Contrary to popular belief, hypnosis is not a state of deep sleep. Although hypnosis has become more mainstream these days, it continues to have a bit of an image problem. For many people, hypnosis is, at best, humiliation for entertainment, or at worst, a dark art of mind-control and manipulation.
The idea of hypnosis as mind-control probably springs from stage hypnosis, where people are indeed hypnotized for the entertainment of others and encouraged to perform bizarre/amusing/humiliating acts, depending on your point of view. In reality, stage show hypnosis is exactly that – showbiz. The hypnotist is there to entertain, and they have many techniques to ensure that the people who end up on stage will put on a good show for them. This isn’t to say they’re faking it – they’re not. But the selection process is very thorough. Highly introverted people are very unlikely to find themselves before the audience doing Elvis impersonations or eating raw onions believing them to be apples. Highly introverted people are unlikely to attend the show in the first place, and that’s a very important point. Everybody at the show arrives with certain expectations. They expect to be entertained.
The dark side of the stage hypnosis idea is that of hypnosis being used to seduce, abuse and otherwise manipulate the innocent into performing immoral or criminal acts. People under hypnosis are in total control of themselves and would never do anything they would normally find objectionable, immoral or unethical.
Another common fear about hypnosis is that it will somehow make you blurt out your deepest darkest secrets. Hypnosis isn’t a truth drug – for a start, people are just as capable of lying under hypnosis as they are at every other time. When you’re in a hypnotic trance state, you’re still aware of everything that’s going on around you (some studies suggest that you’re actually more aware), so you’re free to say as much or as little as you wish.
Some people also worry that they will become “stuck” in hypnosis. This is as likely as being “stuck” in a daydream – it simply never happens. Even if the hypnotist were to become incapacitated in the middle of an induction, the worst that would happen is that the subject would fall asleep and wake up in the normal way (to a rather unpleasant sight). And, in hypnosis you naturally awaken if there´s an important reason to return to room awareness.
Neither is hypnosis a magic power or a miracle cure. Human beings cannot fly unaided, teleport or walk through walls – and no amount of hypnosis will make this so. You might imagine these things happening while in a hypnotic trance, but the laws of physics ensure that it won’t actually happen. Sadly, there is no universal panacea, either. There’s never going to be one thing that cures all things for all people all of the time – we’re too varied and individual for that ever to be the case.
The main thing to remember is that hypnosis is a collaborative process. In order for it to work, it relies on you joining in with it, rather than allowing it to be done to you. It’s a fundamental and perfectly natural human experience, and a powerfully effective way of gaining more control over our lives.