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Skaggfacemutt's avatar

Can a person really be hypnotized?

Asked by Skaggfacemutt (9820points) November 29th, 2011

I have heard a lot about people who have lost weight or stopped smoking by being hypnotized. I just can’t fathom going into a trance-like state from just being talked to. I am pretty certain that no one could knock me out just from suggestion. Does it really work, or does the subject want it to work so badly that they imagine that it worked?

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17 Answers

JilltheTooth's avatar

Is your question “Is hypnotism real?” or is it “Does it work for quitting smoking (or weight loss or whatever)?”
If the former, yes, a person can really be hypnotized. If the latter, yes it can, but it has a lot to do with the desires of the person. You can’t make a person do something they don’t want to by hypnotizing them, but you can help them to modify behaviors that they want to modify with hypnosis. It’s an excellent therapeutic tool. Your details indicate that your ideas about hypnotism may come from popular media and urban myth.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

The question is, “is hypnotism real.” What is the scientific explanation of how a person can go unconscious just from another person talking to them? If that were possible, wouldn’t we be accidentally hypnotizing each other all the time? I just don’t see how it can be biologically possible.

JLeslie's avatar

A close friend of mine is currently studying to become a hypnotist. She loves it. I do think it is real. It isn’t like in the movies, people still are aware of what is going on, but they are more susceptible to suggestions while hypnotized. We all naturally enter into hypnotic states during the day. Ever been driving down the highway and all of a sudden you realize you are near your exit? You were in a hypnotic state, able to drive, see the road, but less aware of time passing.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

Yes, I have definitely “zoned out” before. Is it like that?

JilltheTooth's avatar

You don’t “go unconscious”, you go into a sort-of altered state. You are still aware of what’s happening around you, it sets up a state wherein you can deeply focus. It can then be suggested that you not remember the session, but if you want to remember, you will. There’s really nothing mystical about it.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

I’ve had it done to me once in a psychology class. It was the first time I had it done, so I resisted a little and didn’t let myself go all the way, but I could feel I had reached a different level.

wundayatta's avatar

A hypnotic trance is a state of highly focused concentration. In this state, you close off your awareness of most of what is going on around you and focus in on whatever it is you want to work on. It is similar to what happens in yoga or music or dance of any other physical or mental activity that requires great concentration.

You can hypnotize yourself fairly easily. Or you can do it with someone else’s help. Basically it starts with a guided meditation that takes you on a journey inside you to a place where you are no longer thinking with your linguistic mind. Instead, you are thinking with a less accessible mind. This mind is one you never hear when your thinking mind is chattering away, but when you shut up your chatter mind, the deeper, non-linguistic minds become available to you.

These minds (and our brains are filled with several separate systems that I am calling minds) work differently and can be much more effective for certain tasks, such as quitting smoking or losing weight.

What happens is that you harness the power of these minds to focus your attention on a particular task. With this kind of focus, it is easier to accomplish these tasks. You learn how to drown out all the chattering and all the stuff in your mind that tells you you can’t do something or tells you that you should do this or that or the other thing that leads you into trouble. Instead, you remain focuses on your task and you don’t even think about the thing you don’t want to do. Instead, you focus on the thing you do want to do, and you do it much better because of your focus.

As I said, most meditation techniques start with a kind of guided meditation. Most will start by having you focus on your breath. Then the guide will provide imagery that will lead you to a point where you are very focused. It usually has to do with you telling yourself a story that is very interesting to you.

You can do this yourself just as easily as you can have someone else guide you into it. It usually helps more to have someone else guide you at first, so you learn the technique before you try to do it on your own.

As to suggestability—not sure exactly what is going on, but I do have a theory. I think that as you follow the guidance of someone else into the state of focus that you call a “trance,” you gradually become more trusting and more used to following their suggestions. So each further instruction is one you are more inclined to follow.

Now you will never do something you don’t want to do. You are always in control of your own self. The person guiding you is only helping you do what you want to do. If they start going wrong, you will stop following and it will be all over.

