Is hypnosis like sleep? Hypnosis is not at all like sleep and has nothing to do with sleep. Many of my clients, about to experience hypnosis for the first time, will tell me that they expect to lose consciousness during the session. After their hypnotherapy session they're almost always surprised to report that they were aware of everything and were able to hear everything and remembered everything.
If you watch a person going into hypnosis it really does look like the person is going to sleep. They’re not! The word “hypnosis” was originally coined by a Scottish surgeon named James Braid. James Braid obviously also thought it had something to do with sleep because “Hypnos” is the Greek god of sleep. Dr Braid later realized his mistake and tried to rename hypnosis by calling it "monoideaism” (a marked preoccupation with one idea or subject). Unfortunately the word hypnosis stuck and is still in use today.
I remember years ago having two sisters visit my practice together. One sister, let’s call her Lilly, wanted some work done in hypnosis and her sister, Eve, was there to keep her company. Having
completing a thorough preliminary consultation with Lilly, with her permission I helped guide her into hypnosis. As she was able to follow instructions well she quickly dropped into a deep state of hypnosis and I went ahead and did the work. At the end of the session I emerged her from hypnosis. She took one look at me and said “I wasn't hypnotised! I could hear everything you said!”
I should have been flabbergasted. I’d just spent a full hour very thoroughly explaining to her why she would be able to hear everything I was saying when in deep hypnosis! But I wasn't. This is a normal reaction to people that are new to hypnosis. Their expectation of losing consciousness is sometimes so great that they completely ignore my advice. Fortunately her sister Eve was sitting patiently in the waiting room. I called her to come and help.
With both sisters seated comfortably in my office, I again directed Lilly into hypnosis. As she dropped into hypnosis all the tension left her face, her shoulders sagged and it was obvious to Eve watching this that something had happened. Her sister was breathing very lightly and her body was completely limp. I looked at Eve and shrugged. She returned my stare and nodded confirmation. I emerged Lilly from hypnosis and asked her if she’s been hypnotised to which she said “NO!”
Eve couldn’t believe it! She started laughing and shook her head. She'd just watched her sister drop into a deep state of hypnosis! It was nice to have someone understand how the hypnotherapist feels for a change! Eve described what she’d witnessed to her sister Lilly, who still insisted that she’d not been hypnotised because she was aware of everything and could remember everything.
The trouble with hypnosis is there isn’t a bell that rings inside your head when you’re in hypnosis. It just feels like you’re sitting with your eyes closed listening to, and following directions. Of course you feel more relaxed in hypnosis if the hypnotherapist suggests that you do. In hypnosis your mind is more alert and more wide awake than it is right now. Hypnosis has nothing to do with sleep. It never has and it never will.
Troy Robins - Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist based in Oxford & Witney, Oxfordshire in the UK.