Hypnosis is a trance-like, or sleep-like state that is induced by a trained therapist, physician or hypnotist. A person in a hypnotic trance may respond to the suggestion that he or she will feel no pain and the technique is sometimes used when an anesthetic cannot be used. A hypnotized person may also remember events and incidents that he or she cannot recall when awake and so the technique can be of value in psychiatry. About 80 per cent of people can be put into a light trance in which everything is remembered. Hypnotherapy is sometimes successfully used in the treatment of drug addiction.
This is a special form of sleep induced under the influence of an operator who suggests the idea of sleep in various ways. The hypnotic state presents three phases which merge into each other. The first is that of catalepsy or trance in which the limbs though rigid may be molded at the will of the operator; the second is that of lethargy in which the whole body appears placid and the subject unconscious; the third is that of artificial somnambulism in which the subject is extremely susceptible to suggestion.
In this last phase the subject may be made to perform actions which were impossible to him in his waking state; also he may be enabled to remember incidents which previously-were beyond recall. Hidden or repressed memories may be discovered in this way. Suggestions given in the hypnotic state are carried out subsequently when awake but without cognizance of the reason of their performance or of the existence of the hypnotic command.
The condition is induced in a variety of ways. The subject must co-operate with the operator and should be en rapport with him. The subject lies on a comfortable couch in a quiet dark room; he is encouraged to relax physically and mentally and to adopt a receptive frame of mind. He is then asked to fix his attention on a bright object held in such a position as to induce a slight eye-strain and consequent fatigue. The operator then commences in a slow, low, monotonous but confident voice to suggest the idea of sleep. Success largely depends on the co-operation of the subject and the confidence of the operator. Women as a rule are more easily hypnotized than men. Once hypnotism is established it is an easy matter to hypnotize on subsequent occasions, and the dangers of its misuse are obvious. The hypnotized subject, if left alone and without any suggestion to the contrary, falls into a natural sleep and eventually wakes up.
Hypnotism may be utilized as a form of psycho-therapy to revive repressed memories and so allow further psychological investigation, or more commonly it is adopted as a means of giving curative suggestions. In this latter application it is necessary to repeat the beneficial suggestions under hypnosis on several occasions in order to produce a result of some permanency. Hysterical manifestations may be got rid of in this way.