What Is Hypnosis?

When you take a moment to think about what hypnosis is, the first picture that comes to mind for many people is a sinister Svengali character, all dressed in black with a long trench coat, a goatee, and evil eyes. You picture this evil character with both of his hands up in the air, fingers pointing at the subject with hypnotic rays emanating from his fingertips commanding the subject to obey.

Although this is the image that comes to mind for most, it is merely fiction. Hypnosis has nothing to do with sinister hypnotists being in control of you or possessing any magical powers.

The Reality

What is hypnosis exactly? To be specific would be rather difficult as there are many differences of opinion in the scientific and medical communities as to what actually takes place. This has been a subject of controversy for over 200 years and is as difficult to answer as it would be in understanding the complexities of the human mind itself.


The word hypnosis derives from the Greek word for sleep, hypnos, which is also the name of the Greek god of sleep. Although the actual state of hypnosis is very different from sleep, it is often confused with sleep as many people who are in hypnosis find it to be extremely relaxing.

Hypnosis covers such a wide variety of topics and practices that it can be difficult to determine exactly where hypnosis starts and where it ends. There are, however, several theories that may shed light on the workings of hypnosis. The following methods are commonly used within the medical, mental health, and hypnotic communities and will explain hypnosis more clearly.


One theory is that hypnosis is a trancelike state where the subject is extremely open to suggestion. In many cases the subject is relaxed almost to the point of sleep. This, in fact, is one of the most commonly used definitions of hypnosis.


Hollywood is notorious for portraying people under hypnosis as in a trance or like zombies. One famous movie features a character named Svengali, a sinister, villainous hypnotist who takes advantage of young women. Svengali was initially a character in the romantic novel Trilby, which was written in 1894.

If you think about the definition of hypnosis as being open to suggestion, you will realize that throughout your day you are either open to or resisting suggestion. There are no other options. Therefore, if you are not fighting suggestion, then you are open to suggestion and in a hypnotized state.

Deep Relaxation

Another common theory of hypnosis is that it is a state of deep relaxation. It is a deep feeling of “losing yourself” to your relaxation. You are aware of what's going on around you. Although deep relaxation is a part of hypnosis, it is not a complete definition as to how it works. In addition to being relaxed, you can also be hypnotized while walking, reading, working on the computer, or even while you are in pain. Obviously when you are in pain you are not in a relaxed state. You can even be in a frantic, out-of-control state and still be brought into hypnosis.

Imagination and Focused Attention

One of the key ingredients in hypnosis is the use of your imagination. The more you can focus your imagination and concentration, the more effective hypnosis will be for you. An important factor to realize is that the subconscious mind gives the same value to real and imagined memories. Therefore, if you can use your imagination and focus on what you want long enough, your subconscious will eventually believe that it has happened and will look at it as reality.

It has been proven scientifically through quantum physics that thoughts are energy and can become reality if dwelt upon. An example of this would be thinking of a cold winter's day even though it is warm outside, and as you imagine the cold you actually begin to get chilly. If you can imagine your goal, then it is attainable; if you cannot imagine it, then it is out of your reach.

Altered State of Mind

Hypnosis is also frequently described as an altered state of mind. Although what constitutes an altered state of mind is not exactly defined, hypnosis has been associated with altered brain wave states. Therefore, being in any brain wave state that is not of the waking or beta state could constitute being in an altered state of mind. Brain waves will be thoroughly discussed in Chapter 6.

Confusion Technique

Another theory of hypnosis is that through confusing or keeping the conscious mind busy, you can bypass the critical thinking of the conscious mind and thereby directly influence the subconscious mind with positive suggestions.


Most everyone has experienced hypnosis at one time or another, especially when sitting in class at school. If you have ever found yourself daydreaming during a class, you were in hypnosis. Just as daydreaming can be controlled, you can give yourself suggestions while daydreaming to effect positive change.

This is similar to trying to do your taxes while having a conversation with someone at the same time. In order to complete your taxes properly, you would have to disengage from the conversation. Once you have done so and continue to work on your taxes, everything that is being said by the person who is speaking goes directly into your subconscious mind without the hindrance of the critical conscious mind, which is kept busy concentrating on the taxes.

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