Demystifying Hypnosis: Unraveling What it Cannot Do

I bet you’ve stumbled upon this post because you’re curious about hypnosis – and who wouldn’t be?

It’s such an intriguing concept, what with all the drama we see in movies and read in books.

But let me tell you, the reality is quite different from those Hollywood renditions. It’s time to put some myths to rest and dig into the real scoop about hypnosis.

So, what is hypnosis? The American Psychological Association describes hypnosis as a “cooperative interaction in which the participant responds to the suggestions of the hypnotist.

It sounds a lot less mystical when you put it that way, doesn’t it? But it’s crucial to know that while hypnosis can do some fascinating things, it definitely has its limits.

In this post, we’ll explore what hypnosis can’t do. You might be surprised to learn it can’t turn you into a superhero or pry open those long-lost childhood memories.

No, hypnosis isn’t magic – it’s a tool that can be very effective when used correctly, but not without its boundaries.

So, if you’re ready to debunk some myths and uncover the truth about hypnosis, stick around! It’s time to take a no-nonsense look at this intriguing technique.

Understanding Hypnosis

First off, hypnosis isn’t some mystical power or spell – it’s a scientific process. Hypnosis is a state of highly focused attention or concentration.

Often, this state is compared to daydreaming or being absorbed in a good book. You’re fully conscious but tuned out of most of the distractions around you1.

Now, let’s talk about some common misconceptions about hypnosis.

We’ve all seen those movies where someone gets hypnotized and then does something wild, like clucking like a chicken or revealing their deepest secrets.

While these scenes make for great entertainment, they’re not a very accurate representation of hypnosis.

Roles and Benefits of Hypnosis

The truth is, hypnosis can’t force anyone to do anything they don’t want to do. It’s not a form of mind control or manipulation, as much as that might disappoint some aspiring supervillains out there!

Rather, hypnosis is a tool that can help people access their subconscious mind to bring about positive changes2.

But like any tool, hypnosis has its uses and its limitations. Just as you wouldn’t use a hammer to paint a picture, you can’t use hypnosis to achieve something it’s not designed for.

And, that’s exactly what we’re going to uncover in this post.

Things Hypnosis Cannot Do

Hypnosis Cannot Give Superhuman Abilities

First up, despite what some may have you believe, hypnosis can’t give you superhuman abilities.

I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but you won’t be lifting cars or reading minds after a hypnosis session.

It’s not going to help you magically acquire a new language overnight or play the piano like Mozart if you’ve never touched a keyboard before3. Hypnosis simply doesn’t work that way.

Hypnosis Cannot Retrieve Accurate, Forgotten Memories

Secondly, hypnosis can’t retrieve accurate, forgotten memories. This might be a tough pill to swallow, especially if you’ve heard stories of people “remembering” past lives or suppressing childhood incidents under hypnosis.

The truth is, while hypnosis can sometimes help people recall memories, these aren’t always reliable.

The brain is complex, and memories can be influenced and reconstructed, often leading to confabulations or false memories4.

Hypnosis Cannot Make Someone Act Against Their Will or Moral Code

Another thing hypnosis can’t do is make someone act against their will or moral code.

While hypnotized people may be more open to suggestions, they still have control over their actions and decisions5.

Hypnosis isn’t a magical key to unlocking unrestricted control over someone’s mind.

Hypnosis Cannot Cure Diseases or Replace Medical Treatment

Lastly, while hypnosis can be a useful tool for managing pain, reducing stress, and coping with anxiety, it cannot cure diseases or replace medical treatment.

It’s essential to consult with healthcare professionals and rely on established medical treatments for illnesses6.

Hypnosis should be seen as a complementary approach, not a standalone cure.

Hypnosis Cannot Erase Memories

While movies often depict a hypnotist erasing a person’s memory, this is pure fiction. The human mind and memory are intricate and robust.

Hypnosis cannot be used to delete memories, even though it may sometimes help people suppress certain recollections temporarily7.

