Hypnosis – Fact or Fiction? You Be the Judge

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Hypnosis – Fact or Fiction? You Be the Judge

Hypnotherapy is something that most people have seen performed in movies or on television shows. Although most dramatic representations of hypnotherapy are a bit exaggerated, it has been known to help people in real life. Hypnosis – Fact or fiction? You be the judge.

Take the story of Mary Vincent. At the age of 15, Mary survived rape and having both of her arms cut off in a gruesome attack by a man who offered her a free ride. And, though she survived, she could not remember anything about her attacker’s appearance – until she was hypnotised.

The results of that hypnosis led to the arrest and later the conviction of Lawrence Singleton. yet, not everyone is a believer. As the lines of authentic therapy and snake oil showmen blur, it has become hard for people to discern between therapeutic and helpful –  and what is mere entertainment.

Hypnosis works through the power of suggestion. Hypnotherapists place their patients in a relaxed state and kindly feed suggestions to them. These suggestions might involve remembering something from the past or imagining something in the present.

Psychologists will sometimes use hypnotherapy to help patients remember suppressed memories or the details of a traumatic experience. In other cases, people may go to hypnotherapists to treat their stress, phobias and anxiety.

However, not everyone is susceptible to hypnosis or the power of suggestion. The specific personality of each person will determine if they are suggestible. If they are not suggestible, then hypnosis will not work on them.


There is a common misconception that hypnosis makes somebody a suggestible person. The truth is hypnosis only enhances the power of suggestion in someone who already has a suggestible personality type.

There is no real way to turn someone into a suggestible person, because it is all dependent on the level of activity in certain areas of the brain. Scientists and doctors can determine this by studying brain activity using brain scans.

If you don’t want to go that route, a hypnotist can study the characteristics of your personality to determine if you are a suggestible person.  

Personality Types

Scientists do not know for sure exactly what factors create a specific personality in a person, but they do believe that a person’s upbringing has a lot to do with it.

For example, if a person grows up being hurt and lied to by those closest to them, they will likely become an untrusting adult. This type of person will not take kindly to suggestions.

On the other hand, if a person grows up with a lot of love and honesty from people close to them, they will accept suggestions a lot more easily.

In clinical terms, the three personality types are organisational, adaptable and charismatic. The organisational personality type will be the one who refuses to listen to suggestions and will not trust anyone.

The adaptable personality type will agree to reasonable suggestions and try to work with the hypnotherapist the best they can.

As for the charismatic personality type, this person is extremely suggestible. In fact, they may try pretending to be hypnotised because they are so enthusiastic about the process. But this pretending could actually lead into real hypnosis without them even realising it.

Brain Scans

Magnetic resonance imaging is often done in certain areas of a patient’s brain that affect attention and control functions. If the imaging data shows there is less activity going on in these areas of the brain, then it means that hypnosis likely won’t work on the person.

Of course, there is no exact science when it comes to studying someone’s brain activity to determine their level of suggestibility. But a magnetic resonance imaging scan has proven to be highly accurate and reliable for this purpose.

Hypnotic Susceptibility Scales

A number of hypnotic susceptibility scales have been created over the past 80 years. The Friedlander-Sarbin Scale was created in 1938. This was the scale that paved the way for future scales like the Stanford Scale and Harvard Group Scale.

Overall, these scales test patients by having them perform certain cognitive tasks that test their suggestibility and response. However, these scales have not been deemed 100-percent accurate by the scientific community.

Image via Pixabay CC0 License
David Anthony

David has a background in Journalism and small business. David writes on culture, education and business. He also writes for Relevance and Medium.

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