About hypnosis

Information over hypnosis and hypnotherapy
Hypnosis is a state of human consciousness involving focused attention and reduced peripheral awareness and an enhanced capacity for response to suggestion. Theories explaining what occurs during hypnosis fall into two groups. Altered state theories see hypnosis as an altered state of mind or trance, marked by a level of awareness different from the ordinary conscious state. In contrast, Non-state theories see hypnosis as a form of imaginative role-enactment. During hypnosis, a person is said to have heightened focus and concentration. The person can concentrate intensely on a specific thought or memory, while blocking out sources of distraction. Hypnotised subjects are said to show an increased response to suggestions. Hypnosis is usually induced by a procedure known as a hypnotic induction involving a series of preliminary instructions and suggestions. The use of hypnotism for therapeutic purposes is referred to as "hypnotherapy", while its use as a form of entertainment for an audience is known as "stage hypnosis".
The term "hypnosis" comes from the ancient Greek word ὕπνος hypnos, "sleep", and the suffix -ωσις -osis, or from ὑπνόω hypnoō, "put to sleep" and the suffix -is. The words "hypnosis" and "hypnotism" both derive from the term "neuro-hypnotism" (nervous sleep), all of which were coined by the Scottish surgeon James Braid around 1841. Braid based his practice on that developed by Franz Mesmer and his followers (which was called "Mesmerism" or "animal magnetism"), but differed in his theory as to how the procedure worked.
A person in a state of hypnosis is relaxed, has focused attention, and has increased suggestibility.

The hypnotized individual appears to heed only the communications of the hypnotist. He seems to respond in an uncritical, automatic fashion, ignoring all aspects of the environment other than those pointed out to him by the hypnotist. He sees, feels, smells, and otherwise perceives in accordance with the hypnotist's suggestions, even though these suggestions may be in apparent contradiction to the stimuli that impinge upon him. Even the subject's memory and awareness of self may be altered by suggestion, and the effects of the suggestions may be extended (posthypnotically) into the subject's subsequent waking activity.

It could be said that hypnotic suggestion is explicitly intended to make use of the placebo effect. For example, in 1994, Irving Kirsch characterized hypnosis as a "nondeceptive placebo," i.e., a method that openly makes use of suggestion and employs methods to amplify its effects.

Hypnosis typically involves an introduction to the procedure during which the subject is told that suggestions for imaginative experiences will be presented. The hypnotic induction is an extended initial suggestion for using one's imagination, and may contain further elaborations of the introduction. A hypnotic procedure is used to encourage and evaluate responses to suggestions. When using hypnosis, one person (the subject) is guided by another (the hypnotist) to respond to suggestions for changes in subjective experience, alterations in perception, sensation, emotion, thought or behavior. Persons can also learn self-hypnosis, which is the act of administering hypnotic procedures on one's own. If the subject responds to hypnotic suggestions, it is generally inferred that hypnosis has been induced. Many believe that hypnotic responses and experiences are characteristic of a hypnotic state. While some think that it is not necessary to use the word "hypnosis" as part of the hypnotic induction, others view it as essential
Hypnotic induction
Hypnosis is normally preceded by a "hypnotic induction" technique. Traditionally, this was interpreted as a method of putting the subject into a "hypnotic trance"; however, subsequent "nonstate" theorists have viewed it differently, seeing it as a means of heightening client expectation, defining their role, focusing attention, etc. There are several different induction techniques. One of the most influential methods was Braid's "eye-fixation" technique, also known as "Braidism". Many variations of the eye-fixation approach exist, including the induction used in the Stanford Hypnotic Susceptibility Scale (SHSS), the most widely used research tool in the field of hypnotism. Braid later acknowledged that the hypnotic induction technique was not necessary in every case and subsequent researchers have generally found that on average it contributes less than previously expected to the effect of hypnotic suggestions. Variations and alternatives to the original hypnotic induction techniques were subsequently developed. However, this method is still considered authoritative: "It can be safely stated that nine out of ten hypnotic techniques call for reclining posture, muscular relaxation, and optical fixation followed by eye closure.
When James Braid first described hypnotism, he did not use the term "suggestion" but referred instead to the act of focusing the conscious mind of the subject upon a single dominant idea. Braid's main therapeutic strategy involved stimulating or reducing physiological functioning in different regions of the body. In his later works, however, Braid placed increasing emphasis upon the use of a variety of different verbal and non-verbal forms of suggestion, including the use of "waking suggestion" and self-hypnosis. Subsequently, Hippolyte Bernheim shifted the emphasis from the physical state of hypnosis on to the psychological process of verbal suggestion.

