Frequently asked questions about hypnosis and self-hypnosis.
"What is self-hypnosis used for?"
"How many things can I work on at one time with self-hypnosis?"
"How can self-hypnosis help me quit smoking?"
"Can self-hypnosis help me overcome shyness?"
"Does it work for weight control?"
"Can I use self-hypnosis for things like interpersonal relationships?"
"Speaking in public terrifies me. Will self-hypnosis help me get over that?"
"Can I improve sports performance with self-hypnosis?"
"How about pain control?"
"Can it help me get along on less sleep?"
"Can I cure my insomnia with self-hypnosis?"
"Can I use it to make better grades in school?"
"Will hypnosis make me more persuasive?”"
"Is doing it yourself [self-hypnosis] as effective as being hypnotized by someone else [hetero-hypnosis]?"
"Is it safe?"
"I understand that people learn more about themselves when they begin to practice self-hypnosis. What if I discover something I don’t want to know?"
"Will the regular practice of self-hypnosis make me more suggestible?"
"Do you lose consciousness when you practice self-hypnosis?"
"What if I can’t wake up?"
"Can everyone learn use self-hypnosis, and how easy is it?"
"Are meditation and hypnosis different?"
"Do I have to believe in hypnosis for it to work?"
"How long does it take?"
"Should I make an induction recording to listen to?"
“What is self-hypnosis used for?” [back]
Self-hypnosis can be used for just about anything that depends on your own efforts. “Your own efforts,” incidentally, is a much broader category than most people think. For instance, it includes many of the autonomically mediated functions (those things your body does without your conscious involvement). So your use of self-hypnosis is not limited to just those things you consciously do and control.
A complete list of all of the ways in which self-hypnosis has been used would be too long and probably impossible to compile. However, here is a partial list of applications:
Cancer (definite but limited or sporadic success)
Concentration (see Academic Applications, above)
Image Projection (how others perceive you)
Learning (removing blocks, concentration, comprehension) (see Academic Applications, above)
Pain Control (see Medical, above)
Performance (music, sports, business, personal, speaking, academic, etc.)
Reading (blocks, speed, comprehension, motivation)
Sex (dysfunctions, inhibitions and mental blocks, pleasure)
Sleep (more, less, better)
Smoking, Quitting (of course!)
Speech, Speaking in Public
Timing (time awareness, internal clock, etc.)
Weight Loss, Control (dieting, eating disorders, metabolic influence)
There is no answer to this question that is correct for everyone in every circumstance. It depends upon the “things” involved, how strongly the subconscious mind is attached to them, what is going on in your life at the time, and how you respond to hypnotic suggestion in general. The safest strategy for beginners is to start with just one project—perhaps an easier one—then, with some success and experience under your belt, progress to other, more difficult objectives.
Just what is more or less difficult is of course highly variable across individuals. What proves easy for one person may be very difficult for another. (See the answer to the smoking question below, for example.) And common sense is not much help here. We’re talking about subconscious values, and the best way to determine in advance how important something is to your subconscious mind is to use ideomotor questioning. [back]
The cessation of any habit, while complicated in its dynamics, is essentially a matter of getting rid of the desire, or drive, to commit the habit. The drive to smoke stems from subconscious drives, but the behavior itself is under your conscious control and you can change it with the help of self-hypnosis.It is the subconscious motivation to smoke that must be changed in order to quit smoking. Fortunately, self-hypnosis is an effective and relatively easy way to change subconscious motivations. However, it does not work the same for everyone. While many people have found quitting smoking with self-hypnosis to be easy and painless, for others quitting smoking is difficult no matter what method is used. Regardless of how difficult it is, self-hypnosis always makes it easier than it would otherwise be.
Self-hypnosis frequently makes the difference between success and failure. Some have tried and failed to quit lots of times and were not successful until they enlisted the aid of self-hypnosis.
Whether or not it is less easy than we would like, anyone can quit smoking with the help of self-hypnosis. [back]
Overcoming shyness has long been one of the premier applications of self-hypnosis. With the regular practice of self-hypnosis and the application of appropriate post-hypnotic suggestions, even the most severe cases of shyness have been shown to diminish significantly and completely change a person’s social life. Shyness is never completely removed—everyone needs at least a little—but it is possible to become much more confident in social settings and more assertive when necessary. [back]
Self-Hypnosis for the Life You Want
by Charles E. Henderson
Yes. Most cases of overweight are the result of over-eating combined with insufficient activity. Both, in normal cases, are under your control, technically speaking. That is, no one else is forcing you to eat stay on the couch. So self-hypnosis is a perfectly valid and uniquely appropriate way to get eating under control, and to increase the motivation to exercise. [back]
Your own behavior, through both supraliminal (overtly observable) and subliminal behaviors, is of paramount importance to the nature of every relationship. This includes romantic as well as career and professional relationships. And, while there is no universally accepted evidence that our minds can directly control the thoughts and behavior of others, self-hypnosis can help you control your own thinking and behaving, as well as the subliminal cues you transmit to others. In other words, yes, you can use self-hypnosis to influence the behavior of others just as if you had direct access to their thoughts. Please note the word “influence.” Always be suspicious of the word “control” when it is used in reference to others. [back]
Self-hypnosis is one of the most effective ways to control stage fright. I have taught hundreds of people—ranging from beginning college students to older, experienced professionals—how to use self-hypnosis to control their stage fright and vastly improve their presentation effectiveness.
