People often associate hypnosis with sideshow performances and the ability to control minds, however, this isn’t quite accurate. Sure, it’s amusing to see your friend eat an onion like an apple, or be told that it’s extremely cold so he or she shivers, but hypnosis isn’t this simple.
According to Psychology Today, hypnosis is a technique used to put someone into a state of heightened concentration where he or she is more susceptible to suggestion. Therapists use hypnosis (also known as hypnotherapy or hypnotic suggestion) to help patients overcome bad habits, such as smoking, or achieve a positive change, like eating healthier.
This is accomplished by the use of mental imagery and soothing, verbal repetition that eases the patient into a trance-like state. Once relaxed, patients’ minds are more open to transformative messages. Hypnosis can also help people cope with negative emotional states, like stress and anxiety.
Despite popular belief, humans are completely conscious and awake when being hypnotized. Interestingly, the average person enters a hypnotic state twice a day without even realizing it.
You can’t actually feel hypnotized, or be aware of it, but there are some sensations you may notice. For example, your breathing becomes slower, steadier and shallower, or deep physical relaxation takes over all areas of your body. You may also experience time distortion; time somehow will seem to pass quickly or slowly.
Hypnosis can also improve memory because a person is more susceptible to suggestion, and focused on one specific task. This can be used to encourage deeper probing until the correct memory—or memories—are recalled.
So, the next time you’re at an event and a hypnotist (the person hypnotizing others) is there for entertainment, keep in mind the science behind it to experience this performance on a deeper level.