Is Everyone Hypnotizable?

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Dave Berman, C.Ht.

Everyone can be hypnotized. There, I said it.

This is a point worth making for several reasons. The first one is because people commonly ask whether they can be hypnotized and some express doubt. If you don’t want to go into hypnosis, you won’t. If you do want to, know that you can. And you do. Really, we all go in and out of hypnosis in many ordinary ways each day.

Daydreaming. Crying during a sad movie. Exiting the highway and realizing you don’t remember passing the previous five exits. These common experiences are hypnotic because you experience selective focus of attention. Some factors are deleted from your awareness and other things happen automatically.

In these examples, you can go into hypnosis without another person guiding you. When researchers study hypnosis it typically involves facilitation from another person – the hypnotist. But here’s the thing. Scientists and those reporting on their work often claim some people are “unhypnotizable” while others are “highly hypnotizable.” Of course, this is how it appears when the same approach, called an “induction,” is used for every subject.

That’s like choosing one song to represent all music. Some people will want to dance to it and others won’t. Nobody would say that means some people are incapable of dancing while others are inherently gifted at it. My colleague James Hazlerig compares this to giving 100 people lukewarm Big Macs, finding 10 folks won’t eat them, and declaring 10% of the population is “not susceptible to food.” It’s silly.

The “scientific method” isolates variables and standardizes how experiments are conducted. This is good and important. It just can’t be applied to the study of absolutely everything. If you put the world’s best poets, painters or songwriters in a lab to study what produces the best art, the environment and uniformity may just affect the creative output.

Am I saying hypnosis is an art? We don’t know everything about how the brain changes during hypnosis. But there is a large and growing body of evidence that it does. The experience of hypnosis can be studied as a science while the act of facilitating hypnosis is at least partly an art. Researchers and reporters rarely make this point.

That works to the detriment of both hypnosis and the general welfare of the public. I’m not exaggerating. If doctors and scientists studying hypnosis would be more flexible about how they approach inducing hypnosis in test subjects, few if any would be deemed “unhypnotizable.” With more subjects in hypnosis, there would be more scientific data about how the brain and other parts of the body can change and benefit.

Many fields recognize the “Law of Requisite Variety.” This says the more flexible you are, the more likely you are to get the outcome you want. It is a foundational premise used by all who practice clinical and medical hypnosis. In other words, what happens in a hypnosis research lab is not always based on what happens when hypnosis is used to help people in the real world.

We do need scientific studies about hypnosis. They just have to be constructed realistically to have more value. Some of that value is in helping the general public understand that of course you can be hypnotized – if you want to be, expect to be, and cooperate with the hypnotist who is flexible enough to discover what works for you.

Meanwhile, whether you come see me for hypnosis, explore the benefits of self-hypnosis, or just remain curious enough to keep reading my articles, challenge yourself to be more flexible in your thoughts and actions this week and notice how many more options you create and successes you experience.

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UPDATE 9/17/13 10pm: This article has also been published in the September/October 2013 Isis Scrolls Magazine, available free throughout Northern California and Southern Oregon.

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Dave Berman, C.Ht. practices Clinical and Medical Hypnosis, Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) and Life Coaching. He is certified by the International Medical and Dental Hypnotherapy Association and an affiliate member of the North Coast Association of Mental Health Professionals. Dave offers private and confidential sessions on a sliding scale in his Arcata, CA office and remotely via Skype. Referrals and inquiries are welcome. Learn more at or call (707) 845-3749 for a free consultation. Subscribe to future articles from Manifest Positivity:

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Posted: 8/5/13


About the Author:

Dave Berman offers Life Coaching, Laughter Coaching, Laughnosis and Hypnotherapy. He earned a B.S. in Communication from Cornell University and has extensive experience as a public speaker and workshop facilitator. His book, "Laughter For the Health of It," co-written with Kelley T. Woods, is available here. For speaking or writing requests, or for a free coaching/hypnotherapy consultation, write to Dave, connect with manifest_positivity on Skype, or use the Viber app to call his mobile number from anywhere in the world +1 707-845-3749. Connect with Dave on Facebook, Twitter, or subscribe to future blog posts via RSS or by e-mail.
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