Hypnosis has long been associated with the strange and mysterious, with side shows and faith healers. But the truth is that hypnosis is not the least bit mysterious nor is it difficult to learn and master.
I would define hypnosis as a state of guided sleep known as the ‘hypnotic trance’ where the subject retains awareness of the surroundings and responds to suggestions put during the trance state.
Marmer described hypnosis as a psycho-physiological tetrad of altered consciousness:
Narrowed awareness Restricted but focused attentiveness Selective wakefulness, and; Heightened suggestibility.
Hypnosis, thus, shows 3 specific characteristics:
An increased concentration of the mind An increased relaxation of the body An increased susceptibility to suggestion.
1. Increased concentration of mind: Usually in the wakeful state, our ‘units of mind power’ are scattered throughout the brain. Any extraneous suggestions during this stage will go scattered throughout and will be captured only by a few mind power units. In the hypnotic state, these units of mind power are concentrated to a point that the suggestions get absorbed and retained easier.
2. Increased relaxation of the body: Popular hypnotic induction involves the progressive muscular relaxation techniques, whereby muscle groups are tensed and relaxed gradually to achieve a fully relaxed body and mind.
3. Increased susceptibility to suggestion: This is the outcome of the preceding 2 phenomena, the concentration of mind and the relaxed body. The mind, which is in a twilight zone between the wakefulness and sleep, is highly receptive to suggestions during the hypnotic state.
In hypnotherapy, once in this state, called a hypnotic trance, patients are given therapeutic suggestions to encourage changes in behaviour or relief of symptoms. For example, in a treatment to stop smoking a hypnosis practitioner might suggest that the patient will no longer find smoking pleasurable or necessary. Further positive suggestion of feeling of well being after stoppage of the unwanted habit will bolster the suggestions. Hypnosis for a patient with rheumatoid arthritis might include a suggestion that the pain can be turned down like the volume of a radio whenever the patient wants to.
Research in the field of psycho-neuro-immunology has opened up exciting avenues as to how hypnosis, along with biofeedback and relaxation techniques, can benefit the patients in a vast array of illnesses linking mind and the body .
The trance state may be induced by various means like guided imagery, progressive muscular relaxation, deep breathing, meditation , self-hypnosis, or other hypnotic induction techniques. Individuals vary in their ability to enter into the hypnotic trance state. It has been suggested that 70-80 % of people are hypnotizable to some extend. The feeble minded or psychotic persons cannot be put under hypnotic trance, for the simple reason that they are unable to concentrate for any length of time. Also people who consciously resist attempts to hypnotize cannot be hypnotized.
Next Chapter: Theories of Hypnosis
Dr. Hanish Babu, MD is a Dermato-Venereologist, Author, Stress Management Trainer and Hypnotherapist. He uses hypnosis to effectively manage stress and psychosomatic diseases in his medical practice. To learn more about how hypnosis can be beneficial, visit Hypnosis & Hypnotherapy pages by Dr. Hanish Babu.