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“I can't be hypnotized - I'm too strong-willed!”

Why it’s a myth that strong-willed people make lousy hypnotic subjects

Even the doorbell sounded more powerful when she pressed it.

“I’m here to be hypnotized. But I have to warn you: I might be a challenge because I’m strong-willed; I know my own mind.”

Jasmine was a tall and strong-featured woman with the kind of eye-locking stare that was pretty mesmeric in itself.

Like millions of other people, Jasmine had somehow got it into her head that being hypnotized is all about passively handing over your self-control to some domineering, sharp-bearded, Dracula-like personage with regulation pointy cape and pupils that rotate like turbocharged pinwheels.

She might even have been surprised I didn’t inhabit a castle in Transylvania and only work during a full moon!

Mind you, I can’t blame Jasmine. In movies and books, hypnosis has too often been portrayed as a force of will, one brain wrestling down another, gaining control, and directing someone into total obedience. The trouble is it’s not like that at all.

And whilst Jasmine still believed with pride that it was good not to be hypnotizable (even though she came for help with kicking smoking), her very belief would interfere with her responsiveness. So her beliefs needed addressing before I could start work.

Reality vs belief

Since 1993, I’ve hypnotized thousands of people - to help, not dominate, them! All kinds of people with all kinds of personalities, backgrounds, life experiences, and belief systems. Women are not more or less hypnotizable than men. The young are not better hypnotic subjects than the old. Entering hypnosis is a human capacity that is open to all regardless of creed, colour, gender, or ideas as to what hypnosis is.

But one thing I have noticed from my experience is that people who are able to direct powerful concentration are often better hypnotic subjects. Or at least those with strong willpower are better able to enter hypnosis more quickly.

So what did I tell Jasmine?

Strong will = good hypnotizability

I described how people who are the very best at something - whether in sport (she was a massive football fan), surgery, music, or art - are invariably great at focusing their minds strongly. They also tend to make great hypnotic subjects because they have strongly focussed attention and can direct their focus willingly.

I also described how hypnosis is something that people really do for themselves. The hypnotist merely helps a person discover, enlarge, and explore their own budding hypnotic abilities. I suggested to Jasmine that her subconscious mind was a huge potential source she could begin to tap into for her benefit.

She liked the idea that it was the strong-minded and highly focussed people who made better hypnotic subjects. But she wasn’t giving up just yet.

“Mark, has there been any research on this?” Jasmine asked. “Have any studies found that the ‘strong-willed’ tend to be easier to hypnotize?”

Fortunately, they have.

Look into my eyes and forget all the clichés

Some hypnotherapists do try to directly ‘wrestle’ people into hypnosis. You know the kind of thing: “You are getting sleepy!” That kind of approach can work for some.

But, actually, there are all kinds of indirect and conversational ways to help people explore their own hypnotic capacity. These hypnotic communication skills allow people to slide gently into the comforts and wonders of their own mind working for them, ‘on the same side’ as it were, rather than being pushed in through force.

And the very same people who proudly proclaim, “I’m too strong-willed to be hypnotized!” might assume that having low self-control would mean such weak-willed individuals would be easier to hypnotize. But that’s not true at all.

This idea was tested on 154 people and the results showed that the opposite was true. According to that research, having high self-control made people easier to hypnotize. I even dug out the research reference for Jasmine to follow up on later.

Now, just because strong self-control and capacity to focus makes for great hypnotizability doesn’t mean that distracted folk can’t be hypnotized. There are certainly ways and means that can be used to help the less focussed enter a beautiful trance state.

But Jasmine was happy that she could now link her need to feel ‘strong-willed’ (which she was) to it being okay for her to enter trance, which she did easily and deeply. And during hypnosis, we used her wonderfully muscular force of will for what it should have been used for all along: kicking out those life-stealing cigarettes.

Published by Mark Tyrrell - in Hypnosis Training