Can hypnosis make you smarter?

We often see hypnosis in movies and other aspects of everyday life as a trick. Whether it’s The Mentalist manipulating a bad guy or witness for some information, a magician performing a trick, or a witch casting a spell on our favorite hero, it often doesn’t depict a good experience. But what if it was more than that?

Hypnosis can place you into a relaxed state which can help you recall memories that you may have studied this can be performed by a hypnotherapist or through self-hypnosis

What do experts say about hypnosis?

There is a growing research in the fields of medicine, psychology, meta-analysis, psychoanalysis, mentalism and surrealism that suggests that hypnosis can affect learning in a very positive way. The argument lies in the fact that there is a relationship between the subconscious mind and reality.

The total state of rest, complete concentration and limitless imagination brought on during hypnosis can contribute greatly to the learning process.

There is still a heated debate about the effectiveness of hypnosis or whether it is real. Is there a medical explanation for it? Several medical associations across the globe say that it is.

A medical procedure known as hypnotherapy has for centuries and decades been recognized by medical and psychological associations such as the British Medical Association, American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association and the British Psychological Association.

How hypnosis come to be?

In Ancient Greek traditions, the term “hypnos” was used to refer to the term “sleep”. While there are conflicting versions of its origins, the concept of hypnotic trance has been traced to the 18th century German physician Franz Mesmer. Mesmer was interested in the transfer of natural energy between humans, animals and other inanimate objects.

Although his methods were bogus and unpopular, Mesmer provided the basis for further studies into the practice of hypnotic trance. It was not until the 19th century that the term “hypnosis” was coined in an attempt to understand the act of suggestionon the mind and its role in human behavior.

What is Hypnosis?

Hypnosis is a form of interference with awareness. It involves the use of mental representations to temporarily override perception and behavior. The Neurosciences and Behavioral Reviews journal describes it as a “top-down regulation of consciousness”. The process of hypnosis often involves induction and suggestion.

The hypnotist or hypnotherapist takes (guides) you into a state of deep relaxation; what you may describe as a trance. This is the induction stage. They then go on to make suggestions in order to open your mind to therapeutic improvement.

The difference between hypnosis and brainwashing is a fine line. While brainwashing is an imposed ideology, hypnosis is simply a mild suggestion that triggers responses from the subconscious mind. These suggestions are implied and the responses are involuntary, but they are clearly yours.

As the saying goes “All hypnosis is self-hypnosis”

What does it mean to be smart?

The word “smart” is a term that is widely abused. Most people refer to others and themselves as being smart without truly knowing what it really means. While it is a relative term, it does have a simple meaning. Being smart is the ability to put thoughts together and provide solutions to problems.

The word “smart” is also often used interchangeably with the term “intelligent”. That would mean that being smart is the ability to acquire and use knowledge and skills. But being smart can also take different meanings too. Jeff Bezos described being smart as knowing when you’re wrong and admitting to it. Some other individuals have described being smart as having strong opinions, not following the crowd, or as one person put it, “getting the flag without climbing up the post”. A certain Captain America movie comes to mind…

Whatever way you look at it; being smart means getting the answers; getting things done; and making things happen. It means solving problems.

How does hypnosis affect the subconscious mind?

To understand this will require a very good understanding of the mind. And since scientists are yet to fully get a grasp on the workings of the mind, the concept of hypnotism and how it affects the mind may remain a mystery for many years to come. We do see that it works, and we also see what a person in a hypnotic state is capable of, but the “why” remains a big puzzle.

There have been attempts over the years to provide some explanation. Harvard Medical School and other institutions have carried out research in the past to understand hypnosis or hypnotherapy as many would like to call it. The verdict was that hypnosis is a “mind over body” process. By linking up with the mind, parts of the brain that deals with focus is also activated.

This is why research has shown that hypnosis can be a very useful in the treatment for pain. The mind receives a suggestion that is meant to ease the pain and passes on that information to the brain. The brain receives it and tells the body there is no pain. It’s not magic, it’s simply replacing physiology with subconscious interference.

But note that you’re not unconscious during hypnosis- you’ve simply surrendered your mind to uninterrupted focus and attention, away from the external environment, and focusing only on the voice of the hypnotherapist or the thought you wish to embed. This is why you remember the experience and suggestion after a session of hypnosis.

