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Hypnotism

 

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 or will always tell the truth." The truth is, hypnosis

will not cause a person to tell information the do not want to tell
and

a person under hypnosis can purposefully lie or remember in a distorted

fashion. Another myth about hypnotism is, "Hypnosis won't work on

highly intelligent people." In reality innate characteristics such

as intelligence do not at all effect hypnotism. Any person however
can

resist being hypnotized either actively or passively, if they desire.
I

believe that hypnotism would be a more commonly used method in medicine

if it were not for all the myths going around about hypnotism. They
are

probably the result of the very limited knowledge of exactly how hypnosis

works. Hypnosis has been used to treat a variety of physiological and
behavioral

problems. It can alleviate back pain and pain that comes from burns
or

cancer. It is controversial as to whether this actually works or not,
but

it is believed that it can be used to insure normal and safe childbirth.

Hypnosis sometimes is employed to treat physical problems with a psychological

component, such as a circulatory disease known as Raynaud's Syndrome.
It

has also been used to initiate behavioral changes, for example cigarette

smoking, overeating, insomnia, and the overcoming of phobia's. Although

hypnotism has shown its uses as a fairly valuable medical tool, in
this

modern "technological age" there are very few physicians who

use it. The major use of hypnotism in modern days, is entertainment.
Performed

as a sort of "Magic Show" it is used to cause some people to

laugh, and some people to be amazed. Hypnotism has come a long way
since

1734 and who knows what future developments will be made in this field?

It may become a commonly used medical tool, or it may come to be thought

of as a completely useless "magic trick". 

 




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