hypnotic amnesia

Hypnotic Amnesia?… Forget it!

Hypnotic Amnesia?… Forget It!

Every so often I get a question like this one… “Can you make me forget something? I had this bad thing happen to me (a car wreck, a romantic breakup or someone dying) and I want to get it out of my mind, obliterate it, never think about it again.”

When people hear that amnesia is possible with hypnosis they sometimes start thinking about what they’d like to forget. But this approach comes from a fundamental misunderstanding of how memory works. Just because you don’t remember an event doesn’t mean it doesn’t affect you!

Let me give you a couple of different examples.

I’ve talked to a lot of people with phobias over the years (extreme fears). Phobias are usually caused by an event somewhere in the past. A spider phobia may have been caused by a scary incident with a spider or even watching a scary movie with spiders in it. Many of these people don’t remember how their phobia started. They have amnesia for the event but it still affects them!

You probably don’t remember when, but at some point when you were a child you figured out what a chair was. You don’t remember this moment yet you still know what a chair is. I repeat: just because you don’t remember an event doesn’t mean what happened doesn’t affect you.

So, you can have amnesia for a traumatic event and still have that event affect you. In the case of someone who had experienced a car wreck, they might be overly nervous when in a car, someone who had experienced a painful breakup might avoid relationships, someone who had lost someone they loved might be afraid to love anyone else – even if they didn’t remember the event that precipitated those feelings.

Can You Take The “Sting” Out Of Memories?

I usually explain to folks that it’s better to reprocess those memories until the sting is taken out of them. Most people tell me that they never considered that option because they never believed it was possible. In other words, they can’t connect to the possibility that they could ever think about those events without a significant amount of pain.

Think about it for a minute though… We all have had unpleasant things happen to us, some of them we may still be upset about and others don’t bother us so much anymore. What is the main difference between the things that bother us and the things that don’t? It’s the way we think about them. It’s what we do inside our heads that controls how we feel about them.

Hey, it’s one thing to go through something painful once but to relive it again and again in your mind is another thing. The problem is that most people don’t know how to reprocess those painful memories in a way that helps us think about them differently.

NLP has developed several processes for taking the emotion out of memories. Probably the simplest is the NLP Fast Phobia Cure. Though its name includes “phobia,” it can be used on any unpleasant memory.

Learn From Your Mistakes

Reprocessing memories has another big advantage over amnesia. It can involve people learning from mistakes. One theory goes that we only experience fear or a painful memory because our unconscious mind doesn’t know how to deal with that type of situation. It creates those negative feelings to keep us from getting anywhere near that type of situation in the future. Well, that’s fine if we’re talking about getting bit by a snake but not about falling in love or driving a car. Once the unconscious learns the lesson, we can then comfortable and more safely approach that kind of situation again or avoid it more intelligently.

NLP processes such as re-imprinting can help us to “learn the lesson.”

In short…

  • Don’t use amnesia to try to help someone forget something
  • It’s much better to deal with these painful memories than to try and avoid them
  • NLP offers some wonderful processes to help you do this.

So what good is amnesia? I’ll cover that in Hypnotic Amnesia Part II . . .

About The Author:

Keith Livingston is the main instructor for Hypnosis 101. Keith has been studying hypnosis since he was a boy and doing hypnosis & NLP training since 1997.

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  1. How can i forget my entire life up till this point, im only 17 and have made every possible mistake and its tripping up my future everyday. i honestly would give anything to just forget my past and start a new life. maybe make up some cover story for myself like i had no parents, no money and had to get a job and place to live and then my life would start moving forwards, just like ive always wanted it to. i want to be a new person, to learn everything again but do it the right way. it would be like giving myself a second chance at life. to do things the right way and never look back.

