I don't know about you, but I've always been terrified of being hypnotized. Sure, it looks cool — but I'd be scared of revealing some deep, dark secret, like my double identity or the fact that I regularly listen to Disney music (no regrets). A lot of people think hypnosis is nonsense, but honestly, that makes me question the whole thing even more: How does hypnosis work? A growing body of evidence suggests that hypnosis is likely not a way of manipulating and tricking a vulnerable mind; it's actually a unique neurophysiological state that has numerous beneficial applications.
The latest study on hypnosis was published in Cerebral Cortex and highlights the differences between a brain that's being hypnotized and one that is fully conscious. The researchers used MRI machines to examine 57 people under the state of hypnosis. 36 had ranked highly on measures of susceptibility, and 21 had scored low. These 21 participants acted as the control group. The dissimilarities between the groups were substantial, particularly in the areas of the brain related to attention, impulse control, and awareness of one's own body and the general environment. Other research has agreed that when a person is under hypnosis, they're better able to focus on what they're doing without questioning why they're doing it or paying attention to other people's reactions.
This would explain my fear of revealing a secret. If I turned out to be highly susceptible to hypnosis, I'd be up on stage singing "Part of Your World" in no time.
The reason that it freaks me out, however, is largely the same reason hypnosis is a powerful tool to help people. It's that possibility of helping people drop their guards, free their minds, and be open to things they might not be open to otherwise. There really isn't much danger to hypnosis, because it is a totally nature state of being that means you're in a place of selective, hyper-focused attention. It's not that uncommon; in fact, many of us experience self-hypnosis without even knowing it. Have you ever gotten totally wrapped up in a book and lost track of time? Have you ever been so deep in thought while driving that you whizzed right by your destination? That's it!
Countless studies have found that hypnosis helps people quit smoking and do things like defeat phobias; one piece of research even detailed the success of hypnosis in treating depression, noting the positive change in participants' sense of empowerment, a decrease in depressive symptoms, and a reduction of a number of side effects connected to depression, including pain and anxiety.
One doctor used hypnosis to treat patients with chronic pain. 80 percent of them experienced a noticeable decrease during hypnosis, and 50 percent said that this decrease lasted for hours after the hypnosis treatment. He did this by helping the patients change the meaning that their brains were giving to pain. Not only did they feel better, but their brain activity actually changed.
It's important to note that while hypnosis is becoming a respected form of therapy, a person's expectancy of the outcome may still play a role. This means that hypnosis could possibly help you if you simply believe it could help you. You have to keep an open mind.
And the odds of it making a positive difference in your life might be greater than you think: The Stanford Hypnotic Susceptibility Scales measure one's susceptibility to hypnosis on a scale of zero to 12. A tiny five percent of us score a zero. A similar number score a 12. The majority of us, however, fall into the five to seven range. This means that as is, many of us are at least partially open to being hypnotized; and that number could be even higher just by telling yourself that hypnosis could be a solution for you.