What is Hypnosis? Describe the psychological and physical aspects of hypnosis and discuss the role of relaxation in Hypnotherapy.
In this essay I will attempt to provide a definition and explanation of the term “Hypnosis”, in addition to describing both the psychological and physical aspects of the term, and to discuss the role of relaxation in Hypnotherapy. I will then provide a conclusion.
The term “Hypnosis” often conveys images of a strange, powerful Svengali-like character swinging a pendulum, dressed flamboyantly, getting the hypnotised subject to behave in ways they wouldn’t ordinarily behave. He is a creepy character with spirals for eyes, who exerts power and control over his subjects for his own personal gain. There is a stage full of mind-controlled individuals completely at the mercy of this character, and it is only at his will will they be released from the strange trance-like state he has put them under. We might visualise Paul McKenna or Derren Brown, modern day hypnotists, making those “victims” perform silly or embarrassing stunts on stage for the amusement of the audience. The public’s misconception that hypnotism is somehow connected to the occult has arisen due to the evil hypnotists portrayed in Hollywood movies and also watching stage hypnotists perform such acts on stage. Stage hypnosis is performed by such characters above for amusement and entertainment, hypnosis used in a therapeutic setting is purely for the benefit of the subject.
What is Hypnosis?
The term “Hypnosis” is difficult to precisely define. It comes from the Greek work “hypnos” which means sleep. However, it is helpful to provide one or two definitions to gain an understanding of its nature. According to Cambridge Dictionaries1 hypnosis is a “mental state like sleep, in which a person’s thoughts can be easily influenced by someone else”. Wikipedia, citing the Encyclopedia Britannica, 2004,2 also defines hypnosis as a special psychological state with certain physiological attributes, resembling sleep only superficially and marked by a functioning of the individual at a level of awareness other than the ordinary conscious state”. It isn’t sleep, but an altered state of awareness. In its therapeutic setting, its aim is to experience changes in sensations, perceptions, thoughts or behaviour.
History of Hypnosis
Mankind’s desire to induce trance-like states have been around for thousands of years. Hypnotic-like techniques were used by Shamans, for healing and guidance, and the Ancient Egyptians, by Aborigines and within the Hindu culture.
Modern day hypnosis and hypnotherapy really began with the work of Franz Anton Mesmer (1734-1815) and his theory of Animal Magnetism. He believed that a “cosmic fluid” flowed through people and in using magnets, he could heal those people whose flow was damaged in some way. He originally used magnets but then started to use his hands. His techniques appeared to have success. One of his disciples, Marquis de Puysegur, found that some subjects entered “a somnambulistic state (a deep sleep) as a result of being “mesmerised”3. He felt that the “cosmic fluid” was electric and not magnetic. He also became aware of the way trance-like states could be induced using words. He tested responses to his words during these trance-like states and found that the patient could still communicate and remain lucid and receptive to his suggestions throughout. He had quite literally discovered the hypnotic trance. Dr James Braid (1795-1860) felt that ordinary physiological and psychological processes such as suggestion and focussed attention would induce the trance state. He is regarded by many as the 'Father of Hypnosis' for he was the man who coined the term "hypnosis”4.
Surgeons John Elliotson and James Esdaille in the 1800s pioneered its use in the medical field, and it was even used during the Civil War to...