Hypnosis VS meditation is a duel without a clear winner. Hypnosis and meditation seem similar, and millions of people around the world rely on these practices to keep their stress, anxiety, and depression in check. But even though the practices seem similar at a first glance, there are significant differences between the two.
In the following article, we take a closer look at hypnosis and meditation, and we examine the differences between them.
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What is hypnosis? There are many definitions you could use, but according to the American Psychological Association, hypnosis is a cooperative interaction between a responsive participant and a suggestive hypnotist.
Even though it’s a clinically-proven practice, hypnosis became well-known thanks to popular acts and Hollywood movies where people are prompted to act ridiculous and behave like chickens.
Despite its image in modern media, hypnosis provides medical and therapeutic benefits, and it’s especially effective in the treatment of pain and anxiety. Some studies suggest hypnosis can reduce the symptoms of dementia or other mental diseases.
Scientists have been disputing hypnosis for more than 200 years now, and science has yet to explain everything that happens in the hypnotized brain. Thanks to modern technology such as fMRIs, we can detect when a person’s brain is activated under hypnosis, we can see the exact moment when a person enters hypnosis, but we can’t explain clearly why the person does it.
But despite the fact that some details are missing, we have a good understanding of the general characteristics of hypnosis, and we can predict its effects. Hypnosis is a trance state that is distinguished by extreme suggestibility, heightened imagination, and a relaxation of the mind and body.
Many people compare hypnosis with sleep, but the two mental states are not alike. Unlike a sleeping person, a hypnotized one is alert at all times. If we were to compare hypnosis with something, it would resemble a state of daydreaming or the feeling you get when your mind is ‘lost’ in a good book or movie. You are aware of what’s happening around you, but you can tune out everything but the subject you’re focusing on.
Everything you experience during the hypnosis session seems somewhat real to you, much like something that happens in a book or movie seems real. The events fully engage your emotions. You feel sad, happy, or fearful depending on what you’re watching or reading. Well, during a guided hypnosis session, the hypnotist guides your mind so you can face your fears, tackle your sadness, or embrace your happiness.
Some researchers consider daydreaming and immersive experiences during reading or watching movies forms of self-hypnosis. Milton Erickson, a psychiatrist who specialized in hypnosis, believed people hypnotized themselves on a daily basis. He said psychiatrists have the distinct advantage of knowing how to induce a state of relaxation that makes a trance state possible, and how to use focusing exercises to guide the mind towards useful topics.
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Deep hypnosis is often described as a state of relaxation similar to what we experience when we shift from wakefulness to sleep. During conventional hypnosis sessions, you approach your ideas or the ideas your hypnotist suggests as if they were real.
If the hypnotist were to suggest your hand was swollen, you might feel a tingling sensation in your hand and have trouble closing your fist. If the therapist would suggest you are eating ice cream, you might feel a cooling sensation in your mouth. If the hypnotist would suggest you are facing something you fear, you might start sweating and your heart rate would increase. But you would be aware that everything that’s happening is inside your head. Your mind is simply playing pretend. If the hypnotist would suggest you act like a chicken, you would be aware it’s not in your interest, and you would not comply.
The hypnotic state is characterized by relaxation and a lack of inhibitions. Most researchers suggest this happens because we are able to focus on something without letting our fears, worries, and doubts interfere with our actions. When we watch a movie we enjoy, we focus on the plot and our worries and doubts fade away. The same thing happens when we’re in a hypnotic state, but instead of focusing on a movie plot, we focus on ourselves.
People are highly suggestible when they are in a hypnotic state. That’s why most people will accept the hypnotist’s suggestion and embrace it as their own. The fear of embarrassment fades, and you open yourself up to the experience. But you are still aware of your surroundings, so the hypnotist cannot convince you to do something you don’t want to.
Meditation is defined as a set of techniques intended to inspire an increased state of mental awareness and focused attention.
Meditative practices are found in nearly every religion, including Buddhism, Judaism, Islam, Christianity, and Hinduism. Despite the fact that meditation is often used for religious purposes, many people practice it without having any spiritual or religious inclinations.
Meditation is an effective psychotherapeutic technique. Simple processes such as listening to our breath, repeating a mantra, or detaching our thought process allow us to focus our attention on a specific subject. In addition, these processes induce a state of self-awareness and inner calm, which can help us hone our focus.
Meditation teaches us that even though there are many things in life we cannot control, we can control our own states and change them for the better. With the help of meditation, we learn that we can overcome our personal sorrows, fears, anxieties, and confusions with the help of our minds.
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Meditation can take on different forms, but we can group all of them into two main types: mindfulness meditation and concentrative meditation.
