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What is Hypnosis? – The Complete Guide

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When we talk about what is hypnosis, we often tend to be either talking about: the relaxed, focused, absorbed feelings associated with a ‘trance state’, or we tend to be talking about the interesting things people can do when hypnotised: such as not feeling pain, or experiencing hallucinations.

Some scientists think that hypnotism is an “altered state of consciousness” marked by changes in the way the brain functions. Others believe that hypnotised participants are actively motivated to behave in a hypnotic manner and are not simply passively responding to hypnotic suggestions. Therapists who use hypnosis sometimes talk about using it to access the contents and resources of the subconscious or as some call it the unconscious mind.

Like the story of the blind men and the elephant, it is possible that these explanations all describe different parts of the overall phenomenon of hypnosis.

Understanding what is Hypnosis with the help of an analogy

Frequently Asked Questions about Hypnosis

Hypnosis is generally taken to mean the induction of a trance state.

Although trance has connotations of glassy-eyed automatism, it simply means a focused state of attention.

Attention can be focused externally, or it can be focused internally.

It is most often compared to daydreaming or the feeling of losing yourself in a book or movie.

You are fully conscious, but you tune out most of the stimuli around you. You focus intently on the subject at hand, to the near exclusion of any other thought.

The difference between only a focused state and a hypnotic state is that in a hypnotic state you are also highly suggestible. That is, when the hypnotist asks you to do something, you’ll probably embrace the idea completely.

Its application is based solely on the relationship between the conscious mind, the critical filter, and the subconscious mind.

The subconscious mind, in this state, accepts and acts upon any fact or suggestion given to it by the conscious mind.

However, the subject’s sense of safety and morality remain entrenched throughout the experience. In short, a hypnotist can’t get you to do anything you don’t want to do.

Now that you know what is hypnosis, let us look at the next obvious question…

Science Says Hypnosis is Real.

Child looking into a glowing ball exploring What is hypnosisIt has been successfully utilized in a wide range of applications across a number of fields.

Unfortunately, the term “Hypnosis” still evokes mixed emotions and many people wonder whether hypnosis is real or just some abracadabra stuff!

However, medical and therapeutic research continues to show how and when it can be used as a therapy tool.

It is a highly effective change tool that is also used to treat various conditions. To do this, a certified hypnotist, who is also a trained therapist, guides you into a state of higher suggestibility or increased receptivity.

While you’re in this state, they can make suggestions to help you become more open to change or therapeutic improvement.

David Spiegel, MD, professor and associate chair of psychiatry and behavioural sciences based on his Research shows that “(Hypnosis) is a very powerful means of changing the way we use our minds to control perception and our bodies.”

Other researches have demonstrated that Hypnosis sessions are effective in:

  • Lessening chronic pain and the pain of childbirth and other medical procedures.
  • Treating smoking addiction and post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • Easing anxiety or phobias.

If you are looking for more details about the application of hypnosis in therapy and more examples of researches about its effectiveness, do check out our comprehensive guide on Hypnotherapy.

For now it is important to remember that While more evidence continues to accumulate about the benefits and positive effects of hypnosis in ever-increasing areas of its application, there can be no doubt to the fact that HYPNOSIS IS REAL!

The best way to answer these questions is by recognising that we have all experienced hypnosis and that it is a naturally occurring state.


It is true. In fact we experience hypnosis multiple times a day.

If you have ever been so engrossed in a movie or a book that you felt moved by it, or that your emotional state was influenced by it, then you have experienced a hypnotic state.

If you have ever told yourself that I wouldn’t be able to do something and when the time came to do it, you weren’t able to do it, you have been in a hypnotic state.

Or if you have ever told yourself I can do it and when the time came to do it, you automatically felt this surge of confidence, you have experienced a hypnotic state.

or if you have ever been to a supermarket to buy ketchup but by the time you reached the counter you had picked up a lot more than just ketchup, then you have been in a hypnotic state.

In short, Hypnosis is a natural & universal human trait. Each one of us, in some form or the other, experiences hypnosis on a daily basis.

It may even be argued that we live most, if not all, of our lives in different types of hypnotic states.