    1. Hi,
      You seem troubled and I’m sorry. But amnesia is not the way to go. It’s difficult to learn from your mistakes if you can’t remember them. What might be good is if you remembered your mistakes and didn’t have bad feelings about what happened. Or better yet, viewed mistakes as learning experiences or resources. That’s the idea behind thse quotes

      “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.”
      -Friedrich Nietzsche

      “I didn’t fail 3,000 times. I found 3,000 ways how not to create a light bulb.”
      Thomas Edison

      Now, a couple of inspirational quotes isn’t going to solve all of your problems. But neither is forgetting.

    2. Life is so valuable and precious. The reason we make mistakes are so we can learn from them. Think of it this way… you did something you think is wrong – you now know its wrong and won’t do it agian. You can possibly teach others not to the same mistake. Sometimes, although mistakes make us feel bad – in the end they are an opening to the end of the tunnel. You then change the way you act, you become a better person. We are human, we are intended on making mistakes and learning from them. We then move on and make another just to move on again. We are not perfect at all! You are only 17. Your life has JUST begun. Just think… you have made so many mistakes before you have begun to live your life because you have already made the mistakes as a child. Being an adult and making mistakes is so much harder – but still happens.

      Stop thinking of it being a mistake and think of it as being a lesson.

    1. Did you watch the video at all? Did you read the post?
      OK, let me say this really loudly…

      Hypnosis to forget stuff because it’s a bad memory or is uncomfortable to think about is not a good way to go.

      OK, here it is in italics…

      Hypnosis to forget stuff because it’s a bad memory or is uncomfortable to think about is not a good way to go.

      Since I’ve said this a bunch of times in the video, in the post and in the comments, I’ll stop answering variants of this question.

  2. Hey, I have a problem with a certain… Entity?, I just want to forget it, just kill the memory, I want to forget about even finding out about it, and learning what it is. It’s making me feel paranoid, like I’ve had dreams about it too and it took place just outside my house at night while I was holding a torch and I start freaking out (heavy breathing, massive jump in heart rate) every time I end up standing there with a torch. Is there anyway to COMPLETELY forget about it? Thanks a ton.

  3. hi I was hypnotized in a coffee shop back in 2007 (wanting to learn hypnosis). I was given post hypnotic amnesia after a 10 hour session of learning hypnosis/NLP techniques. I was not able to recover the memories until I worked with another well known hypnotist three years later. However, I got tricked again and have spent another 3 years unable to remember another 10 hour session. I’ve spent the past 6 years acting out many post hypnotic suggestions with no memory until *after I act it out. How do I stop this? No one can seem to help me. I’m 100% honest/serious.

    1. Hi,
      It’s difficult for me to comment on your specific situation. It’s hard to hypnotize most people to do something against their will. Most hypnotists aren’t well versed in how to create amnesia either — especially if the subject wants to remember. What I can say is that to remove most post-hypnotic suggestions, you simply have to enter hypnosis again and have the hypnotist suggest that the earlier suggestions be cancelled out. You might find a professional you trust and have them do that.

  4. Alright, so no using hypnotic amnesia to forget traumatic incidents as it won’t help and the incident will still affect you, but what about on a much less serious scale? Specifically, I accidentally read spoilers about the finale of a book. Nothing that impacts me really, just something I want to not know. Similar I suppose would be learning how a magic trick is performed but wanting to forget so you can watch it and be amazed again.

    If it s possible because it is not a very uncomfortable memory, it would certainly be useful, because it is all to easy to accidentally run into spoilers.

  5. I’ve watched and read the video and post. How do u reprosses the event so u no longer feel a prisoner of ur own mind. Also if u never come across the thing that u want to forget is it still possible for hypnosis to work. And one more thing what does NLP fast phobia cure do???

    1. Hi,
      How does on reprocess memories? That’s a subject that’s a bit long for this article. I teach a whole course on it called regression therapy. In short, the NLP fast phobia cure helps take the emotions out of a memory. It’s quite useful for reprocessing memories.