Hypnosis Cannot Instantly Change Deep-Seated Habits or Behaviors

Some people believe hypnosis can act as a quick fix for long-term habits like smoking or overeating. While hypnosis can aid in the process of behavior change, it is not a miracle cure.

Change often requires consistent effort, time, and possibly multiple hypnosis sessions along with other therapeutic interventions8.

Hypnosis Cannot Transform Your Personality

Despite what might be depicted in fiction, hypnosis cannot dramatically alter who you are as a person.

While it can aid in personal development by helping you manage stress, build confidence, or conquer fears, it cannot change your fundamental personality traits9.

Hypnosis Cannot Provide a “Truth Serum” 

You may have seen movies where a character under hypnosis starts to spill all their secrets.

However, hypnosis isn’t a reliable truth serum. A person under hypnosis won’t automatically tell the truth, and they can indeed lie or distort the truth under hypnosis10.

Hypnosis Cannot Replace Sleep 

While the term “hypnosis” stems from the Greek word for sleep (“Hypnos”), it does not imply that hypnosis can replace a good night’s rest.

During hypnosis, individuals are in a state of focused awareness and are not asleep11.

Hypnosis Cannot Help Everyone Equally

Hypnosis is not universally effective. The ability to be hypnotized varies significantly among individuals.

Some people are highly susceptible to hypnotic suggestions, while others are less responsive or may not respond at all12.

Hypnosis Cannot Lead to Possession 

This may seem obvious, but it is a myth that continues to circulate. Hypnosis cannot make you vulnerable to spiritual or demonic possession.

Hypnosis is a psychological and physiological phenomenon, not a mystical or supernatural one13.

Hypnosis Cannot Lead to Possession 
Hypnosis Cannot Lead to Possession 

The Role and Benefits of Hypnosis

Now that we’ve debunked the myths and clarified what hypnosis can’t do, it’s time to turn our attention to what hypnosis can do.

It’s not all smoke and mirrors—hypnosis has some pretty solid science backing its efficacy in various fields.

Firstly, let’s remember that hypnosis is a cooperative interaction, where you—the participant—respond to the suggestions of the hypnotist14. This cooperation can lead to some pretty cool outcomes.

One major role of hypnosis is in the field of pain management.

Research has shown that hypnosis can help manage chronic and acute pain conditions, such as headaches, fibromyalgia, and even pain related to cancer treatment15.

But remember, it’s not a magic wand—hypnosis works best when used alongside other medical treatments.

Hypnosis also shines in the field of mental health. It can help with anxiety, stress, phobias, and even PTSD16.

Again, it’s not a quick fix, but it can be a valuable tool in your mental health toolbox, supplementing other therapies like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).

Hypnosis may also aid in overcoming certain habits and addictions, such as smoking or overeating.

It’s not going to make you hate cigarettes after a single session, but it can help bolster your willpower and commitment to quit17.

Lastly, hypnosis can also help improve sleep quality, making it a potential aid for individuals suffering from insomnia18. But let’s be clear: hypnosis isn’t a substitute for sleep—it can simply help you get better quality rest when you do hit the hay.

So, while hypnosis might not be the cure-all some movies would have you believe, it’s far from being a stage trick.

When used responsibly and in conjunction with professional medical advice, hypnosis can be a powerful tool in your wellness arsenal.

