Indications and Procedures (Magill’s Medical Guide, Sixth Edition)
The term “hypnosis” comes from the Greek word hypnos, meaning sleep. While scientists and researchers do not understand the exact nature of hypnosis, theorists agree that it is an altered state of consciousness occurring on a continuum of awareness. Hypnosis may occur naturally and spontaneously, as in the case of a daydream. The daydreamer is alert and awake but focuses attention inward rather than outward.
The trance state, often synonymous with the hypnotic state, is characterized by an altered psychological state and minimal motor functioning. A trance can be recognized by the individual’s glassy-eyed stare, lack of mobility, and unresponsiveness to external stimuli. A person in a trance state has a heightened receptivity to suggestion. Hypnosis, then, is a natural state that can be induced by another or by oneself (self-hypnosis) for a specific purpose. As a method of treatment, hypnosis, which is often used in conjunction with other approaches to alter psychophysiological states, promotes an understanding that allows for creative problem solving.
In the hypnotic state, the subject is not necessarily docile or submissive and may, because of unconscious processes, reject a suggestion given by even the most expert hypnotist. Four basic types of suggestion have been described: verbal, which includes words and any kind of sound; nonverbal, which applies to body language and gestures;...
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Uses and Complications (Magill’s Medical Guide, Sixth Edition)
Because the mind, body, and emotions are interdependent, factors that influence one influence the others as well. The roles of the mind and emotions in functional or psychophysiological (psychosomatic) illness are widely recognized, but in cases of organic illness, their importance is often underestimated.
Regardless of etiology (causes), there are physical and psychological components to all illness. Emotional states that continue over extended periods can produce physiological changes. The fear, resentment, or depression that often accompanies illness may prolong or exacerbate it and interfere with a patient’s willingness or ability to participate in treatment. Addressing such issues through hypnosis can greatly improve the overall medical management of a patient, from the initial diagnosis through all forms of treatment, including the treatment of unconscious and critically ill patients.
One advantage of modern clinical hypnosis is that it requires the practitioner to approach the patient as a whole person rather than as a collection of parts, one or more of which may be diseased. For the physician using hypnosis, a medical history goes beyond a list of past illnesses, allergies, and hospitalizations. A more comprehensive picture is developed that includes an understanding of a patient’s personality, present state of mind, and life history and the positive aspects as well as the stresses and strains of...
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Perspective and Prospects (Magill’s Medical Guide, Sixth Edition)
Although medical hypnosis is considered to have had its beginnings with the Viennese physician Franz Anton Mesmer (1733-1815) in the latter half of the eighteenth century, hypnosis, or something very similar to it, has been practiced by religious and other healers in various ways for centuries in most cultures. The earliest evidence of its existence was found among shamans, who were also referred to as “witch doctors,” “medicine men,” or “healers.”
In preparation for healing, a shaman adhered to certain practices that allowed his or her powers of concentration to be heightened. Placing himself or herself in isolation, the shaman began a descent into the “lower world.” This often meant visualizing an opening in the earth and a journey downward into that opening. The journey was frequently accompanied by rhythmic drumming, chanting, singing, or dancing. The monotonous rhythm and constancy allowed the shaman’s subconscious mind to become strongly focused, seek out the sick spirit of the patient, make it whole, and bring it back to the patient. The shaman actually engaged in a powerful process of visualization and suggestion during which the shaman willed the sick person to be healed.
In the eighteenth century, Mesmer recognized this ancient healing phenomenon and incorporated it into a theory of animal magnetism. Mesmer believed that a “cosmic fluid” could be stored in inanimate objects,...
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For Further Information: (Magill’s Medical Guide, Sixth Edition)
Brown, Peter. The Hypnotic Brain: Hypnotherapy and Social Communication. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1994. This scholarly work examines how communication in human beings arose, the importance of nonverbal communication, the rise in oral cultures, and evidence for the common “everyday” trance.
Burrows, Graham D., Robb O. Stanley, and Peter B. Bloom, eds. International Handbook of Clinical Hypnosis. New York: Wiley, 2001. Takes a practical approach in explaining both the scientific and clinical aspects of hypnosis and providing information on a range of available psychological and physical treatments.
