Feelings of relaxation and thoughts of being calm, might come to mind when someone mentions meditation. The same may happen when the thought of hypnosis comes along shortly thereafter. The two practices are often paired together because they both involve bypassing logical thoughts and lowering inhibitions to access a deeper state of mind. With this in mind, in what ways are the two practices similar and how are they different from one another? Hypnosis focuses on changing thoughts and behaviours. Meditation, on the other hand, is an exercise in observation to reach a state of relaxation. Still yet, while they share a few important characteristics, there are key factors that fundamentally differentiate them.
Both hypnosis and meditation share a core structure which is that they are both inwardly directed states of mind. Hypnosis is a vehicle people use to change their thoughts and behaviours through the power of positive suggestion. They come to hypnosis with a clear idea of what they want from a session. From there, the hypnotist takes a client into a deeper state, where they work with visualization and positive affirmations to move the client forward in shifting thoughts and behaviours. Someone in a state of meditation, however, is looking to discover the self by means of observation: what are the thoughts in this moment? If meditation is looking at thoughts as they are, then hypnosis is different in that it is actively re-shaping the thoughts as they come and not just in the present moment, but in past moments as well as in imaginings of future moments too.
The crux of hypnosis is both the relationship that a client has with their hypnotist and the goal-oriented nature of hypnotism itself. The hypnotist and client are embarking on a journey together, in session, to process emotions and to work with the imagination to create lasting change. In a session with their hypnotist, a client is meant to both listen to the outside influence of their hypnotist, and concentrate on the feelings and thoughts as they shift. In contrast, meditation is an individual process, wherein someone works alone, in a state of observation, without guidance from an outside source. Someone in a meditative state may ask themselves to think positively during a meditation, but they are ultimately not receiving their thoughts with any intention of change, whether emotional or behavioral.
While hypnosis and meditation look inward and provide a sense of relaxation, they are different in many important ways. Hypnotism is driven by the desire for change in specific areas of ones life. Mediation however, focuses on the present moment, peering at thoughts as they come to be and as they leave in the next moment. Meditation is a focus on clearing the mind. Hypnosis however, works with the thoughts and feelings and applies them to the goal that the client has set out for themselves. Both practices are about taking a journey inward. Yet, meditation is a road walked alone into the mind, whereas hypnotism is about taking someone with you, your hypnotherapist, to help you along the way.