Evaluating Hypnosis

The word hypnosis, first coined by James Braid and implying that the subject goes into some kind of magical sleep whereby they will do as they are instructed, gives an very inaccurate description of what hypnosis actually is. The subject does not go into any kind of magical altered zombie-like state, despite what many people believe. There are actually a lot of misconceptions about hypnosis in the general public. A more accurate description would be to say that it is a form of heightened communication utilizing the subjects suggestibility. Another misconception at this point is that suggestibility and gullibility are the same thing; they are not. Being gullible means that you are easily fooled whereas suggestibility is a vital and very natural human trait required for the learning process. Without suggestibility, if we put our hand into a hot fire and it burnt, we would not learn that we shouldn’t do it. Suggestibility is an essential part of human survival and a trait that we all need; everybody can be hypnotized. Without it we would be mentally dysfunctional, everybody can be hypnotized and actually goes into that state of mind several times a day naturally, such as becoming so engrossed in a television programme that they become unaware of their surroundings or daydreaming. This brings me on to the next misconception.

Many people believe that only weak-minded, vulnerable or mentally deficient people can be hypnotized. The truth is actually the opposite. The more intelligent a person is the easier it is to hypnotize them, as they can follow the instructions more clearly and with a higher intellectual capacity. People who are mentally weak or have some kind of mental deficiency are actually much harder to hypnotize as they may be unable to focus their attentiont for long periods of time (as an example). Anyone can be hypnotized and anyone can be put into a very mild form of trance almost instantly by using confusion. An example is to say to someone something like ‘Are you unaware of what you just said to me when you didn’t say it?’ Because they naturally need to first make sense of the sentence they automatically perform what is called a transderivational search, maybe for just a split second or so. For that moment their focus of attention has become internal searching their subconscious for a meaning to the sentence. Whenever we think of a memory that memory is internal and that’s where our focus of attention goes, the same as when we are dreaming. Therefore to say that hypnosis can only be performed on weak-minded or vulnerable people is the same as saying that you believe only weak-minded or vulnerable people are capable of dreaming.

Our brainwaves can be measured by means of EEG (ElectroEnCephalography) and these brainwaves alter when we go into altered states of consciousness. Hypnosis in concerned with alpha, beta, delta and theta. When a person is going to sleep their brainwave patterns change accordingly. Using hypnosis a subject can remain aware of their surroundings and become so relaxed that their brainwave patterns go to the same cycle rate as when they are dreaming. This is what is known as a hypnotic trance. When they relax their critical faculty also relaxes; the part of the mind which filters out any statements which the subject may disapprove of or reject while they are in a normal wake. While they are in this state, their critical faculty has become so relaxed that it is much easier to bypass using suggestions. If these suggestions are indirect or metaphorical that then helps to override the critical faculty. The same reason for many teachers advising their pupils to listen to recordings of their work throughout the night while they are asleep. The information is absorbed in some way whether you are aware of it or not; the same basis on which subliminal persuasion works. It’s a similar effect to when you start a new job, especially one which is extremely repetetive and tedious. After a day or two you are lying in bed trying to go to sleep and your work keeps running through your mind of it’s own accord. This is because you have been subject to it and it has become imprinted so strongly in your subconscious, it’s the same with smoking, it just becomes a habit naturally.

Anyone with an interst in hypnosis will have heard of NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) also described as software for the brain. It’s a form of applied psychology which has been turned more or less into a money making or pyramid scheme which many people take advantage of. Taken from NLP, The Milton Model, is a set of linguistic techniques derived from modelling the worlds leading hypnotherapist Milton H. Erickson, MD. Erickson would use metaphorical indirect language in normal everyday conversation (conversational hypnosis) while his subjects eyes remained open and they remained in full control. Erickson claims to have been subconsciously talented in his area of work, that is he didn’t quite know how he did what he did, he just did it. There are also other techniques within NLP that are utilized for hypnosis, such as embedded commands. You do not have to be asleep or have your eyes closed to be hypnotized, as it is actually a state of mind that you enter into several times a day while you are awake and fully alert, such as when you tell yourself to remember to do something. You are giving yourself a hypnotic suggestion to remember, if you didn’t you would simply forget.

I hope your understanding of what hypnosis actually is, is a lot clearer now!