"Can I be hypnotized" is one of the most common questions that I get from people. It's a natural curiosity that many people have, but the reality is that I can't answer that question with certainty for every person. I can give you some guidelines, however, for getting a general sense of whether you can be hypnotized or not.
Can I Be Hypnotized: Factor One
The first factor that affects hypnotizability is your standard cognitive function. Does your brain work right? People often overthink this and are too hard on themselves. They think that if they have a learning disability, ADD, or ADHD, that they can't be hypnotized. There is no research to support that, and in my own personal experience I have hypnotized thousands of people with those conditions.
Because hypnosis involves different parts of the brain working in a network fashion, you would have to have a serious brain impairment as a result of head trauma, advanced neurological disease, or severe birth defect in order to not be hypnotizable from the standpoint of cognition. So while our brains are all a little different, they are also mostly the same in terms of basic function, so the overwhelming majority of people qualify for hypnosis from a cognitive standpoint.
There is also some research that suggests that your level of hypnotizability may be impacted by certain dopamine receptors. Debate on this seems to be continuing, so if you like to geek out about hypnotism it's something to keep an eye on, but for everyday people it's not going to help you figure out whether you can be hypnotized or not, because it's not like you're just going to run down to the corner store and get a dopamine receptor test to see if you've got the right ones or not.
Can I Be Hypnotized: Factor Two
The second factor that has a big impact on your ability to be hypnotized is not physical or genetic; it's emotional or psychological. Are you comfortable with the idea of being hypnotized? That may seem like a pretty simple and straightforward question, but the answer isn't always as straightforward.
Over the years, I've learned that the best follow-up question to "Can I be hypnotized?" is, "Are you a control freak?" I say it with a smile on my face so that folks know I'm not trying to be mean, but I'm being genuine with the question. You see, people who are overly focused on feeling like they are always in control don't make good hypnotic subjects. The moment anything pops up in life that signals they may lose control of themselves somehow, their fight-or-flight system is activated. That means on a deeper level, they are now perceiving hypnosis as a threat.
Hypnosis has been portrayed in popular culture for over a century as a form of mind control, a way to bend the will of others to the desires of the hypnotist. So while you might be genuinely curious about what it's like to be hypnotized, if another part of you is carrying that culturally influenced belief that getting hypnotized means losing control of yourself, that fear is going to win out over the curiosity, and there will be a part of you that blocks it.
Sometimes folks don't ask, "Can I be hypnotized?" but they say, "Can you hypnotize me?" The spirit of each question is essentially the same, but think about the difference in semantics. One is focused on if you have the capacity to do something, while the other is focused on whether someone else can do something to you. When people ask me, "Can you hypnotize me?" I often playfully reply, "I can't hypnotize anyone."
This usually gets a confused response, as they know that I'm the "professional hypnotist" who has been brought in to hypnotize people, but replying to them in this way creates the opportunity for me to de-mystify hypnotism as some dark art or special power that only hypnotists have. It lets me explain that hypnotists are really just facilitators. They know how to lead people into the hypnotic state, but the individuals they are working with must be open to the experience, follow the directions of the hypnotist, and process the suggestions so that they actually lead themselves into the hypnotic state. It's a cooperative effort.
Can I Be Hypnotized Re-cap
So the next time you're wondering if you can be hypnotized, it really comes down to two questions:
- Do you have reasonably normal cognitive function?
- Are you comfortable with the idea of being hypnotized?
If the answer to both of those questions is "yes" then you have the potential to be hypnotized.