Research on Hypnosis

Written by admin on Saturday, October 10, 2009

Research on Hypnosis

Finally, after a history of being thought of as something used by charlatans and entertainers, hypnosis is being researched, and receiving respect from Neuroscientists. However, everything I have read tells me that there is still the misconception that hypnosis is something that is not available to everyone because it is a neurotransmitter condition, and not a choice to receive a suggestion that will constitute change. There are always the “statistics” showing that only a certain percent of the population can be hypnotized. For our world of “regular” people, and by that I mean those who have not been made to believe otherwise, hypnosis is a heightened state of relaxation and concentration during which time the subject willingly receives a suggestion which has already been agreed upon before the session began. Should the therapist attempt to change the suggestion to something disagreeable to the subject, it will not be received.
The choice to be hypnotized is available to everyone; the willingness for change is another subject indeed. In my twenty years of clinical practice I have facilitated a hypnotic trance state in clients from the age of three, in those of extremely high I.Q. scores, those borderline retarded, the very elderly, bi-polar not on meds, and have found only one group who are not hypnotizable…. Those who really do not want to be. The most difficult sub category in that group are those who just never stop talking and/or thinking. Success in hypnosis is a lot like dowsing; you have to stop thinking and just let it happen.

One of the more interesting conclusions to come out of the recent research is that in the subjects who are extremely willing to accept a suggestion, their brains show profound changes in how they process information. The suggestions literally change what people see, hear, feel and believe to be true. They found that people who were hypnotized “saw” colors where there were none. Others lost the ability to make simple decisions. Some looked at common English words and thought they were gibberish.
And I am astounded that these “scientists” found their research to be worth writing about. Anyone who has ever seen a good stage hypnotist knows that a good subject can make the show simply by taking the suggestions of the entertainer and responding. Every one of my students has seen films of Gil Boyne telling his subjects that they cannot remember their name, can’t get their foot unstuck from the floor, see everyone in the audience naked. Oh, why am I whining; at least the scientific/medical world is researching our world and writing about us.
Said Michael I Posner, an emeritus professor of neuroscience at the University of Oregon, and an expert on attention, “Now we’re really getting at the mechanisms”.
“The idea that perceptions can be manipulated by expectation is fundamental to the study of cognition”, Dr. Posner was quoted as saying in a recent New York Times article.
The use of hypnosis in medicine has come and gone over modern history, determined mostly by the religious state of mind of the country or community. Without any scientific research written openly about it, hypnosis has been used in the U.S. since the l950’s for pain control and anxiety, and in more rural areas, for childbirth. Before the discovery of ether, hypnosis was commonly used for anesthesia.

It is unfortunate that psychologists and psychotherapists are so poorly trained in the use of hypnosis for it has become common for them to use it to treat anxiety, depression, trauma, eating disorders and even irritable bowel disorder. More comprehensive training would give them a broader scope of issues to work with and greater success.
There is still no scientific evidence that a STATE OF HYPNOSIS actually exists and it continues to amaze me that something that cannot be defined by science can still be forbidden by so many religions, states, countries. (Actually, I’m delighted by this because if it can’t be defined, it can’t be “owned” by any one group.) There is still a lot of disagreement among those who accept it and work with it as to what it really is. Some believe it is just a desire to please the hypnotist; just as psychotherapy in many forms works because the patient has a desire to please the therapist. But, hey, whatever makes it successful and facilitates change, can’t be bad when the desired outcome is achieved.
Some fear the hypnotic state because one becomes oblivious to their surroundings while lost in thought. Perhaps they should also turn off their televisions and play stations, stop reading novels, attending sporting events and stage performances.
I will end this with a bit of hypnosis history. Dr. Franz Mesmer, a German physician, devised a “miracle” cure for people suffering unexplained medical problems. (With a strong focus on menopausal women suffering from hysteria.) Under dim lighting and music played on a glass harmonica, he used the same magic as t.v. evangelists use today: EXPECTATION. He “Mesmerized” them and they were cured. He was the first to show how powerful the mind/body connection is and how easily it can be implemented.
In the mid l800’s enter Dr. James Braid, an English ophthalmologist who put patients into trances by an intense stare, not having a clue as to how it worked. He called his work, hypnosis, from the Greek word, sleep….. which, of course, it is not.