Hypnosis is derived from the Greek word “Hypnos.” The word Hypnos simply means “to sleep.” The trance-like state induced from a suggestion by an individual is supposedly similar to a sleeping state of mind (The American). After the encouraged trance has begun further suggestions to the individual being hypnotized will be asserted. The end result reflects the suggestions stressed throughout the hypnotic state. The suggestions are said to generate outcomes ranging from smoking cessation to reviving suppressed childhood memories. But there is no scientific theory that supports the existence of hypnosis.
Everyone enjoys some variation of entertainment. That is the simple idea behind the stage hypnotist. A performance begins with a hypnotist making a suggestion to the entire audience. For example, the hypnotist will say that only intelligent people can be hypnotized. While observing the reaction of the suggestion from the crowd, the hypnotist will visually mark individuals that appear to be social and willing to play along. After the surmise of the suspected audience, the hypnotist will select a group of participants. The chosen contestants of group hypnosis will have multiple ideas gradually planted in their minds after the alleged trance has begun. At this point the subjects can accept or reject suggestions given by the hypnotist. However, not everyone can be hypnotized. Only a few individuals respond well to hypnosis.
Hypnotizable people do have a greater level of suggestibility. There is no explanation of why some people are more suggestible than others. Weak or strong minded participants do not appear to have any differences being induced to a hypnotic state. The difference occurs after the hypnotic trance has begun. While in a trance a subject with greater suggestibility has the ability to follow the proposed plan. Furthermore, the belief in hypnotism can influence the subject’s experience in a trance, creating a deeper trance where the subject accepts the authority of the hypnotist over the knowledge the subject possess.
The practice of hypnosis has been labeled by gullibility and fraud. Many practitioners and scientists have supported the research of hypnotherapy. However, debated theories and research have not provided any substantial evidence to uphold the credibility of hypnotherapy. The controversy over hypnosis has been around for a long time. It began when Franz Mesmer discovered the root of hypnosis in the 18th century (Wikipedia). Mesmer stumbled upon the trance state, mesmerism, while using his magnetism to cure gullible patients of their diseases and illnesses. Magnets were simply passed over a patient to alleviate ailing symptoms, and Mesmer’s patients were fascinated. Because of the placebo effect, on the patients seeking a cure, the newly discovered magic was a success. The fraud of Mesmer’s procedure is still reflected towards hypnosis patients today. Many new age practices, palm readers, fortune tellers, and magicians rely heavily on the simple gullibility of people.
The media is very skeptical of mesmerism or hypnotism—the modern term. In popular media hypnotism is thoroughly scrutinized. The credibility of hypnotherapists has been weak from the start. Musicians, writers, journalists, actors, and directors express their views on the topic of hypnotism. Most of the media confronts the techniques used to achieve hypnosis. Mass audience hypnosis is a good example of a controversial technique. The technique involves the speaker creating rapport with the crowd by addressing and establishing common desires and wishes. The audience will now be more likely to accept suggestions from the speaker. Mass audience hypnosis combined with recent concern about brainwashing and mind control, continues to fuel the dispute. Mostly political and religious crowds are subject to this form of hypnotism.
Waking and environmental are variations in the application hypnosis. The most common of these variations is environmental hypnosis. The environmental variation is a naturally occurring trance. Repetitive tasks such as walking or driving can make a person oblivious to distractions resulting in a trance-like state. The best example is “highway” hypnosis. The monotony of the passing external surroundings, such as lane markings, can cause a driver to separate from consciousness. On the other hand, waking hypnosis involves changing the behavior of a subject without using an induced trance. The placebo effect is a waking variation of hypnosis: a subject completely believes the harmless substance is a drug. For waking hypnosis to work an individual must be completely trusting of the suggestion being made. Reflexes of the human body, such as breathing or blinking, are used in the suggestions presented by the hypnotist.
There are many dangers associated with hypnotism. Researchers believe that false memories can be generated from the unconscious mind during a trance state. A hypnotic subject can still have an active conscious. With the conscious mind switched on, a subject can create these false memories from suggestions made during a trance state. When the conscious mind is required to interpret suggestions, undesirable results can happen. An untrained hypnotist can cause reactions that they aren’t trained to handle. Extreme emotions can occur when a subject recalls traumatic events like sexual abuse. If the false memory has not been properly managed by the hypnotist, the false memory can reoccur throughout the life of that person.
At its core, hypnosis is nothing more than a scam with a lure of entertainment. It is the stuff of cheap Las Vegas acts, anti-smoking and weight loss scams, or bogus self-help books. The main reason that hypnosis is still practiced is because of the trance phenomena. Society keeps the act alive by expressing interest in all types of phenomenal and supernatural events. Our minds will always be drawn towards unexplainable mysteries. Hypnotism should not be taken seriously. Then again, the lack of veracity in hypnosis should warrant caution when pursuing this unethical trance.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language. Hypnosis. 21 October 2003. 9 February 2008
Wikipedia contributors. Franz Mesmer. 11 February 2008. 25 February 2008