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What is the Difference Between Meditation and Hypnosis?

By G. Wiesen
Updated May 17, 2024
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While there are a number of differences between meditation and hypnosis, one of the primary differences is that meditation is often an internal function, while hypnosis commonly comes from an external source. Though self-hypnosis is possible, this typically comes from focusing on an external object or thought as well, while meditation is often used to clear the mind of all thoughts, both external and internal. Both meditation and hypnosis are methods by which a person can enter a different state of mind or consciousness, but the goals and purpose of each method are typically quite different.

It can be easiest to understand the difference between meditation and hypnosis by having a clear understanding of what each term means. Meditation is a state of consciousness in which the mind is clear of all thoughts and distractions, used by some as a means of relaxation and by others as a method to attempt to reach a “higher” state of being. Hypnosis, on the other hand, is not an absence of thought but instead a state of mind in which all thought is directed toward a single purpose. While this can be directed toward a sort of “blank slate” consciousness, in which case meditation and hypnosis can be quite similar, it can also be directed toward a particular goal or idea.

Meditation and hypnosis can both be used for relaxation and for eliminating stress from a person’s life, but they can also be used for other purposes as well. Outside of relaxation, meditation is often used by adherents to Buddhism or similar religions and philosophies. In these contexts, meditation is used to clear the mind of outside distraction, allowing a person to let go of his or her identity and function within the physical universe. This is intended as a means by which a person can reach a higher state of consciousness, which is used to help that person move toward a particular goal within Buddhism.

Though both meditation and hypnosis can be used to clear the mind of thoughts, hypnosis is often used for other purposes as well. One of the major differences between meditation and hypnosis is that hypnosis can be used to allow a person to focus his or her thoughts on a particular goal or idea. Someone who is deep in thought, contemplating the solution to a problem for example, and becomes unaware of the world around him or her is in a state of self-hypnosis. Hypnosis can be used to help a person deal with problems in his or her life, and to help a person focus on a particular task.

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