As a hypnotherapist, one question that I am asked very frequently by my clients is:
“what’s the difference between hypnosis, affirmation and meditation?”
In this article I attempt to clarify the difference between these three practices that
share similarities, and major differences.
First of all, we need to understand that all human beings are always suggestible to some extent. Sometimes, we are more guarded and our suggestibility level is low, some other times our suggestibility is high, for instance, when we are seeking the advice of an expert, authority or similar. For example, if we go to the doctor and we
are not medically trained ourselves, we are much more open to the suggestions of the doctor and trust his advice. We are also more susceptible to messages that are repeated over and over again such as television, commercials, propaganda and similar things that can cause us to eventually think, feel and behave in certain ways.
What is suggestibility? It is the ability of all human beings to be influenced, to accept suggestions to the degree that it changes the way we think, feel, and behave. So, hypnosis is a trance state that brings about a heightened state of suggestibility. When we go see a hypnotist, he/she is guiding us into a heightened state of suggestibility to give us suggestions, taking us through hypnotic techniques such as parts work, age regression, metaphors or others that help us receive suggestions for the positive changes that we want to make in ourselves about how we think, feel and behave. Trance is the act of focusing the attention on one thing at the exclusion of everything else. Hypnosis requires trance to bring about the heightened state of suggestibility to impact the way we want to change.
Affirmations instead, work at the normal level of suggestibility that people naturally
have. To receive or give ourselves affirmations we don’t have to be in a state of trance. As an example, in a natural state of suggestibility people are influenced by commercials and professionals in their field, people we can trust as when we see in a commercial, sports figure, or another authority figure, a known doctor who suggests we try a certain product.
When we think about affirmations, what we are doing is that we use specifically crafted positive suggestions for how we want to think, feel and behave; I can say to myself: “when I speak in public I am calm, relaxed and competent” and I am repeating this over and over again to let the positive beliefs sink in and affect the way I want to think, feel and behave.
How is meditation different from hypnosis and affirmation then? Meditation is not done with the intent of increasing the individual suggestibility. Meditation has been practiced for thousands of years and it was originally meant to help deepen
understanding of the sacred and mystical forces of life. These days, meditation is commonly used for relaxation and stress reduction. Meditation can produce a deep state of relaxation and a tranquil mind. During meditation, we focus our attention and eliminate the stream of jumbled thoughts that may be crowding our mind and causing stress. While we are meditating we are ‘entranced’, meaning that we are focusing our attention on one thing as breathing or “OM” or something else but not with the intent of becoming more suggestible.
Hypnosis, meditation, affirmations don’t promise to solve all our problems, and there’s no guarantee of everlasting happiness. Life, with all its challenges and uncertainty, will still happen. What these practices can do is change how you choose to relate to, react to, and view yourself and the circumstances happening around you.
Hypnotherapist, Counsellor, Psychotherapist & Transactional Analyst