by Sinmarie Pieterse

There are many misconceptions and myths about hypnosis. As a trained and experienced hypnotherapist, I would like to try and clarify and clear up some of the myths by providing some information regarding hypnosis.

What is Hypnosis?


Hypnosis, therefore, is a natural phenomena we experience in our daily lives especially whenever we focus intensely, such as performing a demanding task, watching a movie, daydreaming in a class or writing an exam.

Every one of us – if we want to – have the ability to be in a hypnotized state.  Some people are more creative and imaginative or have greater capacity to concentrate and visualise (features of hypnotisability) than others. Still if a client is ambivalent about change, but attending therapy on the advice (or insistence) of a third person such as their partner or parents, successful outcome will be unlikely.

All hypnosis is self hypnosis. We actually spend the majority of our life in a hypnotizable state. We are open (or not) to suggestion.  The hypnotherapist guides their client into the trance (relaxing state) by using various induction techniques, according to what is most suitable for their client.

The Power of our Thoughts

All our behaviour (bad eating habits, our fears, negative self-image, panic attacks, anger outburst, depressive moods etc) is learnt. We want to unlearn some of it which is uncomfortable or causes us distress.

The brain is where our thoughts start. How many times have you heard “…man is what he thinketh…”? Due to our perceptions of  what happened in a situation – our interpretation –  we start to develop certain negative thoughts  about ourselves which causes us to feel certain emotions and then act accordingly…which in many cases isn’t the truth. It is proven by quantum physics that thoughts are energy and can become reality if dwelt upon. As Trevor Modlin (well known medical hypno analysis practitioner in Johannesburg) points out in his book, Prisoners of our Perceptions, “…We live lives which keep us in our own mental prisons of who we are, what we can or can’t do…”

Right and Left Brain Functioning

Our brain consists of two hemispheres…the left brain and the right brain. The left brain is the part of the brain research has shown as been logical, analytical, objective, detailed, factual, practical, linear, reality based and perceptive. Left brain dominant people are able to follow rules and love clearly stated instructions. This is our conscious experience or awareness of everyday life.

The right brain is the more creative and emotional part of the brain.  The right brain looks at the big picture, is very visual,  responsible for creative imagery and imagination.

Only one side of the brain can be utilized, at a time. The left brain assumes the dominance. This means that our logical conscious mind is where we function in everyday.

Facts about our conscious and subconscious awareness:

The conscious is a creature of habit, it rebels against anything new –  even if the new indicates self improvement. Say for instance, a person wants to change a habit, such as eating less. They may start off well and then eventually fall back to their old habits. This is the conscious at play – knowing exactly what to do to accomplish its goal. IT DOESNT LIKE CHANGE.

To be able to allow the right brain to execute its abilities of creativeness and imagination, we need to mask or shut down the left brain temporarily. One of the ways to do this is to use deep relaxation, meditation and hypnosis.  We need to activate the creative powers of the subconscious.

Every memory of what has happened in our entire life is stored in the memory bank in our right part of the brain – our  subconscious awareness. Every sight, sound, taste smell or anything we’ve experienced since birth is stored in this subconscious. IT IS THE MEMORYBANK of our lives.

Hypnosis can assist us to come in conscious awareness of our subconscious which causes us to behave in a specific way.   Therefore, by guided relaxation, intense inner focussing to achieve a state of heightened awareness –  called a trance –  the  client with the help of their hypnotherapist can focus their attention on specific memories or thoughts or tasks,  in the past or present.

Erikson considered therapeutic trance to present a setting in which limitations of the conscious mind could be allowed to fall away. He believed that trance was the optimal place for unconscious learning because in trance preconceptions, biases and distractions are less important and intrusive.

In regressing, we are able to shut down or mask or block the left brain temporarily to give the right brain time to work. Through hypnosis regressions, we can recall traumatic events of our past which can be the underlying cause of the presenting problem. The sub-conscious is then de-programmed, faulty thought patterns are deleted and re-programmed and then replaced by positive suggestions and new healthy coping habits or mechanisms. The positive change in behaviour, such as being less anxious, more confidant, having a more positive outlook, being able to sleep,  can then be seen as the successful outcome of the hypnotherapy.

Said simply….the underlying reasons for our problematic behaviour, psychological problems, are stored away in our subconscious. The conscious likes to be in control and doesn’t like change. It will rather allow us to have the problem and make us survive in life than to reveal the underlying cause. It will prevent access to the subconscious. It will even protect the problem that we want to resolve.

