Hypnosis vs. Meditation

Posted: January 12, 2014 in Living and Life, Reflections
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Some of you know I go to a weekly meditation class on Sundays. Today at the class we had an interesting discussion about the differences between meditation and hypnosis. The discussion started while going over some of the aspects of a particular chakra. One suggestion for clearing this chakra of impurities or of other problems is to abstain from activities such as hypnosis. Because I use hypnosis a lot in my life as well as meditation and because I know how to perform hypnosis, I had to ask why one should avoid it, especially since hypnosis and meditation are very similar and have similar aims when performed (unless you’re a stage hypnotist, in which case your goal may just be to do some interesting trick).

Ultimately, the problem comes down to relying on yourself vs. relying on others. The form of meditation I do, called Sahaja Yoga, has a great emphasis on practitioners being able to do Sahaja Yoga on their own and become their own guru in order to find the answers they are looking for or to resolve the problems they are experiencing. Hypnosis, on the other hand, relies heavily on the hypnotist to help a subject, and because hypnosis is largely dependent on the hypnotist’s suggestions, there is an opportunity for abuse on the part of the hypnotist to hurt the subject or cause them to do harm onto others. For this reason, some Sahaja Yogis are very against hypnosis.

As someone who has positive associations for both practices, I saw it as almost like the science vs. religion debate: while they may seem at odds, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they can’t work together. For example, many people are able to believe in both the Genesis story and the theory of evolution, and that’s just one example of how people have learned to reconcile religion to scientific beliefs or theories that seem to contradict each other. Also, both disciplines can be abused by those who are trained in them: a preacher could abuse his followers’ trust in him to scam them or hurt them, while some scientists used to use pseudo-science to justify racist, sexist, anti-Semitic, or homophobic beliefs (a few still do, sadly).

Hypnosis and meditation can also be like this. While some may see the two as distinctly different and that they can’t work together, others see them as very similar and that they can work together. Many researchers have found that the hypnotic state is very similar to the state of consciousness achieved during meditation, and that they can both have positive effects on the physical, mental, and emotional self. For a personal example, last semester there were a couple of weeks where I was under intense stress and was constantly worried about finishing projects and homework, my finances, and other problems. It took a very powerful combination of meditation and hypnosis to be able to get back to my normal self and handle my schoolwork without having a breakdown of any sort.

Not only that, but both hypnosis and meditation can potentially be abused by those who practice it. A hypnotist may use a client’s suggestibility to cause harm to the client or to themselves, but someone who knows some meditation can easily create their own brand of meditation and charge through the roof for lessons or even start a cult based around them and their meditation brand (when I pointed this out to my class, my first thought was, “Hey, that could make a great short story”. Believe me, I will make it into one).

Whatever you feel about hypnosis and/or meditation, it’s important to keep in mind that both aim to help people, that they are very similar in several ways, and that there are people who will swear by one, the other, or both that they are helpful disciplines. I feel that my life is enhanced by both, and I’m glad to be able to know how to do both.

If you are interested in trying either in order to better understand the issue, I’ve embedded two videos below. The first features Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi, the founder of Sahaja Yoga, giving an introductory session in Sahaja Yoga to an audience in Sydney, Australia. The second video is a basic hypnotic relaxation video that gives you an idea of what a hypnotic state is like and what one can accomplish in it. All you have to do for either video is follow the instructions given (preferably while wearing headphones for best quality), and you’ll get a sense of what each is like.

What do you think of hypnosis and/or meditation? Do you think they’re incompatible or compatible? Or do you just think the whole discussion is silly?

  1. karmicangel says:

    I meditate myself, but have never really thought about hypnosis, but the idea of trust (in your yoga instructor or in your hypnotist) would seem to carry through. If you trust the person, if you trust the strategy and the heart behind the activity, then I suppose they are compatible.

  2. Anirudh Kumar Satsangi says:

    1. Consciousness ranges from comatose or unconscious to hyper vigilant, extremely alert wakefulness and meditative calm (Blissful state).

    2. Hypnosis (in Greek ‘hypnos’ means ‘sleep’) is an abbreviation of James Braids (1841) term “Nuro-hipnotism”, meaning sleep of the nervous system. A hypnotized person essentially shows hyper suggestibility. Hypnosis is artificially induced state, similar in some respect to sleep. It is an unconscious state in which subject can still see and hear and can be influenced to follow commands or answer questions. It needs an operator.

    3. Self-hypnosis is independent of an operator. It’s a state of mind that we enter several times a day. When we get involved in anything to the extent that we turn off everything else around us hypnosis has occurred. Watching a movie, reading a book, working a puzzle, or just daydreaming are some common hypnotic states. This is sort of self-hypnosis.

