What is the difference between hypnotherapy & meditation?

“Many people who have experienced meditation before hypnosis are initially surprised how similar they seem.  Both disciplines share many almost identical techniques, such as breathing and visualization exercises.  For instance the ‘Progressive Relaxation’ technique is frequently used in both disciplines.  This is where the subject focuses on one part of the body relaxing, before methodically moving down or up to the next part.  Creative visualizations such as imagining you are strolling past a quiet lake are also used in both hypnosis and meditation.

Meditation is commonly described as the absence of all thought.  Practitioners aim to have a still mind, free from conscious thought.  If any conscious thoughts in words enter your mind, you must find a way of making them disappear.  Often repeating mantras or focusing on something such as the breathing or images can help with this.

Hypnotherapy is aimed at a specific therapeutic outcome. This might be weight loss, quitting smoking, removing phobias etc.  At the beginning of a hypnotherapy session, the hypnotherapist may employ some  meditation-like techniques in order to quieten the conscious part of the mind.  Once the chattering conscious mind is still, they are then more able to give the subconscious part of the mind pre agreed therapeutic suggestions.

So both a hypnosis session and a meditation session might lead you to a relaxing guided visualisation on a calming tranquil beach, but a hypnosis session will then use this state of mind to suggest therapeutic change to the subconscious mind.  The meditator will receive their benefit purely from the stillness of mind and the relaxation they experience.

After the meditation-like stage, a good hypnotherapist will use imagery and metaphor in order to best communicate with the subconscious mind, to facilitate change.  It is the subconscious part of the mind that is responsible for how we act – our drives and habits are based here.

That is why you can tell a friend or family member as many times as you like that smoking is bad for them.  Although they may listen, and agree, they do not give up.  You have told only their conscious mind, not their subconscious.  So although they may agree with you consciously in words, their subconscious has not received the message and will therefore continue to crave.

The same thing works for phobias too.  You can explain to someone how harmless a small spider is.  It may be blindingly obvious to the person that they are harmless – on a conscious level.  However their unconscious mind will still trigger reactions of fear, sometimes quite severely, simply because it has not received the message.  Hypnotherapy is a means by which you can pass these messages to the subconscious mind.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that hypnosis is therefore superior because it adds another level to the meditation.  Great insight can be gained by simply having a quiet still mind.

Many artistic and scientific creations have been made while in meditative states.  Perhaps the most famous one is where Archimedes was in the bath, relaxing.  He suddenly leaps from the bath shouting ‘Eureka’ (I‘ve found it)  He made a mathematical discovery without consciously trying.  The answer just popped into his mind because he was so nicely and calmly relaxed.  Many musicians from classical to contemporary have reported whole pieces of music just popping into minds when they were relaxing, or even sleeping.

The mind, just like the body, also works better when allowed adequate rest.  Meditation is an excellent way to give the mind a break, so that it can work more efficiently.

Hypnosis and meditation can both be used for the improvement of the individual. You may simply need to decide which word sits most comfortably with you.  If meditation is a more palatable word for you, then meditate.  However if you need more guidance or the thought of the word meditation brings up fearful thoughts of you sitting in the lotus position for hours upon end, then maybe hypnosis is more for you.

I would however encourage anyone with an interest in one of the disciplines to at least try the other.  You could just open up a whole new world of possibilities for yourself, and allow yourself to draw from a greater fountain for your spiritual well being and personal development.