Forrest, Derek. Hypnotism: A History. New York: Penguin, 2000. This book offers a history of hypnotism and its predecessor, mesmerism. Traces the major figures of mesmerism, leading up through Sigmund Freud and hypnotism’s influence in the twentieth century.
Hadley, Josie, and Carol Staudacher. Hypnosis for Change. 3d ed. New York: Ballantine Books, 2000. This popular account provides step-by-step details on the practice of self-hypnosis. It also offers a brief historical sketch of hypnosis, explores all facets of induction, and examines various aspects of hypnotic communication. Includes a bibliography.
Yapko, Michael D. Trancework: An Introduction to the Practice of Clinical Hypnosis. 3d ed. Washington, D.C.: Taylor & Francis, 2005....
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Introduction (Psychology and Mental Health)
Hypnosis derives its name from the Greek hypnos, which translates into English as “sleep.” Hypnosis was so named by the Scottish physician James Braid, who noted the sleeplike features of the somnambulistic trance. Though hypnosis may appear to be a sleeplike state, several differences exist between hypnosis and sleep. First, hypnotic subjects will respond to suggestions from the hypnotist. Second, hypnotizable subjects exhibit a phenomenon known as waking hypnosis, in which they will open their eyes and behave as if awake yet continue to be under hypnosis. Last, brain-wave recordings in hypnosis reveal primarily an alpha pattern characteristic of a relaxed state, while those in sleep reveal theta and delta activity.
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Theoretical Perspectives (Psychology and Mental Health)
If hypnosis is not a sleeplike state, how can it be characterized? Because two major theoretical views exist on hypnosis, the answer to that question is quite complex. From one perspective, hypnosis is an altered state of consciousness involving a trance state that is usually accompanied by heightened suggestibility. The primary feature of the hypnotic trance is the loss or suspension of a normal reality-testing orientation. Subjects become so absorbed in the hypnotist’s words that they subjectively create the reality of those suggestions and limit their awareness of the environment to a very narrow range of external stimuli. Other qualitative dimensions of the hypnotic trance include a loss of volition, a sense of unreality, a diminished sense of identity, and physical relaxation.
A view of hypnosis as a trance state or an altered state of consciousness is represented by the neo-dissociation theory, which was developed by Ernest Hilgard in 1973. He was conducting studies on the anesthetic properties of hypnosis. Hilgard produced cold pressor pain in his subjects by placing one of their arms into a circulating pool of ice water, which resulted in reports of intolerable pain in approximately one minute. In contrast, when hypnotic subjects were given suggestions for limb anesthesia, they reported low levels of pain or the complete absence of pain. Yet if subjects were told to write down their experience, they...
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Hypnotic Responsiveness and Susceptibility (Psychology and Mental Health)
Measurements of hypnotic responsiveness are typically undertaken with two scales: the Harvard Group Scale of Hypnotic Susceptibility, Form A (HGSHS:A), and the Stanford Hypnotic Susceptibility Scale, Form C (SHSS:C). The HGSHS:A is used primarily as a screening device for large groups. Most of its suggestions are motor in nature, although some cognitive ones are included. The SHSS:C is usually administered to individuals and includes both cognitive and motor suggestions. Generally, the SHSS:C is considered to be a better measure of hypnotic susceptibility. Both scales include a sample of twelve total suggestions, with high hypnotizables defined as 9 to 12 on each scale, mediums as 4 to 8, and lows as 0 to 3.
Exactly what makes some people more hypnotizable than others is not entirely clear. Surprisingly, personality traits are not reliably correlated with hypnotic susceptibility. Instead, the following three cognitive variables seem to be more strongly related to hypnotic susceptibility: imaginative involvement, concentrated attention, and suspension of reality testing. In general, the higher a person scores on these three variables, the more hypnotizable that person tends to be. One thing is certain: There is no correlation between hypnotic susceptibility and strength of will. Although hypnosis reduces inhibitions and increases compliance to suggestions the subject considers to be acceptable,...
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Use in Pain Control (Psychology and Mental Health)
Among forms of altered consciousness, hypnosis may have the greatest practical utility. Hypnosis has been used to control pain, to treat behavior disorders, and to recover lost memories or enhance existing memories of eyewitnesses.
