Hypnosis is a state of human consciousness involving focused attention and reduced peripheral awareness and an enhanced capacity to respond to suggestion. The term may also refer to an art, skill, or act of inducing hypnosis.
Theories explaining what occurs during hypnosis fall into two groups. Altered state theories see hypnosis as an altered state of mind or trance, marked by a level of awareness different from the ordinary conscious state. In contrast, nonstate theories see hypnosis as a form of imaginative role enactment.
During hypnosis, a person is said to have heightened focus and concentration. The person can concentrate intensely on a specific thought or memory, while blocking out sources of distraction. Hypnotised subjects are said to show an increased response to suggestions. Hypnosis is usually induced by a procedure known as a hypnotic induction involving a series of preliminary instructions and suggestion. The use of hypnotism for therapeutic purposes is referred to as "hypnotherapy", while its use as a form of entertainment for an audience is known as "stage hypnosis". Stage hypnosis is often performed by mentalists practicing the art form of mentalism.
There are numerous applications for hypnosis across multiple fields of interest, including medical/psychotherapeutic uses, military uses, self-improvement, and entertainment. The American Medical Association currently has no official stance on the medical use of hypnosis. However, a study published in 1958 by the Council on Mental Health of the American Medical Association documented the efficacy of hypnosis in clinical settings.
Hypnosis has been used as a supplemental approach to cognitive behavioral therapy since as early as 1949. Hypnosis was defined in relation to classical conditioning; where the words of the therapist were the stimuli and the hypnosis would be the conditioned response. Some traditional cognitive behavioral therapy methods were based in classical conditioning. It would include inducing a relaxed state and introducing a feared stimuli. One way of inducing the relaxed state was through hypnosis.
Hypnotism has also been used in forensics, sports, education, physical therapy, and rehabilitation. Hypnotism has also been employed by artists for creative purposes, most notably the surrealist circle of André Breton who employed hypnosis, automatic writing, and sketches for creative purposes. Hypnotic methods have been used to re-experience drug states and mystical experiences. Self-hypnosis is popularly used to quit smoking, alleviate stress and anxiety, promote weight loss, and induce sleep hypnosis. Stage hypnosis can persuade people to perform unusual public feats.
Some people have drawn analogies between certain aspects of hypnotism and areas such as crowd psychology, religious hysteria, and ritual trances in preliterate tribal cultures.
Hypnotherapy is a helpful adjunct having additive effects when treating psychological disorders, such as these, along with scientifically proven cognitive therapies. Hypnotherapy should not be used for repairing or refreshing memory because hypnosis results in memory hardening, which increases the confidence in false memories.
Preliminary research has expressed brief hypnosis interventions as possibly being a useful tool for managing painful HIV-DSP because of its history of usefulness in pain management, its long-term effectiveness of brief interventions, the ability to teach self-hypnosis to patients, the cost-effectiveness of the intervention, and the advantage of using such an intervention as opposed to the use of pharmaceutical drugs.
Modern hypnotherapy has been used, with varying success, in a variety of forms, such as:
In a January 2001 article in Psychology Today, Harvard psychologist Deirdre Barrett wrote:
A hypnotic trance is not therapeutic in and of itself, but specific suggestions and images fed to clients in a trance can profoundly alter their behavior. As they rehearse the new ways they want to think and feel, they lay the groundwork for changes in their future actions...
Barrett described specific ways this is operationalized for habit change and amelioration of phobias. In her 1998 book of hypnotherapy case studies, she reviews the clinical research on hypnosis with dissociative disorders, smoking cessation, and insomnia, and describes successful treatments of these complaints.
In a July 2001 article for Scientific American titled "The Truth and the Hype of Hypnosis", Michael Nash wrote that, "using hypnosis, scientists have temporarily created hallucinations, compulsions, certain types of memory loss, false memories, and delusions in the laboratory so that these phenomena can be studied in a controlled environment."
A number of studies show that hypnosis can reduce the pain experienced during burn-wound debridement, bone marrow aspirations, and childbirth. The International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis found that hypnosis relieved the pain of 75% of 933 subjects participating in 27 different experiments.
Hypnosis is effective in reducing pain from and coping with cancer and other chronic conditions. Nausea and other symptoms related to incurable diseases may also be managed with hypnosis. Some practitioners have claimed hypnosis might help boost the immune system of people with cancer. However, according to the American Cancer Society, "available scientific evidence does not support the idea that hypnosis can influence the development or progression of cancer."
Hypnosis has been used as a pain relieving technique during dental surgery and related pain management regimens as well. Researchers like Jerjes and his team have reported that hypnosis can help even those patients who have acute to severe orodental pain. Additionally, Meyerson and Uziel have suggested that hypnotic methods have been found to be highly fruitful for alleviating anxiety in patients suffering from severe dental phobia.