Some roles and benefits of Hypnosis

  • Cooperative Interaction: Hypnosis is a cooperative interaction in which the participant responds to the hypnotist’s suggestions14.
  • Pain Management: Hypnosis can help manage both chronic and acute pain conditions, including headaches, fibromyalgia, and pain related to cancer treatment15.
  • Mental Health Aid: Hypnosis can support treatments for anxiety, stress, phobias, and PTSD, often complementing other therapies like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)16.
  • Habit and Addiction Management: Hypnosis can aid individuals in overcoming certain habits and addictions, such as smoking or overeating17.
  • Improved Sleep Quality: Hypnosis may improve sleep quality, potentially aiding individuals suffering from insomnia18.
  • Stress Reduction: Hypnosis has been used successfully in stress management programs. It can aid in relaxation and help individuals better manage their stress levels19.
  • Performance Enhancement: Athletes, public speakers, and performers may use hypnosis to improve concentration, reduce anxiety, and enhance their performance20.
  • Dermatological Conditions: Surprisingly, hypnosis has been found to be useful in treating certain skin conditions, including psoriasis and eczema, likely due to the mind-skin connection21.
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Relief: Several studies have shown that hypnosis can help reduce the symptoms of IBS, including abdominal pain, bloating, and bowel habit disturbances22.
  • Childbirth and Postpartum Recovery: Hypnosis can play a role in pain management during childbirth and can also support postpartum recovery23.

Some practical benefits of hypnosis for a common person

  1. Relaxation and Stress Management: Hypnosis can aid in reducing stress levels by inducing a state of deep relaxation. This could help if you’re feeling overwhelmed by work, school, or personal issues19.
  1. Sleep Improvement: If you’re having trouble sleeping, hypnosis may be able to help improve the quality of your sleep by helping you relax and letting go of the anxiety that might be keeping you awake18.
  1. Enhanced Focus and Concentration: Hypnosis techniques can help increase focus and concentration, which can be particularly beneficial in work or academic settings20.
  1. Habit Change: If you’re looking to change a bad habit, such as smoking, overeating, or nail-biting, hypnosis can be a beneficial adjunct to other treatments. It can help reinforce your determination and commitment to change17.
  1. Pain Management: Hypnosis can help manage pain, making it useful for those dealing with chronic conditions or recovering from injuries15.
  2. Managing  Fears and Phobias: Hypnosis can help individuals manage and overcome fears and phobias, such as fear of flying or public speaking16.
  1. Improved Self-esteem and Confidence: Through positive suggestions and affirmations, hypnosis can help enhance self-esteem and boost confidence20.
  1. Better Emotional Wellbeing: Hypnosis can help individuals deal with emotional baggage, supporting emotional well-being, and fostering a positive outlook on life16.

Some Last Words

As we draw the curtain on this post, I hope you now have a clearer understanding of what hypnosis can and can’t do.

Far from the magic and mystique often portrayed in popular media, hypnosis is a scientifically backed method that, when used responsibly, can offer a host of benefits14.

But it’s not a miracle cure, as we’ve discussed.

Hypnosis can’t make you do things against your will, it won’t provide you with perfect recall, and it definitely won’t turn you into a superhero.

However, it can be a powerful tool to support pain management, mental health, habit change, and more, when used under professional guidance24.

The common person can tap into these benefits, using hypnosis as a tool for relaxation, stress management, better sleep, and enhanced focus among other things25.

But remember, it’s crucial to approach hypnosis with an open mind but also a grain of skepticism.

Always seek professional advice before jumping headfirst into hypnosis or any new treatment approach.

Hypnosis, when misunderstood, can be shrouded in a cloak of mystery and misrepresentation. But when understood and used appropriately, it can be an effective tool in our arsenal for improving our lives in a variety of ways.

I hope this post has illuminated the fascinating subject of hypnosis for you. May your newfound knowledge empower you on your journey of personal growth and wellness.

Sources and References:

