Hypnosis FAQ

Woman sitting on couch

It is certainly not uncommon to have questions, sometimes many
questions, about hypnosis and self-hypnosis. I’ve spent most of my
adult life (and part of my youth, too) studying this subject and I still have
questions. So be wary of anyone who claims to have all the answers.
Although I don’t know it all, here are answers to some of the more common questions people frequently ask about hypnosis.

**** Click on a question to go to the answer. Or you can just scroll down to it. ****

“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:

Academic Applications

  • Class Participation Fears
  • Communication Apprehension
  • Concentration
  • Focus, Attention Span
  • Learning
  • Memory (see Memory, below)
  • Presentation Skills
  • Sleep Assisted Learning
  • Stage Fright
  • Study Skills
  • Subject Mental Block Removal

Attitude

  • Career
  • Family
  • Interpersonal
  • School
  • Work

Cancer

Some cases only; definite but limited or sporadic success.

Career Enhancement

  • Behavioral Control
  • Concentration
  • Decision Making
  • Focus
  • Motivation
  • Tenacity

Concentration

See Academic Applications, above.

Fears, Phobias

Fitness

  • Motivation
  • Performance

Habit Control

  • Food and Eating
  • Nail Chewing
  • Procrastination
  • Smoking
  • Substance Abuse

Health

Image Projection (how others perceive you)

Learning

Removing topic blocks; concentration; comprehension. (See Academic Applications, above.)

Medical

  • Analgesia
  • Anesthesia
  • Bodily Functions (under autonomic control)
  • Dermatology (warts, rashes, skin conditions, etc.)
  • Healing Facilitation
  • Obstetrics (birth, related procedures)
  • Pain
  • Skin Conditions (Dermatology)
  • Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
  • Treatment Motivation

Memory

  • Academic Studies
  • Buried or Repressed Memories (this particular category has been seriously abused in recent years)
  • Dream Memories
  • Names and Faces

Motivation

  • Academic
  • Career, Job Performance
  • Fitness, Health
  • Personal Achievement, Development
  • Sports

Pain Control

See Medical, above.

Performance

All kinds of personal performance, including areas like music, sports, business, personal, speaking, academic, etc.

Personal Relationships

  • Increase awareness of personality flaws and bad social habits.
  • Control of temper and anger buttons.
  • Greater acceptance of individuality in others.
  • Projection to others of positive subliminal cues.

Problem Solving

  • Enhance objectivity to see a problem more clearly.
  • Emotion control to enhance openness to more creative solutions.
  • Open channels for the emergence of solutions from the subconscious.

Reading

  • Reduce or remove emotional blocks to reading
  • Improve speed and comprehension.

Salesmanship

  • Develop a more positive attitude.
  • Improve memory for names, faces, sales-related information.
  • Improve motivation to keep at it.
  • Enhance perception and evaluation of other people.
  • Develop a winning sales personality to be more likable.
  • Develop strong persuasion qualities and reasoning.
  • Improve subliminal communication in sales situations.
  • Enhance tenacity and personal drive.

Self-Confidence

Sex

  • Deal with sex-related dysfunctions.
  • Lower inhibitions.
  • Uncover and deal with mental blocks.
  • Reduce or remove emotions that interfere with spontaneity, enjoyment and pleasure.
  • Overcome emotional liabilities of negative childhood experiences.

Shyness

  • Reduce the discomfort of speaking in public.
  • Become better at dating and communicating with attractive people.
  • Be more assertive with salespeople, tradesmen, etc.
  • Feel easier about meeting new people and making friends.
  • Become able to say no.
  • Stand up for yourself in confrontations; stop backing down because of timidity.
  • Come across as cool in tense situations.
  • Speak up in work meetings, community gatherings or school class.

Sleep

Sleep more, sleep less, or sleep better; self-hypnosis is a powerful way to affect all aspects of sleep.

Smoking, Use of Tobacco

Quitting tobacco habits is much easier with self-hypnosis.

Speech, Speaking in Public

  • Audience rapport, get the audience on your side and feeling warmly toward you as you speak.
  • Concentration; don’t be pulled off course by distractions.
  • Memory, to speak without notes and certainly without reading it.
  • Presence of mind in front of an audience.
  • Stage fright or other forms of communication apprehension.

Sports Performance

  • Competitiveness, sportsmanship.
  • Concentration, ability to “keep your eye on the ball.”
  • Drive to compete, excel and win.
  • Image rehearsal (a form of practice done mentally).
  • Peak performance achievement.
  • Practice effects corrected and enhanced.