  6. Hi keith
    I lost my first daughter to sids 21years ago it was horrific as one can only imagine with lots of therapy and meds we got thru it we went to have another daughter and we moved on with our lives and of never ever that a day goes by that we dont think of our first daughter this past year i went through a job change and things did not go well a lot of unexpected changes and ill became very drepessed then out of the blue all this trigged my mind to relive the day my daughter died i was the one who find her and i dont know what to do ive been to therapy on medication and have tried various things to help but the vision of that haunts me and i dont know what to do is there any form of hypnosis that would help me to forget the incident? I would try just about anything to really forget ill never forgety daughter as she is always in my heart but i want to forget that horrible day is there any suggestions that u could offer i appreciate any help as i feel lile im loosing my mind

    1. Mary,
      I’m so sorry for your loss. As a parent, I can only imagine how horrific that would be. Yes, there are forms of both hypnosis and NLP that can help. Forgetting isn’t the answer but I’ll let you talk that over with whomever you connect with. I’d suggest finding someone local and talking with them to see if you have good rapport.
      Keith Livingston

  7. So, hypnosis wouldn’t help my boyfriend forget about when I got drunk and blacked out thinking he was my rapist step-dad and then beating him up? We’re trying to work through it, but he says he can’t get over it and can’t forgive me, and he’s not taking our therapy too seriously. I don’t know how else to help him so we can move past this

    1. It wouldn’t help him forget, no. It could help him deal with it though. But if he’s not taking therapy seriously, he probably wouldn’t take hypnosis seriously anyway. Plus, it seems like there may be bigger fish to fry.

  8. Is it possible to forget one kind of thought , as i am thinking about it 24 hours and it causes fed of life.

    1. Sam,
      There’s not enough information here for me to give you an idea on how to proceed, but I generally don’t use amnesia for thoughts as a therapeutic intervention. The exceptionsare noted in the video.

  9. My girlfriend of 7yrs and i went through a bad year,we fought alot,couldnt communicate without fighting ,didnt make love much and ended up breaking up.we both had short relationships with other people and we realized that wasn’t what we wanted if we truly love each other and made mistakes. we decided to get back together and things have been great we’re talking handle our issues much better ina more constructive way.she seems to have handled the breakup better saying that it was in the past and we need to move forward because we can’t change it and I agree but I cannot stop getting the images of her with another man out of my head and it’s tearing me up. it’s really starting to affect my mood. I understand that I can’t just forget everything but I need to get the images out of my head and if I think about it I needed to not upset me like it is. what can I do? Can hypnosis help me with this?

    1. Hi J,
      I feel for you, man. Been there.
      I’d go find someone who knows how to do what’s called a swish pattern. Any NLP practitioner should know how.
      That will take care of those images.
      There are other NLP processes that might be useful for you, as well.

  10. Hey Keith I have a question. I have had a girlfriend for almost a year now. She is the greatest most positive thing I have going for me. I love her to death. But one night I got really drunk and a girl threw herself at me and well I’m sure you know how that goes. Immediately after I broke down and told her to get away. I do not believe in cheating whatsoever. I haven’t been the same since. I want to forget that memory so badly for it taught me nothing. It was literally an accident. People say it’s not a big deal but to me it is. Each time I try forgetting I’ll even have nightmares about it. I really need help and want it out of my mind so I can go on normally.

  11. I had a boyfriend and I loved him so much but one day I got to know about his past that he was with another girl while he was drunk and I kind of imagined as he kept telling me and now i just can’t get the picture out of my head. It made me scared of other people. Whenever I think of him though I have forgiven him,every single feeling appears again and it tears me apart. I am really scared that will these feelings ever go away?

  12. I liked that you explained that reprocessing memories can be more helpful than forgetting the memories. Also, it does seem like a good idea to get an expert to help you choose what will be best for you. I would want to talk to an expert on things I could to do help the process go better.

  13. A while ago I treated bad memories using using the amnesia technique… I used it for a fair amount of memories but I’ve noticed that I’m still affected by the issues (emotionally charged). So there’s still a problem, but I’ve stopped the memories from coming into my conscious mind, how could I fix this ? Thanks

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