Want to know how hypnosis is related to relaxation?
When you’re around hypnosis for any length of time, sooner or later, someone is likely to make a claim about hypnosis and relaxation.
Quite often, this claim is either that hypnosis is the same thing as relaxation (it isn’t), or that relaxation is the only way to hypnotize someone (again, it isn’t).
In this post, I’d like to clear up exactly why. But first, a tiny bit of clarity.
Almost everyone reading this has watched a movie and been caught up in it to the extent that the outside world fades away. This has probably happened to you. And if it hasn’t, you almost certainly know someone who’s had that experience.
So let me ask you this: How relaxed are we when we’re totally absorbed in a non-relaxing movie? I’m talking about things like horrors, thrillers, and even action movies. They manage to get us fully absorbed and mostly believing they’re real, at least while we’re watching them. And at the same time, we are in no way relaxed.
The way they do this is through hypnosis of a specific form. If you’re unfamiliar with that, you’ll have to take my word for it for now. It’s quite a complex topic so there’s quite a few articles that I could write on it if there is interest.
For now though, consider this: If people who watch movies are able to be fully absorbed in those kinds of movies because of hypnotic processes, to what extent is relaxation required for hypnosis?
Hopefully the answer is relatively obvious: It’s not required at all.
But it is a pathway into hypnosis.
Relaxation is one of many pathways into hypnosis.
Now let’s think about your local supermarket for a moment. Unless you live right next door, you can probably drive there faster than you can walk there. And unless you live somewhere very remote it is almost certain that there are multiple roads and multiple paths along those roads that you could take to get to that supermarket.
Not only that, but most people can drive or walk, and many can bike or take the bus or train. Each of these things impacts how quickly we can get to the supermarket.
If we’re a long way away from the supermarket, it will almost certainly be quickest for us to drive there. If there is a huge amount of traffic, the train may be quicker.
And even when we’re a long way away from the supermarket, most of us could walk there if we had the time and inclination. We’d still get there… it would just take longer, and we might have to make more trips to acquire the same amount of groceries.
You’re probably wondering why I’m talking about supermarkets.
And if you guessed it’s a metaphor, you’d be right.
You see, the skill in going into hypnosis mostly resides inside the hypnosis subject. The hypnotist’s role is not to force hypnosis onto anyone. Rather, our role as hypnotist is guiding the subject into hypnosis.
Just as with every other skill that we learn, some people are very close to that and do not need much guidance. And some people are much further away.
We don’t know how far someone is along the pathway to hypnosis until we hypnotize them for the first time.
Unlike most of our other skills, we don’t really have any measure to tell us how far along the path to hypnosis a specific individual is, so the only way to find out is to hypnotize them and discover what happens.
This is where the metaphor comes in. Imagine that the supermarket is the hypnotic state your subject wants to experience. Some of them will be living right next to the supermarket and can walk there. Others will live a long way away and while they can walk there, it will take a long time.
The roads and pathways and means of transportation are analogous to the method we use to induce hypnosis, known as the induction.
When we do a progressive relaxation induction, or something equivalent to it involving relaxation, we are effectively telling them to walk to the supermarket. We are more-or-less certain to guide them there. But we don’t really know how far away they are at the outset.
It could be that they live right next door to the supermarket and it takes only a minute. It could be that they’re in the next town and it takes hours or days.
Luckily there are much faster ways such as hypnotic fractionation.