I define hypnotism as the induction of a peculiar psychical [i.e., mental] condition which increases the susceptibility to suggestion. Often, it is true, the [hypnotic] sleep that may be induced facilitates suggestion, but it is not the necessary preliminary. It is suggestion that rules hypnotism.

Bernheim's conception of the primacy of verbal suggestion in hypnotism dominated the subject throughout the twentieth century, leading some authorities to declare him the father of modern hypnotism.

Contemporary hypnotism uses a variety of suggestion forms including direct verbal suggestions, "indirect" verbal suggestions such as requests or insinuations, metaphors and other rhetorical figures of speech, and non-verbal suggestion in the form of mental imagery, voice tonality, and physical manipulation. A distinction is commonly made between suggestions delivered "permissively" and those delivered in a more "authoritarian" manner. Harvard hypnotherapist Deirdre Barrett writes that most modern research suggestions are designed to bring about immediate responses, whereas hypnotherapeutic suggestions are usually post-hypnotic ones that are intended to trigger responses affecting behavior for periods ranging from days to a lifetime in duration. The hypnotherapeutic ones are often repeated in multiple sessions before they achieve peak effectiveness

Avicenna (980-1037), a Persian Physician, documented the characteristics of the "trance"(Hypnotic Trance) state in 1027. At that time hypnosis as a medical treatment was seldom used until the German Doctor, Franz Mesmer, reintroduced it in the 18th Century
Frans Mesmer (1734–1815) believed that there is a magnetic force or "fluid" within the universe that influences the health of the human body. He experimented with magnets to impact this field in order to produce healing. By around 1774, he had concluded that the same effect could be created by passing the hands in front of the subject's body, later referred to as making "Mesmeric passes." The word "mesmerize", formed from the last name of Franz Mesmer, was intentionally used to separate practitioners of mesmerism from the various "fluid" and "magnetic" theories included within the label "magnetism".

In 1784, at the request of King Louis XVI, a Board of Inquiry started to investigate whether animal magnetism existed. Among the board members were founding father of modern chemistry Antoine Lavoisier, Benjamin Franklin, and an expert in pain control,Joseph Ignace Guillotin. They investigated the practices of a disaffected student of Mesmer, one Charles d'Eslon (1750–1786), and though they concluded that Mesmer's results were valid, their placebo controlled experiments using d'Eslon's methods convinced them that mesmerism was most likely due to belief and imagination rather than to an invisible energy ("animal magnetism") transmitted from the body of the mesmerist. In writing the majority opinion, Franklin said, "This fellow Mesmer is not flowing anything from his hands that I can see. Therefore, this mesmerism must be a fraud." Mesmer left Paris and went back to Vienna to practise mesmerism.

James Braid. Following the French committee's findings, Dugald Steward, an influential academic philosopher of the "Scottiish School of Common Sense", encouraged physicians in his Elements of the Philosophy of the Human Mind (1818), to salvage elements of Mesmerism by replacing the supernatural theory of "animal magnetism" with a new interpretation based upon "common sense" laws of physiology and psychology. Braid quotes the following passage from Stewart:

It appears to me, that the general conclusions established by Mesmer’s practice, with respect to the physical effects of the principle of imagination (more particularly in cases where they co-operated together), are incomparably more curious than if he had actually demonstrated the existence of his boasted science [of "animal magnetism"]: nor can I see any good reason why a physician, who admits the efficacy of the moral [i.e., psychological] agents employed by Mesmer, should, in the exercise of his profession, scruple to copy whatever processes are necessary for subjecting them to his command, any more than that he should hesitate about employing a new physical agent, such as electricity or galvanism.

In Braid's day, the Scottish School of Common Sense provided the dominant theories of academic psychology and Braid refers to other philosophers within this tradition throughout his writings. Braid therefore revised the theory and practice of Mesmerism and developed his own method of hypnotism as a more rational and common sense alternative.

It may here be requisite for me to explain, that by the term Hypnotism, or Nervous Sleep, which frequently occurs in the following pages, I mean a peculiar condition of the nervous system, into which it may be thrown by artificial contrivance, and which differs, in several respects, from common sleep or the waking condition. I do not allege that this condition is induced through the transmission of a magnetic or occult influence from my body into that of my patients; nor do I profess, by my processes, to produce the higher [i.e., supernatural] phenomena of the Mesmerists. My pretensions are of a much more humble character, and are all consistent with generally admitted principles in physiological and psychological science. Hypnotism might therefore not inaptly be designated, Rational Mesmerism, in contra-distinction to the Transcendental Mesmerism of the Mesmerists.

