Q: #311. Is it ok for a Christian to be hypnotized?
By: Steve Shirley
A: Here is the definition for "hypnosis" in Webster's Dictionary: "A state that resembles sleep but is induced by a hypnotizer whose suggestions are readily accepted by the subject." The general point of hypnotism is to open up, and get into the subconscious mind; the subconscious mind being a part of our mind that we cannot easily access. It is believed that by accessing this part of our mind, many problems in our lives can be dealt with. In general, hypnotists seek to do one of two things: #1. place a thought in the subconscious mind to help the subject overcome some negative behavior (i.e. smoking, nail biting, overeating, fear, anxiety, stress, etc..)(This is often called "suggestion therapy.") #2. to get to the "root of a problem" that might be the cause of a negative behavior in our lives (sometimes called "analysis" or "regression therapy").
These both SOUND great, don't they? However, I see some VERY disturbing problems with hypnosis. Perhaps the greatest danger is giving someone unfettered access to your inner mind. There are people practicing hypnosis who believe this is a tool "given by God" to help us access this part of our mind so we can be helped. They quote studies which show the effectiveness of hypnosis, and how people have been set free from all of the negative behaviors listed above. There are even studies which show hypnosis can help people have pain-free childbirth, surgery, and dental work. However, do these successes make hypnosis an acceptable way to deal with these negative issues? I do not think so. Let me explain why.
First off, while there may be successes with hypnotism, there are also many dangers. In studying for this, I have read story after story of people who have been damaged by the effects of hypnotism. Panic attacks, suicidal thoughts, depression, acting out, delusions, insomnia, and uncontrollable crying are a few of the symptoms. This is particularly true for "analysis" therapy. Honestly, I believe there is a reason why God gave us a "subconscious mind." God knows exactly what is in that part of our mind, and it is there for a reason. If He wants us to remember what is in there, He can bring it to the surface. When one begins digging up buried memories, it is certain to cause some problems. For example, if a woman was molested as a young girl by her father, and she has repressed this memory in her subconscious, suddenly remembering this is going to be VERY traumatic! Is this a good thing to remember? The hypnotist would say, "yes," because then it can be addressed and dealt with. I am not so sure this is good at all.
Another problem is that what comes out is not even reliable sometimes. People have claimed to have lived past lives, lived on other planets, believed things happened in their past that didn't actually happen (like abuse), etc... These beliefs can even be advanced by the hypnotist. It has also been shown that it is possible for a subject to become dependent on the hypnotist to determine his/her outlook on life. Finally, real or not, another aspect of hypnotism I find disturbing is what you see when people are hypnotized at stage shows and made to bark like a dog, cluck like a chicken, or do other disgusting things. If people can be made to do this, isn't it at least possible (although there is little evidence for this) that a person under hypnosis could be made to do even worse things? Hypnotists say that no one can be made to do something while in a subconscious state [or trance] that they wouldn't do while conscious, but there are stories out there (which I cannot confirm) that this has happened.
While "hypnotism" per se is not addressed in the Bible, I do believe concepts are there which suggest it should be avoided. The strongest I see is that the Bible tells us to ALWAYS be "clear minded and self-controlled" (NIV)(1 Pet 4:7), "sober and vigilant" (1 Pet 5:8)(1 Th 5:6-8), and "on guard" (NASB)(Lk 21:34). (Gal 5:22-23) says that "self-control" ("temperance" = KJV) is a "fruit of the spirit." When a person gives up this "self-control" or does not heed these other warnings, and enters into an altered state of consciousness (or a trance), I believe they are opening themselves up to potential trouble. Let me give you this to think about; if you are opening up your mind (inner mind) for suggestions to enter it, why can't Satan and his demons seize upon this opportunity?
I also ask myself a question when the Bible doesn't clearly address a certain subject. Can I picture Jesus, Paul, Peter, or other major characters in the Bible doing whatever it is that I am uncertain of? Can I see Jesus smoking, getting a tattoo, etc...? I ask this same thing of hypnotism. Can I picture Jesus or Paul sitting down in front of a therapist and getting hypnotized to reveal their inner minds and overcome issues they were dealing with? I just don't see it..... Instead, people like Paul, Peter, and other Bible writers, inspired by God (2 Tim 3:16) have told us how to overcome ANY problem in our lives. It all begins and ends with God, and a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. We don't NEED a person probing in our head to find answers, we need to turn to God through prayer and His Word to find our answers. The Holy Spirit will help us with this (Jn 14:26)(Jn 16:13)(Rom 8:26).
Given the possible dangers of hypnotism, I believe these outweigh any benefits that might occur. In addition, hypnotism is also practiced in the occult, in shamanism, with mediums, and with witchdoctors, among other evil groups. Therefore, I put it in the same category with other things a Christians should avoid, which we have discussed previously on this site, like: yoga, meditation, and dreamcatchers.