What Hypnosis Can and Can’t Do

You might be surprised at just how much it can do for you

What Hypnosis Can and Can’t Do


Hypnosis can be used for a great deal of things. An exhaustive list is virtually impossible. But a short list includes things like lose weight, quit smoking, overcome fears, manage stress, break bad habits, heal from traumatic experiences, build up self-esteem or self-confidence, among many, many others. The easy way to look at it is this: If it is directly or indirectly caused or influenced by the thoughts that you think, you can use hypnosis to change those thoughts, which in turn will change the circumstances of your life.

Your thinking is everythingThe wonderful thing is, most everything in life is at least influenced by your thoughts, if not caused by them. If nothing else, they color your interpretation of what is going on around you. For example, depending on what frame of mind you are in you might see an event like losing your job as the end of the world, a minor speed bump, inevitable, or an opportunity of a lifetime! The difference lies entirely in the kinds of thoughts you have been thinking. By the same token, the thoughts you are thinking when you go in for an interview for the next job can make the difference between being a shoe-in or being someone they wouldn’t touch with a 10-foot pole. Your thinking is everything.

This is what makes hypnosis so versatile. It facilitates changing your thoughts! Here are some ways in which it does that:

New Experiences

Your thoughts are a product of your beliefs. Your beliefs are a product of your experiences. New experiences can lead to new beliefs. Sometimes the necessary experience might be difficult or dangerous to have in real life. But the good news is, the experience doesn’t need to be first-hand. It can happen in your imagination, and if it is vivid enough, it is just as good. The benefit of hypnosis is that it facilitates a vivid imagination.

You can imagine almost anything. You can imagine yourself standing on a path that winds through a meticulously groomed park with squirrels playing among the trees, their chatter one of the only sounds you can hear. You can imagine yourself standing knee deep in snow, watching your breath as you exhale into the crisp, cold mountain air, the sky a brilliant, unbroken blue canopy overhead. You can imagine yourself walking through a mirror and coming through to the other side, where everything is the same, and yet everything is completely different! Your imagination is powerful.

Through hypnotherapy, you are first led into a state of mind where your imagination becomes very vivid. Then, once there, you can be guided through an experience that is completely safe, completely imaginary, and yet completely effective at enabling you to make a breakthrough in your thinking.

Rewiring your brain

All learning means forming new neural pathways. In order to form those neural pathways, you must have an experience that makes an impression. One of the things that can cause an experience to leave an impression is the amount of your brain that actively participates in the experience. If you are busy doing 10 things at once, like holding yourself upright, watching the road, monitoring traffic, managing the accelerator, periodically looking behind you, while you watch for the road signs indicating where it is you need to go… then a simple thing like the color of that Prius sitting in the driveway you just passed probably won’t leave much of an impression. You won’t remember it (consciously) because the memory is not very well interconnected with anything else.

Whereas, if you have allowed your body to relax, it is totally supported by a chair or couch, you don’t have to use brain resources to maintain your balance. If you have gotten your whole body to relax, then the parts of the brain that get involved with tensing muscles will be available to use for other things. Stop thinking about the checkbook or the grocery list or the results of that last game, and still more of your brains natural cognitive resources come available. This is how hypnosis causes you to have such a vivid imagination. Your brain taps into the resources that are normally busy doing other things.

And then you imagine something important to you, like standing up for yourself, or taking some action that you always wanted to do. Your imagination is vivid, almost lifelike (in some cases, it is very lifelike, maybe even surreal). So, from the perspective of neural pathways, you experienced it! It doesn’t matter that it was not real, you still experienced it. And because so much of your brain participated in the experience, more of your brain participated in the learning, which means that the “impression” that the experience made is much greater, and runs much deeper.

Anchor Thoughts To Experiences

Another prime way in which hypnosis works is by creating a memory that ties two things together indelibly in your mind. Some circumstance, some event, some situation, you recreate that in your mind. And then you create the idea of you doing something in response to that circumstance. Some new habit you want to form. Then you simply intend or hear it said that when you find yourself in that circumstance, you do the new behavior. Because of the whole-brain involvement mentioned above, that thought becomes very strongly imprinted in your mind, and a habit forms almost instantly.

Control Your Body

There are some very interesting things that hypnosis can also do. It can enable you to have amazing control over your physical body. You can control blood flow to parts of your body, thereby increasing or decreasing temperature. You can slow your heart rate to nearly stopped. You can completely eliminate any and all pain sensations. For the average person, most of these things are just a novelty. But imagine if you could push your body to the limit. What would you do? Would it improve your sports performance? Would it take some of the fear out of visits to the doctor or dentist? Would it keep you from getting car sick?

Limits of Hypnosis

With all the touting of what hypnosis can do, you might be inclined to ask, “is there anything hypnosis can’t do?

The answer is yes. There are two things that hypnosis can’t do. The first is, it can’t be used to defy the laws of nature. If something is impossible, hypnosis does not make it possible. If it is just difficult, or if it requires being in a particular state of mind in order to do it, then it can facilitate it, but it is not magic. You have to know what state of mind is the right one in order to accomplish whatever it is, and you have to know the right things to say or think in order to get into that state of mind. That is the power and benefit of the hypnotist: They understand the relationship between words and state of mind. If you need to get into a particular state for whatever reason, they can help to get you there.

You are always in controlThe other thing hypnosis can’t do is make you do something against your will. Hypnosis is an entirely interactive and voluntary experience. You are guided into an altered state of consciousness through words. You have to do or imagine what the words say or it will not have any effect. And at any point, if you don’t want to be in that state of consciousness any more, you don’t have to be. You can snap back to normal in an instant. If the hypnotist tells you to do something, and you don’t want to do it, you won’t do it! If you are asked a question that you do not want to answer, you don’t have to answer! You can even lie, if you want… it’s not a truth serum. You are always in control.

True, there are people who understand what makes people tick, and they are master manipulators, and can seemingly make people do things that they wouldn’t otherwise do. But that is not hypnosis. That is manipulation. You must not confuse the two. And hypnotherapy is all about empowering you to accomplish your goals, not tricking you into doing things that are not in your best interests.

If you have any aspect of your life that you would like to see different, give me a call. I’ll be happy to talk to you in more detail about your specific situation, and how hypnosis can be effective for you.

Related Reading

  • Does Hypnosis Really Work?

    There is an old saying, “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” So when somebody says …

  • What is Hypnosis?

    I remember when I first was talking about becoming a hypnotist/hypnotherapist, I was amazed at the kinds of things my …

Learn More
Imagine: change your thinking, change your life!