That rather depends on who is doing the hypnotising! My own personal theory is that there is more than one kind of hypnosis; your experience during a stage show would be quite different from the way that you would feel in my consulting room.
Most stage hypnotists, and some hypnotherapists, use “instant” hypnotic inductions. These are designed to rapidly interrupt the thought processes of the conscious mind, usually by shock or surprise. You may have seen Derren Brown on television using a version of the “handshake interrupt”, which is a good example of this type of induction. I can’t tell you what this kind of hypnosis feels like, because I’ve never experienced it (except while I was training, and the students who tried it on me weren’t very good at it) and I don’t use it with my hypnotherapy clients. There are other, gentler ways to bypass the conscious mind and access the unconscious.
My preferred induction techniques are based around deep relaxation. Some hypnotherapists look down on this, believing that it wastes valuable therapy time, so I should point out immediately that my combination of techniques is much faster than the classic “progressive relaxation”, which can take up to half an hour. I do use something similar but it doesn’t take nearly as long – usually 5-10 minutes. I use these techniques because:
- they work;
- most of my clients have some sort of stress or anxiety and therefore benefit from deep relaxation; and
- I like my clients to feel better when they leave my consulting room than when they came in!
Where clients’ issues are specifically related to stress or anxiety I teach them how to use self-hypnosis – a shortened, faster version of my induction technique which they can take away and use for themselves to relax easily, quickly and deeply. Like everything else this takes practice; the more you use self-hypnosis the easier it becomes.
So, to modify my original question: what does my type of hypnosis feel like? Everyone experiences it differently. For some, it may not feel any different to the normal “waking” state, but normally it’s similar to that feeling of deep calm that you experience just before falling asleep at night or just before waking in the morning. Your body should feel deeply relaxed and may also feel heavy. You remain aware of what’s going on in the room and outside, but feel that it’s not important. You stay fully in control and will be able to come out of hypnosis at any time you choose. For most of my clients the experience is so pleasurable that they may not want to “return” – but they always do, of course. (Perhaps I should point out here that you can’t get “stuck” in hypnosis; a hypnotic “trance” will simply morph into a natural, normal sleep if it isn’t terminated earlier.)
If you’d like to get a taster of what my kind of hypnosis feels like, I’ve posted a video on YouTube (link at https://barrydcooper.wordpress.com/2012/04/12/relax/ ) with a cut-down extra-fast technique which I’ve used successfully as a one-to-one demonstration in networking meetings. It’s not the same as the method I use in the consulting room, or the one I teach for self-hypnosis, because I believe that these are too powerful to be released on YouTube – they need to be applied or taught one-to-one. Feedback from my clients is an important part of the full induction process.