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Can you get stuck in hypnosis?

During our 25+ years of training people in hypnosis and treating them using hypnotherapy, perhaps the most common question is "Can you get stuck in hypnosis?"

Well I'm pleased to be able to tell you it's not. And here's why:

Nature needs us to be in different states of consciousness over a 24-hour cycle, from day dreamy states, to focused at work, to the high-energy state of cheering on a sports team or dancing wildly at a party. We all need to change psychological and physical states often.

So, people can always awaken from trance although sometimes they may feel reluctant to when they are having such a wonderful inner time.

There is sometimes a kind of relaxing 'heaviness' in the hypnotic trance experience. What's more, this natural heaviness, or catalepsy, also occurs during dream (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep although, because of the unconsciousness of sleep, we don't tend to recognize dream-time physical heaviness.

Nature provides us with catalepsy when we dream as a safety mechanism to stop us physically acting out our dreams. Nature tends to be pretty sensible which is why you don't get stuck in hypnosis.

Hypnosis is similar to the dream (REM) state

Because of the similarity of hypnosis to the dream state, catalepsy can sometimes occur spontaneously, or it can be induced by suggestion. This natural catalepsy is one of the reasons why hypnosis is so good for pain control.

But central to each person is a strong survival mechanism. Even though you might be dreaming at night and deeply cataleptic if someone yells "fire” a few times you will wake up and all the heaviness will vanish.  And that's from a state of sleep.

I once induced eyelid heaviness/catalepsy in someone I was working with in a hospital. She felt like her eyelids were “stuck together with relaxation” and couldn't open them when she tried, but when the hospital fire alarm went off (although, as it turned out, there was no fire) and she opened her eyes immediately.

We can't get stuck in hypnotic trance because it would be dangerous for survival

Tens of thousands of years ago our ancestors may have “tranced” out around the cave fire but if they heard a predator outside they had evolved to snap their attention back to external reality. We need to be able to attend to outside reality in an instant if necessary.

Where was I... oh yes, so that's the long answer, and the short one is, no, you can't get stuck in hypnosis because of the innate survival value of being able to come to full waking consciousness instantly should you need to.

And I'll end with the comment that hypnosis should always be provided with the intention of giving the hypnotized person more control in their life, not less.

If you want to learn more about hypnosis, try our free online hypnosis course.

Mark Tyrrell
Co-founder