Despite briefly toying with the name "rational Mesmerism", Braid ultimately chose to emphasise the unique aspects of his approach, carrying out informal experiments throughout his career in order to refute practices that invoked supernatural forces and demonstrating instead the role of ordinary physiological and psychological processes such as suggestion and focused attention in producing the observed effects.

Braid worked very closely with his friend and ally the eminent physiologist Professor William Benjamin Carpenter, an early neuro-psychologist who introduced the "ideo-motor reflex" theory of suggestion. Carpenter had observed instances of expectation and imagination apparently influencing involuntary muscle movement. A classic example of the ideo-motor principle in action is the so-called "Chevreul pendulum" (named after Michel Eugene Chevreul) Chevreul claimed that divinatory pendulae were made to swing by unconscious muscle movements brought about by focused concentration alone.

Braid soon assimilated Carpenter's observations into his own theory, realising that the effect of focusing attention was to enhance the ideo-motor reflex response. Braid extended Carpenter's theory to encompass the influence of the mind upon the body more generally, beyond the muscular system, and therefore referred to the "ideo-dynamic" response and coined the term "psycho-physiology" to refer to the study of general mind/body interaction.

In his later works Braid reserved the term "hypnotism" for cases in which subjects entered a state of amnesia resembling sleep. For other cases, he spoke of a "mono-ideodynamic" principle to emphasise that the eye-fixation induction technique worked by narrowing the subject's attention to a single idea or train of thought ("monoideism"), which amplified the effect of the consequent "dominant idea" upon the subject's body by means of the ideo-dynamic principle.

Pierre Janet (1859–1947) reported studies on a hypnotic subject in 1882. Charcot subsequently appointed him director of the psychological laboratory at the Salpetriere in 1889, after Janet had completed his PhD, which dealt with psychological automatism. In 1898 Janet was appointed psychology lecturer at the Sorbonne, and in 1902 he became chair of experimental and comparative psychology at the College de France. Janet reconciled elements of his views with those of Bernheim and his followers, developing his own sophisticated hypnotic psychotherapy based upon the concept of psychologica dissociation, which, at the turn of the century, rivalled Freud's attempt to provide a more comprehensive theory of psychotherapy.
Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis (1856 – 1939), studied hypnotism at the Paris School and briefly visited the Nancy School. At first Sigmund Freud was an enthusiastic proponent of hypnotherapy. He "initially hypnotised patients and pressed on their foreheads to help them concentrate while attempting to recover (supposedly) repressed memories", and he soon began to emphasise hypnotic regression and ab reaction (catharsis) as therapeutic methods. He wrote a favorable encyclopedia article on hypnotism, translated one of Bernheim's works into German, and published an influential series of case studies with his colleague Joseph Breuer entitled Studies on Hysteria (1895). This became the founding text of the subsequent tradition known as "hypno-analysis" or "regression hypnotherapy." However, Freud gradually abandoned hypnotism in favour of psychoanalysis, emphasizing free association and interpretation of the unconscious. Struggling with the great expense of time that psychoanalysis required, Freud later suggested that it might be combined with hypnotic suggestion to hasten the outcome of treatment,

It is very probable, too, that the application of our therapy to numbers will compel us to alloy the pure gold of analysis plentifully with the copper of direct [hypnotic] suggestion.

However, only a handful of Freud's followers were sufficiently qualified in hypnosis to attempt the synthesis. Their work had a limited influence on the hypno-therapeutic approaches now known variously as "hypnotic regression", "hypnotic progression", and "hypnoanalysis".

