The Encarta Encyclopedia defines hypnosis as,”altered state ofconsciousness and heightened responsiveness to suggestion; it may be inducedby normal persons by a variety of methods and has been used occasionallyin medical and psychiatric treatment. Most frequently brought about throughactions of an operator, or “hypnotist”, who engages the attentionof a subject and assigns certain tasks to him or her while uttering monotonous,repetitive verbal commands; such tasks may include muscle relaxation, eyefixation, and arm leviation. Hypnosis also may be self-induced, by trainedrelaxation, concentration on one’s own breathing, or by a variety of monotonouspractices and rituals that are found in many mystical, philosophical, andreligious systems. ” Another generally reliable source Webster’s NewUniversal Unabridged Dictionary defines it as,”a sleep like conditionpsychically induced, usually by another person, in which the subject losesconsciousness but responds, with certain limitations, to the suggestionsof the hypnotist. ” As I stated earlier, these two sources are veryreputed and the general population believes that they are correct.Order now
Yet,however often they may be correct, in this case they are not, or at leastnot completely. Not according to the scientific community at least. Mysources for this statement are The World Book Encyclopedia, The Wizardfrom Vienna: Franz Anton Mesmer, Applied Hypnosis: An Overview, AmericanMedical Journal, and Hypnosis: Is It For You? Although they state it indifferent ways they all basically agree that nobody can give a very accuratedefinition or description of hypnosis, or hypnosis. Although some may getthe definition partly correct, the chances of doing so completely are very,very low.
So although I will probably not be able to give a totally accurateaccount of hypnosis and its workings, I will try. Although evidence suggeststhat hypnosis has been practiced in some form or another for several thousandyears, such as in coal walking, the earliest recorded history of hypnosisbegins in 1734. It begins with a man named Franz Anton Mesmer. Althoughhe was eventually disavowed by the scientific community because of hisunorthodox methods that made him seem more of a mysticist that a scientist,he is generally known as the father of hypnotism. Mesmer called his methodsMesmerism, thus the word mesmerize, but the name didn’t stick, it laterchanged to hypnosis, its name being derived from Hypnos, the Greek godof sleep. He believed that hypnosis was reached by using a person’s “animalmagnetism”.
He used “mesmerism” to cure illness. In 1795an English physician named James Braid, who was originally opposed to Mesmer’smethods became interested. He believed that cures were not due to animalmagnetism however, but the power of suggestion. This was the generallyaccepted opinion of the scientific community.
Then in 1825 Jean Marie Charcot,a French neurologist, disagreed with “The Nancy School of Hypnotism”,which followed the guidelines of James Braid’s ideas. Charcot believedthat hypnosis was simply a “manifestation of hysteria”. He revivedMesmer’s theory of animal magnetism and identified the three stages ofthe trance; lethargy, catalepsy, and somnambulism. Ivan Petrovich Pavlov(1849-1936) was not a scientist who worked with hypnosis. Although he hadnothing to do with the hypnotic development itself, his Stimulus ResponseTheory is a cornerstone linking and anchoring behaviors, particularly NLP(Neuro-Linguistic Programming).
Emily Coue (1857-1926) a physician, formulatedthe Laws of Suggestion which are greatly used in the hypnotic community. Her first law is The Law of Concentrated Attention: “Whenever attentionis concentrated on an idea over and over again, it spontaneously tendsto realize itself”. The second law is- The Law of Reverse Action:”The harder one tries to do something, the less chance one has ofsuccess. ” Finally, the last law is The Law of Dominant Effect: “Astronger emotion tends to replace a weaker one. ” Milton Erickson (1932-1974),a psychologist and psychiatrist pioneered the art of indirect suggestionin hypnosis.
He is considered the father of modern hypnosis. His methodsbypassed the conscious mind through the use of both verbal and nonverbalpacing techniques including metaphor, confusion, and many others. He wasdefinitely a major influence in contemporary hypnotherapy’s acceptanceby the American Medical Association. There are many misconceptions abouthypnosis that are totally without basis. Such as, “Hypnotized personswill tell secrets or will always tell the truth. ” The truth is, hypnosiswill not cause a person to tell information the do not want to tell anda person under hypnosis can purposefully lie or remember in a distortedfashion.
Another myth about hypnotism is, “Hypnosis won’t work onhighly intelligent people. ” In reality innate characteristics suchas intelligence do not at all effect hypnotism. Any person however canresist being hypnotized either actively or passively, if they desire. Ibelieve that hypnotism would be a more commonly used method in medicineif it were not for all the myths going around about hypnotism. They areprobably the result of the very limited knowledge of exactly how hypnosisworks. Hypnosis has been used to treat a variety of physiological and behavioralproblems.
It can alleviate back pain and pain that comes from burns orcancer. It is controversial as to whether this actually works or not, butit is believed that it can be used to insure normal and safe childbirth. Hypnosis sometimes is employed to treat physical problems with a psychologicalcomponent, such as a circulatory disease known as Raynaud’s Syndrome. Ithas also been used to initiate behavioral changes, for example cigarettesmoking, overeating, insomnia, and the overcoming of phobia’s.
Althoughhypnotism has shown its uses as a fairly valuable medical tool, in thismodern “technological age” there are very few physicians whouse it. The major use of hypnotism in modern days, is entertainment. Performedas a sort of “Magic Show” it is used to cause some people tolaugh, and some people to be amazed. Hypnotism has come a long way since1734 and who knows what future developments will be made in this field?It may become a commonly used medical tool, or it may come to be thoughtof as a completely useless “magic trick”.