The truth is, being somewhat nervous before giving a speech is natural and actually desirable. But the kind of fear that makes giving a good speech difficult or impossible is not necessary. It definitely can be significantly reduced through the practice of self-hypnosis. [back]
It goes without saying that there is a strong link between thinking and sports performance. Even Little Leaguers are acquainted with concepts like their “mental game.” Self-hypnosis has been shown to be influential in all forms of sports-related thinking. Many athletes use image rehearsal, a specific form of self-hypnosis, to practice in their minds while they are physically quiet in a resting position. This has been shown to significantly improve performance, sometimes more than actual practice. [back]
Hypnotic pain control—hypnoanalgesia (controlled feeling) and hypnoanesthesia (no feeling)—is well represented in the literature. Commonly reported are uses in dental procedures, surgical operations, and giving birth without any anesthesia other than hypnosis. Many people have gained control over debiliting chronic pain that they had been unable to get relief from with any other method. [back]
Some have claimed that sleep requirements were diminished through the use of hypnotic suggestion, but those claims have never been satisfactorily verified. Some early experiments I conducted in promoting more REM sleep in shorter periods did show promise in reducing the amount of sleep required by the research participants, but this needs further research.
Most regular sleep research has shown that people suffer long-term deficits in health and mental functioning when they are deprived of the amount of sleep they naturally need. This is especially troubling in light of recent polls indicating that most people do not get enough sleep.
A much better use of self-hypnosis is to improve the quality and performance of waking time which removes the need to cut into sleep time. This has proved to be more rewarding and satisfactory than cutting down on sleep time. [back]
Many people have found self-hypnosis to be the perfect cure for insomnia, better even than, say, being forced to watch a PBS special on Swiss railroads. But it should be noted that sleep disturbances come in many forms, and not all of them have been shown to respond to hypnotic suggestion, most notably those caused by physical anomalies in one’s air passage (like sleep apnea, for example). But most cases of insomnia do respond well, and some types of sleep problems are surprisingly easy to control with self-hypnosis. This may be true even for sleep problems that have gone on for years. [back]
Yes. Self-hypnosis is great for improving concentration and memory, reducing test jitters and the fear of participating in classroom discussions, and enhancing the motivation to study and learn. In the same vein, it is also helpful in uncovering and dealing with hidden blocks to learning and academic success, especially when coupled with autoquestioning.
I personally would not have finished college if it had not been for self-hypnosis. [back]
Yes, you can improve your sensitivity to what other people are thinking and what it would take to change their minds, and you can dramatically enhance your subliminal projections to be more persuasive. This enhanced persuasiveness can be applied to public speaking to sway audiences, to interpersonal interactions with one or a few people at at time, and to sales situations. It is not difficult, but it takes time and must be done correctly. If you are seriously interested in being more persuasive you will want my book (available soon), All-In Selling. [back]
Self-hypnosis effectiveness can vary all over the map, depending upon the individual, the circumstances and the time of day or time of life. A common misconception is that hetero-hypnosis with a professional—for therapeutic purposes, not a stage show or parlor trick—is superior to self-hypnosis. That is true at times, but not by a lot and certainly not always. The independence, control, and breadth of application you achieve with self-hypnosis more than make up for the slight advantage of hetero-hypnosis.
It might sometimes take a little longer to get there with self-hypnosis, but you will have done it under your own power. And it is much better to risk taking a little longer than to risk putting yourself into the hands of an incompetent hypnotist (and spending a lot more money and time in the process). [back]
It is just as safe as anything else. If you stick to self-hypnosis, you have the same protective mechanisms working for you that you have any other time. You will not do anything in self-hypnosis that you would not otherwise do. Of course what some people would otherwise do can surprise you. If you have seen a stage hypnotist’s show you may have seen people doing things you would not want to do. And you probably would not; the only reason people do strange things in a stage presentation is because of what we call the “demand characteristics” of the situation. That is, being on stage in front of a lot of people exerts a tremendous pressure to do as one is told. It is generally wiser not to volunteer for any stage demonstrations of hypnosis, or to use it in any way just for entertainment.
Various religions have at different times had something to say about hypnosis. The ancient Egyptians thought it was a Good Thing. On the other side of the coin, the Church of Latter Day Saints thinks otherwise. (Or at least they used to. I have no idea what they are up to today.) Some of the Church Elders believe, I’m told, that hypnosis is dangerous because it opens up the mind for the devil to enter. Based on my own years of experience and research, I don’t think self-hypnosis would be any more likely to open up one’s mind to the devil than, say, listening to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Maybe even less so if you happen to dislike church choir music.
