Is Hypnosis "Unchristian?"

In the course of promoting my services as a hypnosis practitioner, I’ve encountered a number of people, mostly Christians, who have expressed concern over the possible spiritual consequences of allowing themselves to be hypnotized.  There are those who fear submitting their minds to a stranger.  Some suspect that a hypnotic trance will open them up to demonic influence.  And there is a large group of Christians who think that hypnosis is simply "unchristian."

The first concern is at least partially valid but partially based on a misunderstanding.  It is a false myth that hypnosis involves some sort of mind control--a natural assumption given most people’s exposure to hypnosis was done in front of an audience for entertainment purposes.  After all, hypnotists get people to do rather silly things.  But, you see, they are not doing silly things against their will.  They volunteered.

After experiencing hypnosis for the first time, people realize that they were virtually aware of everything the hypnotist said and did. There was no real room for any sort of mind-control. They might choose to let their conscious minds drift during the session, but they are certainly not unconscious.  In fact, unless the hypnotist has used certain techniques to convince the client that s/he has been hypnotized, many would walk away from the session, not believing they were ever hypnotized.  They feel better, more relaxed and rested but question the hypnosis itself.  The fact remains, a client is not submitting to any form of mind-control.

Being skeptical about the hypnotist, however is certainly a valid concern.  I think everyone should be careful about choosing a hypnotist.  For all intents and purposes, the hypnotist is a stranger.  People should be careful to ask any questions they have before agreeing to the hypnotic process.  You see, it's important to the success of the process that clients should feel comfortable with the hypnotist and in the room.  There should be an established rapport between the client and the hypnotist.  If the client is overly suspicious, uncomfortable or resists the process, the hypnosis will not be very effective. 

Here are a couple of helpful hints to increase your chances of finding a good hypnotist.  A hypnotist does not need to touch the client and the hypnotist who uses touch techniques, (usually on the forehead or wrist) should ask for permission prior to hypnosis. Touch techniques can be quite effective but the hypnotist should make it clear where and how the client might or will be touched.  If you are uncomfortable being touched, find another hypnotist.

If the hypnotist makes outrageous claims like near 100% success rates or guaranteed results, then consumers should be wary.  These are powerful marketing techniques but such claims are ethically debatable.  Both success rates and guarantees can be misleading.  A hypnotist may “guarantee” results or the client can come back for free.  If the hypnotist then bases his or her success rate on the number of people who make a claim on the guarantee, it is likely that their actual success rate is far lower than they say.  Just think about it.  If it didn’t work the first time, why would someone go back for another try?  A lot of people just cut their losses and go somewhere else. 

Finally, I have my doubts about any hypnotist that claims to solve a client's problem in a single visit. There are people who experience a kind of light-switch reaction to hypnosis and their problem is gone.  It does happen.  I wish it worked that way for everyone.  But it is also possible that dramatic affects of the hypnosis process may wane over time or the old ways of the subconscious mind may resurface because the changes need to be reinforced and some issues are just not that simple.  I'm just a little skeptical.  That light-switch experience, if it happens, comes from the client, not the hypnotist or even hypnotism itself.  

In my practice, I do see people with dramatic results, but I also see people whose results are not dramatic but more gradual over time.  How could I suggest success in a single visit when I don't know how you will react to hypnosis?

Those who think that hypnosis will open them up to demonic influence are again, operating on a misunderstanding.  Granted, to most people, hypnosis seems like a mysterious process.  But hypnosis is not fundamentally spiritual.  Hypnosis acknowledges the function of the subconscious mind.  We all have subconscious minds and the subconscious mind is NOT the spirit nor the soul.  

Rather than being something spiritual, the subconscious is simply our autopilot and we all have one.  If we didn’t have subconscious minds, we couldn’t function.  We couldn’t even walk.  Think about how hard it would be to think through every muscle movement for every step you take.  The subconscious mind manages our automatic reactions and behaviors.  Whether it is putting the car in park before turning off the ignition or reaching for another piece of chocolate or lighting a second cigarette when one is already lit and burning in the ash-tray, the subconscious mind is behind it all. 

