Myths Surrounding Hypnosis
by Dr. Mary Ann Markey
Hypnosis can be a very beneficial option for individuals who want to change (start or stop) a behavior, such as engaging in an exercise program and promoting a healthier lifestyle, or who wish to stop smoking. Hypnosis can be a means for enhancing one’s performance in sports, athletics and the arts as well as assist in mitigating or eliminating fears, phobias, panic attacks and anxiety. Some clients book recurring appointments as their time to relax, decrease levels of stress, and simply “get away from it all” without having to leave my office.
With So Many Benefits,
why are people reluctant to become hypnotized?
The media plays a large role in perpetuating the myths and erroneous beliefs associated with hypnosis, such as it being a form of “mind control” where clients lose their own will, and have to obey the commands of the hypnotist. Then there is the swinging pocket watch used by the hypnotist to put clients into a deep trance into which they may become “stuck” and never awake again, or another one of my personal favorites, the belief that if they look into my eyes, I will gain power over them, and subject them to my will. I had reached the point where I stopped telling people that I was a hypnotist because of the reactions it caused including avoiding any eye contact with me because they believed I would be able to control them. Nonsense!
If the relationship between a hypnotist and a client is to be successful, a trust and a rapport must be established between them where the client knows that this is a collaboration between the two rather than a dominance of the hypnotist over the client. A hypnotist always asks the permission of the client to proceed with the hypnosis session before the induction has even begun. Clients cannot get “stuck” or fail to emerge from hypnosis. It is simply impossible because if the hypnotist stops talking to the client during a session, the client will emerge of his or her own accord within a few minutes, but hypnotists prefer to gently and slowly bring clients out of hypnosis typically using a countdown of numbers from 10 to 1. About that pocket watch . . . I never use a pocket watch or any other device in my hypnosis practice, I use only my voice which my clients come to know and trust to the point where I could literally recite the Encyclopedia Britannica, and they would gently and deeply enter into a state of hypnosis.
"My Classroom and Students were possessed."
As a psychologist and a professor teaching college courses with the added credential of being a certified hypnotist, I had offered my students the option of experiencing hypnosis as part of the course textbook’s chapter on altered states of consciousness. This was not a mandatory part of the course, and any student who was not interested was excused from the classroom during that time; however, that evening I received a call from the chair of the psychology department, who asked for my version of what had taken place in my class earlier that day. Apparently, one of the students had contacted the head of our department saying that my classroom and students were possessed, and that my classroom needed to be exorcised. The possibility of this type of a situation occurring in an institution of higher learning obviously did not occur to me at the time I offered my students the option of experiencing hypnosis, but I did promise the chair that I would cease hypnotizing any of my students in the future.
"You Don't Look Like a Hypnotist"
In Florida, the school board actually hired me to teach adult education courses in hypnosis, so now I had permission to hypnotize my students which pleased me greatly. However, I did realize that there was still some erroneous beliefs remaining when I reported to the office the evening I began to teach the self-hypnosis courses, and introduced myself to the secretary. She greeted me with, “You don’t look like a hypnotist.” To which I replied, “What is a hypnotist supposed to look like?” Perhaps at this point I should explain that I am 4’10” tall and 95 pounds with brown hair and blue eyes which appears to be in stark contrast to the representation of the character representing the hypnotist in the horror film, Svengali (1927) who uses hypnosis to enslave the beautiful young girl named Trilby. These adult education classes were highly successful and very popular which allowed them to continue from one semester to the next, and oftentimes, I would have the same students enroll again for eight weeks just because they were enjoying themselves so much.. They had learned how to hypnotize themselves during the course of the eight weeks with no problem whatsoever, but they just enjoyed coming to class one night per week, and spending two hours in total relaxation.