What is Hypnosis?

By Fiona Cunningham, B.Sc., C.Ht., M.Ed., C.C.C., HCHI

The word hypnosis can bring to mind images of stage hypnotists, people under hypnosis who appear to be without their faculties, or a person who falls asleep staring at a swinging watch or starts to quack at the sound of a bell. Understandably, this might prevent people from taking a class to learn how to use it! However, once you understand this state of consciousness you will find you have been accessing and using it on a daily basis.

Hypnosis is the state of consciousness between waking and sleeping. Indeed, you have passed through it every day, at least twice, since you have been born. When measured by electroencephalogram (E.E.G.) waking is 14 cycles per second and light sleep begins at 11 cycles per second. Hypnosis is measured at 12 and 13 cycles per second. The state is experienced naturally as you become engaged in a good book or movie or are driving on the highway and start to daydream. You may recognize that you’ve been in hypnosis when you realize that you’ve lost track of time. It’s also the wonderful place you pass as you are falling asleep when you have an epiphany or suddenly realize the solution to a problem you’ve been working on and have to get up to write it down before you forget it. This explains the adage to “sleep on it!”

Hypnosis is one of many altered states of consciousness including meditation, biofeedback, guided imagery, yoga and progressive relaxation.

All hypnosis is self hypnosis. You cannot do something that is against your will, values, or morals. For some more commonly asked question, keep reading!


What does hypnosis feel like?

Hypnosis is a means of moving into a perfectly natural state of mind that people actually move in and out of several times in a day. Have you ever had the experience of driving along the highway and suddenly realizing that you passed your exit several miles back? Or been so caught up in a book or movie or video game that you don’t even realize that someone has been speaking to you for the past several minutes? THAT is hypnosis. Hypnosis is something you have experienced before!

Can anyone be hypnotized?

Anyone of at least average intelligence, who can follow directions can be hypnotized. Occasionally, a person may need several attempts before actually entering into hypnosis. What causes this? Generally, it’s holding onto a little bit of fear- fear of loss of control. This is actually a misunderstanding as the proper use of hypnosis actually gives you greater control over all aspects of your life.

Will I do something against my will?

When you are hypnotized , you are aware of all suggestions given to you and you will not do anything against your moral or ethical principles. Hypnosis cannot detach you from your will, or ego. As a general rule, if a client were given a suggestion he or she didn’t agree with, he or she would simply refuse, laugh at it, or come out of the hypnosis. Stage hypnosis requires the use of volunteers who agree to comply to the stage directions and there is a selection procedure. These volunteers may be using alcohol, are less inhibited, and have come to the show for a good time. If an individual was asked to do something that was not in sync with their belief system or character trait, they would not comply. Beliefs and values continue to stay intact during any act influenced with hypnosis.

As a committee of the American Psychological Association wrote, “Hypnosis makes it easier for people to experience suggestions, but it does not force them to have these experiences.”

Will I Remember Everything That Happens in Hypnosis?

Yes, you will remember everything that happens in hypnosis if that is your desire. Occasionally a person might choose to selectively forget certain facts for a time and then bring them up later when they are more ready.

What If You Can’t Bring Me Out of It?

There is no danger of a person failing to come out of the hypnotic state. In fact it would be impossible to remain hypnotized. Some people choose to stay in trance a little longer because it feels so good and it’s the most relaxed they’ve been in their lives!