Yes, self-hypnosis is generally regarded as a safe practice.
But because this psychological treatment has been portrayed in movies as some kind of magic trick, many misconceptions and myths were born and continue to confuse (or even scare) people who might be inagterested in self-hypnosis.
This post explains the science behind hypnosis and the benefits (as well as dangers) of the practice.
Is Self-Hypnosis Dangerous?
To answer this question, you must first understand what hypnosis actually means.
Simply put, hypnosis is a state of highly focused concentration (find out how to improve your focus here) and increased suggestibility. Meaning, people under hypnosis are much more open to positive suggestions than they normally are (see our ‘Positivity Hypnosis’ post. or ‘How To Be More Stoic’ article). Like dealing with passive-aggressive behavior, you’ll need openness to confrontation as you will offend some people because assertiveness is direct.
How Brain Works Under Hypnotic State
Studies have shown that during hypnosis (see creative writing hypnosis here), several areas of the brain are altered. These brain activities affected are associated with a person’s awareness (processing of things), and control – as explained in the ‘oversharing’ post, it’s where our subconsciousness controls our anxieties.
Probably the biggest issue most people find with hypnosis is the trust they’ll give to other people who will conduct the hypnosis. Giving the key to your subconscious is a big deal (see our ‘Why Can’t I Be Hypnotized?‘ post). Patients with Psoriasis, for example, as explained here, often think the condition is permanent, and their skins will never clear. The idea is stuck in their unconsciousness which leads to sleep issues and anxiety. If, for example, your nervous laughter results from discomfort or anxiety, self-hypnosis may act on the management of the emotions.
And as we’re talking about self-hypnosis and not hypnosis conducted by a trained hypnotherapist or hypnotist, this practice can be a safe, alternative therapy option. One should never forget though, that it is necessary to determine whether the issue is some medical condition before hypnosis becomes a viable therapeutic option as already mentioned in our ‘Hypnosis for Tinnitus’ post.
Risks of Self-Hypnosis
The worst you might experience when you self-hypnotize is headaches, dizziness, drowsiness, or anxiety.
Self-hypnosis can be dangerous for people with serious mental disorders, such as bipolar, schizophrenia, drug addiction, alcoholism, or those suffering from delusions and hallucinations (see here how to get rid of porn addiction or maybe elicit more pleasure, as well). It is believed that subjects with mental health issues might develop more psychological problems with hypnosis.
If you’re planning to use this technique for pain management – see how to deal with your back problem here – make sure you consult your physician first. Not all doctors embrace hypnosis nor study to conduct this practice, but it is important that you seek medical advice, especially in case of hypertension – see here – or any other potentially serious condition whatsoever.
Other than these risks, self-hypnosis is generally regarded as a safe practice.
Myths About Hypnosis in Pop Culture
Because doctors do not study hypnosis in school, and the media portrays hypnosis as some kind of magic, there is a great deal of misunderstanding about this possible therapy among healthcare professionals and potential patients alike.
Here are several myths about this subject that science has proven false:
Everyone Can be Hypnotized
The fear people have of being hypnotized against their will is actually not that valid. This is because only about 10% of the human population is hypnotizable. The rest would still find themselves hypnotized, but not as receptive to any suggestion.
Someone Can Hypnotize You From Afar
If you did your research, there are hundreds of online seminars, smartphone apps, and other similar resources that promote hypnosis and guarantee that they could put you under hypnosis regardless of location.
Unfortunately, this theory has never been proven. Self-hypnosis has a bigger percentage of effectivity than being hypnotized by another person from afar.
Hypnosis Is The Same As Meditation
Both processes require you to force your mind and body to hyper-focus on relaxation. In meditation, you are conscious but is focused on the “now,” or the present. Hypnosis force people to access their deeper subconscious. When the subject is in an induced hypnotic state – see Hypnosis Induction post – ideas or suggestions are presented to him/her through various cues.
Hypnosis Is The Same As Sleep
Every subject who self-hypnotizes does look like they’re sleeping, but in reality, that person is awake but is in extreme relaxation that his/her muscles, the physical body actually look limp. Some even feel drowsy and their breathing rates slow down (see here how to stop mouth breathing when sleeping).
Someone Under Hypnosis Has No Control Over His / Her Body
This misconception has been around for decades mainly because the circus, theater, and movie depictions of hypnosis (called “stage hypnosis”) often show subjects having no control over their thoughts and body while under hypnosis.
But this is farther from the truth.
You are actually in control of every action you do and every word you say. In fact, if you don’t know what to do something suggested, you won’t do it.
So another myth that says subjects cannot lie when in a hypnotic state is also untrue. Despite what you see in history or movies, your free will remains even when hypnotized. Don’t expect hypnosis to be a truth serum, so your secrets will continue to be safe. Even the best hypnotherapist cannot make you say or lie about something you don’t want to say.
