The joke is a pretty standard one:
Ask ten hypnotists what ‘hypnosis’ means and you get 12 answers.
It gets worse than “you know it when you see it”. Folks can’t even agree if hypnosis is a process or a state.
Some folks talk about how clients enter a state of hypnosis.
Others insist that isn’t how it works. Trance is a state… hypnosis is how you get there.
Most of us shrug and say it doesn’t matter. Precise definitions are for academics, teasing apart the irrelevant distinctions. Practitioners solve problems first and wonder about how later.
There’s one thing at least nine of those 12 definitions will have in common:
It’s one of the key ingredients in a hypnotic trance. Some folks go as far as saying it’s the only feature. In fact, that’s the entire definition: hypnosis is putting someone in a more suggestible state, end of story.
If you want to mess with a group of hypnotist, ask them if you can be in a trance and not be more suggestible. They’ll argue back and forth all day if you give them the chance.
My take on it?
The human condition is full of fuzzy states and overlapping boundaries.
Can you feel happy but not smile?
Sad but not cry?
Nostalgic without a sense of loss?
Saying that hypnotic trances always include heightened suggestibility is drawing a firm line in the sand. Scholars love definitive boundaries, but the mind doesn’t really have them.
But, hey, maybe I’m wrong.
And if ‘trance=suggestibility’ is useful to you, that’s better than getting all philosophical about the mind.
Because it’s right, in practice. The way folks use hypnosis is by that sheer power of suggestion.
Now, you might think being suggestible isn’t great. It conjures up all sorts of associations, like naiveté and gullibility.
Put those thoughts to one side, because being suggestible is a superpower.
How many times has someone told you the answer to a major problem in your life… and you ignored them? Then weeks, years or decades later, you stumble onto that truth again and it changes everything.
And how handy would it be to tell yourself what’s what… and for you to listen?
If you could simply believe you’re more confident, no longer a smoker and bursting with energy… doesn’t that make you unstoppable?
Suggestibility isn’t gullibility – a lack of it is stubbornness, rigidity and stagnation.
Of course, it doesn’t pay to believe everything you hear. And that’s the beauty of trance – once it’s over, it’s over. You can go back to listening to the pundits without getting suckered in.
You can enjoy belief when you need it, scepticism when you don’t.