People sometimes berate themselves for lack of willpower when they fail to stick to their resolutions or to achieve goals. The problem is not the lack of willpower, but the” will”  of the subconscious mind being stronger than the will of their conscious.

Hypnosis works when the conscious mind relaxes its control and allows access to the subconscious where hypnotherapy can then target the problem from the source.


The first session (1 ½ hour duration) is spent getting to know the client, their history and the nature of the presenting problem.

The client will set goals for his/her therapy. Hypnosis will be explained and a first introduction of trance experience will be executed.

Remaining sessions will be 60 minutes each.


Is it difficult to be back in the present? Will I remember what has occurred during hypnosis?
A person can be brought to the present in a very gentle way and will be back in the present in a few seconds. One won’t get stuck in hypnosis, it is self induced, remember..ALL HYPNOSIS is SELF HYPNOSIS.

Will I remember afterwards what has happened during hypnosis?
In the lighter stages of hypnosis a person usually remembers everything that occurred. At times in the deeper states a person may have only partial remembrance.

From what age can hypnosis be offered?
Whilst hypnosis can be done with children, in our practice, we prefer to only offer hypnosis to clients from the age of 10 years onwards.


Many people feel that being hypnotised means becoming unconscious, losing control, have your mind been taken over.

A person is always in control. You cannot be forced to reveal deep innermost secrets that you would prefer not to. In no way are ordinary rules of human behaviour, or ethical rules of any other therapy method, suspended.

As for stage hypnosis, it is common knowledge that the person will behave in strange ways or even make fools of themselves. Anyone who volunteers to participate in stage hypnosis, has already consented to this as they leave their chair, and is not being made to do anything against their will. Anyone who doesn’t want to be made a spectacle in public won’t be up there.

A common fear of religious people is that in hypnosis (trance)  evil spirits or demons can enter their minds. If considered that hypnosis is a natural phenomena and is a natural part of everyday life, it would then mean that the same can happen when we concentrate intensely in various daily situations, which we know is untrue.

Also it is not the hypnosis that might be a fault. Rather it is the person who executes it. Is the person behaving in an ethical and professional manner? That is more of a concern.

When is  HYPNOSIS not suitable or advisable?

It might not be suitable for a person who has psychotic symptoms, such as hallucinations and delusions, or for someone who is using drugs or consuming excessive amounts of alcohol.
It should be used for pain control only after a doctor has evaluated the person for any physical disorder that might require medical treatment or surgical treatment.

It is also not advisable to use hypnosis for mental disorders such as dissociative disorders – as false memory can be created by using unintended suggestions.


Any of the following can be addressed with hypnotherapy:

  • Fears of flying, insects, exams, heights, driving and socializing.
  • High levels of anxiety, panic attacks, performance anxiety
  • Sleep disorders
  • Depression
  • Career Development to improve public speaking abilities, assertiveness and confidence
  • Ease pain and heal faster, like childbirth
  • Eliminate bad habits, weight loss, smoking, nail biting and controlling  anger issues
  • Personal Development
  • For attaining goals, increasing confidence, building a positive mental attitude, enjoying life and being happy!
  • Sexual dysfunction such as erectile dysfunction.

In this world we are supposed to live healthy and happy lives and make use of all our unlimited potential within us. As Bastarache (2009; XV) says, “…All the knowledge that you need to relax, renew health,  to be successful, or be more confidant, less anxious, is already within you…”
Why not consider hypnotherapy to facilitate living a life of unlimited potential?

Bibliography & Recommended Reading:
Prisoners of our perceptions. Trevor Modlin
Self-Hypnosis. Rene A Bastarache
Jeanette Dreyer. Website
Dr Sonja Gildenhuys. Website
Callie Hattingh: Fundamentals of Eriksonian Hypnosis.(Course)

Testimonials from clients:

“My healing journey with the help of Sinmarie – Sinmarie would play soft background effects (either nature or music) whilst gently putting me completely at ease in a trusting/relaxing mode, gently talking through what we are about to do. I would slumber off so that she can tap into my subconscious mind, bringing to the fore a problem, breaking down the barrier of unwanted negativity and old habits and way of thinking and give rise to hope for the future through asking questions where I find the solutions within and she guided me through the various processes; what kind of choices I have in order to bring about positive changes for the future.