Another frequently heard bugaboo about hypnosis is the presumed danger of the “release of repressed material.” This and other common concerns of Freudians and their ilk have never been a problem in self-hypnosis. A person practicing self hypnosis has the same safeguards available to her that she has in a normal, waking state. (Hypnosis would probably play a prominent role in modern Psychoanalysis if Freud himself had not been such an inept hypnotist.) [back]
You can sometimes make yourself uncomfortable, but you will not hurt or create any serious problems for yourself. In many years of experience I have seen thousands of people—this is not hyperbole, I mean literally thousands—in hypnotic and self-hypnotic states. And I have never seen a single case in which the emergence of repressed memories caused anything worse than temporary discomfort.
Actually, I have seen more problems created by inept psychotherapists than by anything associated with hypnosis. And we all know how troubling some people can be; they don’t need hypnosis to work their evil. If you happen to get into a situation with one of these people and hypnosis is involved, you might unfairly blame the hypnosis when in fact it had nothing to do with the problem. This is another reason to steer clear of amateur and stage hypnotists, and to never volunteer as a subject when hypnosis is being conducted for entertainment.
Self-hypnosis does sometimes enable a person to become more aware of his problems. But this enlightenment should not be confused with causation (which, in such a case, is a matter of blaming the messenger for the message). [back]
Yes, but only in a good way. That is, with practice, you get better at responding to your own suggestions. This is a Good Thing because it gives you more control over yourself. At the same time, you become more resistant to the manipulative attempts of others. There is an inverse relationship between responsiveness to hetero-suggestion (suggestion applied by others) and autosuggestion (self-applied suggestion). The better you get at autosuggestion, and the more you understand it and how it works, the more you become resistant to manipulative attempts by others. The regular practice of self hypnosis is great for developing discipline in those who find it difficult to “just say no.”[back]
Only if you fall asleep. However, you might have certain areas of memory lapse later which make it seem like you were unconscious, but you were not. It is a little like the experience we have all had of doing something—like driving a familiar route—only to realize later that we don’t remember having done it.[back]
Never happens. Getting out of hypnosis is never a problem. You’ll put all of your efforts into getting into a hypnotic state, not getting out of one. The worst that can happen is that you drift off into normal sleep, in which case you will wake up—or oversleep, if you are sleep-deprived—just as you would any other time.[back]
Yes, seemingly everyone can use self-hypnosis. At least, everyone with anything approaching normal intelligence and who is conscious at least some of the time. Some people are better or faster at it than others, as is true with any skill. Regardless of where you fall on the skill continuum, you will see progress if you use self hypnosis correctly and regularly.
As to the part about self-hypnosis being easy, the answer is both yes and no. It is relatively easy. As with any skill it requires know-how and practice to develop. There is no free lunch, and you should be highly suspicious of any claims that something worthwhile is going to be easy and effortless. Self-hypnosis does require some effort because it is a skill and the more you put into it the more you get out of it. But even though it requires some work it is still a heck of a lot easier and faster than trying to do anything with willpower. [back]
Yes. Meditative states may be similar, but the practice of hypnosis is significantly different in that it is driven by suggestion. With hypnosis there is specific work to be done. In addition, the brain state also seems to be somewhat different between hypnosis and meditation according to measures with EEGs, scans, and other forms of feedback. It is not uncommon for people who do both to keep them separate, so there is obviously a subjective sense that there is a difference. [back]
Nope. The degree of hypnotizability seems to be completely unrelated to the degree of belief in it. Some amazing results from hypnotic suggestion have been demonstrated by people who adamantly claimed they were unhypnotizable but who were then hypnotized then later were absolutely convinced that “nothing had happened.” For example, they were told during hypnosis to do something—like tap their left shoe three times—which they did, then given the post-hypnotic suggestion that they would be unable to remember doing so. After being brought out of the hypnotic state they adamantly refused to accept that they had tapped their shoe. [back]
The skill part of self-hypnosis requires time to develop, and some people take longer than others to get good at it. We don’t know why. It is not related to intelligence (within normal bounds) or any other variable that has been reliably and consistently identified. Some people see results immediately, while others may take several days or even weeks to notice a difference. With proper application and daily practice, though, you should begin to see definite results within 21 days at the outside.
The daily practice takes longer at first, then gradually requires less and less time. A half-hour a day is a good starting schedule. Self-hypnosis adepts who have been at it for years can do it very quickly if they must, taking only a matter of seconds or, at the most, a couple of minutes. [back]
It is true that one of the most effective ways to develop self-hypnosis is to have a skilled, professional operator “talk you down,” that is, do the induction talk for you. This is especially true when you first start out because you need to be as quiet and passive as possible to get into a self-hypnotic state, but you have to be active to conduct the induction. That is a built-in conflict. It won’t stop you, but it does add some time to the learning process. It is better if you can at least start out without this conflict.
I have been making induction scripts available for several years now and the consensus among most who try their own self-made recorded induction is that it does work, but it is not unusual for an amateur to require several tries to get it right.
Part of the problem with self-made recordings is that most people do not respond well to the sound of their own voice. In addition it does take a lot of practice and control to do an induction talk that is paced right, has the right tone and resonance, and is free of annoying little distractions (telephones, traffic noises, airplanes, lawn mowers, etc.). [back]
If you want to make your own recording you will find a script in my book, Self-Hypnosis for the Life You Want.