  1. Lynn SJ, Rhue JW. (1991). Theories of hypnosis: Current models and perspectives. Guilford Press. 
  2. Nash, M.R. (2001). The truth and the hype of hypnosis. Scientific American: Mind, 12(2), 46-52. 
  3. Kihlstrom, J. F. (1994). Hypnosis, the brain, and consciousness. Journal of Indian Psychology, 12, 29-38. 
  4. Lynn, S. J., & Green, J. P. (2011). The sociocognitive and dissociation theories of hypnosis: Toward a rapprochement. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 59(3), 277–293. 
  5. Woody, E., & Sadler, P. (2008). Dissociation theories of hypnosis. In M. R. Nash & A. J. Barnier (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of hypnosis: Theory, research and practice (p. 81–110). Oxford University Press. 
  6. Montgomery, G. H., David, D., Winkel, G., Silverstein, J. H., & Bovbjerg, D. H. (2002). The effectiveness of adjunctive hypnosis with surgical patients: a meta-analysis. Anesthesia and analgesia, 94(6), 1639–1645. 
  7. Green, J. P., Barabasz, A. F., Barrett, D., & Montgomery, G. H. (2005). Forgetting, fabricating, and telescoping: The instability of the medical history of patients with fibromyalgia. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 53(2), 100-117. 
  8. Lynn, S. J., Fassler, O., & Knox, J. (2005). Hypnosis and smoking cessation: The state of the science. American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, 47(4), 259-269. 
  9. Heap, M., Brown, R. J., & Oakley, D. A. (2004). The highly hypnotizable person: Theoretical, experimental and clinical issues. Routledge. 
  10. Lynn, S. J., & Kirsch, I. (2006). Essentials of clinical hypnosis: An evidence-based approach. American Psychological Association. 
  11. Semmens-Wheeler, R., Dienes, Z., & Duka, T. (2013). Alcohol increases hypnotic susceptibility. Consciousness and cognition, 22(3), 1082-1091. 
  12. Weitzenhoffer, A. M., & Hilgard, E. R. (1962). Stanford hypnotic susceptibility scale, Form C. Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologists Press. 
  13. Barker, M. (1989). The nature of hypnosis. In Hypnosis: Current Clinical, Experimental and Forensic Practices (pp. 3-18). Springer. 
  14. American Psychological Association. (n.d.). Hypnosis. Retrieved from 
  15. Jensen, M. P., & Patterson, D. R. (2006). Hypnotic treatment of chronic pain. Journal of behavioral medicine, 29(1), 95-124. 
  16. Flammer, E., & Alladin, A. (2007). The efficacy of hypnotherapy in the treatment of psychosomatic disorders: Meta-analytical evidence. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 55(3), 251-274. 
  17. Lynn, S. J., Fassler, O., & Knox, J. (2005). Hypnosis and smoking cessation: The state of the science. American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, 47(4), 259-269. 
  18. Lam, T. H., Chung, K. F., Yeung, W. F., Yu, B. Y., Yung, K. P., & Ng, T. H. (2015). Hypnotherapy for insomnia: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Complementary therapies in medicine, 23(5), 719-732. 
  19. Naito, A., Laidlaw, T. M., Henderson, D. C., Farahani, L., Dwivedi, P., & Gruzelier, J. H. (2003). The impact of self-hypnosis and Johrei on lymphocyte subpopulations at exam time: a controlled study. Brain research bulletin, 62(3), 241-253. 
  20. Barker, J., Jones, M., & Greenlees, I. (2010). Assessing the immediate and maintained effects of hypnosis on self-efficacy and soccer wall-volley performance. Journal of sport & exercise psychology, 32(2), 243-252. 
  21. Shenefelt, P. D. (2010). Psychological interventions in the management of common skin conditions. Psychology research and behavior management, 3, 51–63. 
  22. Gonsalkorale, W. M., Miller, V., Afzal, A., & Whorwell, P. J. (2003). Long term benefits of hypnotherapy for irritable bowel syndrome. Gut, 52(11), 1623–1629. 
  23. Mairs, L. (2015). Hypnosis and pain in childbirth. British Journal of Midwifery, 23(6), 425-431. 
  24. Elkins, G., Barabasz, A., Council, J., & Spiegel, D. (2015). Advancing Research and Practice: The Revised APA Division 30 Definition of Hypnosis. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 63(1), 1-9. 
  25. Lynn, S. J., Kirsch, I., Barabasz, A., Cardena, E., & Patterson, D. (2000). Hypnosis as an empirically supported clinical intervention: The state of the evidence and a look to the future. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 48(2), 235-255.

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