Subjects of hypnosis are not in a deep sleep state. They are, in fact, hyperattentive- but just to a specific thought. I believe this is the definition of focus. You simply tune out most of the other stimuli around you and focus intently on a particular subject. Ever wondered why you’ll literally smile when the hypnotist suggests that you’re vacationing in the Bahamas with family-on a beach?

So, unlike what you see in movies and comic books, hypnosis has nothing to do with the ominous goateed man, dressed in knee-length suit, having a magician’s hat on, and waving a pocket watch which drives you into a deep, sleepy, vulnerable state. No. in actual hypnosis, the subject has free will. They are not slaves to the “hypnotic masters”.

How does hypnosis work?

Picture it as a state of trance- the same way you get lost in the lustful thought of a girl (or bloke), or when you simply get sucked into a movie, not paying attention to anything else around you. It is like daydreaming. The father of 20th century hypnosis, Milton Erickson once said that hypnosis is a daily activity.

Take reading for a test in your room, for instance. Or driving in a busy street. You channel all of your focus on that one thing which can help solve or avoid a problem. But modern psychiatrists would rather we focused on the hypnotic state brought about by a deliberate exercise.

I like the way Web MD’s Jeanie Davis defined hypnosis- a state of concentration as well as “focused attention”, on a mental image. There have been several studies on the ability to make things happen in reality by first making it happen in the mind. This is what hypnosis seeks to achieve. But how does hypnosis affect the subconscious mind?

Stan Chapman, a psychologist at Emory Healthcare in Atlanta once said that hypnosis, especially self-hypnosis, can help someone with depression realize that life isn’t that pointless or hopeless after all. By focusing on a thought, contrary to his feelings, the idea becomes “embedded in his subconscious”.

Here’s how it works; a therapist guides you into a deeply relaxed and focused state in your subconscious. In that state, he drops a suggestion that will help solve a problem or make something better. In this state of focused subconsciousness, these post-hypnotic suggestions are very power tool with great impact.

The hypnotist can actually suggest to you that you’re swimming in a sewer and you’d literally cringe. That’s how powerful hypnosis is. That also shows how much influence it has on real situations. The fact that it becomes your new reality and you act upon it is the reason hypnosis works.

Can hypnosis improve memory recall?

A 2008 study published by Scientific America provided useful resource on how hypnosis affects the brain to aid memory. But that study focused entirely on posthypnotic amnesia and the subjects of dissociation and reversibility.

Generally, the human memory consists of three distinct stages namely, Acquisition, Retention and Recall. This section of the post will focus mainly on the third and final stage, but it is impossible to do this without the other two stages. After all, how well you’re able to recall often depends on how well you acquired the information and retained it. And where recall becomes a problem, new studies have found that hypnosis can help greatly.

How is this achieved?

Often times, the reason we cannot remember stuff is because we’re too distracted. There’s a lot going on that we can’t seem to focus on that particular detail to retrieve the information we need. Have you ever wondered why you sometimes find a thing when you’re in a more relaxed, less-distracted state? That is where hypnosis comes in.

By accessing the depths of your mind through hypnosis, a hypnotist can help you better recall memories that may be stored deep within. This is done by focusing on particular details of the material you’re seeking to retrieve. A mild hypnotic state is induced, allowing the individual to speak. Certain questions regarding the context or situation around which the information was stored or whether it was collected by visual or auditory sense can be asked.

Will hypnosis boost your IQ?

The secret ingredient of hypnosis is in the total state of relaxation. A relaxed mind is able to think, gather those thoughts and process them more clearly than a stressed individual. There is also a theory that highly hypnotizable people are a bit more intelligent and a bit more creative than those who aren’t. It’s actually logical when you think about it. Hypnosis helps people relate to their thoughts and imaginations more easily.

And if you still have doubts, you should ask about Albert Einstein. Available records show that the genius self-hypnotized every afternoon. Some sources even say his theory of relativity got to him during one of his sessions. There are also sources that cite Thomas Edison, Princess Diana of Wales, the great music composer Mozart, and Mike Tyson as individuals who used hypnosis at various times in their careers.


I guess I can say the first thing this post did was to shatter some stereotypes. Those ones that made you associate hypnosis with malicious intent. But I hope you’ve learnt more than that? The fact that hypnosis is a deliberate and safe activity, recognized by renowned medical and psychological associations, and able to help you perform smarter, solve problems, recall memory and of course, become generally more intelligent.

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