15 Surprising Facts About the Science of Hypnosis

Thanks to twisty television plots and popular Vegas magic shows, hypnosis is one of the most fascinating — yet least understood — forms of therapy. Contrary to popular belief, which may be due to hypnosis often being seen as a form of entertainment, hypnosis is actually an unbelievable form of therapy for physical and mental health.

A trained therapist who has studied cognitive and clinical neuroscience can perform clinical and experimental hypnosis on their patients and see incredible results. Hypnosis, which refers to health professionals putting patients into a trance like state, works in many ways to help people of all ages and backgrounds with varying conditions and ailments. These can be both mental and physical. A hypnosis session can tackle obstacles such as pain control, losing weight, quitting smoking, and so on.

Hypnosis research has proven that this practice is a medical discovery that we have only scratched the surface on. Below, we’ve listed 15 surprising facts about the science of hypnosis that will not only dispel some of the myths, but also totally blow your mind.

Hypnosis is an accepted form of medical treatment.

Hypnosis — known also as hypnotherapy — has its doubters, but it’s been an accepted form of medical treatment since the 1950s. Every year, more and more people seek out appointments with hypnotherapists to find a healthy way to control fears and negative behaviors. It has been long proven to be successful form of therapy for mental health and is an alternative medical treatment that doesn’t include medication. To achieve this, hypnotherapists help patients access their subconscious mind, something many of us do every day without realizing.

A human stays completely awake during hypnosis.

Contrary to popular belief, hypnotism is a natural state of mind. It’s not a form of sleep. Scientists have proven over and over again that patients remain wide awake while under hypnosis, and even retain complete control of their actions. Hypnotic induction may seem scary or intimidating at first, but many patients feel more comfortable after they’ve undergo hypnosis at least once.

The average person experiences hypnosis at least twice a day.

Believe it or not, you likely enter an hypnotic state at least twice a day. Common examples include arriving at your destination without memory of driving there, zoning out while reading the page of a book, becoming so engrossed in the television show you’re binging that you barely realize half a day has passed, or experiencing involuntary sleep hypnosis.

Officially, hypnosis has been around since 18th century.

Franz Mesmer is usually credited with bringing hypnosis to the attention of the public sometime around 1770. The Austrian physician likely knew about the use of hypnosis by earlier societies, and spent much of his career studying hypnosis, hypnotic techniques, and its effects on the human mind. Interestingly, Mesmer referred to hypnosis as “animal magnetism” or “mesmerism,” and the latter of the two is sometimes still used today. (We bet you’re utterly mesmerized by this fact, right?).

But some of the earliest recorded descriptions of hypnosis date back to ancient Egypt in 1500 B.C.

Imhotep, the world’s first known physician, used healing sanctuaries known as Sleep Temples. The temples were used for a type of suggestion therapy, and people would go to be healed from problems both physical and mental. It’s said that patients visiting a Sleep Temple would be put under the influence of incantation, or hypnotic state. Before ultimately falling asleep, the physician would give them whatever suggestions might help overcome their problem in hopes that the gods would visit the patient during his sleep and fix them.

Hypnosis can be used as an anesthesia.

Various studies have found that hypnosis can be an effective tool for pain management. In fact, studies done using EEG have shown that hypnosis removes the emotional experience of pain, while still allowing one to experience the sensory sensation. The touch can be felt, but the actual feeling of pain isn’t recognized by the brain when they are in this trance like state. More and more women are even going through prenatal hypnosis training as they prepare for natural childbirth.

Stage hypnosis and clinical hypnosis are very different.

When “hypnosis” is mentioned, most people tend to think of stage hypnosis. This  is the popular show during which a hypnotist chooses seemingly random people, sends them to sleep, and then makes them do hilarious (and kind of mean) tricks for laughs. As entertaining as stage hypnosis may be, it has little to do with clinical hypnosis. The latter is an accepted form of therapy which helps people overcome various ailments via a relaxed mind and strategic suggestion.

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Not everyone is a candidate for stage hypnosis.

If you’ve ever seen stage hypnosis meant for entertainment, you’ll likely see the entertainer/hypnotist choose what seems to be a random group of audience members to come up on stage and “be hypnotized.” But like any good show, not all is as it appears. According to various scientific studies, some people are more prone to hypnotic suggestibility. These people can be persuaded into the subconscious mind more easily than others.  These types of people are often “quizzed” beforehand, even if they don’t realize it.

A hypnotized person remains in complete control.

Hypnosis occasionally makes an appearance on television. It’s usually part of a storyline in which the hypnotized person has lost all control and becomes a “puppet.” In reality, people in a relaxed state of hypnosis remain completely in control.  They should be able to hear, comprehend, and later remember what the hypnotist suggests. There should be no concerns about being made to cluck like a chicken or sent on a murder spree while hypnotized. They are simply feeling deep relaxation because of their focused attention.

Hypnosis can help overcome a bevy of maladies.

People seek out hypnotherapists for a variety of reasons. These include getting help overcoming fears and phobias, weight loss, negative and traumatizing memories, insomnia, and smoking. Hypnotherapy has even been found to assist laboring mothers by reducing pain during childbirth. More parents of children with ADHD are finding that hypnotherapy has a positive and drug-free effect on their children. According to Britain’s Paediatrics Child Health, “Hypnotherapy allows the child to gain a sense of control, increase self-esteem and competence, and reduce stress.”

Hypnosis only brings about memory loss if that its intended goal.

On television, hypnotized people never seem to remember what happened during their hypnosis. However, as we said above, hypnotized people remain awake and aware throughout the session. Hypnosis is all about suggestion. If the purpose of undergoing hypnotherapy is to forget negative memories or rid themselves of false memories, that can be achieved. Forgetting memories is only likely to happen if that’s the goal, and even those memories can be brought back with further suggestion.

Your brain works differently while in a hypnotized state.

Hypnosis allows the brain to bypass the conscious part of the mind. It “turns off” the desire to ask questions or take note of surroundings. Instead, the brain gains hyperawareness, a state of being in control of one’s body and/or surroundings without consciously thinking about it.

It’s impossible to become stuck in a hypnotized trance.

The idea that one can become stuck in a hypnotized trance is a common misconception. In truth, hypnotized people never lose control of their mind or body, and are able to come out of the hypnotized state as easily as opening their eyes.

Hypnosis feels different to different people.

People who have undergone hypnosis report different feelings whilst “under.” Some describe their experience like falling asleep with the television on, while others report feeling heavy. Still others use words like “light” or “floating.” Since we all internalize experiences differently, it makes sense that the feeling of hypnosis is different for each person.

You can hypnotize yourself.

On television, there’s always a hypnotist and a person being hypnotized, leading to the common misconception that it takes two to tango with hypnotism. In reality, there is such a thing as self hypnosis and it’s totally valid. Emile Coue, a French psychologist, developed the technique in which a person can suppress all mental resistance and enter into a hypnotic state. Many people practice self hypnosis without the help of a healthcare professional.

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