A few years ago, when I started my practice as a hypnotist, I quickly realized one of the main challenges would be addressing the ideas that people had that were, frankly, based on ignorance and misinformation. These concerns are largely based on movies, TV, and entertainment shows, not on measurable reality and results. Hypnosis has long been erroneously defined and thought of as some sort of mind control or technique that an operator "does to" the subject "putting them under", and so on. For entertainment purposes, this definition is very useful. On the other hand, relaxing into a calm, meditative state to visualize and achieve your goals and improve your life does not make for a very entertaining story or comedy show. The impressions made by mass media are very powerful, however - perhaps a form of hypnosis? Repeat the message often enough and some will begin to accept it. How many people are now acquiring conditions and diseases they never had until bombarded by commercials for the "cure" for those very same conditions!? I've often found that those who are not familiar with hypnosis will hold onto those old beliefs no matter how much I explain otherwise. It is when they emerge from the "trance" state that they say, "Wow, that wasn't what I expected at all!"
So what is hypnosis, exactly? The word comes from the Greek for sleep, or hypno, which is exactly what it is not. Hypnosis is not a state of sleep or unconsciousness - in fact, many report a sense of greater awareness while in trance. The term merely comes from the appearance of the subjects; they appear to be asleep - eyes closed, very relaxed, breathing slowly and deeply - similar to meditation.
The actual experience of hypnosis is very common and natural, something we all do a few or several times daily. Daydreaming is a good example. The eyes are open, but the mind is far, far away, on a beautiful deserted island. Perhaps you've been on a long or familiar drive, arrived at your destination safely, but couldn't remember parts of the drive. Getting so involved with a fictional film or book that you had an urge to cry or experienced some other emotion. These are all natural "trance" states that most of us have experienced many times. All hypnosis amounts to is directing this ability we all possess (creative imagination) to cause the subconscious part of the mind to bring about a change in a particular behavior. With repetition, the change becomes permanent. Remember that all of your learned habits and behaviors are stored in your mind on a subconscious level, so changing them means change on that level as well.