As a hypnotherapist in London, a question I am occasionally asked is: “Have you ever seen Trance – and is hypnosis really like that?”
For those who’ve not seen or heard about it, Trance was a 2013 heist movie by Danny Boyle starring James McAvoy & Rosario Dawson. The plot involves a multi-million pound painting that gets stolen by McAvoy’s character, who promptly forgets where he’s hidden it. Under fear for his own life, he chooses a glamorous hypnotherapist in London to help him recover where the painting is hidden.
After that, all manner of twists and turns take place. Some dramatic, some realistic and some frankly bizarre. So, how do you separate fact from fiction? To help, here are some answers to questions that the film brings up:
1. Can hypnotherapy help you remember things you’ve forgotten?
It’s possible, yes. In fact, we’ve all experienced this. You know when when you are trying to remember the details of something that happened and then it ‘pops’ into our head hours later? That’s your unconscious mind taking its time to retrieve the memory. A fancy name for this is ‘incubation’. As a hotline to the unconscious, hypnosis allows that memory, event or set of keys to be accessed incredibly quickly.
2. Can you forget things with hypnosis?
No. The only way to forget a memory is if it’s something you consciously want to forget. Therapeutically, a hypnotherapist can potentially help a client forget they are a smoker with stop smoking hypnotherapy, or potentially forget their phobia with a phobia hypnotherapy treatment*.
3. Can you be made to do things you don’t want to do?
Quite simply no. And for this there are two very simple reasons. The first is to understand that one of your unconscious mind’s many roles is to protect you. Therefore, just in the same way as you automatically swerve to avoid an accident when driving, that same unconscious part of you would also protect you in hypnosis.
The second reason is ethics. A qualified and registered (always check!) hypnotherapist is simply not going to do this – in just the same way a GP or dentist wouldn’t make you do something you didn’t want to do. And should your unconscious mind detect anything untoward, you would simply awaken from your trance, be totally aware of everything that you were unhappy with and leave.
But what about those people who turn into barking dogs on stage? This isn’t clinical hypnotherapy. These people are going to a show and have volunteered to go on stage. Stage hypnosis bears very little relation to therapy – it is an act and people who attend for entertainment are quite happy and perfectly safe doing so.
My work is focused on helping people with anxiety, phobias, self confidence issues, insomnia, unresolved trauma and who want to stop smoking. It can take place either in person or online, and there’s just two people involved – you and me.
As with all films, there is a lot of poetic licence involved in Trance, which focuses on extremes – and that makes for good entertainment. If you’ve seen it and want to know the answer to the questions I’ve not had the time to cover my answers are:
- Yes you can find them
- No that would never happen between them
- And no the Frenchman was never hypnotised