People have varying degrees of suggestibility: highly suggestible people can be hypnotized more easily than less suggestible people. A common misconception is that highly suggestible people are weak-minded, and people of lower suggestibility are “too smart” to be hypnotized. In fact, everyone enters into hypnosis in their day-to-day life without even realizing it. Have you ever been so engrossed in a movie or book that you didn’t hear someone calling your name? Or have you ever been driving home and so caught up in your thoughts that when you arrived at your destination, you couldn’t remember the turns you took or the things you drove past? These are examples of hypnosis in everyday life. Your intelligence has no correlation with your level of suggestibility or your ability to enter into hypnosis.

What factors effect suggestibility?

There are some factors, however, which affect how easily you can be hypnotized. Luckily, most of them are simply hurdles that can be overcome with education, practice, and determination. One reason someone may be difficult to hypnotize is they fear losing control. Hypnosis doesn’t actually involve giving up control—this is a common misconception that stems from movies and pop culture depictions of hypnotists as powerful and irresistible puppet masters. If you do not trust your hypnotist, or don’t know what to expect, you may have difficulty relaxing and entering hypnosis. This is why the hypnotists at Morpheus Hypnosis begin with a free consultation. It is an opportunity for you to learn more about the process and get to know your hypnotist before you begin your sessions.

Another reason some people may have difficulty being hypnotized is, ironically, because they are too worried about whether or not they can be hypnotized! Hypnosis requires that you relax and don’t overthink the suggestions the hypnotist gives you. Don’t worry about whether you are in hypnosis or not; often times, people expect the experience to be much different than what it actually is. Trust that by listening to the hypnotist’s suggestions and following his or her instructions, you can be hypnotized. With that said, being able to focus and follow instructions is a requirement for hypnosis. For this reason, it is difficult to hypnotize someone who is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or someone experiencing psychosis.

How can suggestibility be determined?

To determine how suggestible a person is, a hypnotist can use a suggestibility, or ‘susceptibility,’ scale. These scales begin with a hypnotic induction, followed by a series of test suggestions. These tests aim to elicit certain physical or cognitive effects. If the test elicits the desired effect from the participant, she ‘passes’ and moves on the next; if not, the ‘failed’ test indicates her level of suggestibility. The more tests the participant passes, the more responsive she is to hypnosis. The suggestibility scale we use at Morpheus Hypnosis is the Harry Arons depth scale, which can be used to not only determine a person’s suggestibility but their level of hypnotic depth after the induction. It includes tests for eyelid catalepsy and number amnesia.

A hypnotist can also perform a short suggestibility test that does not require a hypnotic induction. The hypnotist would ask you to close your eyes and imagine a scenario as he describes it, and look for the desired responses to his suggestions. One example is the lemon test, where the hypnotist has the participant close her eyes while the hypnotist describes a lemon’s shape, colour, and texture. He then asks her to imagine cutting the lemon in half and taking a big bite. If the participant is suggestible, she might salivate or feel a tingling sensation, like she would had she really bitten into a lemon.

Can you learn to be more suggestible?

If you are struggling to enter hypnosis, a good hypnotist can help you acknowledge and overcome the reason for your resistance. With practice and guidance, a less suggestible person can become a good hypnotic subject. Even someone who thinks he has a low level of suggestibility, like someone who is skeptical of hypnosis, may actually find that he is highly suggestible. Going into hypnosis is a skill, and like anything, requires practice. With time, entering becomes easier, and you will be able to go into deeper levels of hypnosis.