The question about the relationship between hypnosis and meditation has been coming up again, so here is a qualified explanation. This brief article is a clear look at the differences between Hypnosis and Meditation with regard to how they are actually practiced in the world today.
Keep in mind that both Hypnosis and Meditation can provide deeply meaningful experiences and they can be practiced for decades and your experiences will change over time. They are very deep subjects that cannot be described fully in this small space–you will gain extremely great self-knowledge and development with either or both. This article is not intended to describe what you may or may not experience and the many ways that you will improve; it is only to point out the significant differences.
It comes down to four things: purpose and motivation, style and technique, assessment of suggestibility, and actual suggestions given for future behaviors. In order to discuss the differences and distinctions, it is helpful to begin with the similarities of the two.
Both hypnosis and meditation can cause relaxation, calm, comfort, euphoria or happiness, contentment, and serenity. Sessions include those kinds of suggestions. Sessions are conducted in groups, or for individuals one at a time. There might be a distorted sense of time. Muscles release tension and the body can return to balance, and usually the client will sleep wonderfully during the night following a session. All of these things are reported by clients following meditation and hypnosis sessions. Clients also report a wide range of images and feelings, indicating that each person creates the experience according to their own personal individuality.
Those are the similarities.
Here is where Hypnosis and Meditation diverge and remain distinct:
Purpose and Motivation
With meditation, often the purpose is stated by the teacher or leader. Meditation is typically used for stress reduction, taking a mental break, facilitate healing, improve sleep, and anything associated with gentle relaxation. Hypnosis differs in terms of motivation. For example, few people seek meditation with the motivation for quitting smoking, losing weight, getting a grip on exam taking, or increasing confidence and courage. The specific intention and principle effect of hypnosis is to get the client’s subconscious mind open to suggestions while their conscious mind takes a break from rationalizing, judging, and questioning. The client remains awake while in a state of detachment in which they are not thinking about thinking.
One key thing here is that hypnosis has nothing to do with relaxation. It is not necessary to remain still and quiet in order to be hypnotized. For proof of this, observe any hypnosis entertainment show and see for yourself. The simple reason to suggest “relaxation” is to remove distraction so that hypnosis can occur.
Style and Technique
Meditation and hypnosis both use an infinite number and array of techniques, many of which can be created spontaneously during the session. With hypnosis, the style and technique are form-fitted to the individual, or else the conscious mind will not daydream or go into trance. In hypnosis groups, the hypnotist will provide a variety of suggestions in order to appeal to individual learning styles.
Some of the techniques used to induce and conduct the hypnotic experience are things known in our jargon as deepeners, ego-strengthening, fractionation, convincers or depth testing, post-hypnotic re-introduction to hypnosis, and anchoring. The most obvious difference between meditation and hypnosis can be seen in a demonstration of Rapid Hypnotic Induction. It is highly effective and repeatable and it dramatically demonstrates the effects of hypnosis. I have never seen anything resembling rapid meditation, and as far as I know there is no such thing.
Assessment of Suggestibility
Hypnotists, using a variety of suggestibility tests, will determine the client’s learning style, subconscious preference for direct or indirect suggestions, and degree of willingness to go through the process. Here’s an example. Everyone has subconscious learning preferences. Some learn best by hearing and listening, others by seeing and looking, and still others by doing and feeling. Everyone uses a combination of these, but some work better than others, and there is no right way or wrong way. The hypnotist will want to appeal to the styles that work best for the client. In the course of making this assessment, it is also possible to determine the client’s susceptibility to direct suggestions and indirect suggestions. The hypnotist can also assess whether a client is so highly suggestible that either or both will be effective. The knowledge gained from the assessment is then used to create an induction and hypnotic script.
Suggestions for Future Behaviors
Here’s another major difference: Hypnosis is used for and is highly effective at helping clients to change their behaviors. Those suggestions are known as “post-hypnotic suggestions.” Everyone knows this to the extent that it’s why my clients seek my help at the outset. A good hypnotic script includes suggestions for future behavioral change, future emotional well-being, and continuing positive transformation. In contrast, meditation is about being “in the moment.”
A few other things to consider…
Hypnosis is often used for entertainment purposes, but I have yet to hear of Stage Meditation or Entertainment Meditation. Hypnosis goes by many names for marketing purposes, things such as Guided Meditation, Inner Mind Entrainment, Quantum Jumping, and many other terms designed to appeal to different populations. If you attend one of those sessions and then you notice that your behaviors, habits, or moods have been altered significantly, rest assured that you have been hypnotized.
There are many paths.
Both meditation and hypnosis are powerful modalities to use for personal transformation, improvement, and development. They may include concepts of spirituality, faith, and healing, and they can both lead to your Higher Self. Take them seriously and use them as a path. With practice, you will learn to tailor them to your needs and desires, and you will learn amazing things about yourself and your relationship to the world around you.
James M. Giunta is the creator of Hyp+Note=Therapy and he presented his technique at TEDx Navesink on May 10, 2014. Watch it now: http://www.tedxnavesink.com/project/james-giunta/