The use of hypnotic anesthesia has a long history, beginning with surgical amputation allegedly performed by the British physician W. S. Ward in 1842. Ward’s report was strongly criticized at the time, but evidence suggests that it was legitimate. Another early report of hypnotic anesthesia use was provided by the nineteenth century Scottish physician James Esdaile, who was practicing in India at the time. Esdaile performed more than thirteen hundred operations on hypnotized subjects in the 1840’s. Many of those surgeries involved the removal of scrotal tumors, which resulted in a recovery rate of only 50 percent for unanesthetized patients. With the use of hypnotic anesthesia, however, the mortality rate dropped to 5 percent. Esdaile’s findings were also criticized by the British scientific community on the rather dubious and racist grounds that “native” assistants hypnotized the patients and that the patients actually liked to undergo operations.
The effectiveness of hypnotic anesthesia and analgesia has been examined in a number of well-controlled laboratory studies. Using cold pressor pain, Ernest and Josephine Hilgard demonstrated that hypnotic analgesia significantly...
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Behavior Disorders Treatment (Psychology and Mental Health)
A second major field of application for hypnosis has been in the treatment of behavior disorders. Hypnotherapy has been used to treat a variety of behavior disorders, including smoking and obesity, both of which involve poor habit control. The use of hypnotherapy to alter bad habits may be successful because the strength of the habit is not in full force in an altered state of consciousness. In a normal waking state, the habit exerts its dominance over the patient’s behavior and may be difficult to reshape or modify. In addition, the highly concentrated state of attention in hypnosis may allow patients to direct all of their resources to the task of altering the negative habit.
Hypnotherapy in the treatment of smoking and obesity seems to be more effective with several treatment sessions or with procedures for reinforcing the hypnotic suggestions on a daily basis. For example, in 1975, H. E. Stanton combined the following hypnotic procedures to treat overweight patients: direct suggestions to reduce food intake, ego-enhancing suggestions to improve self-esteem, self-hypnosis to reinforce the therapist’s suggestions, and hypnosis audiotapes to provide additional support following the completion of formal treatment. The combined use of these hypnotic procedures resulted in marked weight loss among patients who completed the therapeutic process.
Although repeated hypnotherapy sessions appear to be most...
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Evolution of Practice (Psychology and Mental Health)
Franz Mesmer, an Austrian physician, is generally credited with the discovery of hypnosis. In his medical practice, Mesmer was sometimes confronted with patients who reported symptoms of physical illness but did not manifest any underlying physical pathology. To treat these seemingly incurable patients, Mesmer would pass magnets over the patients’ bodies. In many cases, the patient would go into what Mesmer described as a “crisis,” with trembling, twitching, intense pain at body regions associated with symptoms, and sometimes convulsions. After completion of the magnetic therapy, most patients would report a relief of symptoms. Eventually, Mesmer discovered that a cure could be wrought by simply passing his hands over the patient, usually accompanied by soft, soothing words.
One of Mesmer’s students, Armand-Marie Jacques de Chastenet, the marquis de Puységur, disliked the rather violent and painful magnetic “crises” elicited in patients. While treating a young male patient, Puységur discovered that a peaceful, sleeplike state, resembling sleepwalking and talking in sleep, could be spontaneously induced. Because of its resemblance to these phenomena, he coined the term “artificial somnambulism” (“somnambulism” is now used as the scientific term for sleepwalking). Puységur later reproduced this trance state by suggesting it overtly.
It was left to the nineteenth century Scottish physician...
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Future Research (Psychology and Mental Health)
Future research will continue to examine the controversy that surrounds the fundamental nature of hypnosis—whether it induces a trance state or is simply role modeling, an instance of simulation. This controversy continues to fester, with no apparent end in sight to the heated debate. Additional research will also be needed to understand why some people are hypnotizable and others are not. Some cognitive and physiological correlates of hypnotizability have been discovered, but such correlations are only moderate in magnitude. Research into potential clinical applications of hypnosis will continue to be a central focus. Hypnotherapy is only in its infancy and will require much research to provide it with a solid scientific foundation. Finally, exploring the range of hypnotic effects on psychological and behavioral processes will continue to be a central concern among researchers. Only tightly controlled laboratory investigations will yield answers to questions such as what perceptual and cognitive processes are affected by hypnosis, how, and why.