In a state of focus like that, you can do things you can’t do. That is to say, that you can do things that normally you couldn’t do. This is because of your focus. It allows you to martial all your energy on the task, instead of being diffused by attention to so many different things at once.

I learned self-hypnosis… learned—hah. I messed with it. I bought a book. I messed with it, and I was able, I believe, to focus my energy on healing myself. Hmm. I oughtta do that now.

These days, the thing that most easily brings me into that trance state where I can focus so strongly is dance. And it is an amazing thing to be able to do what I can’t do. I have had this experience (and remember, I am a 55 year old, out of shape man), where I go leaping across the floor in these grand jetes (and I have had no experience or training in formal dance) and each jump is higher that the one before.

I know this is stuff I can’t do because people always remark on it and how they’ve never seen me do anything like it. I am not even aware of it happening. At least, I wasn’t the first time. Now I know it can happen and so I keep a part of me outside the trance so I can watch myself. It is so cool! I was watching myself (partly afraid that this awareness would pull me out of my trance), knowing that I was about to do this series of leaps, and feeling my body as it happened. God I felt so young! Lithe! Powerful! It was amazing!

Our minds are very powerful. We just need to access the other parts of our minds that contain these capabilities. Hypnosis helps. So does meditation. So do other forms of concentration, like physical activities or even focused mental activities like reading. You call it zoning out, and yes it is like that, but it’s a more intentional zoning out. A zoning out with focus and intention.

TexasDude's avatar

Not like in the movies.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Reverends hypnotize entire congregations on a weekly basis. Yes, it’s possible.

Coloma's avatar

Yes it works. I have had 2 experiences and loved it.

Those personalities that are best influenced by hypnosis are those of good intelligence and, of course, motivated to make changes, like quitting smoking,

roxanna's avatar

You can not be hypnotised against your will, you need to co-operate, so people don’t just simply zap you out.
This can be done under the guidance of another person, or you can do it yourself.
It’s basically reaching the Alpha level brain vibration.
Beta :wide awke ,average wide awake vibration is generally about 20 cycles per second
Alpha : 7–14 cycles per second ,dreams,day dreams,
Theta:4–7 cycles per second
We can use the alpha and theta levels conciously to make changes to prior programing ,eg,diets, smoking,pain relief…etc..
Delta: below 4 cycles per second ,the lowest requency.Little is known of delta at this time,so that leaves a question mark. Nobody seems to recall anything from that level .

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

@roxanna This sounds kind of dangerous. Maybe Delta is brain dead.

nikipedia's avatar

@Skaggfacemutt, brain death means your brain waves are flat, or nonexistent. Delta waves are low frequency, high amplitude waves observed during deep sleep (stages 3 and 4). Nothing to worry about :)

wilma's avatar

I have been hypnotized. I was aware of what was going on around me and I believe that I remember what went on during that time. I was not resistant to hypnosis and I think it can be very useful in the right situations.
It has been over ten years and I still have some effect from a suggestion that I was given.

blueberry_kid's avatar

I guess a person can be in a some-what phsycological haze for a while, but not necessarily hypnotized. Like, waving a clock in someones face won’t hypnotize someone, it’ll just make them dizzy and kind of spacey for a couple minutes.

Sunny2's avatar

I wondered the same thing when I was in college. Jo, with whom I was living, was hypnotizing Ann, who seemed to be really out until she was awakened.She had been giventhe suggestion that she would go to the bathroom and get a drink of water. She went to the bathroom, sat down n peed and then got a glass of water. I got to be next and asked to be taught something in Spanish (which I knew nothing of). I was getting into it and could not move my body, but I wasn’t asleep. When Jo said, “Now you are asleep,” Ann fell to the floor, asleep. We stopped fooling around with it. Someone could get hurt. But I was convinced it could work on a limited basis, at least. More than that, I don’t know.

flo's avatar

If a person does not want to be hypnotized then I don’t see it happening. So, if behaviour modification happens, what is to say that it is not the degree of the person’s desire to change that caused it?

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