Many people ask what does hypnosis feel like, and in this blog I’m going to help you to understand how hypnosis feels from the perspective of the person getting hypnotised. There are many different subjective or experiential signs of hypnosis, just as there are many objective ways to see if someone is in hypnosis, from the hypnotist’s perspective. Here are some of the main things people can feel and experience, when they are in hypnosis. Keep in mind, some people will experience a number of these subjective experiences, others may not. Hypnosis is an individual experience, and can feel completely different from one person to the next.
Hypnosis often feels relaxing
Many people who experience hypnosis often report a feeling of relaxation whilst being hypnotised. There are lots of different types of ‘hypnotic induction‘ (methods of hypnotising), many of which include suggestions for relaxation as a part of the hypnotising process. However, even those methods that do not directly request a relaxation response from the person being hypnotised, still create a state of relaxation.
It is true that you can be hypnotised without actively relaxing, and even without feeling a sense of relaxation, but many people experience relaxation to some degree. The feeling of relaxation in hypnosis can be profound and powerful, or it may be relatively light and subtle. Some people feel a physical relaxation, and find that their muscles relax. Others are aware of a mental relaxation, with feelings of stress and anxiety reducing whilst engaged in hypnosis. As mentioned above, the hypnosis experience is different for each individual that experiences it.
Hypnosis enables a state of deep focus
A state of focus is integral to the hypnosis process. For someone to be hypnotised, they must focus on the hypnotist’s voice and hypnotic suggestions. Interestingly, when someone focuses intently on what the hypnotist (or hypnotherapist) is asking them to do, and follows their suggestions, the state of hypnotic focus often deepens and intensifies. This is due, in part, to a ‘rule of the mind‘, as devised by Émile Coué, that each suggestion acted upon allows for greater acceptance of following suggestions.
Some people, in hypnosis, feel that all outside distractions become less important, as if the volume has been turned down, allowing them to focus all the more on the hypnosis process. In fact, some people in hypnosis are able to be so deeply focused, that they do not even hear or respond to significant interruptions (such as a telephone ringing in the same room). The level of focus that somebody experiences during hypnosis can increase with practice, and can also be influenced by other factors, such as their mood and motivation during the hypnosis session.
Hypnosis can create body sensations and feelings
As well as the more common feeling of relaxation, when in hypnosis, you might experience other feelings and sensations. Some people experience positive emotions when in hypnosis, such as joy and humour. This is thought to be attributed to a release of endorphins and other positive chemical changes in the brain when entering hypnosis. People can also experience different body sensations, as well as emotions. Some people feel as if they’re sinking comfortably into the chair, with their body becoming very heavy and relaxed. Others can feel as though their bodies are becoming light, and they experience a drifting, floating sensation whilst in hypnosis. Some people feel warmer or colder in hypnosis, others experience tingling sensations in their extremities.
Depending on the type of hypnotic induction used, other feelings can also occur as part of the hypnosis process. For example, with some ‘rapid inductions‘, people can feel confused, and even shocked, before they enter into a state of hypnosis. Generally, though, these less comfortable feelings are fleeting, and are simply used in order to generate a faster entry into a deep state of hypnosis. Hypnosis itself is very unlikely to create any unpleasant feelings or sensations, when done properly, and any reports of negative feelings and sensations relating to hypnosis, often relate to people working through unpleasant topics during a hypnotherapy session.
Occasionally, someone may report that they awaken from hypnosis with a ‘fuzzy head’. This is often due to a hypnotist or hypnotherapist not properly awakening them. The hypnotic awakening process is very important, and should always be done properly in order to ensure that people awaken from hypnosis feeling positive, comfortable and ready to engage with the rest of their day.
Hypnosis can create physiological responses
In hypnosis, some people will experience ‘catalepsy’, which is a reduction in movement. In fact, some people remain perfectly still whilst hypnotised, whilst other people fidget more in hypnosis, and some even experience unconscious muscular twitches. Sometimes these twitches can be felt, other times they are so subtle as to be almost imperceptible. Interestingly, someone with a tic disorder, such as dystonia, will often experience a reduction of twitching whilst in hypnosis.
In contrast, ‘ideo-motor responses’, unconscious movement in reaction to hypnotic suggestion, are common in hypnosis. A hypnotist may give someone the suggestion that their body feels light and floaty, and the person may respond with their arms lifting up into the air. This often happens without any conscious effort, and is purely as a result of an unconscious reaction to the suggestions that were given.
Skin tone can also change in hypnosis. The skin can flush or pale, simply as a result of being hypnotised. Also, breathing rate, pulse, and blood pressure can change during the hypnosis process. This is often due to the relaxation that a hypnotised subject experiences, resulting in slower breathing and reduced blood pressure. That’s why it’s important that if you have low blood pressure, you let the hypnotist know beforehand, to ensure that you are seated safely and to avoid any faintness (though, it is a fairly uncommon response).
