If you ever watch old movies, you may have seen a doctor, magician or evil genius use a swinging pocket watch to hypnotize someone. As the person’s eyes follow the swinging watch back and forth, he slowly falls into a trance.

The hypnotist then suggests that the hypnotized person do something, such as remember a key fact, cluck like a chicken or divulge a secret. Is hypnosis just movie make-believe? Or is it real?

Believe it or not, hypnosis is indeed real. However, it’s quite different from what you may have seen in the movies.

Hypnosis is a trance-like mental state. When hypnotized, you have a high level of focus and concentration on your inner thoughts. You feel relaxed and calm, which helps you block out distractions and focus completely on a certain thought, memory or feeling.

Today, hypnosis is considered a safe alternative form of therapy that may help with a wide variety of conditions. Hypnosis is often referred to as hypnotherapy or hypnotic suggestion. Some of the things people get hypnotherapy for include pain management, weight loss, quitting smoking, reducing stress and improving athletic performance.

There are many techniques for hypnosis. A hypnotherapist usually induces hypnosis — a process called hypnotic induction — by talking slowly in a soothing tone. In addition to using relaxing images to create a sense of safety and well-being, the hypnotherapist usually speaks at length about what is happening and why hypnosis is being used.

Once the subject is in a relaxed trance-like state, the hypnotherapist speaks more directly to the purpose of the hypnosis, such as suggesting ways to manage pain or reduce cravings to smoke or overeat. The hypnotherapist may also suggest visualizing what it will be like to reach a goal.

Hypnotherapy is different from hypnosis performed for entertainment in front of an audience. That type of hypnosis — called stage hypnosis — is done purely for fun and doesn’t necessarily involve the same level of deep relaxation as hypnotherapy.

Because of stage hypnosis and the way hypnosis is portrayed in the movies, there are many misconceptions about hypnosis. Contrary to what many people believe, hypnosis is not like sleep and does not make a person unconscious.

During hypnosis, a person stays fully awake, but often experiences a decreased awareness of what is going on around himself as he focuses intently on one thing. Hypnotized subjects often respond more readily to suggestions, which explains why hypnosis can be effective as a form of therapy to change behavior.

Even though hypnotized people are more open to suggestions, they still retain their free will. Hypnosis does not make people lose control over their behavior. Unlike things you may have seen in the movies, a hypnotist can’t make you do things you don’t want to do.


40 Join the Discussion

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    • GREAT job, Rahul! We think your guesses are AWESOME! We can’t tell you for sure what tomorrow’s Wonder will be about, but we think you’ll like it a lot. It’s a MONSTER of a Wonder! :-)

    • That’s an interesting thought, Neil! Thanks for adding a little more WONDER to today’s Wonder of the Day®! :-)

  1. Wow, I never knew that hypnosis was used for helping someone! I think that it is cool how people are trained to do hypnotherapy as an occupation. I am wondering who first used hypnosis on a person or invented hypnosis. The video was helpful in showing how hypnotherapy works and what the person who is using it does. I thought that hypnosis wasn’t real. Lastly I will make sure to visualize, exercize, and meditate to relieve stress and reach a goal.

    • We think it’s AWESOME that you learned so many cool new facts about hypnosis, James! Thank you for sharing them with us in your comment! :-)

    • That’s a funny one, Rebecca! We’ll have to visit Wonderopolis tomorrow to see what kind of monsters the clue was talking about! :-)

  2. Wow, I thought this wonder was amazing. I did not know that you can actually hypnotize somebody! Also I learned that it is not to get somebody to do something, it is to get them relaxed to get them to think of a certain thought, feeling or memory. It is usually done by talking slow and staying on the same pitch to get them to fall into a trance. Then, hypnosis can be used to help a person overcome bad habits like smoking or overeating. So thanks for all the new facts and I know I will keep wondering!

    • That’s what we like to hear, Matthew! Thank you for letting us know you will keep WONDERing…we think it’s an AWESOME thing to do, don’t you? :-)

  3. Hello, this is McKenna from Mrs. Caplin’s class. This was a superb wonder that taught me so many new and interesting facts. I have always wondered if hypnosis was real and now I know that it really exists. Some of the facts I learned were that the person being hypnotized is fully awake during the process, there are two different kind of hypnosis, they are hypnotic induction and stage hypnosis, and lastly hypnosis is a form of therapy to focus your mind on achieving your goals. Now whenever I watch a movie with hypnotists, I will know the correct trance that the person should go through instead of the fake trance the actors and actresses go through. Now I have a boatload of questions to ask you guys. What do hypnotists use to put their patients into a trance? Will hypnosis work on everybody that does it? Does stage hypnosis contain different materials than hypnotic induction? How long have hypnotists been treating patients to reach their goals? Does the patient being treated always have their eyes closed during the process of hypnosis? Thanks a lot for the exquisite wonder! I learned so many new facts.
    P.S. Maybe if I find out the materials used to hypnotize, I will try it out on my friends or family.

    • WOW! Those sure ARE a boatload of questions about hypnosis, McKenna! We’ll have to do a LOT more WONDERing to be able to find the answers to them all. Thanks for sharing the great facts you learned by exploring this Wonder of the Day®, though. We really appreciate your comment! :-)

  4. Dear Wonderopolis,
    Cool video! I’m happy I learned some new facts! I was way off on my guess, but oh well. I agree with Rahul that tomorrow’s wonder is going to be about dinosaurs. Happy 2012!
    Paige ;)

    • It’s OK if you’re not right all the time with your guesses, Paige! The “guessing” is the the fun part, don’t you think? We’re proud of you no matter what! :-)

  5. Dear Wonderoplios,

    Hello, it’s me Leilani, I learned that you can actually hypnotized! I thought that was very interesting!

