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Hypnosis Essay, Research Paper


The British Medical Association and the American Medical Association has

called it “a temporary condition of altered attention in the subject that may

be induced by another person,” (Compton’s Multimedia Encyclopedia) but there is

still much about hypnosis that is not understood. Because it resembles normal

sleep, it was studied and was found that the brain waves of hypnotized people

are more similar to the patterns of deep relaxation than anything else. Rather

than a psychic or mystical idea, hypnosis is now looked upon as a form of

highly focused concentration in which outside influences are ignored.

The most known feature of the hypnotic trance is that hypnotized person

becomes easily influenced by the suggestions others-usually the hypnotist. They

retain their abilities to act and are able to walk, talk, speak, and respond to

questions; but their perceptions can be altered or distorted by external

suggestions. At the command of the hypnotist, subjects may lose all feeling in

a place on the body, and any kind of pain will not cause them any pain. The

heartbeat can be slowed or quickened, and a rise in temperature and perspiration

can be created. They can be commanded to experience visual or auditory

hallucinations or live the past as if it were the present. Also, recently a

scientist discovered that the way the subject’s mind experiences time can be

altered so that hours or even weeks can pass in second, from the subjects point

of view. Subjects may forget part or all of the hypnotic experience or recall

things that they had forgotten. The hypnotist may also make “posthypnotic

suggestions” that are instructions to the subject to respond to a something

after awakening. For example, the hypnotist might suggest that, after the

subject wakes up he will have an urge to remove his left shoe, and the more the

subject resists, the greater the urge to remove it will be, and once it is

removed the urge leaves. These suggestions are sometimes used by specialists

to repress or suggest away symptoms in a patient such as anxiety, itching, or


Hypnosis is produced essentially by creating a deep relaxation and

focused concentration in the subject. They then become mostly unresponsive to

ordinary forms of stimulation, and although they are sometimes told to sleep,

they are also told to listen and be ready to respond to commands made by the

hypnotist. The word sleep is used in hypnosis not to induce actual sleep, but

in practice it is understood that sleep is simply the hypnotic trance. The

prefix hypno- is named after the Greek god Hypno which means “sleep.” In this

state they will accept commands, even if the suggestions are illogical. In

general, however, subjects cannot be made to do something that conflicts with

their moral sense. This is because there are beliefs that are impossible to

change, because that person feels so strongly about it, subjects would not be

likely to commit murder or robbery even if the instructer told them to do so.

There are hypothetically two layers of “morals” that, of course cannot be seen.

On the first layer is the morals that were installed throughout the life of the

patient. The second layer is generally called the “fixed” morals. The

classical methods used to produce hypnosis are usually simple and frequently

employ direct commands or monotonous suggestions repeated continuously.

Subjects are requested to concentrate on the hypnotist’s voice, or they may be

asked to concentrate on some object or to concentrate on some repetitive sound.

The hypnotist tells the subject over and over again to feel relaxed, or to let

his or her eyelids grow heavy and close, to breathe deeply and comfortably, and

to go into a deep sleep. The degree of hypnosis is tested by challenging

subjects to perform some simple task while suggesting that they cannot do it.

For instance, the hypnotist may say, “You will be unable to open your eyes no

matter how hard you try, and the more you try, the more tightly they will be

closed.” The process of induction may take a few hours or a few seconds,

depending on how often the subject undergoes it, and also depends on how

willing the subject is. Usually, if suggestions are made during hypnosis that

it will be easy to induce hypnosis again, the subject will usually enter a

trance almost instantly upon an agreed signal from the hypnotist. In

conjunction with these induction methods, drugs such as sodium pentothal,

alcohol, and certain barbiturates may be used to make the procedure easier, but

these are hardly ever necessary and can sometimes even be dangerous. Aside from

normal methods, there are a number of specialized techniques used by some

psychiatrists to hypnotize their patients. There are a number of other

techniques as well-a blow to the side of the neck (a method used by some stage

magicians), among others-that are not approved by the medical profession and

that can be highly dangerous.

Subjects are wakened at the command of the hypnotist, who usually orders

them to return to their normal state and suggests that they will feel alert and

well afterward. Some subjects may still feel disoriented and drowsy for a

period following a trance. In order to produce hypnosis, the hypnotist should

have an authority over the subject. Many experts believe that the more the

subject believes in the power of the hypnotist, the more readily he or she will

give way to hypnotic suggestion. Many factors seem to contribute to hypnotic

susceptibility, however, but it is still unclear what these factors are. There

is evidence to indicate that a good subject tends not to be anxious, but to be

interested in new experiences, imaginative, and intelligent; some research also

suggests that hypnotic susceptibility is in part genetically determined. Only 5

or 10 percent of the population can be hypnotized deeply enough to experience

the very deepest of the hypnotic trance. This very deep trance is when the

border between sleep and extreme hypnosis starts to grow thin. Some of the

patients that can go this deep have actually dreamed, while still being fully

aware of everything around them. Estimates of susceptibility vary greatly

because of the continued disagreement concerning the exact nature of hypnosis.

Some authorities claim that anyone is potentially hypnotizable and that failure

to induce a hypnotic trance is due to either poor technique on the part of the

hypnotist or resistance on the part of the subject. There are also researchers

who assert that hypnotism, as it is generally understood, does not exist at all,

and thus the question of susceptibility is irrelevant. They believe that

hypnosis is not a result of some alteration in the subject’s capacities or

mental state but is a consequence of “role playing” based upon the subject’s

preconceptions of how hypnotized persons behave, their expectations, and their

willingness to volunteer and eagerness to experience something unusual.

When hypnosis first gained the attention of scientists, it was called

animal magnetism or mesmerism, after Franz Mesmer of Vienna. In the late 18th

century, Mesmer claimed to use it to heal certain ailments. He thought some

sort of magnetism was transferred from him to his patients, and that it changed

their body fluids. For many years mesmerism was denounced by medical

practitioners and generally associated with stage performances and superstition.

In the 19th century, before the discovery of anesthetics, physicians started

to use mesmerism in surgery. They found that a deeply hypnotized patient would

lie perfectly still and appear unaffected by pain, even during operations as

serious as an amputation. Around 1840 a doctor named James Braid created the

term hypnosis, which means a “nervous sleep.” The new name was more acceptable

than mesmerism, with its reputation of fraud, and it soon replaced the older

term. In the mid- to late 19th century several physicians, including Jean-

Martin Charcot and Sigmund Freud, became interested in the use of hypnosis in

the practice of medicine. Today hypnosis is widely and successfully used by

medical occupations such as surgeons, dentists, and psychotherapists.

Physicians may use it to remove anxiety or as an anesthetic. Psychotherapists

use it to relax the patient, to reduce resistance to therapy, to help their

memory, and even to treat some conditions. Hypnosis is also used in specialized

therapies such as those that help a person to stop smoking, eat less, or fight

specific fears, such as fear of heights. It is unclear, however, if such

procedures have any positive long-term effects. Hypnosis has also been used

during police interviews to help the witnesses with their memory. Regardless

of the application, hypnosis should be left to those who are properly trained.

When used by untrained persons it may have undesirable and even dangerous


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