The Hypnosis Nerd is a new interview-style format that we’re using to share our latest thoughts about hypnosis. For our first episode on The Hypnosis Nerd, we were joined by Luke Chao and Kim Gray to discuss hypnosis as an art form, what it feels like to be hypnotized, and Kim’s first experience with hypnosis. This article summarizes the discussion.
In this episode, we learn that hypnosis is a state of mind where the client becomes more open to accepting new ideas, attitudes, perspectives and new ways of thinking which is facilitated by the practitioner. In other words, the client opens their mind to the words the practitioner speaks while they are in a hypnotic state, and the use of language affects how the client perceives their particular issue or current life circumstance.
While hypnosis can be a relatively quick and effective treatment for many individuals, it cannot always be a solution for everybody. Like with any practice involving human change, there are some people for whom hypnosis would be the long way around. There are two factors one must take into consideration in order to determine whether hypnotherapy will be beneficial for them. First, can they be effectively hypnotized, and can they be hypnotized in a first session? Second, once they are hypnotized, that’s not the end. Can the practitioner then come up with a set of messages or attitudes to communicate to the client while their mind is open in order to reasonably predict they will benefit from the session. At The Morpheus Clinic For Hypnosis, our Client Care Coordinators assess new clients’ suggestibility when they first come into our office for a consultation. This suggestibility exercise is an objective measure to see to what degree a person can be affected by the words the practitioner speaks.
It is important to note that relaxation can be thought of as a learned skill. People interested in the idea of being hypnotized can increase their chances of entering a hypnotic state by focusing on letting somebody else’s voice guide their thoughts and feelings. This can be practised and developed, similar to learning the piano or mastering a sequence of yoga poses. While it might be difficult to suspend normal analytical thinking at first, our clients can engage with a variety of sample sessions on our YouTube channel to sharpen this skill.
Much of what Luke practises today deviates from what is often seen as the usual practise of hypnosis because of the ongoing client feedback he has received over the past 15 years. Clients at our practise have expectations for relatively quick results compared to psychotherapy or counselling such as CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy), and most individuals can expect to notice benefits after only their first hypnosis session. Luke looks for ways to be more efficient with time so he can minimize the number of sessions with each client. Over the years, Luke has discarded much of what he has learned and has drawn from other disciplines such as Epistemology (the study of knowledge: how do we know what we know? What confidence can we have in our beliefs?). Every suggestion Luke makes can be validated in the external world, not just in the near future, as he speaks to universal truths which deviate from unattainable reality worlds. An example of a universal truth would be, “you deserve the same kindness that you give to others.” At The Morpheus Clinic For Hypnosis, we proudly guarantee high quality work in addition to refunds should a client feel dissatisfied with the results. In this way, Luke can proudly say he practises differently from other hypnosis practitioners.
The idea of the unconscious mind being relevant to the practise of hypnosis was also explored. Luke indicates that while the unconscious mind can be relevant, exploring it would be similar to peering into a dark room; we cannot ascertain with certainty what is in there. When we put aside the unconscious mind, solutions end up becoming more practical and more noticeable by the client through realistic verbal suggestions. Hypnosis is simply not as practical of an approach when you take the unconscious mind into consideration.
Another question that is commonly asked by new clients is what can one expect to feel when they are in a state of hypnosis? Individuals are all unique as we come from different backgrounds and histories and thus will have different subjective experiences. That being said, what the majority of experiences have in common are the following: an inward focus, a distorted feeling of time passage (usually time feels like it’s flying by), most people report feeling either heavy or very light, and a feeling of deep relaxation. At The Morpheus Clinic For Hypnosis, we strive to consistently create a feeling of support, where clients do not have to think, plan, or look ahead. Instead, they let Luke’s words guide their thoughts and their feelings.
In Luke Chao’s “The Skeptic’s Guide to Hypnosis,” the idea of hypnotic depth is examined. Hypnotic depth is mainly just a metaphor and does not refer to a state of relaxation. Instead, it refers to the ability to deeply accept increasingly unusual, even bizarre, suggestions. Depth scales will have a list of hypnotic phenomena (things that happen during hypnosis); on lighter levels, the suggestions are fairly easy for people to accept (ie. eyelids are so relaxed that they don’t work). Later on, to test for a deeper level, suggestions like “you’ll try to raise your arm but find out you can’t. Your arm is like a block of wood.” If you try to lift your arm it stays exactly where it is, perfectly still (although, this is harder to accept). In even deeper levels, people can hallucinate or have an eyes open dream (for example, imagining a cat that isn’t really there). In other words, hypnotic depth refers to giving people suggestions they normally would not accept, and see if they will accept them while they are in a hypnotic state.
There is a lot of misinformation in the media about what hypnosis is and isn’t. It is crucial to remove the mysticism out of hypnosis for clients to ascertain a better understanding of what they can expect before pursuing future hypnosis sessions at our practise. Luke explains hypnosis in ways that does not require anyone to buy into any new beliefs. For example, you do not have to believe anything new to understand that words can affect how you feel, or to believe you have the capacity to open your mind to well spoken words in the right context. Luke is a humanistic, empirically minded person who sticks with universal human thoughts, values and belief systems, as well as rational inquiry.
Another common myth that lingers in misinformed media sources is the idea that you have to be weak-willed or gullible in order to be hypnotized. This comes from the idea that being hypnotized is a process in which both parties are not willing participants, where someone can be easily tricked or manipulated by the hypnotists’ suggestions. It is important to realize that entering a hypnotic state can only occur when the client is willing and open to participating. Luke enforces already known truths to his clients; for example, smoking for the first time is always a personal decision.
Sometimes it is recommended that a client begins with psychotherapy before pursuing hypnosis if they have underlying psychological issues. Generally speaking, the average client only requires a handful (no more than 5) of hypnosis sessions, while the average psychotherapy client will attend sessions for months or years. Psychotherapy is more of a dialogue between patient and therapist, while hypnosis can be seen as a monologue from the hypnotists to the client. Hypnotists specialize in delivering verbal suggestions, while psychotherapists want their clients to realize their own insights by coming up with their own answers. In this way, hypnotherapy can be regarded as more solution-focused as it addresses a given problem in the present moment without exploring its origins.
To wrap up the first episode, Kim explains her first experience with being hypnotized by Luke Chao. She mentioned how it felt similar to an out of body experience, and that her body felt very heavy yet deeply relaxed. When Luke describes how hypnosis is like being half awake and half asleep, Kim mentioned how that was a very accurate description. Luke and Kim then compared hypnosis to guided meditation, most relatable to a pose called Savasana in yoga class where the instructor guides you with their words and puts you in a state of deep relaxation. Kim noticed feeling physically lighter after the session was over, while she walked out of the office. Hypnosis can be accurately described as a massage for the brain which is generally more effective than solo or private meditation. When you meditate alone, you are going into your mind without an experienced guide, and this can present more challenges and discomforts.