    I was surprised at what the WOTD was today. My mom and I are on here and we both thought the clip was cool, but the coolness doesn’t end there for us, we both found out that the person is fully awake!

    We love wonderopolis so much, and we are thinking that tomorrow’s WOTD is going to be about a roller coaster! But, I know we’ll just have to wait and see!

    Oh, by the way can you e-mail my mom the address of wonderopolis? We wanted to mail a couple of letters to you guys! I’ll write on tomorrow’s WOTD!

    Leilani Avafaye Sarlea

    • What a GREAT comment you left for us, Leilani! It’s really nice to hear from you! We’re glad you learned some cool new things about hypnosis by visiting this Wonder of the Day®, and we’re super excited about the letters you are going to send to us! Here is the address for Wonderopolis:

      Wonderopolis HQ
      325 West Main Street, Suite 300
      Louisville, KY 40202-4237

      Thanks for being such an AWESOME Wonder Friend! Have a WONDERful day! :-)

  6. Hi, I’m Nour. I haven’t posted in a while because my parents want to move all of a sudden. Anyway, cool WONDER. I was just WONDERING, do you have a wonder about superheros?

    Happy New Year!

  7. That is so cool! I use to think hypnosis isn’t even real! WWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • WOW! We really like your enthusiasm for this Wonder of the Day®, Raquel! Thank you so much for letting us know that you stopped by and learned some new things about hypnosis today! :-)

    • You’re welcome, Leah! Thank YOU for visiting Wonderopolis and for letting us know you enjoyed learning something new today! :-)

  8. This was a good topic and I think you could have added just a little more, like a link on hypnotism. But I still like the topic.

    • Thanks for letting us know you enjoyed exploring this Wonder of the Day®, David! We’re glad you liked it and we hope you learned some new things! :-)

    • Hello! Thank you for sharing that you enjoyed this Wonder about hypnosis and that you’d appreciate seeing more Wonders like it, Shannon! :-)

  9. I really enjoyed this article. I learned many new things and found it very interesting that you are fully awake during a hypnosis process, you do not do anything you do not want to while you are in hypnosis, and hypnosis can be used to help people. I LOVE this website and love this article.

    • Those are three awesome facts about hypnosis, Wonder Friend! Thank you for sharing what you learned in Wonderopolis today! :-)

  10. What? I am so confused on this one ????????????????????????????????????????? Someone please explain this to me.

    Love Julia
    :( :( :( :( :(

    • Hello, Julia! This Wonder is all about hypnotism! We encourage you to explore this Wonder of the Day® again to learn more about it! :-)

  11. Two new vocabulary words I learned on this wonder were: divulge and hypnotherapy. Divulge means revealing and hypnotherapy means treatment of a system, disease, or addiction by means of hypnotism. I already knew that hypnosis in movies wasn’t real. And I learned that hypnosis is existent in real life. I know that people can be bad with the power of hypnotism. And then I learned that you are actually in a trance when you are hypnotized. I know that there are different types of hypnosis. I learned that you are totally oblivious to what happens around you during hypnosis. I wonder if hypnosis is the same with animals. And I also wonder how you hypnotize some people. If you hypnotize someone, does that mean they’ll do anything you want them to do?
    Three new wonders I want to explore are: How fast can a tank move?, Who is the Unknown Soldier?, and Is there a punch line for every joke?
    One question I have after learning all this is: Is hypnosis 100% effective all the time?

    • We’re not really sure if hypnosis is 100% effective all the time, Team McNeil 14, so we’ll both have to do some more WONDERing about that! We are SUPER excited to hear that you want to explore those three other Wonders! Way to go! :-)

  12. Two new vocabulary words that I learned on this wonder is…
    Divulge: To make known.
    Induction: Bringing out, in a hypnosis state.
    I learned also that hypnosis only last 1 to 3 weeks. I also learned that some people do hypnosis for New Year’s resolution. Just Curious, why do people expect so much about being hypnotized?
    Thanks For Listening’
    Team Mcneil 17 :) :) :) :(

    • Thanks for checking out this Wonder about being hypnotized, Team McNeil 17! We really enjoyed hearing the great facts and vocab words you learned! We think some people expect a lot from being hypnotized because they have tried other things to break bad habits or improve their health. Some people need help when these things, and they look to hypnosis to give them the assistance they are seeking. :-)

    • Great WONDER Callie! Maybe you could find additional information about hypnotizing at the library. Thanks for checking in with us today! :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • Can you be hypnotized?
  • What is hypnosis?
  • Why do people use hypnotherapy?

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Try It Out

Ready to put the power of your mind to work? No, this doesn’t involve hypnosis. But, if you need to reduce stress, improve your attitude or make progress toward a goal, there are ways to use the power of your mind and improved focus — kind of like hypnosis — to improve your life.

Here are some things you can try at home:

  • Meditate
    Clear your mind of everything but the current moment. Try to think of absolutely nothing. As you empty your mind of the cares of your day, relax and focus on right now. Meditation takes lots of practice, but it can help you to get rid of distractions so you can focus on what’s important.
  • Visualize
    If you have a goal you want to achieve, it can help if you relax, meditate and visualize yourself reaching your goal. What will you feel like? How excited will you be? What opportunities will arise when you reach your goal? For many people, seeing themselves succeed — if only in their minds at first — is a critical first step toward real success.
  • Exercise
    If you’re stressed out, your body might need to release some energy. Exercising can help you feel better physically, while also helping you clear your mind mentally. If you treat your body right, the mind often follows right behind.
  • Sing
    Do you like music? Sometimes listening to or singing along with your favorite songs can help you leave behind negative thoughts and refocus your energy on the goals before you.


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