lots of fun and you’re immersed in something you really do not wish to end, it may seem that time just flew by and you wonder where did it go?
Amnesia (forgetting something) is another hypnotic phenomenon. Did it ever happen to you that you do something or say something or someone else tells you something and you forget it – even if the action occurred just a moment ago, in the midst of a conversation you were having? This happens naturally when immediately upon the action performed, you switch your attention to something unrelated. Your mind wonders in an instant to some other topic and you forget what just happened.
When hypnotists want to create amnesia for what happened during the session, through conversational form of hypnosis, they use the same method that happens naturally. Before you have fully returned to your normal consciousness, they switch your attention to something else, and you forget what just happened.
If you pay attention to experiences in your daily life, you will become aware of all sorts of hypnotic phenomena occurring naturally – even catalepsy. Catalepsy occurs when a part of a body acts as if it were frozen in space, rigid, usually in some unusual position, and for a while you’re not even aware of that part of the body. Maybe there was a time when you were so deeply immersed in contemplating some thought, that when you returned your attention to external world, you were surprised that perhaps your arm was floating in front of you or was just placed in some position, perhaps lifted toward your face, and you didn’t even notice when it happened.
And perhaps you’ve had an experience where you went to another room, looking for something, but on the way to the room, your thoughts shifted to something else, and by the time you got to the room, you couldn’t remember what were you doing there? By now, you may be beginning to realize that all of these different hypnotic phenomena involve some form of mental distraction – your body may be doing one thing, simply executing the programming in your subconscious to perform a certain action, and your mind may be thinking of something else. If you are mentally elsewhere, of course you are not aware of what is happening with your body and you experience all sorts of hypnotic phenomena.
Analgesia and anesthesia are two more hypnotic phenomena. Perhaps there was a time when you had a terrible headache or have experienced some other pain and then something happened that so much absorbed your attention – maybe you had an interesting phone conversation or were watching an interesting movie, maybe a comedy on TV – and for a while you were completely free of pain. You were completely unaware even of any sensations in your body – and your eyes were wide open all along.
There are many more hypnotic phenomena and the point I want to make is simply to point out that just about everything that people can experience when hypnotized by a professional hypnotist when they are in a so called deep states of hypnosis, people in all walks of life have experienced at some point as part of their normal daily life.
Since, the term “hypnosis” is used to describe a state of heightened suggestibility, a state of mind in which the door to your subconscious is open enough so that ideas may be impressed upon it, absolutely everything that is in your subconscious mind today, got there via some form of hypnosis.
If you were non-hypnotizable (i.e. the door of your subconscious could not be opened), you would have no memories, and no programming. That is why the question of hypnotizability is ludicrous. All the information, ideas and beliefs you have acquired and stored in your mind, were stored there via hypnosis – and any time you turn your attention to your subjective experience you are in hypnosis. All that any hypnotist does is simply stimulate the processes that occur naturally to create specific effects.
Perhaps due to hypnosis stage shows and movies, some people believe that the only way they can get hypnotized is if a person called a “hypnotist” tells them “You are getting very sleepy now … you are getting into a deep trance and you are going to obey every command I give you now!” Nothing could be further from truth.
There are also some psychologists, psychiatrists, medical doctors and even hypnotists and hypnotherapists who are trying to convince people that people are impotent and can do nothing on their own or that the most anyone can hope to accomplish on his own with hypnosis is just get a little bit relaxed. Those who are saying such things may be saying them either because they themselves do not know how to do more with their minds on their own, or because they do not want you to know that you can accomplish great many things with your mind, and that you have already accomplished great many things with your mind even if you don’t yet know how you did it.
Here’s how you can and how you do hypnotize yourself and others – even if you or others are doing it completely unintentionally and unknowingly. When you play with your own subjective experience, you are practicing self-hypnosis.
For example, if you go to school to learn some craft, while you are learning it you are pretending in your mind that you’ve already mastered it. This serves several purposes – it helps to motivate you, it opens your mind to learning experience making it easier for you to absorb the information and master the skill, and it makes the journey to mastery an entertaining experience. If you are pretending to be a recognized musician while learning to play an instrument; or if you are pretending to be a lawyer while studying, you are in effect practicing self-hypnosis. If you are a man and you see a good-looking woman and begin to imagine having a date with her, you are practicing self-hypnosis. What you focus upon in your subjective experience, in your imagination, may have a great bearing upon whether you actually end up having a date with that woman or not.
When you play with other people’s subjective experience, you are hypnotizing them. Of course you could use inductions to get people into trance, but you don’t have to. All it takes to hypnotize other people is to engage their imagination (and you can do that with any or a combination of several senses – visual, auditory, kinesthetic, etc.). The entire process of hypnosis may be also non-verbal. All it may take for a woman to hypnotize a man, is to put on a mini-skirt. Granted, some women should be better covered from head to toe, but everyone can offer a genuine friendly smile. What you do specifically would depend on what is your outcome and what is appropriate to the given situation. If you were looking for a job, then dressing as if you were already a member of a team would help the interviewer to picture you as one of them .. and it would make it easier for you to land that job. You get the idea.
And when other people play with your subjective experience, they are hypnotizing you. Can you recall a time you watched a movie you liked or read a book or talked to someone you liked – perhaps you were so absorbed in that person or book or movie which provided certain mental and emotional stimulation and engaged your imagination that, for a while there, the external world faded from your awareness.
When someone says that only certain percentage of people are hypnotizable or that they are hypnotizable to this or that degree, what they are saying is more along the lines of – at that point in time, with that particular hypnotist, given the hypnotist’s repertoire of skills and given the mood and the state of mind the person-to-be- hypnotized is in, the person may be willing or in mood to do what the hypnotist suggested to a certain point, or not at all.
All of us go through many different states and moods throughout the day. There is a time you may feel like eating, there is a time you may feel like sleeping, there is a time you feel like relaxing, there is a time you may feel like jumping around, there is a time you may feel like working, there is a time you may feel like watching a movie, etc. If someone were to suggest something that you feel like doing at that particular moment, you’d be happy to comply and would be then labeled as “highly hypnotizable”. On the other hand, if someone suggested something at a time you didn’t feel like doing that particular thing, you would be labeled perhaps a “resistant hypnotic subject ” or even non-hypnotizable. It’s also possible that you may very well enjoy doing a particular thing at that very moment, but not with that particular person or a hypnotist.