Emile Coue (1857–1926) assisted Ambroise Auguste Liebeault for around two years at Nancy. After practising for several years as a hypnotherapist employing the methods of Liébeault and Bernheim's Nancy School, Coué developed a new orientation called "conscious autosuggestion." Several years after Liébeault's death in 1904, Coué founded what became known as the New Nancy School, a loose collaboration of practitioners who taught and promoted his views. Coué's method did not emphasise "sleep" or deep relaxation and instead focused upon autosuggestion involving a specific series of suggestion tests. Although Coué argued that he was no longer using hypnosis, followers such as Charles Baudouin viewed his approach as a form of light self-hypnosis. Coué's method became a renowned self-help and psychotherapy technique, which contrasted with psychoanalysis and prefigured self-hypnosis and cognitive therapy.
Clark L. Hull. The next major development came from behavioral psychology in American university research. Clark L. Hull, an eminent American psychologist (1884 – 1952), published the first major compilation of laboratory studies on hypnosis, Hypnosis & Suggestibility (1933), in which he proved that hypnosis and sleep had nothing in common. Hull published many quantitative findings from hypnosis and suggestion experiments and encouraged research by mainstream psychologists. Hull's behavioural psychology interpretation of hypnosis, emphasising conditioned reflexes, rivalled the Freudian psycho-dynamic interpretation which emphasised unconscious transference.
Dave Elman. Although Dave Elman (1900–1967) was a noted radio host, comedian and (song)writer, he also made a name as a hypnotist. He led many courses for physicians and wrote in 1964 the classic book: 'Findings in Hypnosis', later to be re-titled 'Hypnotherapy' (published by Westwood Publishing). Perhaps the most well known aspect of Elman's legacy is his method of induction, which was originally fashioned for speed work and later adapted for the use of medical professionals; his students routinely obtained states of hypnosis adequate for medical and surgical procedures in under three minutes. His book and recordings provide much more than just his rapid induction techniques, however. The first heart operation using hypnosis rather than normal anesthesia (because of severe problems with the patient) was performed by his students with Dave Elman in the operating room as "coach".
Milton H. Ericson M.D. (1901 – 1980) was one of the most influential post-war hypnotherapists. He wrote several books and journal articles on the subject. During the 1960s, Erickson popularized a new branch of hypnotherapy, known as Ericksonian therapy, characterised primarily by indirect suggestion, "metaphor" (actually analogies), confusion techniques, and double binds in place of formal hypnotic inductions. However, the difference between Erickson's methods and traditional hypnotism led contemporaries such as Andre Weitzenhoffer to question whether he was practising "hypnosis" at all, and his approach remains in question.

Erickson had no hesitation in presenting any suggested effect as being "hypnosis", whether or not the subject was in a hypnotic state. In fact, he was not hesitant in passing off behaviour that was dubiously hypnotic as being hypnotic.
There are numerous applications for hypnosis across multiple fields of interest including medical/psychotherapeutic uses, military uses, self-improvement, and entertainment. Hypnotism has also been used in forensics, sports, education, physical therapy and rehabilitation. Hypnotism has also been employed by artists for creative purposes, most notably the surrealist circle of Andre Breton who employed hypnosis, automatic writing and sketches for creative purposes. Hypnotic methods have been used to re-experience drug states and mystical experiences. Self-hypnosis is popularly used to quit smoking, alleviate stress and anxiety, promote weight loss, and induce sleep hypnosis. While stage hypnosis can persuade people to perform unusual public feats. Some people have drawn analogies between certain aspects of hypnotism and areas such as crowd psychology, religious hysteria, and ritual trances in preliterate tribal cultures.
Hypnotherapy is a use of hypnosis in psychotherapy. It is used by licensed physicians, psychologists, and others. Physicians and psychologists may use hypnosis to treat depression, anxiety, eating disorders, sleep disorders, compulsive gaming, and posttraumatic stress, while certified hypnotherapists who are not physicians or psychologists often treat smoking and weight management.

Hypnotherapy is a helpful adjunct having additive effects when treating psychological disorders, such as these, along with scientifically proven cognitive therapies. Hypnotherapy should not be used for repairing or refreshing memory, because hypnosis results in memory hardening which increases the confidence in false memories. Modern hypnotherapy has been used in a variety of forms with varying success, such as:

  • Age regression hypnotherapy (or "hypnoanalysis")
  • Ericksonian hypnotherapy
  • Fears and phobias
  • Addictions
  • Habit control
  • Pain management
  • Psychotherapy
  • Relaxation
  • Skin disease
  • Soothing anxious surgical patients
  • Sports performance
  • Weight loss

In a January 2001 article in Psychology Today Harvard psychologist Deirdre Barrett wrote:

A hypnotic trance is not therapeutic in and of itself, but specific suggestions and images fed to clients in a trance can profoundly alter their behavior. As they rehearse the new ways they want to think and feel, they lay the groundwork for changes in their future actions...

and she described specific ways this is operationalized for habit change and amelioration of phobias. In her 1998 book of hypnotherapy case studies, she reviews the clinical research on hypnosis with dissociative disorders, smoking cessation, and insomnia and describes successful treatments of these complaints.

