Working as a hypnotherapist in Plymouth, I have found that mistaken ideas about hypnosis are very common, even among well-educated people. I discuss some of them here.
STAGE HYPNOTISM. Many people, seeing the bizarre behaviour displayed in stage hypnotism shows, assume that stage hypnotists must be exceptionally powerful to achieve such effects. In fact, stage hypnotists have first “tested” the entire audience, to select a few people on whom to work. These people are suggestible extroverts who enjoy being the focus of attention. The power of hypnotism is enhanced by the pressure of the audience’s expectations. Although many hypnotherapists condemn stage hypnotism, some of the early hypno-psychotherapists actually learned a lot from stage hypnotists. I myself have learned from stage hypnotists such as James Brown, as well as from hypnotherapists. However I do not like some of the modern stage hypnotists whose shows include crude sexual “humour”. Irresponsible sexual suggestion in hypnosis are potentially dangerous, because many people have secret “hang-ups” about sexuality that the stage hypnotist would not know about, and cannot possibly check for in the short time available.
HYPNOTIC REGRESSION. People often ask me about regression to childhood or even past lives. Regression has its uses. However, hypnosis cannot give us reliable information about what actually happened in the past. Carelessly-handled regression to childhood could risk creating false memories which would damage present day relationships. For example, even by questioning a hypnotised person about the possibility of abuse, the subconscious mind may answer by creating a false memory. In America, incompetent hypnotherapists and even police officers have broken up many families in this way. The danger of false memory syndrome illustrates the importance of consulting only a highly trained and experienced hypnotherapist who is recognised by insurers as having the highest professional standards.
HYPNOSIS AND CHOICE. Some people avoid hypnosis because they fear “giving control of their mind” to another person. Some even object on religious grounds, saying that a hypnotist could command them to sin against God. These objections are based on misunderstandings. Firstly, the subconscious mind can still reject suggestions. Secondly, if God exists then He must be far more powerful than any hypnotist, so it is absurd for a religious person to fear hypnotism. I have treated members of many religions including Sikhs, Buddhists, Muslims, Pagans, and of course Protestant, Catholic and Russian Orthodox Christians.
HYPNOSIS AND WILLPOWER. Some people assert that they are “too strong-willed to be hypnotised”. In reality, strong-willed people are easier to hypnotise, because they are unafraid of hypnotism. My clients have included very strong-willed and courageous people, including many servicemen, police officers, and people working in personal protection.
HYPNOSIS AND SECRETS. Some people fear “revealing secrets” while in hypnotic trance. In fact, people could still lie or remain silent even in the deepest trances. I only ask questions about matters directly relevant to the problem for which the client has chosen to seek therapy. Whatever clients tell me is confidential unless it involves serious crime or a serious intention to commit suicide. See “How I Work” to learn more about confidentiality.