The process of hypnosis simply allows us to work on a sub-conscious level.  For most things in life to affect our subconscious, we have to wait for them to seep into our subconscious mind through a lot of consistent repetition.  You may have heard it takes three weeks to break an old habit and replace it with a new one. 

When Christians want to make positive changes, they commonly rely on some pretty standard techniques.  Prayer, Bible Study, Church and Sunday School attendance, daily devotionals, even Christian radio.  All of these work on the conscious level and after a while, something gradually sinks into the subconscious but what if we could speed up the process?  That being said, my office should be full of Christians.

There is nothing unchristian about hypnosis.  Hypnosis is simply a tool, an amazing gift that can help us grow and more naturally lead the kind of life Christians want to lead.  God gave us a conscious mind, with which we make free-will choices and he gave us a powerful subconscious mind with which we live out our choices once they become part of us.  But, let’s admit it, sometimes, the conscious choice doesn’t show up so readily in our lives. 

We know that even the apostle Paul struggled with the conflict between his conscious choice and his subconscious inclinations. (Romans 7:15-20).  When he says he does the things he doesn’t want to do or he doesn’t do the things he wants to do, he is showing us the limited power of the conscious mind to effect desired change.  We can choose but the actual changing of our behavior or reactions can be slow and arduous.

Any positive change is only possible because of grace but grace doesn’t guarantee the change.  James taught us this fact when he pointed out that consciously agreeing or believing was insufficient.  To be of any value at all, what we believe needs to manifest in what we do and how we live--not merely in what we consciously believe.  (James 2: 17-19)

Later in Romans, Paul tells us how those outward changes are actually brought about.  He teaches us that it is through the renewing of the mind that our lives are transformed.  (Romans 12:2)   It is obvious that Paul is not talking about renewing the conscious mind because he is clearly saying that what he wants to do with his conscious mind, he doesn’t actually do.  Paul is highlighting the conflict between the conscious and the subconscious mind though he didn’t have the vocabulary to make that distinction. 

It is the subconscious mind that needs the renewing.  And the way most Christians go about doing that is long, frustrating, arduous and often requires a lot of repetition and repentance.  We remain like Paul, not living up to the expectations of our conscious minds.  I honestly believe that if Paul had understood hypnosis, he would have tried it.  Perhaps you should, too.

Lastly, I have a question for you.  Jesus often told people they the miracle they experienced had come because of their faith.  Was Jesus lying when he said that?  Was the power secretly in him and not in them?  If so, he lied.  If he told the truth, the power behind their miracle had been in them, not him. Even when the woman with the blood flow touched the hem of Jesus’ garment, he stopped and sought her out because her faith had connected with his own and he felt the power go out from him.  (Mark 5:25-34) He said it was her faith, not his.  He knew that faith touched faith but he didn’t heal her, her inner conviction, her faith, touched him and she got what she needed.  If she hadn’t already had the inner conviction, she wouldn’t have bothered reaching out to touch him.

Granted, faith is a gift but we all have a measure of it. (Romans 12:3) And faith, inner conviction, needs to grow and mature. (Mark 9:29 & Matthew 17:20) The capacity for faith, resides in the subconscious mind because the conscious mind is too easily swayed.  We can believe something one minute and then a few minutes later, with the presentation of some facts, completely change our thinking.  That’s the conscious mind being blown about by winds of doctrines.  (Ephesians 4:14)

All hypnosis does is facilitate changes in that inner-conviction and there is no reason why Christians should not utilize it.  Choose the right hypnotist, certainly.  But give it a shot.  You may learn to love yourself more—the key to loving your neighbor and the secret to loving God.  You may find the kind of freedom you’ve only heard about, dreamed about, asked God for but frankly never quite realized in your life.  You will almost certainly cope better with stress, the trials of daily life and the disappointments that go with it.  Most of all, you just may see how precious and cherished you are in the eyes of God and how he’d do it all again, just to be close to you.