For the purpose of this essay, I will be attempting to show an understanding of hypnosis, and describe the psychological and physical aspects of hypnosis. I will also be discussing the role of relaxation in hypnotherapy. I will be using information learned from my course hand outs, and from the year one book list.
Hypnosis has been used by different cultures and religions around the globe for thousands of years, including the Australian Aborigines, North American Indians, the Hindu culture, the Chinese and even further back to the ancient Egyptians. In more modern times, hypnotism has been used as a form of entertainment, watched by “live show” audiences, and later on, TV shows, creating curiosity and fascination for many. It is this lighter area of hypnosis which has possibly contributed to the stigma which can surround hypnosis and hypnotherapy. The term “hypnosis” derives from the Greek word Hypnos, which means sleep, the words “hypnosis and “hypnotism” derive from the term “neuro-hypnotism” which means (nervous sleep). It is known that the Aborigines used a form of hypnosis to achieve their “Dream Time”, (altered state of consciousness and out of body experiences) which is still practiced to this day.
The Chinese use a hypnotic like trance called “Oigong” (exorcise of vital energy) within their healing system. It is estimated that approximately five per cent of the population of China practice this type of hypnosis, making this the most common type of hypnosis practiced in the world. However, although practitioners of , “Oigong” believe it increases mental and physical energy, some Chinese mental health officials believe there to be some harmful side effects, and would like to see the practice banned. Given the huge diverse applications for which hypnosis is used, for example, religious practices, healing, and physical and mental energizing, it is clear to see that hypnosis within entertainment, “the stage hypnotist” has but a small role to play within a vast and complex discipline. Hypnosis is “a special psychological state with certain physiological attributes, resembling sleep only superficially and marked by a functioning of the individual at a level of awareness other than the ordinary conscious state”, not asleep, yet not awake. There are different theories suggesting that hypnosis is a “mental state” and another that hypnosis is linked to “imaginative role-enactment”.
People under hypnosis are believed to have a heightened sense of focus and concentration, enabling them to concentrate intensely on a thought or a memory. It is at this point of focus and concentration when the person is able to change their thought process through suggestion. The level of concentration allows the person to block out all exterior noises, distractions and other thoughts. Hypnosis is achieved by using a hypnotist, using a procedure known as “hypnotic induction”.
Hypnosis can also be self-induced, which can be achieved by “self-suggestion” or “auto-suggestion” Hypnotic induction uses a series of suggestions and instructions, which takes the person through a process of “Progressive Muscle Relaxation” or “PMR”. “PMR” should be delivered using a much slower than normal speaking speed. By slowing down the speaking speed, the recipient will feel more relaxed, and will be able to enjoy the process. There are four main types of brain wave, which lead to differing stages of relaxation. 1/Beta Waves, (15 to 40 cycles per second)
This is considered to be the normal functioning level, during conversation. 2/Alpha Waves, (9 to 14 cycles per second)
This is a slower rate than the beta, and would be experienced while relaxing after an activity, and is considered to be a state of creativity and relaxation. 3/Theta Waves, (4 to 8 cycles per second)
These are experienced during meditative states and dreaming, and would be considered to be associated with calmness and serenity. 4/Delta Waves, (1 to 4 cycles per second)
This is considered to be the slowest rate and would be experienced in our deepest subconscious. This would be experienced while in a detached state of awareness or sleep or while under very deep hypnosis. Franz Anton Mesmer (from which the term mesmerise was derived) was born in Germany in 1734, and was the Grandfather of Hypnosis. Although Mesmer studied law and medicine, he had a passion and a belief in alternative therapies and medicine. After a lifetime of investigation and work, Mesmer died in 1815; however he left a legacy of intrigue and an army of followers and believers. One of these being the Marquis de Puysegur. De Puysegur joined a group called “The Society of Universal Harmony” originally run by Mesmer. After a succession of patients, De Puygesur found that the patients, while seemingly asleep, were able to talk and answer questions, while in the hypnotic state.
De Puygesur believed that hypnosis was the result of a psychological force rather than a physical one, which was argued, debated but then accepted by followers. Dr James Braid from Manchester gave light to the term “hypnosis”. Braid was originally against mesmerising, but eventually gained an interest, and began his own study. Braid concluded that any cures were as a result of suggestion through hypnosis. Braid continued his study and developed a technique called “eye fixation”. The state which eye fixation resulted in was Braids idea of hypnosis. Dr John Elliotson was the first person to demonstrate the use of hypnosis during surgery. Elliotson cured a dumb epileptic patient if front of an audience of medics. Elliotson also used hypnosis in surgical procedures, however died in 1868 after much controversy. Sigmund Freud went on to support the idea of hypnosis, and would often give talks to the medical fraternity. Although Freud was not considered to be a great hypnotist, he continued to use hypnosis in his work, but by the mid 1890’s Freud had all but given up on hypnosis. Modern hypnosis began with the birth of Milton Erickson (1901), who pioneered his work in “indirect suggestion”.