Using Self-Hypnosis or Hypnotherapy
Self-hypnotherapy can be one of the many techniques you can do to cope with anxiety, stress, PTSD, and even pain. Moreover, you can use it to improve your immune system, become more resilient in general, or to unlock your healing potential.
In medicine, doctors continuously study how hypnotism can help various medical conditions. So far, hypnosis has shown beneficial to:
- Sleep issues: From bedwetting (see here) and sleepwalking, to insomnia, hypnosis helps a subject fix sleeping problems and set new sleeping patterns – see also here how to get better rest.
- Behavioral issues: With self-hypnosis, a subject can train his mind to improve behaviour, to stop smoking, nightime eating (see also hypnosis for overeating post), drinking alcohol, going high on drugs, stop hair-pulling, or even wetting the bed. It also helps to stop skin-picking, the nail-biting and other similar irritating habbits.
- Pain management: Anyone suffering from pain related to childbirth, cancer (see how hypnosis can help with cancer), fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, arthritis, and other chronic pain like migraines would benefit from hypnotism.
- Mental health conditions: Giving your subconscious any positive suggestion related to your phobias (extreme fear of something like claustrophobia), post-traumatic stress, anxiety, or OCD, can be life-changing if done right.
- Physical gains: weight loss, weight gain, muscle growth (see this post), increased bone density, or minimizing chances of injury.
- Speech issues: It helps get rid of your speech impediments such as stammering, cluttering or stuttering (see ‘Hypnosis for Stuttering‘) and also to help you deliver a perfect speech if you speak in public.
Researchers continue to study the benefits of self-hypnosis for stress and anxiety relief and provide awesome resources for anyone interested in self-hypnotism, so expect to see more information to learn in the future.
Preparing for Self Hypnosis
Hypnotism isn’t medicine. Sessions won’t have adverse reactions to other meds you take. Therefore, there is only a number of preparations needed before you start a new session. These include:
- Have a decent amount of sleep the night before. Don’t start a new session extremely tired or sleepy. There’s a big chance you’d fall asleep during the session.
- Get cozy. Aside from wearing comfortable clothes and making sure you ate and are hydrated before starting a new session, you should also make sure that you are in a calm environment.
You should prepare yourself mentally and physically. Not doing so could often lead to more anxiety.
What Happens During a Self-Induce Hypnotic State
Anybody can learn the techniques and suggestion ideas involved in a session (see ‘First Time Hypnosis’ here). But because you’re doing this on your own (and not with the help of a hypnotherapist), you have to educate yourself with the essential hypnosis terms and processes:
- Identify your goals. What are you trying to search for? What do you wish to accomplish and do you have the confidence, as explained here, to do it. The terms in hypnotism may be confusing in the beginning, but you’ll get used to them eventually.
- Create imagery. If you haven’t had a session before, this part would take a bit of time since you’ll need to try which would work. For some, counting from 1 to 1o would easily bring them to a hypnotic state, but for others, visuals would help. Visuals/imagery varies. Some use a staircase, others a nature-inspired dream sequence, and so on. There is no right or wrong here, but you have to search which technique works best.
- Study cues and suggestions: The way you set the suggestion into your subconscious is by following different techniques. Some use repetitive verbal cues, others just use an action (snap of a finger, clap, or even a handshake).
- Close or re-awaken: Every session ends with you also ending the hypnotic trance. Like in creating the imagery, it depends on how you’d like to go back to the present state. Should counting backward from 10 to 1 work? Or going back to the start of your imaginary dream sequence?
The seed of change has been planted into your subconscious, but it may take an average of 4 to 5 sessions to see the changes you desire and know if hypnosis works.
Results and Expectations
Hypnosis doesn’t work overnight. It is a continuous process that your system would have to get used to in order to accomplish your goals (see here hypnosis for kids, as well).
In psychology, hypnosis is used as part of a bigger cognitive behavioral therapy plan to manage stress, anxiety (see how it affects infertility), addictions, frustrations (see tech frustration hypnosis here), insecurities like seeking validation, or pain. Cognitive behavioral therapy can help develop constructive ways of balancing work and life, as explained here, and it’s worth pursuing.
However, learning self-hypnosis may help people with their short-term needs. Cancer patients, who have developed their self-hypnosis techniques, have reported being able to curb their anxieties after a chemotherapy session, or before a scheduled surgery.
If your arthritis is acting up, but you feel the pain isn’t worth a trip to the hospital, self-hypnosis may reduce temporary pain that medicine couldn’t cure.
Of course, you still have to manage your expectations. Self-hypnosis isn’t a magic trick. It requires plenty of practice and focuses. Imagine yourself as a runner training for a 5k marathon. Even if you have previous experience, you still have to undergo training for weeks, right? If you’re not able to conduct trial-and-errors or give the effort to bring your mind to 100% focused relaxation, hypnotism simply wouldn’t work.