Hypnotism



By:Rick Gambrino

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