3 things Netflix’s Hypnotic got wrong about hypnosis

Kat Nicholls
By Kat Nicholls,
updated on Nov 3, 2021

3 things Netflix’s Hypnotic got wrong about hypnosis

While it may be a fun horror film for some, Hypnotic perpetuates some misleading ideas about hypnotherapy

Over the Halloween weekend, I wanted to watch something a little scary and when I saw the trailer for Hypnotic, I was intrigued. I love a good psychological thriller and thought this would be right up my street. Part of me did enjoy it... but a larger part (the part that has written about hypnotherapy and worked with hypnotherapists for work) was frustrated.

When you know how helpful a tool hypnotherapy can be for some, seeing it presented in a scaremongering way again and again by the media is disappointing. We can take these films with a pinch of salt, of course, but I do think it’s important to reiterate what’s true and what’s false about the representation of hypnotherapy here. So here are some of the ideas presented by Netflix’s Hypnotic.

As you may expect, there will be some minor spoilers for the film here so, you have been warned!

1. You can be controlled by your hypnotherapist – false

In Hypnotic, the premise is that the hypnotherapist can implant suggestions into clients that enable him to control them, making them do things they would never normally do.

Recently we surveyed members of Hypnotherapy Directory to learn more about the worries potential clients had, and a top answer was the fear of not being in control. With movies like Hypnotic and some stage hypnosis acts, it’s not surprising that this is a fear. But the truth is, this can not happen. The aim of hypnotherapy is to create positive suggestions for your subconscious to make changes you want, but you don’t have to accept these suggestions.

“You can’t ever be made to do something you are not comfortable with as your subconscious protects you from suggestions that are not in your best interest.”

Therapist and teacher Jessica Chapman writes in her article 5 things to know before you try hypnotherapy, “You can become fully conscious if something that is said to you is not to your agreement.”

In order for these suggestions to be made available, you also need to be in a very relaxed state. And anyone who’s seen Hypnotic will know the sessions were anything but relaxing.

“Hypnosis is not mind control!” Hypnotherapist Lorraine McReight highlights in her article, The truth about hypnotherapy - what really happens in the therapy room. “Someone who is having hypnosis is participating by choice and, while they are usually very relaxed, they remain in control. During a session, the hypnotherapist will make suggestions which you will be free to accept or reject.”

2. Hypnotherapists can put you into trance with a single word - false

During the film, the hypnotherapist would often say a single word that would put the client into a trance-like state where they have no awareness of what’s happening. This does not happen in hypnotherapy, going into a trance is a very relaxing and enjoyable process and you regain control throughout. In fact, it’s likely that you already know how it feels to be in a trance-state.

This is a topic Jessica explains more about in her article What actually happens when I’m in a trance? “Being in a trance is not some magic that can only be accessed in hypnotherapy,” Jessica writes.

“You yourself are likely to have found yourself in this state of mind from time to time – staring off into space, with no concept of time, or making a car journey and having no recollection of the last mile or two you drove.

“This state of consciousness is the one we need to be in for our subconscious to be accessed. This is a level of deep relaxation with little awareness of the world around us. A hypnotherapist seeks to create that state of relaxation in their sessions with you, hence why so many people enjoy the process. It has to be deeply relaxing so as to achieve its purpose.”

Interested to see what it looks like to be put into a trance? Take a look at this video from hypnotherapist Anne Gregory who explains more about what to expect from hypnotherapy and shares a snippet from a client session.

3. A hypnotherapist can implant their own memories - false

Towards the end of the film, we learn that the hypnotherapist has implanted some of his own memories into his client, making them think it was their own. This is a concerning idea but, once again, this is not something that can happen in hypnotherapy.

As mentioned previously, we maintain control during hypnotherapy and we can only take on suggestions we are comfortable with.

Interestingly, however, hypnotherapy may be used to help you access your own memories. In her article Finding lost items through hypnosis, hypnotherapist Manji Ruprai explains more.

“Hypnosis is an excellent tool to access buried memories. Through hypnosis, we are able to quieten our mind by going into a nice relaxed state, usually with visualisation and imagery of a place that makes us feel good and nicely relaxed.

“Through this relaxed state, we are able to tap into our subconscious mind and focus completely on the item and on the details leading up to its loss or misplacement. In this deeply relaxed state, the hypnotherapist is able to bring the memory of the misplaced item to the surface by taking the individual back in time and asking a series of questions about the misplaced item whilst in trance. Quite often, a client under hypnosis trying to remember where an item was placed will suddenly exclaim 'I know where I’ve left it!'”

If you have been considering hypnotherapy, I encourage you to do your own research from reputable sources and chat with hypnotherapists who can tell you more about the process. These misconceptions can harm the industry when many people find hypnotherapy a huge source of support. You can learn more and connect with a hypnotherapist at Hypnotherapy Directory.

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