On Hypnosis

I met Janet at a hypnosis workshop. She’s a dentist and studied hypnosis for her practice, and I asked her to write a general piece on hypnosis for HypnoDepot, and she was kind enough to do so. Enjoy, it is a good read that will give you some insight into the history of hypnosis, what it’s used for and it’s dangers.

Hypnosis is a state similar to trance, that can be induced by certain suggestion and relaxation exercises, and also it can be self-induced using certain techniques.According to the American Psychology association hypnosis can alter the behavior, perception and emotions of the person under this state of the mind. It has been widely used as a treatment in psychoanalysis, also is used as a way of relaxation, anesthetic, as a treatment for skin diseases, weight loss, anxiety, reduction of stress and quit smoking. Research suggest that hypnosis can be a substitute of the anesthetics drugs in the surgeries, but skeptical disagree saying that hypnotic state can be confused with placebo effect. However – observing that kind of reasoning a little closer, you quickly end up asking yourself: “If these skeptics say hypnosis didn’t work to anesthesize the patient, but it really was the placebo effect of hypnosis, then what’s bad about that? There never has been a case where a person who underwent surgery under hypnosis all of the sudden “woke up and felt the pain”. To me, quiet frankly, I’d prefer a placebo effect that works in eliminating surgery pain over a drug induced effect that comes with risks and side effects…

Hypnosis has been used by many ancient cultures, but the term hypnosis was not used until the nineteen century by the Scottish neurosurgeon James Braid in 1842. This was the scientist who developed the procedure as we know it today and also came up with the term. He is also known as the author of the first book about hypnosis called Neurypnology (click here to download the book free as a PDF file) in 1843.

His basic idea about hypnosis was that it was a physiological process, that was a result from the prolonged state of watching a determine object, it could be a bright object or an object that has been moving using a regular pattern. (Maybe you’ve seen it in the movies… that hypnotist with the swinging watch in front of his patients face… that’s where it comes from).

Hypnotist Jean Martin Charcot
Hypnotist Jean Martin Charcot

Some physicians have reported performing painless surgeries using hypnosis as anesthetic like John Elliotson (1791-1868) and James Esdaile (1805-1859), but in the twenty century its uses decreased with the appearance of the anesthetics drugs. But even then some doctors kept using it for other treatments, for example the French neurologist Jean Martin Charcot (1825-1893), induced hypnosis in its hysteria patients.

Hypnosis was also used in the American civil war, even when ether was already in the market, it was easier to use hypnosis in the battle field. Obviously the hypnosis plays a big role in the psychoanalysis by Sigmund Freud, who was a student of Charcot, started using it as a treatment of mentally ill patients.

Freud would say that, with hypnosis, the unconscious part of the human mind would come out, and there would be hidden all the traumas and taboos of our life, so with the help of this procedure the psychoanalyst could be able to see which are this painful experiences of the subject, and then be able to address it. But in the last ten years many psychologists have said that maybe those traumas have been induced by the therapist when he is using hypnosis. This has been seeing in victims of rape, sexual abuse and cults, all those people claim, during hypnotic sections, been abused physical and emotionally, even witness murders, the problem with this, is that in many of these cases, evidence has never been found. So many modern psychologists said that during hypnosis sessions therapist may have induced these false memories with some specific questions.

If it is used properly, hypnosis can help many people overcome some situations in life, but if it is used improperly can be a way to put false memories in the patient, causing an irreparable damage in its life. Physicians using this method have to be very responsible and competent.

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