The relaxation was pleasant and we were able to clarify and move forward through my journey of recovery by firstly looking at why I needed healing, what my goal for therapy was: To converse with men in an open, friendly and safe way.

The homework I received was to prepare for  the next session, but also to help me through my journey while I work on my own at home through “The Courage to Heal & Workbook” by Laura Davis and Ellen Bass which I purchased.

We looked at my life from birth, whether my mom and I  bonded; growing up in a dysfunctional family; what gives me hope; when the abuse started; my relationships thereafter with men in general; those in authority; and ultimately, my failed marriage.

We delved into what will ultimately make me happy; starting of the actual healing itself and managing my life in this period; taking care of myself; discarding coping mechanisms not needed any longer, and looking at new and positive ways in living my life.

We spent a number of sessions on anger and releasing it. Then sadness washed over me and I find myself being a little girl again – confused and scared. Sinmarie was an enormous support through her kindness and compassion. I shared with her a dream I had of 3 little girls, also being abused by a male female member and how I stood up for them. I realised that I had my voice back. Nobody was ever going to hurt me again. Sinmarie indicated that she is not surprised by my body’s reaction to my rage, but when we deal with Forgiveness and Letting Go, my Frozen Shoulder will start to become functioning again.

It was not the actual sexual act that was painful, it was the fact that the adults whom I trusted and who were supposed to nurture, protect and care for me, had exploited me for their own gratification, power and control.

I have learnt that I can safely let some people exit my life, in order to allow new people in so that I can grow more confidence.

We looked at my talents; what healthy relationships look like; what I can do to protect myself; and what I would like to do in the future.

The journey is coming to its end and an important factor was the Releasing, Forgiving and Letting Go of the people who inflicted pain in the past. I struggled with this part and felt it needed another session. I can easily do this during yoga sessions and when I do my final releasing rituals. So, this journey isn’t finished yet, but it will be soon.

Lastly, Sinmarie eased me into deep relaxation where we came full circle where we started: what was my goal for therapy? I’ve joined an online dating site where I chat with and meet men on a daily basis. Even though I find it overwhelming, I’m enjoying every moment of it. I can easily discern which of them are safe to converse with longer term, others I disconnect from very fast.

I would like to add though, not everything that happened to me in my childhood was bad. Sinmarie has helped me to set firm boundaries, making choices, using my voice and ensuring that I’m being heard. I will not give myself the pleasure of ever becoming a prisoner of my own feelings.

Sinmarie, I am immensely grateful to you for leading me on this path of my journey, for pushing me gently and awakening the healer within. I trust that others would find hypnotherapy as encouraging as I had. It really is an amazing tool to help people heal and recover fully.

I’m a survivor!!” SDC

“If I knew about this sort of “treatment” and that my daughter’s lack of confidence in herself is treatable, I would have taken her for hypnotherapy around Grade 10 and not only in Grade 12. I was nervous and worried at first …. but I made the appointment and after our first interview, I immediately knew you were going to be able to help my daughter overcome her fear of not believing in herself! What we have come to see after her few sessions, is that she has immediately become more outspoken. Please note: it is not that she was a quiet little girl sitting in a corner not uttering a word, it was just a normal girl being scared of failing when she starts something. She has more confidence in herself and with confidence comes inner strength and she automatically “speaks” with a louder voice! Thank you for being such a wonderful therapist” BF

“I cannot believe the change in my son. Since we picked him up on Saturday, he has been laughing and chatting non stop. Yesterday got off to a bad start because I was angry with him for not preparing an oral (his worst) that he had two weeks to prepare and as usual had left it to the last minute. He is so shy to stand up in front of the class. Well, he did surprise me. I was greeted at the door last night – him with a certificate he had received for sport and he proceeded to talk and tell me about his day at school. He had said his oral – surprised me because he repeated the oral to me and I couldn’t believe he had actually spoken on how a cricket ball is made and had actually had stuff to say….The school must surely notice the difference…the teacher was so negative about hypnotherapy, I guess they will be sending the whole school now, if they notice the changes.” SV

“Hi Sinmarie, just to say I had a good flight! Was nervous before, but it went well, luckily very smooth flight too! Thank you!!!” LA

“Thank you for all the support you have given me and my family. We are indeed on a road of recovery, the entire family. Thank you for your input, it was of great help” VM