Why hypnosis definitely is(n’t) a placebo (maybe)

One of the arguments against hypnosis is that it’s just a placebo.

Sure, it leads to verifiable and repeatable results.

And it changes the way the brain operates.

But so what? Placebos do the same thing. Give someone a sugar pill, tell them it’s an antidepressant and it’ll work.

For everyone?

No – different studies show placebos work on anywhere from 30-80% of folks.

So surely that’s what’s happening, right? The hypnotist thinks they’re doing some brain woowoo, but it only works because the subject expects it to.

It’s a cute idea, but with some major flaws.

If it were all in the subject’s head, then sceptics couldn’t be hypnotised and covert hypnosis wouldn’t work.

But there’s a deeper problem with this notion:

Think about how a pill-based placebo works. Someone takes an inert pill they believe is full of some wonder drug. Then their mind creates the same effects the drug would have.

No arguments there, right?

So if hypnosis is just a placebo… then the subject goes through a process which they think will change their mind…

… but because they believe it, their mind creates the changes they were… expecting…


Doesn’t that make placebo hypnosis identical to real hypnosis?

Not just in terms of results… but in terms of process too?

What’s the argument against this? “Hypnosis doesn’t change your mind. You only think so but it’s all in the mind.”

Uh, sure…

The argument in favour of ‘hypnosis = placebo’ is belief is a factor. The stronger you believe in hypnosis, the more effective it becomes.

But like I say, it doesn’t require your belief. It’s useful, sure, but not necessary.

It’ an understandable connection to make though.

Even though hypnosis isn’t just the placebo effect…

… the placebo effect is probably just hypnosis.

Medical researchers know the placebo effect is real. They have to design elaborate experiments to get around it.

If you want to prove your drug works, you have to compare it against nothing but the power of expectations. And not just the those with the condition – the doctors administering the drug also have to remain ignorant.

That’s why the double-blind protocol is a standard.

But why?

Why does the ritual of taking a pill – even if that pill is chemically inert – lead to actual results for so many folks?

How can belief alone change anything?

For many complex psychological reasons – of which I only know a few – your unconscious takes beliefs as instructions.

If you believe the tribe over the hill are evil, you’ll see signs of that in everything they do.

If you believe you’re destined to defeat them in battle, you’ll dig deeper and fight harder. No one would consciously choose to pull their punches but, unconsciously, it’s very much a choice.

If you believe you can fly by flapping your wings… well, you’re out of luck. Your unconscious still has to follow the rules of biology and physics.

Changing your biochemistry, though?

That’s an easy one for your unconscious.

(This, by the way, is why some folks swear by affirmations and others find they fizzle. Affirmations involve your conscious mind. It’ll only work if your unconscious accepts them too.)

Which brings us back to the placebo effect.

Someone in a lab coat gives you a small pill to swallow… and your unconscious will generally believe it’ll help.

(Especially if the doctor seems warm, caring and competent, and also seems confident in the outcome.)

Your unconscious accepts a suggestion you don’t even know it was getting.

And that’s exactly how hypnosis works, too.

Okay, enough of that for now. Let’s get to the practical stuff.

To learn to use the power of hypnosis on yourself – deeper than what many hypnotists know – then you’ll want to check out the most thorough program out there:


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


%d bloggers like this: