Are those under hypnosis mentally weak or helpless, unable to lie or maybe asleep? It is true that hypnosis cures miraculously in one session? Misconceptions about hypnosis abound, thanks mostly to inaccurate portrayals in movies and fiction. Here are eight of the most common myths exposed.
Myth 1: Only the mentally weak can be hypnotised
This isn’t true. In fact the exact reverse is probably more true. The higher your intelligence and the stronger your self-control, the more easily you are hypnotised. That’s because entering a hypnotic trance is all about concentrating, so people with mental health problems can find it difficult. However finding it hard to enter a hypnotic state doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you. People naturally vary in how susceptible they are to hypnosis. Studies have shown that around 30% of people are relatively resistant to being hypnotised. Although, with some practice, the state can easily be achieved.
Myth 2: The hypnotised are helpless
Also false. It’s difficult to get people to do things under hypnosis that they wouldn’t normally do. While hypnotised people are still in touch with their morals and normal standards of behaviour. That said, though, it is possible to reduce people’s inhibitions under hypnosis and they will more readily accept suggestions. Stage hypnotists rely on this heightened suggestibility, along with picking the types who, let’s say, don’t mind a little attention. That’s how they get people to quack like ducks and the rest. Don’t we all know someone who would quack like a duck if it meant everyone would look at them?
Myth 3: Hypnosis is sleep
Yes, people look like they’re asleep when they’re hypnotised because their eyes are closed and they’re peaceful. But they’re not asleep. The brain waves of a person who is hypnotised are nothing like those of a person who is asleep. In fact the hypnotic trance is a heightened state of concentration. A high level of alpha waves on an EEG show that a hypnotised person is awake, alert and very responsive.
Myth 4: Hypnosis takes one session
The truth is that some do experience dramatic results in one session and often several sessions are required. Change takes time. How much depends on the issue and the inividual
Myth 5: Hypnotists must be flamboyant or weird
That’s just fictional characters who have to be flamboyant and weird. Makes better fiction. In reality it would be distracting if the person trying to hypnotise you had swirling eyes, kept talking about black magic and wore very loud ties. Your average (and above average) hypnotist is much more likely to dress like any other professional.
Myth 6: Hypnosis can be used to retrieve long forgotten memories
If you believe this one then you’re in very good company. Many members of the public think this is true, as do some psychologists and some hypnotherapists. Except that it has been shown time and again that the hypnotic trance isn’t much good for accurately retrieving memories. Worse, hypnotists can easily implant false memories, because people in a hypnotic trance are easily suggestible. That scene in the movie where a hypnotist helps the victim see the killer’s face is pure Hollywood: entertaining but total fiction.
Myth 7: You can’t lie under hypnosis
Oh yes you can! Hypnosis is not some kind of magical state in which you can only speak the truth. This is a natural result of the fact that you are not helpless when hypnotised and your usual moral (and immoral) faculties are still active. Not only can you lie under hypnosis, but lying is not necessarily any more detectable hypnotised than when not (Sheehan & Statham, 1988).
Myth 8: You’ve never been hypnotised
Many people think they’ve never been hypnotised since they’ve never been to a hypnotherapist. In reality, most of us have experienced a state of mild hypnosis, at least. For example, when you drive a long distance and start to feel dissociated from your body and the car, that’s a mild state of hypnosis. Your unconscious is taking care of all the mechanical aspects of driving while you conscious mind is free to float around. Or if you’ve ever meditated then you’ve hypnotised yourself. Meditation is really a specific type of hypnosis.
RePosted from PsyBlog July 9, 2013