In hypnosis, your mind may wander
Some people expect that, in hypnosis, you will only be able to focus on what the hypnotist or hypnotherapist is saying to you. However, for many people, conscious focus on what is being suggested can fluctuate. Some people will be focused for the majority of the time, and others will find themselves daydreaming and thinking about other related or unrelated things. Either way is absolutely normal, and can happen at any point during the hypnosis process. Generally, if you are being asked to engage in a specific process during hypnosis, whether for hypnotherapy or stage/street hypnosis, you will be consciously focused on what is being asked of you. For those parts of the process that require less conscious engagement, it’s common that your mind might wander, before returning back to focusing on what is being said.
You will often still be aware whilst in hypnosis
It is a common myth that hypnosis makes people ‘black out’ or go unconscious. As mentioned above, hypnosis is a state of focused attention, not unconsciousness. When in hypnosis, you will likely still be aware of the environment around you, though, it will often be as if external sounds are ‘turned down’, and become less important. For many people, being in hypnosis feels very similar to being sat, with eyes closed, feeling relaxed and comfortable, engaged in daydreaming or being deep in thought. You might think of it as being similar to watching a good movie. The area around you doesn’t go away whilst watching a movie, however your consciousness of the environment around you often recedes as you focus on the screen. Hypnotised subjects are often aware of what’s going on around them, but are not interested in engaging with anything beyond their own internal experience.
Hypnosis can feel similar to sleep or meditation
As you may already know, hypnosis is not sleep, as it requires consciousness, not unconsciousness. However, hypnosis can feel similar to the act of falling asleep. In fact, when someone is transitioning from awake to asleep, they enter into what is known as a ‘hypnogogic state’. Though not a formal state of hypnosis, the brain waves of a person falling asleep are very similar to those of a person in hypnosis. This may be why many people feel that hypnosis is a lot like sleep, in terms of their experience.
Those familiar with meditation may realise that being in hypnosis can feel similar to a meditative state too! The difference is, with meditation, one of the key aims is to clear the mind and to disengage from conscious thought and analysis. In hypnosis, the key aim is to follow the suggestions given by the hypnotist or hypnotherapist. Interestingly, people in hypnosis demonstrate similar brain activity to those who are meditating, though there is a distinct difference, which shows that the state of hypnosis is not the same as the meditative state, even though it may feel quite similar.
Hypnosis sometimes creates amnesia
The majority of hypnotists and hypnotherapists do not give you suggestions to forget what happened during hypnosis. However, sometimes it is true that you may not remember every detail of a hypnosis or hypnotherapy session. Just as everyone’s hypnosis experience is different, people also have different abilities when it comes to memory and remembering. If a group of people were to watch a two-hour long movie, some of the people would remember most of it in great detail, others may only remember key points and interesting scenes that resonated with them, and a few would not remember much of it at all after a short while. The same is true of hypnosis. Some people remember the majority of what happens during a hypnosis session, whereas others find that they remember less. Usually, however, people will remember those parts of the hypnosis experience that they need to.
Occasionally, a stage hypnotist may suggest that a volunteer forgets their name, or even forgets they were hypnotised after the show is over, as one final ‘gag’ to entertain the audience. Amnesia is a common routine used by stage hypnotists, and is hilarious to experience. However, a good stage hypnotist will also suggest that at a certain point (whether after a pre-defined amount of time, or when the volunteer leaves the venue), the person will regain all memory of the hypnosis show. This is important, as it both enables the ‘gag’ to run its course, but leaves the volunteer feeling good, remembering as much of the show as they wish to.
Some people in hypnosis still feel ‘normal’
Not everyone responds in the same way to hypnosis, you may have got an understanding of that already by reading this blog. Some people are very suggestible and others, less so. Those people who have naturally lower suggestibility may not experience a lot of the things mentioned throughout this blog, however, that doesn’t mean they are not in hypnosis. A light state of hypnosis can simply feel like sitting with your eyes closed. The key thing to keep in mind, if this applies to you, is that regardless of your depth of hypnosis, or the profundity of the experience, you can still benefit from being in hypnosis, and engaging in hypnotherapy. One of the benefits of hypnosis is that it reduces conscious input and resistance, which is why hypnotherapy often enables clients to achieve quicker results than with other, non-hypnosis, talking therapies. This is true whether you’re a highly suggestible hypnotic subject, or even if you only go in to a relatively light hypnotic state.
I hope you found this blog useful, and that you now have a better idea of what hypnosis feels like. If you have any questions about this topic or anything else hypnosis-related, do get in touch, because I’m always happy to help!