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Sources for Further Study (Psychology and Mental Health)
Hilgard, Ernest Ropiequet, and Josephine Rohrs Hilgard. Hypnosis in the Relief of Pain. Rev. ed. New York: Brunner/Mazel, 1994. Provides a comprehensive review of the Hilgards’ own research on hypnotic anesthesia and analgesia, as well as the research of others. Examines the physiological and psychological bases of pain and explores laboratory and clinical methods of controlling pain with hypnosis. Highly recommended for college students and advanced high school students.
Kirsch, Irving, Antonio Capafons, Etzel Cardena, and Salvador Amigo, eds. Clinical Hypnosis and Self-Regulation: Cognitive-Behavioral Perspectives. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association, 1999. A collection of papers, written for professionals. Argues that hypnosis is underused in clinical settings and attempts to show its benefits.
Pintar, Judith, and Steven Lynn. Hypnosis: A Brief History. Malden, Mass.: Wiley-Blackwell, 2008. Offers in-depth explanation of how hypnosis can be used to treat pain and anxiety; also describes how hypnosis can be dangerous in the hands of incompetent therapists.
Sheehan, Peter W., and Kevin M. McConkey. Hypnosis and Experience: The Exploration of Phenomena and Process. New York: Brunner/Mazel, 1996. An advanced treatise on hypnosis, focusing on the experiential analysis of hypnotic phenomena, such as ideomotor responses, age regression, hypnotic dreams...
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Hypnosis (Encyclopedia of Psychology)
A temporary narrowing of conscious awareness.
Practiced since ancient times, hypnosis or hypnotism remains difficult to define accurately and completely. Although the word hypnosis comes from the Greek word hypnos, for sleep, hypnosis is actually an intense state of concentration.
There are three degrees of hypnosis. Under light hypnosis, the subject becomes sleepy and follows simple directions; under deep hypnosis, the person experiences dulling of sensory perception, similar to that of anesthesia. Under deep hypnosis, the subject can move about, open his or her eyes, and can even undergo medical procedures with no additional anesthetic. Magicians and illusionists use deep hypnosis to make a subject behave in unusual ways, such as to suspend the subject's body between two chairs in a posture that is completely stiff. The magician suggests that the subject's body become stiff and rigid, and the result is muscle tension powerful enough to support the body completely. Many researchers contend that the key factor in hypnosis is the subject's willingness to cooperate with the hypnotist, combined with the subject's belief that hypnosis works. People who are easily hypnotized are described as "suggestible"; in fact, if the subject expects to be successfully hypnotized, it is much more likely that he or she will....
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Hypnosis (International Dictionary of Psychoanalysis)
Hypnosis is the altered state of consciousness brought on by a hypnotist using various techniques (staring at an object, verbal commands, etc.). The English physician James Braid, in his Neurhypnology (1843), popularized, or may even have coined, the word "hypnotism." "Hypnosis" appears to have come into use later.
Braid sought to replace unscientific ideas and practices with a scientific conception of a "peculiar state of the nervous system induced by a fixed and abstracted attention of the mental and visual eye." He also hoped to do away with what magnetizers called "rapport." In the mid-nineteenth century, the English physiologist William Carpenter provided scientific support for "Braidism" by making hypnosis the paradigm of the reflexive and automatic activity that he called "unconscious cerebration." Introduced to the topic by the young physiologist Charles Richet, Jean Martin Charcot experimented with hypnosis on hysterical patients in his clinic starting in 1878, basing himself on Braid's and especially Carpenter's neurological approach. In 1882, in an article that was noted by the Académie des Sciences, he identified a pathology unique to hysterics, the "grand hypnotism" characterized by three specific nervous states (catalepsy, lethargy, and somnambulism).
Starting in 1860 in Nancy, where he had set up a "clinic," Ambroise Liebeault also made use of hypnotism, employing methods established by J.-P. Durand de Gros, one of the proponents of Braidism in France. He paid special attention to Braid's experiments with suggestion, using hypnotic suggestion for therapeutic purposes, unlike Charcot, whose practice was almost purely experimental. Hippolyte Bernheim went even further and treated hypnosis as a particular type of suggestion. He also popularized the term "psychotherapy," which he borrowed from the Briton Hack Tuke, and practiced psychotherapy by means of suggestion with and without hypnotism. After 1884 two opposing schools of hypnosis developed around Charcot and Bernheim. In Paris, the emphasis was on the idea of a pathological nervous state; in Nancy, on that of a link or psychological influence that was not necessarily pathological.