Erickson is considered by many to be the pioneer of modern hypnosis. After suffering with a series of terrible illnesses, Erickson dedicated his life to understanding the unconscious mind. Erickson believed that “the unconscious mind is always listening” and it did not appear to matter whether the patient was in a trance or not. Erickson believed that “suggestion” would have the desired effect on the mind, as long as it found some resonance at the unconscious level. As stated earlier, stage hypnosis plays a very small role within the field of hypnosis. There is a much greater importance for hypnosis, for example; hypnotherapy is now a widely accepted form of alternative treatment, and is accepted as such by professionals in the medical field. There are some conflicting and confusing perceptions of hypnosis. Many people believe that the hypnotist simply places a person into a form of hypnotic trance, where the person has no control of their own actions and thought’s; this however is not necessarily the case. John F Kihlstrom (Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania) stated “The hypnotist does not hypnotize the individual. Rather, the hypnotist serves as sort of a coach or tutor, whose job it is to help the individual become hypnotized”. The experience of hypnosis can vary greatly from one individual to another. Some people under the influence of hypnosis report a feeling of detachment and extreme relaxation.
Others state that their actions occur outside of their conscious state of mind, and others may be able to feel conscious, and are able to hold a conversation while under hypnosis. There have been many experiments undertaken using people under hypnosis, which have given credence to the subject. In one such experiment by Ernest Hilgard, (American psychologist and professor (1904 to 2001) famous for his research on hypnosis, particularly within the field of pain control) an individual under hypnosis was instructed not to feel any pain in their arm. The individuals arm was then placed into iced water, while the individuals who were not under hypnosis had to remove their arms from the water within seconds, the hypnotized individuals were able to leave their arms in the iced water for several minutes without feeling any pain. There are many examples where, illnesses and medical conditions, both physical and emotional, have been cured or greatly reduced in severity, for example; Rheumatoid Arthritis, dementia, ADHD, pain relief during surgical procedures, and pain during child birth.
There are known situations where individuals have undergone major surgical procedures, without any form of anaesthetic, and have experienced no pain or discomfort, such is the power of hypnosis. There is a common belief that some people simply cannot be hypnotised, however much research shows that many more people are hypnotizable than they believe. In studies and surveys, it has been shown that as little as ten per cent of all adults are considered either difficult or impossible to hypnotise. It also shows that children are more susceptible to hypnosis, and that people who are seen to be fantasists are also more responsive to hypnosis. To be successfully hypnotized, it is very important to enter with an open and clear mind, and to view hypnosis as a positive experience. In modern society, hypnosis is used very commonly as an alternative aid within areas such as; weight loss, the cessation of smoking, drug and alcohol addiction (reduction in use), fears and phobias.
People who may have a fear of flying or of spiders for example, have been known to be completely cured of their fear, allowing them to lead a more fulfilling and less stressful life. There also many myths with hypnosis, the obvious one being that the hypnotized individual does not remember anything of their hypnotic state once they are awake. Amnesia has been known to occur, however this is extremely rare. It is however known that hypnosis can affect an individual’s memory. “Posthypnotic amnesia” can lead to a person forgetting some of the things which occurred during hypnosis, however the effect is quite temporary, and limited in terms of information forgotten.
It is also a myth that an individual can be hypnotized against their own will. A person must be willing and happy to participate in order to be hypnotized. This is the same for people who believe they have no control over their own actions while under hypnosis. It is not possible for a hypnotist to force or influence a person into behaving in a manner which goes against their own morals and standards. Hypnosis is able to assist in a person making positive changes, however it is not able to change physical strength or enhance athleticism. Hypnosis should be seen as an additional and supportive aid to other forms of medicines and therapies, rather than a stand-alone discipline.
Hypnosis continues to intrigue and be a cause of debate for professionals and individuals alike, however, what cannot be disputed is its place within entertainment, but more importantly, its relevance within the medical field and as an alternative therapy. Hypnotherapy is now a widely accepted form of alternative therapy, practised by surgeons, physicians and independent private therapists. Although hypnosis and hypnotherapy are not considered as a replacement for medical treatments or medications, they are seen as an extremely useful addition and enhancement to these. Hypnosis has proven to be a positive life changing experience for many people, where other methods, and in some cases medicines have failed.
It is evidenced that individuals have greatly reduced their weight from life threatening obesity, and have been able to successfully cease using harmful substances such as alcohol, tobacco and other forms of drugs. The fundamentals of hypnosis and its basic principal’s remain unaltered for hundreds, possibly even thousands of years, however research and investigations by many great psychologists, has allowed a much greater understanding of this important and at times vital discipline. From the ancient Egyptians to modern day man/woman, hypnosis continues be an extremely effective alternative, within the field of physical and mental health and emotional wellbeing, and has also allowed a greater understanding of the workings of the human subconscious.
Course hand-outs/notes Hypnosis:- A Brief History. Chrysalis Psychotherapeutic Counselling-Year 1-Module 1. 1-1 07/2010 SC. Page 6. Hypnosis:- A Brief History. Chrysalis Psychotherapeutic Counselling-Year 1-Module 1. 1-1 07/2010 SC. Page 10. Hypnosis:- A Brief History. Chrysalis Psychotherapeutic Counselling-Year 1-Module 1. 1-1 07/2010 SC. Page 7.
About.com. Psychology. What is hypnosis. Psychology.about.com/od/statesofconsciousness/a/hypnosis.htm?p=1 En.wikepedia.org/wiki/Milton_h._erickson