Mindfulness meditation targets issues such as anxiety and depression, but it can focus on other topics as well. Mindfulness meditation involves being aware of and involved in the present moment, and making yourself aware and accepting of the ongoing course of your life.
Concentrative meditation teaches us to focus our attention on specific objects while tuning out everything around us. The goal of this type of meditation is to fully experience what we’re focusing on, whether it’s our breath, a mantra, or a flower. Experiencing things with our entire being helps us reach a higher state of being.
Most people who have been meditating for a while say that reaching a meditative state is easy. Well, it is easy once you get the knack of it. Even though some people have no problems entering a meditative state, most of us will need to practice and learn how to meditate.
Some of the most common advice state we should reach a meditative state if:
Even though meditation provides many therapeutic and health benefits, scientists haven’t figured out exactly how and why it works. One theory says that meditation works because it changes the frequency of our brain waves.
There are five categories of brain waves:
By lowering our breathing and heart rates, and relaxing our minds and bodies, meditation can help us switch from one type of brainwave to another. With practice, we can reach the fourth brain wave, and some might even reach the fifth with enough practice. When it comes to meditation, consistency is key. Shorter meditation sessions on regular intervals are more productive than longer sessions spread unevenly.
One of the reasons people associate hypnosis and meditation is the increasing popularity of guided meditation. People turn to guided meditation because it allows them to tap into the benefits of meditation without learning how to meditate. It’s a quicker process, and many prefer it over the others. The meditation guide, who is a trained practitioner, leads one or more people through meditation by offering descriptive instructions.
Some might mistakenly associate the meditation guide with a hypnotist. Besides the fact that both professionals use verbal instructions to guide their clients through their process, they have nothing in common.
Hypnotherapy is used by licensed physicians and psychologists to treat multiple conditions and mental illnesses. Certified hypnotherapists help people manage their weight and give up smoking, and help them deal with addiction.
Meditation guides or teachers help people reach a meditative state, but they do not have the training to help their trainees overcome their fears or give up smoking. Once they achieve a meditative state, the clients have an increased awareness and can reach the same conclusions on their own, but the processes differ greatly.
The hypnotist uses well-placed suggestions to help the client reach the hypnotic state and focus on their problems, whereas the meditation guide relies on the client’s ability to enter the meditative state.
Even though they might seem similar at first, the hypnotic and the meditative states are different. Both require you to be aware of your surroundings, but this is where things differ.
When you’re in a hypnotic state, your mind is aware of everything, but it focuses on the hypnotist’s suggestions. With the help of these suggestions, you will have a sharp focus and you will address the matters you wish to resolve, whether you wish to quit smoking or sleep better.
On the other hand, when you’re in a meditative state, your mind is also aware of everything, but you focus on your breath, on your hands and feet, or on an object. This will increase your self-awareness and it might shed new light on your problems, but it won’t be extremely effective for treating a specific condition in a quick manner.
Yet another reason many people confuse hypnosis and meditation is that both are shrouded in myths. Both topics have been portrayed falsely or negatively in modern media.
People still believe hypnotists will make them dance on the stage like chickens and that meditation is something ninjas do to hone their senses.
These stereotypes are not helping anyone, and the presence of self-entitled specialists who don’t really know what they’re doing on shows furthers these stereotypes.
The truth is that the people you see on stage acting like chickens are paid actors who allow themselves to participate in these silly displays.
The truth is that ninjas might have meditated, but they didn’t do it to hone their senses. They meditated to increase their awareness and calm their nerves, just like modern people do.
People still believe meditation makes monks levitate. We’re not going to debate the possibility of levitation, but the chances of lifting over the ground if you start mediating are inexistent.
People are often afraid they won’t remember anything of their hypnosis session, or that they will surrender their will to the hypnotist and risk being dominated.
The truth is that hypnosis amnesia can happen, but it is actually a good thing that happens rarely. When people enter a deep hypnotic trance, they might lose their grip on reality. But even though this might seem frightening, entering a deep in a trance will engage most people’s long-term memory, so the hypnotist’s suggestions will have a strong effect.
Surrendering your will and doing everything the hypnotist wants you to is nothing but a myth. You are always aware of yourself during a hypnosis session, and hypnotherapists are nothing like the showmen you see on stage. Hypnosis cannot be imposed on someone, it’s something people do for themselves. A hypnotherapist serves as a facilitator, and he or she will guide you to accomplish your goals, and nothing more.
Hypnosis and meditation differ, but they are also alike. Both processes help your mind face and overcome various problems, and both provide health and therapeutic benefits.
Despite their similarities, hypnosis and meditation are different, and they are achieved in different manners. Hypnosis can help you treat different conditions with precision while meditation can help you become a better person.
I am sure that after reading this article you have a clear idea on which process might be more beneficial for your specific problems.