What Does Hypnosis Really Feel Like?
What Does Hypnosis Really Feel Like?
You’ve seen the movies where a hypnotist pulls out a pocket watch, swings it back and forth before the heroine’s face and tells her, “You’re getting very sleepy . . .”
On the screen, fictional characters who have been hypnotized are totally “under”. They are unconscious and at the mercy of the hypnotist, and they have no memory of what happened — even of their own thoughts, words, and actions — once they “wake up.”
The truth about hypnosis is much less dramatic, maybe even disappointingly so. But hypnosis can yield remarkable benefits and results in the real world, regardless of whether or not someone feels “under”.
Hypnosis is characterized by a deep state of relaxation, and there are some similarities between hypnosis and sleep. But there are also parallels between hypnosis, meditation, and daydreaming — states in which you are hardly unaware or “out of control.”
What, then, does hypnosis feel like? And does it matter how hypnosis feels to you for it to be effective?
How Hypnosis Is Different From Sleep
Are you “getting very sleepy”? Let’s look at how this figures in.
Eighteenth-century physician Franz Mesmer is frequently credited with the discovery of hypnosis, and “mesmerism” became a synonym for hypnosis. However, Mesmer practiced what he called “animal magnetism” to cure his patients of various ailments, and he worked with metal rods and electrical charges to produce a trance-like state — not at all how hypnosis is practiced today.
Mesmer’s contemporaries and later practitioners eschewed his metal rods in favor of focusing their patients’ attention — on a gold pen, for instance — and then suggesting that they simply “go to sleep.” These hypnotists then used hypnotic suggestion to help effect lasting change.
Thus, the cultural connection between hypnosis and sleep was born.
Sleep is a natural state of reduced consciousness in which your body and mind are able to rest on a routine basis, whereas hypnosis is often defined as an induced trancelike state during which a person is suggestible and capable of recovering suppressed memories.
Hypnosis is a natural state of deep relaxation and heightened awareness. While hypnotic suggestion can be used to help with sleep disorders, such as insomnia, you don’t actually fall asleep during hypnosis. Instead, your awareness is concentrated to the point that you may seem to be in a trance.
This state of intense concentration can open the mind to new experiences, suggestibility, and positive transformation. During hypnosis, your attention is so keenly focused that the rest of the world falls away, allowing you and your therapist to concentrate on making positive changes and progress. At no time are you not in control.
To induce a hypnotic state, the hypnotherapist will ask you to imagine sensory experiences — like the crisp air of a mountain lake or a quiet, pine-scented forest — to help you move deeper into a relaxing and pleasant visualization.
Once you’ve reached this calm, hypnotic state, your therapist uses suggestion to guide you away from painful rumination and toward solutions to your problems.
Hypnosis can be especially beneficial in addressing problems related to stress, trauma, depression, grief, phobias, anxiety, sleep issues, pain management, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), eating disorders, migraines, and unwanted habits.
Working with a trained therapist, you can use this state of deep relaxation to focus on overcoming specific problems and promoting positive change. You can explore painful thoughts or memories in a calm and safe space, and also work to change your perspective while developing new skills for coping with stress and other challenges in the real world.
How Hypnosis Is Different From Meditation
While hypnosis can be described as a state of deep relaxation and focus, during which you are open to positive suggestion, meditation can be thought of as a means of habitually training your attention and present awareness.
There’s clear overlap between the two, as both meditation and hypnosis center on changing your mindset. Both are characterized by feelings of relaxation, deep concentration, and well-being. Both induce a state in which you can feel detached from the immediate concerns of the world. And both help focus your attention and lead to a reduction in stress.
Hypnosis and meditation both rely on the mind-body connection to deepen concentration and promote feelings of relaxation and calm. There are also similarities in the physiological changes that take place. Specifically, both states can produce increased blood flow to the anterior cingulate cortex, which is the area of the brain that controls empathy, decision-making, impulse control, and memory.
Both hypnosis and meditation can help you improve and maintain physical and mental health, and can help boost self-control. However, the approach of each path is different.
People seeking a trained therapist for hypnosis typically have a problem they want to solve or an issue they want help in addressing — like eliminating a fear of heights or healing from trauma. Whereas meditation is more of a long-term solo practice of self-improvement and well-being.
Specifically, hypnosis can help you set and pursue specific goals, while meditation promotes general well-being.
What Does It Feel Like To Be In A Hypnotic Trance?
It might sound disappointing, but there’s nothing extraordinary about a hypnotic trance. It generally feels like any other time that you’re “zoned out” or lost in thought.
Your therapist will first talk to you about your hypnosis session, and you’ll work together to define the changes and goals that are important to you.
You will feel deeply relaxed during hypnosis, but you don’t lose consciousness. As your body relaxes, you’ll feel your breathing slow, even as your concentration intensifies. During hypnosis, you are still aware of what’s happening around you, but you’ll feel a comfortable detachment from your immediate surroundings. Your sense of time may become distorted, as if in a dream.
Hypnosis allows your critical mind to take a break, so that you can work with your therapist to harness the power of your imagination and your deeper mind through positive suggestion. Instead of commands, these suggestions are typically presented in the form of an invitation. You cannot be coerced into thinking or doing something you don’t want to do.
During hypnosis, you may find mental blocks lifting, so that you’re able to consider and adopt a different perspective or mindset. In a state of deep calm, you may feel reduced sensations of pain, or experience enhanced imagination. You may gain a sense of being more capable or possessing greater strength or resilience than you previously allowed. An increased sense of possibility is also common.
While the depth of your hypnotic state may vary, the effectiveness of hypnosis isn’t dependent on the depth of your trance. There is no right or wrong way to feel during hypnosis. You might not feel anything at all! Your experience of hypnosis is entirely unique to you, and one session may feel very unlike another, even when you’re working with the same therapist.
The bottom line is this: Hypnosis doesn’t have to feel like anything specific for it to be effective. Your experience during hypnosis may be similar to or nothing like what someone else experiences, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t worked for you. The real impact of hypnosis is found in your everyday life, and in the new empowerment and constructive changes you observe.
Our Hypnotherapy Experts are Clinical Psychologists at NY Health Hypnosis & Integrative Therapy that specialize in combining hypnosis and therapy for treating mental health issues. To get in touch or learn more about how combining therapy and hypnosis can help you, please contact us here.
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