In a July 2001 article for Scientific American titled "The Truth and the Hype of Hypnosis", Michael Nash wrote:

...using hypnosis, scientists have temporarily created hallucinations, compulsions, certain types of memory loss, false memories, and delusions in the laboratory so that these phenomena can be studied in a controlled environment.
Pain management
A number of studies show that hypnosis can reduce the pain experienced during burn-wound debridement, bone marrow aspirations, and childbirth. The International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis found that hypnosis relieved the pain of 75% of 933 subjects participating in 27 different experiments.
A recently declassified document obtained by the US Freedom of Information Act archive shows that hypnosis was investigated for military applications. However, the overall conclusion of the study was that there was no evidence that hypnosis could be used for military applications, and no clear evidence whether 'hypnosis' is a definable phenomenon outside ordinary suggestion, motivation and subject expectancy. According to the document,

The use of hypnosis in intelligence would present certain technical problems not encountered in the clinic or laboratory. To obtain compliance from a resistant source, for example, it would be necessary to hypnotise the source under essentially hostile circumstances. There is no good evidence, clinical or experimental, that this can be done.

Furthermore, the document states that:

It would be difficult to find an area of scientific interest more beset by divided professional opinion and contradictory experimental evidence…No one can say whether hypnosis is a qualitatively unique state with some physiological and conditioned response components or only a form of suggestion induced by high motivation and a positive relationship between hypnotist and subject…T.X. Barber has produced “hypnotic deafness” and “hypnotic blindness,” analgesia and other responses seen in hypnosis—all without hypnotizing anyone…Orne has shown that unhypnotized persons can be motivated to equal and surpass the supposed superhuman physical feats seen in hypnosis.

The study concludes:

It is probably significant that in the long history of hypnosis, where the potential application to intelligence has always been known, there are no reliable accounts of its effective use by an intelligence service.

Research into hypnosis in military applications is further verified by the MKULTRA experiments, also conducted by the CIA. According to Congressional testimony, the CIA experimented with utilizing LSD and hypnosis for mind control. Many of these programs were done domestically and on participants who were not informed of the study's purposes or that they would be given drugs. The full paper explores the potentials of operational uses.

Self-hypnosis happens when a person hypnotises oneself, commonly involving the use of autosuggestion. The technique is often used to increase motivation for a diet, quit smoking, or reduce stress. People who practice self-hypnosis sometimes require assistance; some people use devices known as mind machines to assist in the process, whereas others use hypnotic recordings.

Self-hypnosis is claimed to help with stage fright, relaxation, and physical well-being

Stage hypnosis
Stage hypnosis is a form of entertainment, traditionally employed in a club or theatre before an audience. Due to stage hypnotists' showmanship, many people believe that hypnosis is a form of mind control. Stage hypnotists typically attempt to hypnotise the entire audience and then select individuals who are "under" to come up on stage and perform embarrassing acts, while the audience watches. However, the effects of stage hypnosis are probably due to a combination of psychological factors, participant selection, suggestibility, physical manipulation, stagecraft, and trickery. The desire to be the centre of attention, having an excuse to violate their own fear suppressors and the pressure to please are thought to convince subjects to 'play along'. Books by stage hypnotists sometimes explicitly describe the use of deception in their acts, for example, Ormond McGill's New Encyclopedia of Stage Hypnosisdescribes an entire "fake hypnosis" act that depends upon the use of private whispers throughout.
The state versus non-state debate
The central theoretical disagreement is known as the "state versus nonstate" debate. When Braid introduced the concept of hypnotism, he equivocated over the nature of the "state", sometimes describing it as a specific sleep-like neurological state comparable to animal hibernation or yogic meditation, while at other times he emphasised that hypnotism encompasses a number of different stages or states that are an extension of ordinary psychological and physiological processes. Overall, Braid appears to have moved from a more "special state" understanding of hypnotism toward a more complex "nonstate" orientation. State theorists interpret the effects of hypnotism as due primarily to a specific, abnormal, and uniform psychological or physiological state of some description, often referred to as "hypnotic trance" or an "altered state of consciousness." Nonstate theorists rejected the idea of hypnotic trance and interpret the effects of hypnotism as due to a combination of multiple task-specific factors derived from normal cognitive, behavioural, and social psychology, such as social role-perception and favorable motivation (Sarbin), active imagination and positive cognitive set (Barber), response expectancy (Kirsch), and the active use of task-specific subjective strategies (Spanos). The personality psychologist Robert White is often cited as providing one of the first nonstate definitions of hypnosis in a 1941 article:

Hypnotic behaviour is meaningful, goal-directed striving, its most general goal being to behave like a hypnotised person as this is continuously defined by the operator and understood by the client.

Put simply, it is often claimed that whereas the older "special state" interpretation emphasises the difference between hypnosis and ordinary psychological processes, the "nonstate" interpretation emphasises their similarity. Comparisons between hypnotised and non-hypnotised subjects suggest that if a "hypnotic trance" does exist it only accounts for a small proportion of the effects attributed to hypnotic suggestion, most of which can be replicated without hypnotic induction.

Source: Wikipedia.