While most people seem to know what hypnosis is, there also seem to be a number of misconceptions about it. For example, people seem to think that being hypnotized means you will do whatever you’re told.
When choosing a hypnotist, please do choose based on your level of comfort and the hypnotist’s credentials or respectability–just as you would do for any other doctor or lawyer or therapist (I hope). If the person can’t tell you who trained them or where they’re certified . . . don’t visit them. Easy.
The hypnotist has a responsibility to the client, of course. The hypnotist needs to make sure their client is at ease and comfortable with them, otherwise it will be rather difficult to make progress. In general, the client is nervous about visiting a hypnotist, but if a good working relationship can’t be established, the hypnotist has a responsibility to refer the client to someone else who may be a better match.
The hypnotist also has a responsibility to behave ethically. During my training, I was told of a dentist who had received some kind of hypnosis training and was behaving very, very unethically in his dental practice as a result. Now, he wasn’t practicing as a hypnotist, he was practicing as a dentist . . . but it’s a good story that illustrated what kind of responsibility a hypnotist has to the client and what should NOT be done.
Now, being put under hypnosis does not mean you will have to follow whatever suggestion is given to you. You will not commit any act that is against your ethics, beliefs, or self-preservation instincts. So if a hypnotist handed you a knife and told you to slice your arm, you would only do so if it was not against your beliefs, morals, or self-preservation instincts.
Being hypnotized does not mean that you can’t say no. During my training, the instructor did a group hypnosis as an example for the class. It was stage hypnosis, but it was done with volunteers and was done as an example of how stage hypnosis differs from clinical and spiritual hypnosis. It was very amusing, and an effective example. Anyway, there was one woman who, when asked to take a “pet bird” from the bag, wouldn’t do it. She was definitely hypnotized, but she found everything so funny that she couldn’t or wouldn’t participate in the suggestion. Another woman took a “bird” at the suggestion, but when she was told to feed it, she wouldn’t feed it seeds, she had to feed it meat because it’s a vulture. So although a person can receive and hear a suggestion, just being hypnotized does NOT automatically mean they will follow it, even when it is compatible with beliefs, morals, or self-preservation.
A hypnotist cannot force you to do anything you truly don’t want to do. Now, having said that, there are ways around those morals or ethics, which is where the story told in training of what not to do comes into play. But most hypnotists are very aware of ethical boundaries and very aware of what can be done with hypnosis.