Hypnosis has been attributed to some unbelievable things, and everyone has the same question: Is hypnosis real?

Can a powerful hypnotist really create a trance that makes people cluck like chickens during stage hypnosis shows? Or how about the stories of  the medical hypnotist who completely numbs a patient undergoing a root canal with no anesthetic. The patient, being numbed by hypnosis, is then able to go through the entire procedure without any pain and in a state of comfort.

Is this possible?

There have been rumors of secret government programs to create assassins out of regular people using hypnosis. There are advertisements on TV saying that hypnosis can help with weight loss, smoking, or insomnia.

You are about to find out what is truth and what is a fairy tale when it comes to hypnosis. This article contains my conclusions after of thousands of hours of research, learning, and training. In here you will find the TRUTH about hypnosis.

This is a truly massive article, so here are some quick links to get you to the section you want to read about:

Quick links in this article:

What Does Hypnosis Claim to Help People With?

If you look up hypnosis online you might come across some wikipedia articles or some websites of local hypnotherapists in your city. If you go to the latter, you will find claims of hypnosis helping with all of these things:

  • Quitting smoking
  • Losing weight
  • Changing habits
  • Pain control
  • Increasing self esteem
  • Improving memory
  • Removing fears or phobias
  • Increasing sports performance
  • Eliminating allergies
  • Helping people sleep

As well as a few dozen more things hypnosis can do.

So how can the same process that helps a person quit smoking also help a completely different person with a chronic illness control their pain? One is a habit, the other is a physical signal the nerves are sending in the body.

How can a person do silly things on stage with a entertainment hypnotist and a different person can undergo a similar process and it helps them with their golf game?

Before we dive into that, let’s take a look at the origins of hypnosis which should clear somethings up.

Origins of Hypnosis – How it Was Discovered

Benjamin franklin and hypnosis

Benjamin Franklin investigated the claims of mesmerism, the precursor to hypnosis.

Hypnosis first entered the scene under a different name: Animal magnetism, or Mesmerism. This was developed by Franze Anton Mesmer, from whom we get the name mesmerism, back in the 1700’s (links are to Wikipedia).

Mesmer was a German physician who theorized that there was a magnetic force between all things in the universe. Therefore a person or object with strong magnetism could influence something else utilizing this unseen force.

Franz Anton Mesmer held demonstrations of animal magnetism which had people falling into trance, being spontaneously cured of diseases, going into convulsions, and even bringing women to orgasm. All of this happened through little to no touch, just people succumbing to his mesmerismic stare and the power of his animal magnetism.

To people who heard about Mesmer, it truly seemed like magic.

However, this was also the time when science was being taken more seriously and there were many people to didn’t believe Mesmer’s claims of supernatural powers. A group of the brightest minds available were commissioned to find out if there was any truth to what Mesmer claimed. One of the people in that group was Benjamin Franklin.

They discovered what he now know: That there is no such thing as animal magnetism. What people were being influenced by was the power of suggestion.

Where Does the Term Hypnosis Come From?

James Braid was a physician who heard about Mesmer and thought critically about what he saw during one of his demonstrations. He had a theory that it wasn’t an outside force that made a person behave in those strange ways, instead that the power was in the mind of the person being hypnotized.

This was a powerful shift because it meant that the hypnotist wasn’t special, that everyone had the ability to become hypnotized.

Braid began experimenting on himself, trying to create the same state using his mind that he saw Mesmer create in other people. Braid didn’t know it at the time, but he was the first person to experiment with Self Hypnosis.

He is actually the one that coined the term “Hypnosis,” which comes from the root of the Greek work ‘Hypno’, which means sleep. This is because people in trance seemed to enter a state similar to sleep in many ways.

James Braid also pioneered the use of hypnosis in a medical setting. He would put people in a trance to help aid with surgeries, including things such as amputations. Because he used hypnosis on his clients to relieve pain and slow bleeding,his patients had a much higher survival rate.

Dr. Braid was one of the founding fathers of modern hypnosis, even though later in life he disagreed with the term Hypnosis all together. He realized that hypnosis is not actually a state of sleep, but actually a heightened state of learning.

Does Hypnosis Work?

Hypnosis can rewire the brain.

Anyone who has seen a hypnosis stage show wonders if the people undergoing stage hypnosis are really in a trance or if they are just faking it. Does the person seeking hypnosis for weight loss lose the weight because of hypnosis, or because of their own willpower?

Does hypnosis REALLY work? The short answer is a resounding yes.

Let me tell you what I’ve experienced.

I am a medical hypnotist who has seen countless clients in my private practice. I’ve seen people who come to me with a problem they’ve been struggling with for years and they’ve made no progress despite their best efforts.

It might be sugar cravings, or addictions, fears, or even something physical such as teeth grinding or migraines.

Those same clients tried so many things before. They tried counseling, or prescription medication,and self help books, all with little to no progress.  It wasn’t until they experienced hypnosis that they were able to win that battle they had been fighting.

After a few sessions of hypnosis they were finally able to lose weight they struggled to let go of for years.

After experiencing hypnosis they were finally able to conquer their social anxiety.

Once they unlocked the power of their mind using hypnosis, the problem they had just seemed to go away. Could all this be coincidence? It could be, but that is unlikely. Something is going on in the brain during hypnosis. Something that triggers people to take massive action and to change habits that were previously set in stone.