For some psychologists who uphold the altered state theory of hypnosis, pain relief in response to hypnosis is said to be the result of the brain's dual-processing functionality. This effect is obtained either through the process of selective attention or dissociation, in which both theories involve the presence of activity in pain receptive regions of the brain, and a difference in the processing of the stimuli by the hypnotised subject.
The American Psychological Association published a study comparing the effects of hypnosis, ordinary suggestion, and placebo in reducing pain. The study found that highly suggestible individuals experienced a greater reduction in pain from hypnosis compared with placebo, whereas less suggestible subjects experienced no pain reduction from hypnosis when compared with placebo. Ordinary non-hypnotic suggestion also caused reduction in pain compared to placebo, but was able to reduce pain in a wider range of subjects (both high and low suggestible) than hypnosis. The results showed that it is primarily the subject's responsiveness to suggestion, whether within the context of hypnosis or not, that is the main determinant of causing reduction in pain.
Other Medical and Psychotherapeutic Uses
Treating skin diseases with hypnosis (hypnodermatology) has performed well in treating warts, psoriasis, and atopic dermatitis.
The success rate for habit control is varied. A meta-study researching hypnosis as a quit-smoking tool found it had a 20 to 30 percent success rate, while a 2007 study of patients hospitalised for cardiac and pulmonary ailments found that smokers who used hypnosis to quit smoking doubled their chances of success.
Hypnosis may be useful as an adjunct therapy for weight loss. A 1996 meta-analysis studying hypnosis combined with cognitive behavioural therapy found that people using both treatments lost more weight than people using cognitive behavioural therapy alone. The virtual gastric band procedure mixes hypnosis with hypnopedia. The hypnosis instructs the stomach that it is smaller than it really is, and hypnopedia reinforces alimentary habits. A 2016 pilot study found that there was no significant difference in effectiveness between VGB hypnotherapy and relaxation hypnotherapy.
Controversy surrounds the use of hypnotherapy to retrieve memories, especially those from early childhood or (supposed) past-lives. The American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association caution against recovered-memory therapy in cases of alleged childhood trauma, stating that "it is impossible, without corroborative evidence, to distinguish a true memory from a false one." Past life regression, meanwhile, is often viewed with skepticism.
Psychiatric nurses in most medical facilities are allowed to administer hypnosis to patients in order to relieve symptoms such as anxiety, arousal, negative behaviours, uncontrollable behaviour, and to improve self-esteem and confidence. This is permitted only when they have been completely trained about their clinical side effects and while under supervision when administering it.
A 2006 declassified 1966 document obtained by the US Freedom of Information Act archive shows that hypnosis was investigated for military applications. The full paper explores the potentials of operational uses. The overall conclusion of the study was that there was no evidence that hypnosis could be used for military applications, and no clear evidence whether "hypnosis" is a definable phenomenon outside ordinary suggestion, motivation, and subject expectancy. According to the document:
The use of hypnosis in intelligence would present certain technical problems not encountered in the clinic or laboratory. To obtain compliance from a resistant source, for example, it would be necessary to hypnotise the source under essentially hostile circumstances. There is no good evidence, clinical or experimental, that this can be done.
Furthermore, the document states that:
It would be difficult to find an area of scientific interest more beset by divided professional opinion and contradictory experimental evidence…No one can say whether hypnosis is a qualitatively unique state with some physiological and conditioned response components or only a form of suggestion induced by high motivation and a positive relationship between hypnotist and subject…T.X. Barber has produced "hypnotic deafness" and "hypnotic blindness", analgesia and other responses seen in hypnosis—all without hypnotizing anyone…Orne has shown that unhypnotized persons can be motivated to equal and surpass the supposed superhuman physical feats seen in hypnosis.
The study concludes:
It is probably significant that in the long history of hypnosis, where the potential application to intelligence has always been known, there are no reliable accounts of its effective use by an intelligence service.
Research into hypnosis in military applications is further verified by the Project MKULTRA experiments, also conducted by the CIA. According to Congressional testimony, the CIA experimented with utilizing LSD and hypnosis for mind control. Many of these programs were done domestically and on participants who were not informed of the study's purposes or that they would be given drugs.
