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Why can’t I be hypnotized? Actually, it might surprise you

Why can't I be hypnotized? The answer might surprise you.

My friends took me to a hypnosis show. A whole bunch of people pulled me up on stage. I saw people doing strip teases, and hiding from invisible men. It looked real to me. Even my boyfriend was hypnotized. But when the hypnotist talked to me, it all sounded silly. Why didn't it work? 

A better question is: why does hypnosis work on some people but not on others?

Can everyone be hypnotized?

Yes, almost everyone can be hypnotized. In lab based trials, about 3% will not respond at all. People with damaged brains can not be hypnotized. This includes dementia, severe autism and low intelligence. But these are not the type of person who goes looking for hypnotherapy.

There are tests that will measure how easily you can be hypnotized. You get a score between zero and 100. It is consistent.  If you take the test again, even years later, you will get a similar score.

But no one can show what your score is actually measuring. Even people with low scores will go into trance with a skilled hypnotist.

So why can't I be hypnotized?

Well, it depends.

Busy Mind For most people, the problem is your own mind. People come to hypnosis to get some sort of change in their mind. But they don't come with an open mind. Instead, their minds are filled with anxiety, depression, anger, mistrust, loneliness and much more.

These are all barriers to hypnosis. It is your inner mind trying to protect itself. These feelings come from your childhood. The thing that you need to deal with, is the thing that is stopping you dealing with it. And until you deal with it, you will find it hard to go into hypnosis. A skilled hypnotist will recognize this and work around your issues.

Low quality material Youtube is full of fake hypnosis.  Most people can't tell the difference. A lot of the free videos and visualizations are poor quality. So beginners listen to a few badly made recordings, don't feel any effect, and conclude that they can't be hypnotized.

Lack of experience Learning to hypnotize yourself from a book or video is not simple. If it doesn't work after a few times trying,  it just shows they can't be hypnotized. The best way to fix that is to get someone who knows what they are doing to hypnotize you first. Then you will know what trance feels like for you. Once you know that, it much easier to get into self hypnosis.

Lack of Training In a very few cases, it is lack of skill of the hypnotist. Lots of people, particularly on the Internet, make all sorts of exaggerated claims about hypnosis.  In that case, it isn't you who has the problem.

Is hypnosis just different for me?

Do we all experience hypnosis in the same way? In real life, your experience of hypnosis and trance can be very different from mine. There is not even an agreed definition of hypnosis.

Hypnosis does not have fixed properties. What hypnosis can do depends on who is being hypnotized.

  • Depth of trance What exactly is 'depth'? Some people go 'deeper.' Does that mean that less depth is failure?
  • Limited Effects Do you have to feel every hypnotic effect to call it hypnosis? Most people can be hypnotized to feel some hypnosis effects. Time Distortion or Amnesia are easy. Very few people can see Negative Hallucinations.
  • Selective Responses Some people respond to Post Hypnotic Suggestion, (triggers), but not to direct suggestions. Other people experience vivid detailed Past Lives, but ignore triggers.
  • Variable Response Some suggestions work, but others get ignored. Take two roughly equal people. A suggestion that works on one may have no effect on the other. Is that a failure to be hypnotized?

Why do some people respond well?

  • Normal Scores Most hypnosis scores are near the average and can be hypnotized. There are few extreme cases.
  • Genetics Whether you can be hypnotized might be genetic, nobody knows. For every one with a low score, there is someone at the other extreme with a high score. With some people, I only have to say, "visualize standing outside your own front door when you were a child". In seconds, they are looking at that door, experiencing those old feelings. They have gone into trance.
  • Meditation If you know how to meditate, you know what trance feels like. But meditation is not a reliable predictor either. Many people who regularly meditate are simply sitting still for 20 minutes. Reaching genuine meditative trance is hard.
  • Placebo If you believe you can be hypnotized, then you are likely to feel some effects, whether they are there or not. Sensing any effects will make you even more sure.
  • People Pleasers A few people don't know what to expect, so they go along with anything. If the hypnotist says "your arm is getting lighter, rising up...." they will lift their arm just to please the hypnotist.


Why do some people not respond?

We all experience the world in our own way. What goes on inside your head is not what goes on in mine.

