Can You Be Hypnotized?
Suggestibility and Hypnotic Phenomena
Laura De Giorgio
People sometimes wonder whether they can be hypnotized.
Incredible, but true - there are professional hypnotists and
hypnotherapists today who still seem to believe that only
certain percentage of people can be hypnotized, and that is
what they are teaching through their books, courses, websites
and seminars. The origin of these misconceptions may be traced
to several hypnotizability scales. Two of the more popular
are Stanford Hypnotic Susceptibility Scales (created in 1959)
and Harvard Group Scales (created in 1962). Based on the tests
performed, the researchers involved in creation of these hypnotizability
scales have concluded that 5% of people cannot be hypnotized
and that only about 10% can experience deep trance phenomena
like auditory and visual hallucinations, and the ability to
remain deeply in hypnosis with eyes open.
If you are unfamiliar with hypnotic phenomena, visual hallucinations
can be "positive hallucinations" - if you happen to see something
that doesn't belong to consensus reality; or "negative hallucination"
- if you don't see something which may be right in front of
you. And it's good to keep in mind that we often see what
we expect to see. It works the same way with auditory hallucinations,
which happen when what you hear subjectively is different
from the consensus reality.
Now I would like to ask you a question: Did it ever happen
to you to look for something, perhaps car keys, which were
right in front of you, but you just didn't see them? That
is an example of deep trance phenomenon called "negative hallucination".
Of course, if you were looking for the keys, your eyes were
most certainly open, and according to these hypnotizability
scales, you were in a very deep trance. Did you feel like
you were in a deep trance?
Or maybe you have had an experience of someone calling your
name, but you happened to be so deeply absorbed in other thoughts
that you simply didn't hear the person calling you. It often
happens with children. They get so absorbed in playing "let's
pretend games" that for a while they lose awareness of the
external world, or rather the external world becomes a part
of their subjective reality. And that's hypnosis.
Let's go over few more hypnotic phenomena:
Time Distortion - you experience time distortion when
you subjectively experience the passage of time as if the
time is passing slower or faster than the consensus time.
In a way, because it takes much less time to think of an action
than to do it, you can accomplish more in your mind in less
time, then it would take to perform the action physically.
You can be anywhere with your mind in an instant, and you
can accomplish anything with your mind in an instant.
We have all had experiences when time seemed to drag or to
fly. If you just stand beside a pot waiting for a water to
boil or you're waiting in line at a bank or at a post office,
it may seem that time stretched almost into foreverness. And
when you're very busy or are having lots of fun and you're
immersed in something you really do not wish to end, it may
seem that time just flew by and you wonder where did it go?
Amnesia (forgetting something) is another hypnotic
phenomenon. Did it ever happen to you that you do something
or say something or someone else tells you something and you
forget it - even if the action occurred just a moment ago,
in the midst of a conversation you were having? This happens
naturally when immediately upon the action performed, you
switch your attention to something unrelated. Your mind wonders
in an instant to some other topic and you forget what just
When hypnotists want to create amnesia for what happened during
the session, through conversational form of hypnosis, they
use the same method that happens naturally. Before you have
fully returned to your normal consciousness, they switch your
attention to something else, and you forget what just happened.
If you pay attention to experiences in your daily life, you
will become aware of all sorts of hypnotic phenomena occurring
naturally - even catalepsy. Catalepsy occurs when a part of
a body acts as if it were frozen in space, rigid, usually
in some unusual position, and for a while you're not even
aware of that part of the body. Maybe there was a time when
you were so deeply immersed in contemplating some thought,
that when you returned your attention to external world, you
were surprised that perhaps your arm was floating in front
of you or was just placed in some position, perhaps lifted
toward your face, and you didn't even notice when it happened.
And perhaps you've had an experience where you went to another
room, looking for something, but on the way to the room, your
thoughts shifted to something else, and by the time you got
to the room, you couldn't remember what were you doing there?
By now, you may be beginning to realize that all of these
different hypnotic phenomena involve some form of mental distraction
- your body may be doing one thing, simply executing the programming
in your subconscious to perform a certain action, and your
mind may be thinking of something else. If you are mentally
elsewhere, of course you are not aware of what is happening
with your body and you experience all sorts of hypnotic phenomena.
Analgesia and anesthesia are two more hypnotic
phenomena. Perhaps there was a time when you had a terrible
headache or have experienced some other pain and then something
happened that so much absorbed your attention - maybe you
had an interesting phone conversation or were watching an
interesting movie, maybe a comedy on TV - and for a while
you were completely free of pain. You were completely unaware
even of any sensations in your body - and your eyes were wide
open all along.
