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Is Hypnosis Really an Altered State of Consciousness?

Truth versus fiction about hypnosis.

Key points

  • Hypnosis, or trance, allows one to communicate more directly to the subconscious part of their mind.
  • Key factors in hypnosis are absorption of awareness, relaxation of the body, and dissociation from one's surroundings.
  • Hypnosis can be considered an altered state of consciousness; a shift of awareness in the direction of sleep without actually falling asleep.

If you are interested in how the mind works, you will be fascinated by hypnosis.

Do you remember getting lost in thought? The most common example is when you are in a car, bus, or train, thinking about something until you get surprised, catching yourself reaching your stop or exit and you return to the normal alert state of awareness. That is a typical example of a trance, or your mind being in two places at the same time. We all experience going in and out of a trance nearly every day of our lives. There are many reasons that we get entranced, some are common others can be extreme situations. The key is, what is the real benefit of entering a trance?

If you have questions about hypnosis, then ask away. I have spent nearly three decades studying and teaching how to use hypnotic techniques to get more out of life. Use my blog posts to find out how you can take advantage of the hidden power of your mind.

The most common question I hear is, "Can everyone get hypnotized?" Some people think that it is a sign of weakness to be hypnotized—not true at all. You cannot be hypnotized against your will. Nobody can take over your mind and make you a robot. However, everyone can enjoy entering a trance if they want to do it.

The hidden power of your mind is to circumvent the conscious part that often creates blockages, limitations, or just criticizes your efforts to achieve. Hypnosis, or trance, allows you to communicate more directly to the subconscious part of your mind. Thereby if it's used properly and skillfully, it can be a major asset to promote progress. There are many theories about how hypnosis works and why it is so powerful. Although the debate continues about these issues, there is no question that it does work very well indeed.

Jack came to me to stop smoking. After 22 years of the bad habit and his kids complaining, he finally got up the motivation to quit. Hypnosis is an excellent tool to help change behaviors like smoking.

As I evaluated Jack's habit, I suggested a variety of strategies to build up his motivation and determination to quit. It is important to identify what could be called the "internal weaknesses or potential sabotage" to the success of the intentions being made. I consider all hypnosis "self-hypnosis," so, during the induction, I teach the client how to relax and enter that special zone. During the trance, Jack was given the internal tools he needed repeatedly to overcome his weaknesses and successfully quit smoking. Months later, I learned that he remained grateful to be free of this bad habit.

The use of hypnosis is based on scientific research on what techniques work and the artistic skill of placing a person in a trance and communicating the specific goals of the session effectively. I record most of the sessions with my clients because repeating the process increases the strength and effectiveness of the technique.

There are no dangers to the use of hypnosis; nobody ever gets stuck in a trance or is forced to do something against their will. Hypnosis is the art of persuasion; it relies on direct and indirect communication, which includes metaphors, emotional tone, imagery, and so forth. A great deal of advertising and entertainment rely on the very same principles to persuade people to buy something or keep paying attention.

At this point, you should be able to answer the question of whether hypnosis is really an altered state of consciousness. When we consider consciousness as a spectrum from comatose or unconscious to hyper-vigilant, extremely alert wakefulness, you can appreciate that we all go up and down that scale. We enjoy the thrills of a roller-coaster and the peace and tranquility of a warm, sunny beach. Hypnosis tends to be a shift of awareness in the direction of sleep without actually falling asleep. The key factors are absorption of awareness, relaxation of the body, and dissociation from your surroundings. These are the very reasons that hypnosis can certainly be considered an altered state of consciousness.

About the Author
John Ryder Ph.D.

John Ryder, Ph.D., is a psychologist, hypnotherapist, and the author of Positive Directions. He is a mental fitness expert who offers effective tools to refocus on the positive.