What is Hypnosis

QUESTION: What is Hypnosis?


Hypnosis, simply put, is a neutral state of attentive concentration. It is a controversial topic having multiple definitions; how it is defined depends largely on an individual’s point of view. The opposing premises used to define hypnosis arise from two differing schools of thought. The first school of thought is that hypnosis is a state of consciousness induced by someone other than the subject. The opposing view is that hypnosis is self-induced and that the subject is always in complete control. For those who embrace the idea of a “hypnotizer,” hypnosis is defined as a peculiar state of consciousness, artificially induced by another upon the subject -- this other may or may not be a professional practicioner. The “hypnotizer” develops a rapport with the subject; the subject will then be able to accept and execute the other’s suggestions.

Individuals who believe that hypnosis is self-imposed will define it as a state of being fully absorbed and attentive to such a degree that occurrences in the outside world become less important. Both schools of thought concur that the actions of the subject who is under hypnosis will not in any way conflict with his or her own sense of morality or self-preservation.

Hypnosis that is induced by another -- a patient has submitted to a clinician of some type -- will follow certain physiological stages. The first stage is lethargy, a state of complete relaxation. In this first stage the eyes of the subject are closed. The second stage is termed catalepsy -- the subject will have his or her eyes open but may seem frozen in their current position. The final stage is known as somnambulism -- the eyes of the subject may be open or closed. The main characteristic of this stage is the subject’s suggestibility. The means of external inducement from a “hypnotizer” may vary. In some cases the “hypnotizer” is in close proximity to the subject; other subjects have been hypnotized from a distance, even over the phone. The subject responds to the voice of the “hypnotizer,” following the instructions and commands.

Those who believe in the self-induced method of hypnosis will state that all the subject needs to do is focus his or her mind to enter a different order of consciousness. In this highly-focused state the subject erases peripheral distractions. He or she becomes deeply absorbed; time is distorted.

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