    4. Freud’s initiation into psychotherapy was via the only genuinely psychical treatment available in his day, hypnotherapy. Psychoanalysts are its legitimate heirs. Freud abandoned all hypnosuggetive pactices in favour of “free association”. Free association technique has certain limitation. Hypnosis can be used to overcome resistance experienced during free association technique.

    5. Self-hypnosis and also meditation have proven to be the most powerful healing forces in one’s life. They do not only help physically and mentally but also greatly expand ones consciousness.

    6. Self-hypnosis is a healing art one can easily learn to use one-self. Self-hypnosis technique was developed by Elizabeth (Betty) Erickson, wife of the late Milton Erickson, a great modern hypnotherapist.

    7. This technique involves focusing on things we see, hear and feel in order to keep our conscious mind occupied so that it does not interfere with our unconscious mind as it works in the background to fulfill our goal for the hypnosis session.

    8. Following steps are involved in this technique:
    (a) Get in a comfortable position. To sit in a comfortable chair for the duration of the process. Breathe slowly and be deeply relaxed.
    (b) Determine the length of time for the session. 20 minutes is O.K. but it varies from 15 to 30 minutes.
    (c) State the purpose for the session. Speaking out loud or inside the head, verbally state the goal. For example, “I am going into a state of self-hypnosis for 15 minutes the purpose of allowing my unconscious mind to assist me in becoming very self- confident. Then say how you want to feel in the end of the session.

    9. In many effective self-hypnosis procedures, participants enter a trance and then give themselves suggestions via the conscious mind. However, a guiding principle of the Erickson technique is that understanding by the conscious mind is unnecessary for change.

    10. In fact, your conscious mind often gets in the way of change, saying things like “I can’t…..” or “I don’t know how to……..” The Erickson technique is designed to keep the conscious mind occupied so that it won’t interfere while your unconscious mind is doing the work you requested. While your conscious mind can only process so much information at a time, your unconscious mind is not so limited. It can think holographically and is capable of finding better solutions for you than your conscious mind.

    11. Erickson technique requires you to focus on things you see, hear and feel. It not only keep your conscious mind occupied, but also help you enter an altered state. We process information (or think) in pictures, sounds and feelings. In Neurolinguistic systems: visual, auditory and kinesthetic (feeling). Most of us have developed greater proficiency with one particular system, even though we each use all three of them to experience an altered state of consciousness.

    MEDITATIVE STAGES (Stages in Meditation)

    Meditation is the art of looking within and science of doing nothing. There are several types of meditation like Asthanga Yoga, Buddhist Tradition Meditation, Integral Yoga, Reiki, Kriya Yoga, Royal Yoga, Sahaj Yoga, Surat Shabd Yoga, TM, Vipasana, Zen etc. Each type of meditation has various stages. A meditator has to undergo these stages during the course of spiritual practice till perfection is reached. Patanjali’s Asthanga Yoga has eight stages, Buddhist tradition has nine stages, Surat Shabd Yoga (prescribed in Radhasoami Faith) has three stages viz. Sumiran, Dhyan and Bhajan.

    The mind becomes pacific during meditation so much so that occasionally they become totally oblivious of everything else in the world. (Huzur Maharaj). Meditation allow us to block out the world around us and focus on an object (Form of Guru etc.), place, or word (Aum, Radhasoami, etc.) that will make us feel tranquil, calm and de-stressed. Meditation can free our mind of all negative thoughts and enable us to experience an inner peace.

    According to Swami Vivekananda, “During meditation the mind is at first apt to wander. But let any desire whatever arise in the mind, we must sit calmly and watch what sort of ideas are coming. By continuing to watch in that way the mind becomes calm, and there are no more thoughts waves in it. Those things that we have previously thought deeply, transformed themselves into a subconscious current, and therefore these come up in the mind during meditation.” We may call this ‘auto-catharsis’ sort of free-association, unconscious mind talking to conscious mind. Meditation provides us insight, understanding of self and increases our psychological strength. So we can draw some analogy between practice of meditation and psychoanalysis. .

    According to Swami Vishnu Devananda:”Through meditation, the play of the mind is witnessed. In the early stages nothing more can be done than to gain understanding as the ego is observed constantly asserting itself. But in times its game become familiar, and one begins to prefer the peace of contentment. When the ego is subdued, energies can then be utilized constructively for personal growth and the service of others”.

    According to Radhasoami Faith: “…strong desires, embedded in the mind, are awakened in Bhajan (a type of meditation-Surat Shabd Yoga) by the current of Shabd (sound)………all sort of thoughts will arise at the time of Abhyas, and the Abhyasi will not even be aware of them. His mind, instead of applying itself to Bhajan and Dhyan, will be swept away by all sorts of thoughts.

    According to Sri Aurobindo in Yoga one can isolate mind, watch its workings as under a microscope, separate every minute function of the various parts of the antahkaran, the inner organ – every mental and moral faculty.

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