Stress, Tension

  • Reduce or even eliminate anxiety attacks.
  • Significant assistance in the medical treatment of hypertension.
  • Reduce or eliminate panic attacks.
  • Get the benefits of deep relaxation and achieve significant levels of stress control.
  • A regularly prescribed form of treatment for stress management.

Subliminal Communication

Improve subliminal communication, which has been proven to significantly influence the outcomes of almost all interpersonal and achievement-related human activities.

Temporal Sensitivity

Improve time awareness, internal clock, internal alarm settings,and so on.

Weight Loss, Weight Control

Every aspect of dieting and weight control has been shown to be improved with the use of self-hypnosis. Metabolism has also been shown to respond to hypnotic suggestion in some cases.

“How many things can I work on at one time with self-hypnosis?”

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]

book self hypnosis for the life you want by charles henderson

Self-Hypnosis for the Life You Want
by Charles E. Henderson

$9.99


“Does hypnosis work for weight control?”

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]

“Can I improve sports performance with self-hypnosis?”

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]

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“How about pain control?”

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]

“Can hypnosis help me get along on less sleep?”

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]

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“Can I cure my insomnia with self-hypnosis?”

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]

“Can I use it to make better grades in school?”

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]

book on selling by charles Henderson

“Will hypnosis make me more persuasive?”

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]

General Questions

“Is doing it yourself [self-hypnosis] as effective as being hypnotized by someone else [hetero-hypnosis]?”

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]

“Is it safe?”

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]

“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?”

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]

“Will the regular practice of self hypnosis make me more suggestible?”

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]

“Do you lose consciousness when you practice self-hypnosis?”

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]

“What if I can’t wake up?”

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]

“Can everyone learn use self hypnosis, and how easy is it?”

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]

“Are meditation and hypnosis different?”

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]

“Do I have to believe in hypnosis for it to work?”

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]

“How long does it take?”

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]

“Should I make an induction recording to listen to?”

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.

Subliminal Messages—a brief overview

subliminal message cloud

The word “message” is misleading when it comes to talking about subliminals. An otherwise simple  message like, “Go to the store and buy a quart of milk” is much too complicated to be a subliminal message. More accurately, the “messages” in subliminals are actually signals. See the answers below  for clarification and my book for even more information.  But here’s the bottom line: subliminals cannot make you do anything and they are completely safe. Their sole purpose is to get the subconscious part of your mind to pay closer attention to the suggestions being made.

What do subliminals tell me to do?

Nothing, usually. At least not directly. The primary role of subliminals is to act as attention getters and emphasizers. They get the attention of the subconscious and give importance to conscious messages, such as those that compose the suggestions used in hypnosis.

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Are suggestions more powerful when they are presented subliminally?

No. Actually, in most cases, they are not as effective as ordinary suggestions. Now, don’t let this confuse you. It’s just that the subconscious mind is not responsive to subliminal commands or complicated messages.

Only certain, very limited messages are effective, and they are effective ONLY in this way: They have the effect of saying to the subconscious, Listen up, what’s being said is important.

(Please note the distinction here between regular suggestions—that is, carefully crafted, complete statements or sentences—and subliminal imbeds, which are composed of a very narrow set of one- and two-word phrases.)

 Think of subliminals used in this way as signals, rather than messages. Like the flashing lights at a railroad crossing. The alternately blinking lights signal the approach of a train. In the same way, certain subliminals signal to the subconscious mind that an important message is on the way. The subliminal signals don’t change the suggestion in any way, any more than the train signal changes the train.

Can subliminals make me lose weight (quit smoking/study better/etc.)?

This is actually the same question as the ones that precede it and the answer is the same. No. Not directly. A subliminally embedded suggestion like, “You will never again eat French fries” would not be nearly as effective as consciously presenting the same suggestion to the accompaniment of proper subliminals. These “proper” subliminals have been identified through years of painstaking laboratory and clinical research.

Are subliminals illegal?

No. A lot of people think they are, but they are legal in every state of the United States and, so far as I know, in every other country in the world.

Do magazines and other media use subliminals?

Some would say so, yes. They used to appear pretty obvious in places like full-page magazine advertising. However, I have not spotted any for several years. If they are still being used, they are quite subtle. If you’d like to know more about this, read Subliminal Seduction or The Clam-Plate Orgy by Wilson Bryan Key. (Note: Both of these books are currently out of print so you will have to find them in libraries or in used book stores.)

Can subliminals hurt me?

No, but they can be mildly upsetting to a very small fraction of the more sensitive among us. In my own research involving hundreds of subjects over the years, I found that roughly one in a hundred people would at first be mildly upset by some of the more powerful subliminals. But they usually quickly got over it. No one ever reported to me any serious disturbance, nor am I aware of that happening in other research.