Why can't I be hypnotized?
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 it work on some people but not on others?
Can you predict who can be hypnotized?
Most people 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 predict 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.
The tests assume that hypnosis is the same for everyone. Hypnotists do not. Clinical hypnotists change their method to match the client.
Is trance the same for everyone?
It is generally assumed that hypnosis is the same thing everywhere, for everybody. In real life, individual experience of hypnosis and trance can be very different. There is not even an agreed definition of hypnosis.
Hypnosis does not have fixed properties. The effect of hypnosis depends on the individual.
- Depth of trance What exactly is 'depth'? Some people go 'deeper.' Does that mean that less depth is failure?
- Incomplete Response Must you experience all hypnotic effects to call it hypnosis? Most people can be hypnotized to feel some hypnosis effects such Time Dilation or Amnesia. But few people feel them all.
- Selective Response Some people respond to Post Hypnotic Suggestion, (triggers), but not to direct suggestions. Other people experience vivid detailed Past Lives, but ignore all triggers.
- Variable Response Some suggestions work, others get ignored. Take two roughly equal people. A suggestion that works on one may have no effect on the other one. Is that a failure to be hypnotized?
Why do some people respond well?
- Personal susceptibility Most measures of hypnotizability cluster tightly around the average. There are few extreme cases. So you are most likely average.
- Genetics Going into trance 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. Instant induction.
- Meditation If you know how to meditate, you know what trance feels like. But meditation is not a reliable predictor. Many people who say they meditate are simply sitting still for 20 minutes. Reaching meditative trance is hard.
- Placebo If you believe in hypnosis then you are likely to feel effects, whether they are there or not. Sensing these effects will make you even more sure.
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 Approach 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 get hypnotized.
- Wrong Style There are many ways to induce trance. Each has advantages and disadvantages. It might favor Direct Suggestion or Regression. Some people need a particular induction.
- Wrong Media There are thousands of hypnosis 'files' on Youtube. Most of them created by amateurs. Bad files have poor results.
- Poor Practice Many people can't tell when they are in trance. The hypnotist should include tests such as being unable to open your eyes, to convince the client. If not, 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.
- Interruptions Sometimes in trance, 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?
Your upbringing creates unique beliefs, expectations and fears. Negative thoughts get in the way. There are several common examples:
- Not doing it right. This makes people anxious. They start thinking they must be doing it wrong, and lose track of the process.
- Losing control. As these people go into trance, they feel control slipping away. This frightens them, so they snap out of trance.
- Constant dread. These people have to work to suppress the fear, but it is there all the time. When they go into trance, they lose focus, and the fear emerges. This jerks them back out of trance.
- Too skeptical. Skeptics challenge every word. If they refuse to believe in hypnosis at all, their own mind stops them going into trance.
- Prevent yourself. You can prevent the 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 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 the 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 any 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 why can't I be hypnotized?
Well, it depends.
Unquiet Mind For most people, the problem is your own mind. The people who most need hypnosis are the ones who can't get into it. People come to hypnosis to get some sort of change in their mind. They bring anxiety, depression, anger, mistrust, loneliness and much more.
These are all barriers your mind puts up 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 and work around your issues.
Poor Technique The other main reason is lack of skills. If you are trying to hypnotize yourself and failing, you are doing it wrong. If a hypnotist is not getting you into trance, then the hypnotist is failing you. Knowledge and practice will fix both.