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Getting Hypnotized: Who is REALLY in control?

The thought of being hypnotized can be scary to some people, especially if they think it’s “mind control” or some mystical power that one person has over another. That is how movies, magicians and stage performers portray hypnosis. After all, the woman being sawed in half or the levitated man need to be put into a trance first, right?!

Unfortunately, some people may be resistant to trying hypnosis because of some fear they won’t be in control of their thoughts, movements, or behaviors. I don’t blame them: No one is going to control me either! But that’s not how hypnosis works, and I won’t be able to hypnotize you into giving me your PIN number or do anything unethical. There is a level of reality, even in the midst of working in the imaginative mind.

The client is in control and makes the choice whether to accept or reject any suggestions. Through a detailed pre-session discussion, I help my clients understand what will happen during a hypnosis session, and I want to understand their expectations and goals. A client then consents to undergo hypnosis to be open to my suggestions, but makes a choice to “let go” of extraneous thoughts, enter a calm state of relaxation, and to be receptive to positive messages to accomplish a predetermined goal. That state of mind, the slowing of brainwaves to that level of relaxation, is what is called a trance.

We have all been “in a trance”. I would wager that you may have been in a trance just today, in your shower, allowing the mesmerizing flow of water to relax your body as you let go of concerns in your mind and just allow your thoughts to wander. Are you in control in your own shower? Of course you are! You may hear children playing outside and choose to continue with the lulling of warm water of your shower and just ignore the noise; all is well. Alternatively, during your shower, if your thoughts are wandering and you hear one of your own children outside, crying like they got hurt, your mind would snap out of the trance, to be able to take care of the business at hand.

Now, consider a stage hypnosis performance you may have seen. You might ask, “hasn’t the hypnotist controlled the lady, making her cluck like a chicken?” The answer is the same: the woman remains in control: She has consented to being on stage, knows that in reality nothing dangerous is going to happen, and that this is fun. She may have some desire or susceptibility to perform, and an astute stage hypnotist knows how to pick those people out of a crowd!

I explain to my clients that the purpose of hypnotherapy is to empower the client to change perception about something, to ultimately make their life better. There are exercises I use to demonstrate to the brainiest, most-distracted, and most-fidgety of people to show them that they can be hypnotized and they remain in control.

One last thought, a “seed” I offer to your mind:

Today and tomorrow, when you encounter any service person for any transaction (UPS Driver, Target, Your Boss, etc.), you will compulsively radiate a sincere, eye-catching smile of gratitude for their work – you won’t be able to help it. You put “light” out into the world, and you open your mind and heart to receive it back.

I haven’t controlled you with that subtle suggestion. You make the decision to nurture this morsel as something valuable in life, or not.

It is the client who is in control, not the hypnotist.

Dr Ralph Potter, Certified Hypnotherapist


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