Learn NLP: The difference between NLP and Hypnosis

If anyone has asked about the differences between NLP and Hypnosis, it’s probably because they are confused by the two fields of study. I was reading a question of Yahoo Answers and found an odd question: Are some people more ‘susceptible’ to NLP than others.

Gee. Am I susceptible to geography? or mathematics? Maybe quantum physics!

I’ll offer something to get some clarity.

Here’s a more or less official definition of hypnosis.

Hypnosis is a mental state (state theory) or set of attitudes (nonstate theory) usually induced by a procedure known as a hypnotic induction, which is commonly composed of a series of preliminary instructions and suggestions. Hypnotic suggestions may be delivered by a hypnotist in the presence of the subject (“hetero-suggestion”), or may be self-administered (“self-suggestion” or “autosuggestion”). The use of hypnotism for therapeutic purposes is referred to as “hypnotherapy“.

The words ‘hypnosis’ and ‘hypnotism’ both derive from the term “neuro-hypnotism” (nervous sleep) coined by the Scottish physician and surgeon James Braid around 1841 to distinguish his theory and practice from those developed by Franz Anton Mesmer and his followers (“Mesmerism” or “animal magnetism“).

Although a popular misconception is that hypnosis is a form of unconsciousness resembling sleep, contemporary research suggests that it is actually a wakeful state of focused attention[1] and heightened suggestibility,[2] with diminished peripheral awareness.[3] In the first book on the subject, Neurypnology (1843), Braid described “hypnotism” as a state of physical relaxation (“nervous sleep”) accompanied and induced by mental concentration (“abstraction”).[4]

Okay, so we know what hypnosis is. Some may even go so far as to say that hypnosis exists even without us realizing it. Is watching TV a “wakeful state of focused attention and heightened suggestibility”? Gee… maybe that’s why TV commercials that work, work well!

How does it vary from NLP? It’s very important to note that NLP focuses a lot on linguistic elements that influence neurological processes. In other words, to study anything in human communication that actually influences other people’s behaviors and actions would constitute part of NLP. The formal definition of NLP is, of course, the study of human excellence, more commonly known as “modeling”.

In this sense, NLP is actually more of a meta tool rather than an application. After all, hypnosis, among other forms of psychotherapy, has its research and foundations in working with people for the specific purpose of reaching a therapeutic goal. NLP is not necessarily about therapy.

NLP can still be applied across contexts – business applications, leadership, persuasion, innovation, team building, health… and the reason why they span such a broad spectrum is simply because NLP is the tool that enables an individual to study the fields in question.

Think of NLP like a magnifying glass, and hypnosis (or any other fields of study) like a thick chunk of tiny text that needs to be deciphered.

Some parts of formal NLP training have involved specific models (such as rapport building and strategies) that have been adopted from various fields (such as communication and information processing/systems theory respectively), and because they are useful, they end up being pretty much permanent fixtures in NLP. However, the process of modeling in NLP is a sequence of questions that leads to an unfolding of a pre-existing model that currently exists.

2 thoughts on “Learn NLP: The difference between NLP and Hypnosis”

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