What is the Success Rate of Hypnosis?

Hypnosis has many magical claims associate with it. Maybe you’ve heard of a friend who stopped a bad habit with hypnosis when you never thought they would. Maybe you’ve seen a TV advertisement of someone who lost hundreds of pounds with hypnosis.

Woman getting hypnotized

A typical hypnotherapist will hypnotize someone in a comfortable office. Most do not use pocket watches though.

What I’ve experienced in my private medical hypnosis practice is that roughly 75-90% of the people who come to see me reach their goals or at least make significant progress towards them.

What that means is if 10 people come to me with a problem, let’s say to sleep better or help their insomnia, about eight of them will fall asleep faster, sleep deeper, and wake up feeling more refreshed after just a few sessions. About two people won’t reach that goal for a variety of reasons.

Sometimes I don’t see the results immediately. If a person sees me for weight loss, we work on instilling positive habits that might take months to see the results (especially if you lose significant weight in a healthy way).

The change in the brain occurs during hypnosis, it just takes the body a little while to catch up.

If hypnosis isn’t 100% effective for 100% of the people, is it worth doing? Yes,hypnosis is worth trying. Even surgery doesn’t have 100% success rate, I know because I’ve seen many people who come to me because of chronic pain from a surgery that didn’t cure their ailment.

I’ve also noticed anecdotally and by talking to other hypnotists that pain control is one area of hypnotism that has less of a success rate (maybe 10-20% less than the average). There is a talent to going into hypnosis, just like there is a talent to playing the piano.

Those clients of mine that are very talented at going into trance can easily make a part of their body completely numb. So numb that you could pinch it, cut it, even amputate it with no discomfort.

Here is a video of someone talented at hypnosis undergoing a dental procedure with no pain killers.

Is Hypnosis Real? The Best Scientific Evidence for Hypnosis

There is tons of evidence for the efficacy and effectiveness of hypnosis. To be blunt, hypnosis works. Is hypnosis real? This article lays out the best evidence for hypnosis and hypnotherapy.

Here are a few excerpts from the article:

Hypnosis and Healing Bones:

“The first study showed that six weeks after an ankle fracture, those in the hypnosis group showed the equivalent of eight and a half weeks of healing. That effectively demonstrates that using hypnosis helped that group heal bone fractures 41% faster.

[1]”

Hypnosis and Weight Loss:

“Those who received the hypnosis lost more weight than 90 percent of those not receiving hypnosis and maintained the weight loss two years after treatment ended.[2]

Hypnosis and Insomnia:

“Significantly more patients had a normal night’s sleep when on autohypnosis alone than when they received placebo or Mogadon (a sleep medication).” [3]

As you can see, hypnosis is real has been shown to help people heal faster, get healthier, and relax deeper. This is because you are using the power of your mind to effect your body.

The article I linked to about hypnosis and scientific evidence has nearly 20 scholarly studies cited at the bottom. I highly encourage you to research them yourself. Or if you are especially interested in the research out there, you can go to pubmed and search for new studies that are being released about hypnosis or hypnotherapy.

The short story is that hypnosis works, but HOW does it work?

How Does Hypnosis Work?

If science says hypnosis works, how does it work? The short answer is that we just don’t know. However there are some medical establishments that are discovering what is triggered in the brain when you are in a state of hypnotic trance.

Stanford Medical recently released a study where they scanned the brain of people who were highly talented at going into hypnosis as well as those that had a lot of difficultly being hypnotized. They attempted to hypnotize both groups of individuals while their brains were being scanned. The scientists discovered that there were at least three parts of the brains effected by hypnosis:

Hypnosis can impact certain regions of the brain

Three Parts of the Brain Affected by Hypnosis

  • Decrease in activity in an area called the dorsal anterior cingulate. This is the part of the brain that takes the information from our senses and decides which is the most important. By decreasing activity in this area, you are less concerned about the outside world and more focused on your internal world.
  • Increase in connections between the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and the insula. This is the part of the brain that helps process and control what is going on with the body.
  • Decreased connections between the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and the medial prefrontal and the posterior cingulate cortex. This creates a disconnect between a persons actions and the awareness of their actions. This is why during a hypnosis show a person can be doing some pretty silly and not be embarrassed. It’s because their brain’s awareness is disconnected from what they are actually doing.

While all that information can be interesting to the nerds among us (myself included!), allow me to explain hypnosis in a different way.

There are two parts of the mind, the conscious mind and the unconscious mind. The conscious mind is where you make active decisions using logic and reason. The conscious mind is between 1% – 12% of all your brain activity.

The unconscious (or subconscious) takes up the other 90-99% of the mind. It is the part that controls the automatic functions of the body (heart rate, breathing), as well as your belief systems. How you think about yourself, how you think about love, how you think about money, all of these things are controlled by your unconscious mind.

In fact, most of the decisions we make throughout the day might actually be made by the unconscious mind, but your conscious mind is just taking credit for it. There is an interesting study published in the Journal of Behavioral and Brain Sciences by associate professor of psychology at San Francisco State University Ezequiel Morsella.

Morsella theorizes that all of the information from our five senses (as well as our thoughts and memories) are all processed in the unconscious mind. When you need to make a decision about something the unconscious analyzes all that data and comes up with a solution. It gives that solution to the conscious mind, who thinks that i