There are many more hypnotic phenomena and the point I want
to make is simply to point out that just about everything
that people can experience when hypnotized by a professional
hypnotist when they are in a so called deep states of hypnosis,
people in all walks of life have experienced at some point
as part of their normal daily life.
Since the term "hypnosis" is used to describe a state of heightened
suggestibility, a state of mind in which the door to your
subconscious is open enough so that ideas may be impressed
upon it, absolutely everything that is in your subconscious
mind today, got there via some form of hypnosis.
If you were non-hypnotizable (i.e. the door of your subconscious
could not be opened), you would have no memories, and no programming.
That is why the question of hypnotizability is ludicrous.
All the information, ideas and beliefs you have acquired and
stored in your mind, were stored there via hypnosis - and
any time you turn your attention to your subjective experience
you are in hypnosis. All that any hypnotist does is simply
stimulate the processes that occur naturally to create specific
Perhaps due to hypnosis stage shows and movies, some people
believe that the only way they can get hypnotized is if a
person called a "hypnotist" tells them "You are getting very
sleepy now ... you are getting into a deep trance and you
are going to obey every command I give you now!" Nothing could
be further from truth.
There are also some psychologists, psychiatrists, medical
doctors and even hypnotists and hypnotherapists who are trying
to convince people that people are impotent and can do nothing
on their own or that the most anyone can hope to accomplish
on his own with hypnosis is just get a little bit relaxed.
Those who are saying such things may be saying them either
because they themselves do not know how to do more with their
minds on their own, or because they do not want you to know
that you can accomplish great many things with your mind,
and that you have already accomplished great many things with
your mind even if you don't yet know how you did it.
Here's how you can and how you do hypnotize yourself and others
- even if you or others are doing it completely unintentionally
and unknowingly. When you play with your own subjective experience,
you are practicing self-hypnosis.
For example, if you go to school to learn some craft, while
you are learning it you are pretending in your mind that you've
already mastered it. This serves several purposes - it helps
to motivate you, it opens your mind to learning experience
making it easier for you to absorb the information and master
the skill, and it makes the journey to mastery an entertaining
experience. If you are pretending to be a recognized musician
while learning to play an instrument, or if you are pretending
to be a lawyer while studying, you are in effect practicing
self-hypnosis. If you are a man and you see a good-looking
woman and begin to imagine having a date with her, you are
practicing self-hypnosis. What you focus upon in your subjective
experience, in your imagination, may have a great bearing
upon whether you actually end up having a date with that woman
When you play with other people's subjective experience, you
are hypnotizing them. Of course you could use inductions to
get people into trance, but you don't have to. All it takes
to hypnotize other people is to engage their imagination (and
you can do that with any or a combination of several senses
- visual, auditory, kinesthetic, etc.). The entire process
of hypnosis may be also non-verbal. All it may take for a
woman to hypnotize a man, is to put on a mini-skirt. Granted,
some women should be better covered from head to toe, but
everyone can offer a genuine friendly smile. What you do specifically
would depend on what is your outcome and what is appropriate
to the given situation. If you were looking for a job, then
dressing as if you were already a member of a team would help
the interviewer to picture you as one of them ... and it would
make it easier for you to land that job. You get the idea.
And when other people play with your subjective experience,
they are hypnotizing you. Can you recall a time you watched
a movie you liked or read a book or talked to someone you
liked - perhaps you were so absorbed in that person or book
or movie which provided certain mental and emotional stimulation
and engaged your imagination that, for a while there, the
external world faded from your awareness.
When someone says that only certain percentage of people are
hypnotizable or that they are hypnotizable to this or that
degree, what they are saying is more along the lines of -
at that point in time, with that particular hypnotist, given
the hypnotist's repertoire of skills and given the mood and
the state of mind the person-to-be- hypnotized is in, the
person may be willing or in mood to do what the hypnotist
suggested to a certain point, or not at all.
All of us go through many different states and moods throughout
the day. There is a time you may feel like eating, there is
a time you may feel like sleeping, there is a time you feel
like relaxing, there is a time you may feel like jumping around,
there is a time you may feel like working, there is a time
you may feel like watching a movie, etc. If someone were to
suggest something that you feel like doing at that particular
moment, you'd be happy to comply and would be then labeled
as "highly hypnotizable". On the other hand, if someone suggested
something at a time you didn't feel like doing that particular
thing, you would be labeled perhaps a "resistant hypnotic
subject " or even non-hypnotizable. It's also possible that
you may very well enjoy doing a particular thing at that very
moment, but not with that particular person or a hypnotist.
The reason that I have written in the past newsletters about
many different forms of doing self-hypnosis is because at
different times you may like to do it in a different way.
And that's the reason for different types of recordings. It
is not about one being necessarily better than the other,
but rather what suits you the best at any given time according
to your mood and preferences.
The Stop Smoking Hypnosis People
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