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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 headaches.

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 effects.

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