Can everyone be hypnotized?
Can everyone be hypnotized? This question has come up many times in my practice, as well as, I’m certain, in the minds of people who have an interest in hypnosis and hypnotherapy.
The answer to this question is really not clear-cut. It depends on who asks, under which context and for what purpose one asks.
I can say yes everyone can be hypnotized, as the hypnotist plays an important part in it too. A person who fails to be hypnotized by one hypnotist may be easily hypnotized by another. Also, the hypnotic state is not really a mysterious state. It is a relaxed, focused state to which we have all accessed many times in our life.
I can also say no not everyone can be hypnotized, as hypnosis works with one’s mind only and we know that the layers of mind have capacity to do all sorts of things, including splitting into different parts, fighting with itself, fabricating things, second-guessing itself, thinking not hypnotized even when one is, un-imagining its own imagination. And under certain circumstances a person can choose to resist. And if a person is determined to resist, he will succeed in not being hypnotized.
Hypnosis stage show likes to portray “mind control by the hypnotist”. That’s one aspect. There is therapeutic value of hypnotism. That’s another entirely different aspect.
That being said, I’d like to share an interesting effect in one project by a group of hypnosis researchers. The project was to understand why some people could not be hypnotized while others seem to do it effortlessly. So there were two groups. They talked to the subjects in each group, asking them to describe what it felt like as they listened to the hypnotist’s suggestions and as they moved into a hypnotic state.
The most striking difference between the two groups was the ability of the people who could be hypnotized to listen to the hypnotic suggestions with an attitude of “Why not? Sure, I can imagine that. I’m doing that.” The people who had difficulty being hypnotized, on the other hand, would say internally, “Okay, let’s see. Let’s see if my arms really do feel heavy.” They mentally stood behind a barrier of skepticism and passivity, doing nothing and waiting for the hypnotic trance to come along and magically seize them. The successful subjects, in effect, agreed to play along.
Then the researchers decided to see what happened if they trained the “unhypnotizable” subjects to act more like their counterparts. “We want you to pretend,” the researchers told them. “Just imagine what it would feel like if you were being hypnotized. Go along with it. Pretend it’s happening.”
The results were significant. Many of these “unhypnotizable” people found it was very easy to pretend, and although they started out pretending, they soon found themselves so involved that they were following the hypnotist’s suggestions even before they could pretend to do so. In fact, they had been hypnotized after all. It was the suggestion that they pretend that helped them get past the mental posture that had been freezing them in their tracks.
Hypnotic memory recall is the same way. If you think that nothing is coming to you, chances are you are getting caught up in the idea that nothing useful will come, or that things actually are coming to you but you’re dismissing them as not being what we’re looking for. So trust that the memories will come. Step out of your own way to let it happen. Then before you know it, everything starts to flow with its own stream.
Pretending is a powerful act. Everyone knows how to pretend. You can pretend until you pretend so well that you can pretend that you are not pretending anymore.