Nonetheless, although they often took their cue from a particular school, some practitioners and researchers tried to look beyond prevailing theoretical and therapeutic dogmas. The psychotherapist could thus refuse merely to issue commands, and attempt through hypnosis, to discover memories forgotten during waking life that could be at the root of neurotic symptoms (see the case of Pierre Marie in L'Automatisme psychologique by Pierre Janet, 1889). Several stories of cures associated with the return of forgotten memories were published at the end of the nineteenth century.
In discussions of hypnotic suggestion the question of "rapport" was again raised. Joseph Delboeuf introduced the idea of reciprocal suggestion. Pierre Janet and Alfred Binet spoke of "electivity," of "somnambulant passion" and "experimental love." Additionally, there was interest in the psychology of hypnotic states of consciousness. These were described in terms of dissociation (Janet) or hypnoid states (Sigmund Freud and Josef Breuer). Finally, contrary to the dominant medical view at the time, the idea arose that the unconscious was not only reflexological but psychological. Experiments with post-hypnotic suggestion, in which a subject, while awake, obeys an order given during a hypnosis that he has apparently forgotten, seemed to the philosopher Henri Bergson to prove the existence of unconscious ideas and a psychological unconscious. Freud the psychoanalyst undoubtedly emerged from this plethora of research and debate: 1885-1886 (Paris), 1889 (Nancy), and 1895 (publication of the Studies on Hysteria).
Hypnosis refers both to a state of consciousness (or unconsciousness) and to a relationship. True to the legacy of Charcot and Bernheim, present-day proponents of hypnology are still divided into "statists" and "relationists." Some points of view, especially within the relationist school, draw on psychoanalysis, while others seek to reinstate hypnotism as part of an anti-psychoanalytic tendency. For hypnosis, like animal magnetism before it, does not refer only to a state or to a relationship. Since the nineteenth century it has become a magical word with strong negative or positive connotations and as many staunch advocates as militant opponents tireless vector of fascination and stigma.
The practice, phenomenology, and theory of hypnosis have evolved, of course, since the time of James Braid, and hypnosis can now be seen as a largely cultural phenomenon. All the same, some questions, contradictory and probably unanswerable, seem to remain after more than a century. Is the hypnotic state akin to sleep and dreaming, or to wakefulness and lucidity? Does it imply an unconscious dispossession, or is it a form of playacting? And is "hypnosis" a functional concept that can explain certain phenomenon, or a word that precipitates the very state it is supposed to account for?
See also: Alienation; Anna O., case of; Autosuggestion; Bernheim, Hippolyte; Cäcilie M., case of; Cathartic method; Charcot, Jean Martin; Chertok, Léon (Tchertok, Lejb); Cinema and psychoanalysis; "Confusion of Tongues between Adults and the Child"; Congrès international de l'hypnotisme expérimental et scientifique, Premier; Cure; Delboeuf, Joseph Rémi Léopold; Emmy von N., case of; Five Lectures on Psycho-Analysis; Freud's Self-analysis; Freud, the Secret Passion; Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego; Hypnoid states; Janet Pierre; Liebault Ambroise Auguste; "Lines of Advance in Psycho-Analytic Therapy"; Look, gaze; Masochism; Negative hallucination; Psychoanalytic treatment; Psychotherapy; Relaxation psychotherapy; Repression, lifting of; Resistance; Self-consciousness; Studies on Hysteria; Suggestion; Trance; Qu'est-ce que la suggestion? (What is suggestion?).
Carroy, Jacqueline. (1991). Hypnose, Suggestion et Psychologie: l'invention de sujets. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France.
Chertok, Léon, and Stengers, Isabelle. (1992). A critique of psychoanalytic reason: Hypnosis as a scientific problem from Lavoisier to Lacan (Martha Noel Evans in collaboration with the authors, Trans.). Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press. (Original work published 1989)
Ellenberger, Henri F. (1970). The discovery of the unconscious: The history and evolution of dynamic psychiatry. New York: Basic Books.
Freud, Sigmund. (1921c). Group psychology and the analysis of the ego. SE, 18: 65-143.