Which also means that everybody is hypnotizable. As long as the person is willing, he or she is capable of experiencing a hypnotic state.

That said when hypnosis is being induced by another person, the hypnotist may need to modify the style or content of what they do, depending upon the client.

During hypnosis, you will generally remain conscious of your surroundings.

Some of the sensations you may experience when in a hypnotic state include:

  • Tingling in your fingertips or limbs
  • A sense of numbness or limb distortion
  • A sense of being light and floating away from your body
  • A heavy feeling like you are sinking
  • A sense of energy moving through your body
  • Feelings of emotions
  • Fluttering eyelids
  • An increase or decrease in salivation

It is important to remember that these are just some of the examples of sensations that you may experience.

In reality, you can actually experience any other sensation that the hypnotist suggests for you to experience.

The discovery of hypnosis has led to three different theories of hypnosis namely role theory, altered-state theory, and dissociation theory.

Whether or not you believe that hypnosis is an altered state of consciousness (i.e. altered-state theory), the key characteristic of hypnotic responding is involuntariness.

This has been called the “classic suggestion effect” by André Muller Weitzenhoffer, who was one of the most prolific researchers in the field of hypnosis in the latter half of the 20th century.

As a hypnotic suggestion is carried out by a subject, the subjective experience is that the behaviour is happening all by itself, involuntarily.

For example, if the suggestion is that the subject’s arm is rigid like a bar of iron, the classic hypnotic experience is that one’s arm has really become rigid, on its own: it is not experienced that one is deliberately holding one’s arm stiffly.

While attempting to experience hypnosis, it is important to remember the following things:

  • When you notice that you are noticing these sensations, do not become alarmed or you may shock yourself right out of the hypnotic state.
  • Don’t try too hard to get into a hypnotic state, just expect the hypnotic state to occur gradually and it will.
  • Suggestions stay with some individuals indefinitely, others need reinforcement.
  • The effects of hypnosis are cumulative: The more the techniques are practised and posthypnotic suggestions are brought into play, the more permanent the results become.

In order to understand the process of hypnosis and how it works, one needs to understand the model of mind and the functions of the different parts of the mind. You can checkout the video titled “Model of Mind” on the ICHARS Youtube Channel.

Here is a list of common career options where hypnosis can be applied effectively.

  1. Hypnotherapist or Hypno-Counselor  
  2. Subject-matter Expert 
  3. Entertainment Industry 
  4. Supportive services 
  5. Sales 
  6. Human Research 
  7. Training and Development 

If you are interested in exploring how hypnosis can be applied in each of these fields, do check out our more detailed post on career options after hypnosis.

One of the most common applications of Hypnosis is in the field of change work. Hypnosis can be applied in combination with different Coaching Models and Therapeutic approaches to help clients achieve their goals and overcome intense emotional issues more naturally, effectively and sustainably. The application of hypnosis in therapy is popularly known as Hypnotherapy whereas its application in Coaching is now referred to as Hypnotic Coaching.

Quick Summary of What is Hypnosis?

So there you go, hypnosis is not magical or mysterious when you know the true facts. It is simply a state of hyper-receptivity and includes a group of techniques for focusing the mind so that the unconscious can absorb pre-agreed suggestions, in order to facilitate change.

However, the reality has been bent and distorted by sensationalism.

This is a pity because not knowing this, can and probably does, prevent many people from trying it for the first time.

Remember, that it is perfectly safe so you have nothing to lose. In fact, hypnosis can help you unlock a whole world of possibilities for personal growth, change and improvement. Many people’s lives have been turned around with hypnosis. Don’t let this potential opportunity slip you by.

If you are a mental health practitioner, you can greatly benefit by learning more about what is hypnosis and how to integrate it with different therapeutic techniques like CBT, REBT, Mindfulness, Behavioural Therapy, NLP and Psychoanalysis. Check out our comprehensive eclectic course titled Cognitive Hypnotic Psychotherapy for mental health practitioners.

If you would not like to work with intensely emotional issues or traumas but limit the use of hypnosis towards Coaching, be it life, relationship or executive, do check out our Diploma Program on Cognitive Hypnotic Coaching.

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