Purpose and Limitations of Hypnosis
The practice of hypnosis dates back to ancient Egypt where “Sleep temples” were used for healing the body and treating emotional troubles. A high priest would put the afflicted to sleep and the person would receive a post hypnotic suggestion, although not labeled as such at the time, and many times their ailments would be healed.
The term hypnosis was coined by Scottish physician James Braid in the 1800’s. He had absent mindedly left a patient under operating lights for a few hours. Upon returning he noticed his patient was in a strange sort of trance, which he named neuro-hypnosis.
Braid had accidentally stumbled across an ancient technique which had once been used for healing purposes. However, before Braid had discovered his method, Viennese physician Franz Anton Mesmer (1734-1815) had also practiced a similar technique. Mesmer believed the experience to be caused by what he called animal magnetism.
Mesmer reportedly placed patients in a tub of water containing magnetic filings. After a period of time, sometimes up to 24hrs, he would order them to be healed.
Apparently the treatments worked as it was said there was often a lengthy line of people waiting to see him. Obviously Mesmer was ahead of his time because he was publicly condemned for his odd practice. Its’ practical purpose of pain control was eventually replaced with ether in 1721.
Although today, extensive research has been conducted on hypnosis. Because of its’ intangible properties hypnosis is a difficult subject to fathom. Therefore, many scientists believe hypnosis is not a real science and its’ use has been regulated to that of a placebo or New Age panacea. Any attempts at measuring hypnotic states have resulted in little information as to how it works.
In Hollywood movies and on entertainment stages hypnosis has been portrayed as a means to control unwilling subjects. However, research has proven subjects will not carry out hypnotic suggestions which they wouldn’t do normally.
Suggestions are either ignored, or the subject awakens. Moreover, many believe hypnosis is merely a state of unconsciousness. To the contrary, subjects remain aware of their surroundings and what’s being said.
Another misconception is only certain people can be hypnotized. This isn’t entirely true. Almost anyone can experience hypnosis. For example, driving for extended hours may result in environmental hypnosis. Another form of hypnosis is referred to as waking hypnosis. Such as when a doctor informs a patient an injury will take a certain amount of time to heal…and it takes exactly that long.
There are many perceptions about what hypnosis really is. Research has focused mainly on proving it works… not how it does.
Stage hypnotism, provided for entertainment, evokes images of people doing things they wouldn’t normally do and having no memory of it. It suggests one has no control when hypnotized. It merely appears that way. Stage hypnotists are very proficient in choosing participants who are easily susceptible to suggestions. But this is not the same as hypnotherapy.
In order to clarify the difference, consider the common daydream. In a daydream, focus is not on external activities. Attention is centered on a trancelike, imaginary reality conjured up in the mind. In effect one can become so absorbed track is lost of what's happening in the immediate environment.
Another common occurrence many have probably experienced is driving and listening to the car radio. An old song can trigger feelings and memories of the past.
These experiences occur in hypnosis. The first, becoming deeply absorbed in fantasy and losing track of reality around you is, literally, a trance state. Remembering past life events is called "age regression" in hypnosis.
Hypnosis is using the brain's natural processing abilities in a focused way in order to enable shifts in thinking and sensory perceptions. The catalyst is language. The secret to hypnosis is how language is used in order to achieve a hypnotic state. It’s about what and how something is said. Speaking slowly triggers a body's natural relaxation response. Once a subject is relaxed it becomes easier to illicit a trancelike condition.
Once a comfort zone has been established, the ability to alter a persons’ mental experience through age regression becomes easier. In the same manner, envisioning the future positively is also possible. The objective is to create a mental experience duplicating reality. All five senses are involved in this creation.
So fundamentally, hypnosis is a tool to effect changes in thinking, feeling, sensing and behavior using refined linguistic skills. In its’ most primitive form hypnosis is a great means of stress management.
Hypnosis was recognized by the American Medical Association as a viable tool in 1958, but recently it has received greater acceptance. Advanced hypnotherapeutic techniques have been used successfully in treating such conditions as attention deficit disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, eating disorders and irritable bowel syndrome.
Today, hypnotherapists often concentrate in specialized areas of treatment. Sessions can last up to an hour and are basically a combination of focusing and visualization techniques accompanied with appropriate suggestions. How many sessions will be needed depends on the subject and kind of therapy needed. Some patients are easy to hypnotize and a small faction can’t be hypnotized at all.
Self Hypnosis is another area which has recently become popular. Self Hypnosis usually consists of personalized training by a tutorial on CD or DVD. A little practice may be necessary to learn to self-hypnotize successfully.
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