Am I suggestible enough to respond to hypnotherapy?
Many people worry that they may not respond to hypnotherapy or that being suggestible means they’re gullible or unintelligent. This is far from the case!
Suggestibility is a human survival trait that is vitally important for positive development, socialisation and lifetime adaptation to change.
We are at our most suggestible from birth to seven years of age. Being able to absorb language and life skills from parents, siblings, teachers and peers throughout our childhood is vital in helping socialise us to the norms that are essential to fulfilling a healthy role within society. Babies learn by imitating the expressions and movements of their caregivers.
What we see and experience in childhood, becomes a model for what we do and can impact our behavioural patterns into adulthood.
Imagine attending a dinner party - how would you react if a guest was grunting like a pig, urinating in her chair and licking food off of other people's plates? At a primitive tribal level, without the innate desire to adopt and assimilate cultural and behavioural norms, we risk being rejected and cut off from communal survival resources and end up as outcasts on the periphery of society.
After the age of seven, we begin to think more critically and start to filter what others say to us and begin to make a conscious choice about which influences we take on board and respond to. By adulthood, our critical faculty is fully developed, however, we still remain innately suggestible at a more primitive ‘monkey brain’ level. This helps us strive for long-range survival by continuing to learn and develop within our peer groups and communities, albeit more selectively, throughout our lives.
How is suggestibility enhanced by hypnosis?
In hypnosis, your critical conscious mind is more subdued than usual. This allows the emotional brain centres to become more active and receptive to suggestions for beneficial change. In the waking state, these would usually be filtered out from crossing the conscious-subconscious communication barrier and taking root at a deeper level.
How can I be confident the suggestions I’ll receive in hypnosis will be effective?
If your toaster stopped working and a salesperson came to the door selling kettles, it’s unlikely they’d ever convince you to buy one (that’s assuming your current kettle was still working well!). However, if the salesperson offered you a new, good quality toaster at a reasonable price, the chances are you’d consider buying one without too much hesitation. If they offered you a high spec toaster with 10 different functions at twice the price of the old one, you might hedge and look elsewhere, or request a discount to buy one for your mum as well.
Acceptance of hypnotic suggestion is no different. A well-trained hypnotherapist simply offers your subconscious mind an opportunity to accept suggestions that best fit the precise changes you want to make to your life. It’s actually very enjoyable and a pleasant relief to listen to hypnotic suggestions that are fully in line with your goals.
When new, healthy ways of thinking, feeling or behaving naturally resonate with your current needs and values, they are easily accepted and acted on at a deep and lasting level.
Will I always be able to reject any suggestions that I don’t agree with?
Yes. Hypnosis and acceptance of suggestion is something you ‘allow’ to happen, not something someone ‘does to you’. Hence you always have full control to accept or reject a hypnotherapist’s suggestions at any time.
Your critical conscious mind is quieter but still active during hypnosis and will automatically become more alert and will reject any inappropriate or unhelpful suggestions.
Your therapy session is designed to offer only suggestions that positively match your goals for change.
Furthermore, your inner mind’s primary function is protective, hence it will only respond to suggestions that are in the best interests of your health and well-being. The mind will naturally reject suggestions that conflict with your personal beliefs or moral code.
A case example
Stacey came to see me to stop smoking in 2017. She sat down in the chair and immediately declared herself terrified of hypnosis and 'unhypnotisable'. She reported that she had previously visited three hypnotherapists and none had been able to ‘make her go under’ successfully.
I asked her how she knew she hadn’t been hypnotised and what ‘going under’ meant to her. She replied that she hadn’t felt any different to normal during the sessions and that she was worried hypnotherapy would never work for her because it 'hadn’t stopped her from smoking'. Stacey admitted that she was so terrified of being out of control that she didn’t think our session was going to work either! I realised that sadly Stacey had not previously been given clear explanations as to what hypnosis actually was and what to expect during a session.
Stacey’s fears and misconceptions about hypnosis had caused her to believe she wasn’t suggestible. Stacey had in fact been consciously rejecting her previous hypnotherapists’ suggestions for entering hypnosis due to her fears.
After correctly informing Stacey about hypnosis, she appeared visibly relieved to know that she was in full control and could accept or reject suggestions at will. Stacey allowed herself to enter a wonderfully deep hypnotic trance and was finally able to stop smoking!
So will hypnotherapy work for you?
There’s every chance you’ll respond successfully to hypnotic suggestion if you have:
- A strong desire to make a positive personal change.
- Confidence and trust in your hypnotherapist.
- An understanding that hypnosis is a safe and natural extension of your ability to narrow your attention onto a single thought, feeling or activity.
- An understanding that at all times you're choosing to enter and remain in hypnosis of your own accord.
- An understanding that you’ll retain full self-control at all times.
Successful hypnosis requires no particular level of intelligence, previous experience or skill - just your full mental and emotional commitment to change!