Hypnosis vs. Meditation
Hypnosis. Meditation. What is the difference between them? And how do they overlap?
Technically, “hypnosis” refers to the state of consciousness created either through the practice of self-hypnosis or, more likely, with the aid of a hypnotist in a pre-arranged session. In relation to meditation, it is more common to speak of samadhi (intense, single-pointed concentration), dharana (fixing the attention on an object), and dhyana (a sense of being immersed in the Divine, or of love flowing through the consciousness).
In both hypnotism and meditation, the mind can experience higher states of consciousness.
Hypnosis is generally experienced as a state of deep relaxation with mental clarity. Mental imagery is often very clear and can seem more vibrant, more three-dimensional, or more “real” or more dreamlike. As with meditation, there is focused concentration, especially if you are working with a hypnotist, who will be able to guide you towards relaxing more deeply and can guide you through appropriate imagery and ideas for your circumstances (generally discussed before going into hypnosis).
Although there are similarities, the meditation and hypnotic practices that we use in the West have different histories. Our meditation techniques tend to be derived, directly or indirectly, from Buddhism or Hinduism. Hypnotism appears to have been first practiced in the “sleep temples” of ancient Egypt and the Asclepieia of ancient Greece (both of these being considered “healing temples” or early hospitals that used mental techniques of healing involving relaxation and dreams). A few centuries ago, hypnotism was also used by various spiritual schools in Europe (as well as by psychoanalysts such as Freud and Jung), though this came to be slowly replaced by meditation, probably largely because of its introduction by Sir John Woodroffe and Aleister Crowley.
There are other historical differences. As hypnotists have tended to be interested more in what is effective than in preserving a tradition, the practice of hypnotism has evolved and expanded outside the bounds of meditation or mental focus. We find, for example, the pendulum and automatic writing being used in clinical hypnotism during the 19th century (and later adopted into New Age spirituality), though we do not find comparable practices in Eastern meditation.
Leaving aside spirituality and medicine, hypnotism has also influenced neuro-linguistic programming or NLP (based on Ericksonian Hypnotism) and even sales and marketing.
It may seem strange that hypnotism could influence so many areas of contemporary life and, more especially, that it has influenced such different worlds as contemporary spirituality and marketing. But, as mentioned, hypnotism is concerned with what is effective—effective internally (for personal change and transformation) and effective in the world and in daily life.
Personally, while I practiced meditation for three decades, I now consider myself to only practice (self-)hypnosis in my daily life (often at least twice a day).
This is partly because, in my personal experience, I am able to go into a much deeper state of consciousness, and deeper state of relaxation, than I can using meditation.
The second reason is that, as opposed to meditation (which is purely internal) hypnotism is both inner directed (towards our inner experience) and outer directed (helping us to act effectively in the world). As such, hypnosis is not something we do before or after work but, even if we have only had one or two sessions, it is a tool that is always with us.
Results may vary from person to person.