Hypnotism Essay, Research Paper

The Encarta Encyclopedia defines hypnosis as,”altered state of consciousness and

heightened responsiveness to

suggestion; it may be induced by normal persons by a variety of methods and has been

used occasionally in medical and

psychiatric treatment. Most frequently brought about through actions of an operator, or

“hypnotist”, who engages the

attention of a subject and assigns certain tasks to him or her while uttering monotonous,

repetitive verbal commands; such

tasks may include muscle relaxation, eye fixation, and arm leviation. Hypnosis also may be

self-induced, by trained

relaxation, concentration on one’s own breathing, or by a variety of monotonous practices

and rituals that are found in

many mystical, philosophical, and religious systems.” Another generally reliable source

Webster’s New Universal

Unabridged Dictionary defines it as,”a sleep like condition psychically induced, usually by

another person, in which the

subject loses consciousness but responds, with certain limitations, to the suggestions of the

hypnotist.” As I stated earlier,

these two sources are very reputed and the general population believes that they are

correct. Yet, however often they

may be correct, in this case they are not, or at least not completely. Not according to the

scientific community at least.

My sources for this statement are The World Book Encyclopedia, The Wizard from

Vienna: Franz Anton Mesmer,

Applied Hypnosis: An Overview, American Medical Journal, and Hypnosis: Is It For

You? Although they state it in

different ways they all basically agree that nobody can give a very accurate definition or

description of hypnosis, or

hypnosis. Although some may get the definition partly correct, the chances of doing so

completely are very, very low. So

although I will probably not be able to give a totally accurate account of hypnosis and its

workings, I will try. Although

evidence suggests that hypnosis has been practiced in some form or another for several

thousand years, such as in coal

walking, the earliest recorded history of hypnosis begins in 1734. It begins with a man

named Franz Anton Mesmer.

Although he was eventually disavowed by the scientific community because of his

unorthodox methods that made him

seem more of a mysticist that a scientist, he is generally known as the father of hypnotism.

Mesmer called his methods

Mesmerism, thus the word mesmerize, but the name didn’t stick, it later changed to

hypnosis, its name being derived from

Hypnos, the Greek god of sleep. He believed that hypnosis was reached by using a

person’s “animal magnetism”. He

used “mesmerism” to cure illness. In 1795 an English physician named James Braid, who

was originally opposed to

Mesmer’s methods became interested. He believed that cures were not due to animal

magnetism however, but the power

of suggestion. This was the generally accepted opinion of the scientific community. Then in

1825 Jean Marie Charcot, a

French neurologist, disagreed with “The Nancy School of Hypnotism”, which followed the

guidelines of James Braid’s

ideas. Charcot believed that hypnosis was simply a “manifestation of hysteria”. He revived

Mesmer’s theory of animal

magnetism and identified the three stages of the trance; lethargy, catalepsy, and

somnambulism. Ivan Petrovich Pavlov

(1849-1936) was not a scientist who worked with hypnosis. Although he had nothing to

do with the hypnotic

development itself, his Stimulus Response Theory is a cornerstone linking and anchoring

behaviors, particularly NLP

(Neuro-Linguistic Programming). Emily Coue (1857-1926) a physician, formulated the

Laws of Suggestion which are

greatly used in the hypnotic community. Her first law is The Law of Concentrated

Attention: “Whenever attention is

concentrated on an idea over and over again, it spontaneously tends to realize itself”. The

second law is- The Law of

Reverse Action: “The harder one tries to do something, the less chance one has of

success.” Finally, the last law is The

Law of Dominant Effect: “A stronger emotion tends to replace a weaker one.” Milton

Erickson (1932-1974), a

psychologist and psychiatrist pioneered the art of indirect suggestion in hypnosis. He is

considered the father of modern

hypnosis. His methods bypassed the conscious mind through the use of both verbal and

nonverbal pacing techniques

including metaphor, confusion, and many others. He was definitely a major influence in

contemporary hypnotherapy’s

acceptance by the American Medical Association. There are many misconceptions about

hypnosis that are totally without

basis. Such as, “Hypnotized persons will tell secrets or will always tell the truth.” The truth

is, hypnosis will not cause a

person to tell information the do not want to tell and a person under hypnosis can

purposefully lie or remember in a

distorted fashion. Another myth about hypnotism is, “Hypnosis won’t work on highly

intelligent people.” In reality innate

characteristics such as intelligence do not at all effect hypnotism. Any person however can

resist being hypnotized either

actively or passively, if they desire. I believe that hypnotism would be a more commonly

used method in medicine if it

were not for all the myths going around about hypnotism. They are probably the result of

the very limited knowledge of

exactly how hypnosis works. Hypnosis has been used to treat a variety of physiological

and behavioral problems. It can

alleviate back pain and pain that comes from burns or cancer. It is controversial as to

whether this actually works or not,

but it is believed that it can be used to insure normal and safe childbirth. Hypnosis

sometimes is employed to treat

physical problems with a psychological component, such as a circulatory disease known

as Raynaud’s Syndrome. It has

also been used to initiate behavioral changes, for example cigarette smoking, overeating,

insomnia, and the overcoming of

phobia’s. Although hypnotism has shown its uses as a fairly valuable medical tool, in this

modern “technological age” there

are very few physicians who use it. The major use of hypnotism in modern days, is

entertainment. Performed as a sort of

“Magic Show” it is used to cause some people to laugh, and some people to be amazed.

Hypnotism has come a long

way since 1734 and who knows what future developments will be made in this field? It

may become a commonly used

medical tool, or it may come to be thought of as a completely useless “magic trick”.

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