Stage hypnosis is a form of entertainment, traditionally employed in a club or theatre before an audience. Due to stage hypnotists' showmanship, many people believe that hypnosis is a form of mind control. Stage hypnotists typically attempt to hypnotise the entire audience and then select individuals who are "under" to come up on stage and perform embarrassing acts, while the audience watches. However, the effects of stage hypnosis are probably due to a combination of psychological factors, participant selection, suggestibility, physical manipulation, stagecraft, and trickery. The desire to be the centre of attention, having an excuse to violate their own fear suppressors, and the pressure to please are thought to convince subjects to "play along". Books by stage hypnotists sometimes explicitly describe the use of deception in their acts; for example, Ormond McGill's New Encyclopedia of Stage Hypnosis describes an entire "fake hypnosis" act that depends upon the use of private whispers throughout.
The discussion of music as hypnosis was a development of Franz Mesmer, a German physician who invented the theory of ‘animal magnetism’ in the 18th century, combined with the romantic aesthetics of music that portrayed mesmeric trances to the self. It is a new conception of the self and the sensual aesthetics of music that portrayed musical mesmeric trance as a treatment to symptom such as hysteria. Mesmer would often conclude his treatments by playing music on a glass armonica.
Franz Mesmer argued that music is a matter of ‘sympathetic vibration’, just as his theory of animal magnetism where the sound vibration can communicate, propagated, and reinforced. Mesmer believe that his theory of a universal fluid and mesmeric gaze can be manipulated and contributed to health. The use of instruments such as pianos, violins, harps, and especially glass armonica were known as the instruments that featured in his treatment and liable for Mesmer's success.
The direct physical ability of hearing in human leads to the impossibility to reject the sounds entering the ears. In fact, music has contributed to external stimuli that provoked exhilaration and anxiety. This encourage the idea of ‘losing one’s self’, which is a sentimental escape from the realm of one’s psyche. However, this idea can often be disturbing and detrimental. It sometimes lead to a harmful concern within the boundary between oneself and those who manipulate it.
Hypnotic music became an important part in the development of a ‘physiological psychology’ that regarded the hypnotic state as an ‘automatic’ phenomenon that links to physical reflex. Jean-Martin Charcot's use of gongs and tuning forks and Ivan Pavlov’s use of bell have shown a condition reflexes in their experiment of sound hypnosis. The idea behind this experiment was to prove the automatic responses to sound and to physiologically determined the bypassing of the conscious mind. It was clear that music can be a potential threat to oneself, in which it create susceptibility to external stimuli and therefore as a danger to self-control and the sanity of an individual.
The automatic responses to sound shows the possibility of 'mental contagion' through music where anxiety is related to unrestrained fears about the impact of music to nerve. The nervous system's automatic reflexes and its connection between physical stimulation and the mind has become the main point of the discussion during the eighteen century. The impact of music on the nerve was seen as a refined context of the nerves of sensibility. However, by the early nineteenth century, music was assigned and integrated into the medical critique of modern stimulation. Some medical critics suggested that music has an ability to directly causes pathologies of the nerves, but some argued that the effect on the imagination from a musical nervous stimulation is an extension of the fear; going beyond stimulated nerves and losing the autonomy.
Music as Satanic Brainwashing
Between the 1980s and 1990s, a moral panic erupted in the US that conjugated a corrupted version of the science of brainwashing; the belief in a literal supernatural threat (Satanic Panic) that lies within the musical genre of heavy metal. Certain books such as The Devil's Disciples stated that some bands brainwashed American teenagers with subliminal messages to lure them into the worship of the devil, sexual immorality, murder, and especially suicide. The use of satanic iconography and rhetoric in this genre provokes the parents and society, and also advocate masculine power for an audience, especially on teenagers who were ambivalent of their identity. The counteraction on heavy metal in terms of satanic brainwashing is an evidence that linked to the automatic response theories of musical hypnotism.
Various people have been suspected of or convicted for hypnosis-related crimes, including robbery and sexual abuse. In 2011, a Russian "evil hypnotist" was suspected of tricking customers in banks around Stavropol into giving away thousands of pounds worth of money. According to the local police, he would approach them and make them withdraw all of the money from their bank accounts, which they would then freely give to the man. A similar incident was reported in London in 2014, where a video seemingly showed a robber hypnotizing a shopkeeper before robbing him. The victim did nothing to stop the robber from looting his pockets and taking his cash, only calling out the thief when he was already getting away.
In 2013, the then-40-year-old amateur hypnotist Timothy Porter attempted to sexually abuse his female weight-loss client. She reported awaking from a trance and finding him behind her with his pants down, telling her to touch herself. He was subsequently called to court and included on the sex offender list. In 2015, Gary Naraido, then 52, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for several hypnosis-related sexual abuse charges. Besides the primary charge by a 22-year-old woman who he sexually abused in a hotel under the guise of a free therapy session, he also admitted to having sexually assaulted a 14-year-old girl.