  • Physical Differences We have different perceptions. Some people cannot visualize. Some people are color blind. Some people understand the world through touch. The induction has to match the client's perceptions. If you cannot visualize, then a visual induction won't work for you.
  • Wrong Induction Did the stage hypnotist apply the right method to you? The stage hypnotist treats everyone the same. If some people on stage need a different approach, they won't be hypnotized.
  • Wrong Style There are many ways to induce trance. Each has advantages and disadvantages. You might respond to  Direct Suggestion but not Regression.
  • Expectations Some people expect a particular approach. If you expect to be hypnotized in some special way, then when it isn't, you won't go into trance. Many people refuse to believe in a Spiritual Power, so will reject what that type of hypnotist does.
  • Wrong Media There are thousands of hypnosis 'files' on Youtube. Most of them are created by amateurs. Bad files produce poor results.
  • Poor Practice Many people can't tell when they are in trance. The hypnotist should include tests. For example, suggesting you cannot open your eyes. This is to make the client realize they are in trance. Without a demonstration, the client will assume they were not hypnotized.
  • Twitching It is common for people to feel twitches and jerks in their muscles when they go into trance. This prevents them from relaxing. It is due to old anxieties surfacing.
  • Fears Sometimes the person will jump out of trance. It is usually due to a word or idea triggering an anxiety. Does that count as hard to hypnotize?


What prevents going into hypnosis?

Your upbringing involves unique beliefs, expectations and fears. Negative thoughts get in the way. There are several common examples:

  • I am not doing it right. This makes people anxious. They start worrying they must be doing it wrong, start blaming themselves and lose track of what's going on.
  • Losing control. As these people go into trance, they feel control slipping away. This frightens them. Some people feel real fear, and their heart races. The more they try to relax, the more they 'wake up'.
  • Constant dread. These people have to work to suppress constant anxiety, but the fear is there all the time. When they go into trance, they lose focus, and the fear emerges. This jerks them back out of trance. This is called an Abreaction
  • Self esteem Many people lack confidence in themselves.  When you start an induction, they are worrying about getting it wrong. They are so anxious they are not doing it right, that they can not relax enough to go into trance.
  • Too skeptical. Skeptics challenge every word. If they refuse to believe in hypnosis at all, their own mind stops them going into trance.
  • Self Sabotage. Anyone can prevent  hypnotic instructions from working. All you have to do is sing or shout in your head while the hypnotist speaks. You will drown out the instructions.
  • False Beliefs. "You don't know what they will do to you when you are out, or what ideas will get planted in your head". People get fed such nonsense about hypnosis. They approach it like going to the dentist. They are so frightened of the whole thing, they can't concentrate.
  • Unrealistic Expectation. Many people expect to meet God, or be floating in a sea of bliss, or some other magical feeling. When they don't get what they expected, they say 'I wasn't hypnotized'. Which leads to "I can't be hypnotized.'
  • Mind always busy. Some people have constant intrusive thoughts. These can be so loud that the person finds it hard to have a normal conversion. Hypnotic instructions get drowned out.
  • Personal Disdain. If you don't think your hypnotist is competent, then it will be hard to take them seriously. The same applies to hypnosis by family members. You know they don't have magic powers, so it won't work.
  • Trust Issues. Many people distrust everyone. When someone says 'Now close your eyes and do what I say', they throw up immediate resistance.
  • Intoxication. Especially for stages shows, the person might be too drunk to focus.
  • Religious Belief. Some religions demonize hypnosis. Children often absorb these beliefs and carry them into adulthood. In extreme cases, your mind recalls these warning, and rebels against being hypnotized.

So what do I have to do to get into hypnosis?

Look at all the things that might be stopping you. Then go to a professional hypnotherapist. The type of hypnotist matters.  There are many different types of hypnosis. If you have trouble getting hypnotized, then you need to talk to someone who has more experience than most.

Check out their qualifications. Read the testimonials. See if there are some like you. Then call the therapist and talk about your concerns. Explain what you think is going on. If they are any good, they should offer you a money back deal. After all, hypnotizing is their basic skill. If they don't have enough confidence to guarantee it, move on to someone else.

Dave Mason



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