Here we will give you a brief description of what hypnosis is. Further down you will get a few examples of how “experts” define hypnosis followed by a section on the truth and myths of hypnosis with a brief overview of its development.
Hypnosis is first of all a state and nothing else. Trance is merely a word that we use to describe the extraordinary state of total focus that we occasionally experience. Here I will describe some of my own thoughts and ideas about trance and hypnosis in a way that is easily understood.
Trance and hypnosis are words that most of us have heard before. These words are sometimes associated with something mystical and dangerous, something that would be beyond our control. However, nothing could be further from the truth.
Whenever the conscious part of our mind needs ”a break” we spontaneously drift into a trance-like state. This happens when we daydream or when our thoughts drift off, as while driving a car. You may have had the experience of driving your car to a familiar destination and having reached that destination without remembering the last couple of miles. Since driving a car has been reduced to a habit, you therefore could have your conscious mind on other things while your subconscious mind handles the driving. A typical everyday form of trance. As soon as a pattern has become a habit, it sinks down and entrenches itself into the subconscious mind which takes over and does a much better job. The first time you are exposed to something new, such as tying your shoes or learning to drive a car, is the learning phase, a very conscious process. During this phase all focus lies on “the task” and the conscious part of the mind is fully alert. As the pattern gets more familiar and entrenches itself into the subconscious, it is being reduced to a habit. This is why you now can tie your shoes while thinking about what to do during the day or drive a car and simultaneously think about what to buy on the way home. This was impossible during the learning phase.
During your school days you have probably had a teacher with a boring, monotone voice and your concentration just drifted away. Since the conscious part of your mind got bored, your imagination opened up and daydreaming took over. You just experienced another typical form of trance.
Hypnosis is a state where the conscious part of your mind is being bypassed and the subconscious opens up. The examples given above are different forms of trance or hypnotic-like states that we frequently and spontaneously drift into daily. Hypnosis is a natural and very pleasant state where our subconscious mind is open. We use hypnosis with great benefit to reach goals, achieve change and solve problems, all through a special communication with the subconscious mind.
Here is how the Encyclopedia Britannica defines hypnosis:
“Hypnosis is the term applied to a unique, complex form of unusual but normal behavior which can be induced in all normal persons under suitable conditions and also in many persons suffering from various types of abnormality. It is primarily a special psychological state with certain physiological attributes, resembling sleep only superficially and marked by a functioning of the individual at a level of awareness other than the ordinary conscious state…”
The ”experts” attempt to define hypnosis:
“The greatest discovery of my generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind.” / William James
“Actually, the hypnotic state, like the conscious state and the sleeping state, is extremely complex and involves so many physiological, psychological, and interpersonal factors that no one theory has yet been able to account for all the intricate operations that take place within its range.” / Lewis R Wolberg
“Hypnotism is simply exaggerated suggestibility.” / George H. Estabrooks
“…A state of intensified attention and receptiveness, and an increased responsiveness to an idea or to a set of ideas.” / Milton H. Erickson
“…Nothing but an aspect of conditioning.” / Andrew Salter
“Hypnosis is largely a question o your willingness to be receptive and responsive to ideas, and to allow these ideas to act upon you without interference. These ideas we call suggestions.” / Andre M. Weitzenhoffer and Ernest R. Hilgard
“Hypnosis is not sleep. Whatever sleep is, hypnosis is not…. to put it succinctly, hypnosis is an altered state of attention which approaches peak concentration capacity.” / Herbert Spiegel
“Hypnosis is a consent state of physiological relaxation where the subject allows the critical censor of the mind to be bypassed to a greater, or lesser, degree…we could even go so far as to say that hypnosis is “preventive psychological medicine”.” / Peter Blythe
“It is recognized that there is no generally accepted definition of hypnosis, though considerable consensus exists at a descriptive level.” / Martin T. Orne
“…An altered state within which suggestions have a peculiarly potent effect.” / K.S. Bowers
“Hypnosis is a natural state of mind with special identifying characteristics:
- An extraordinary quality of relaxation.
- An emotionalized desire to satisfy the suggested behavior: The person feels like doing what the hypnotist suggests, provided that what is suggested does not generate conflict with his belief system.
- The organism becomes self-regulating and produces normalization of the central nervous system.
- Heightened and selective sensitivity to stimuli perceived by the five senses and four basic perceptions.
- Immediate softening of psychic defenses.”
/ Gil Boyne
Let’s get this one thing clear once and for all. Let’s eliminate the myths and misconceptions about hypnosis of what it is and what it isn’t. Hypnosis is first of all a natural state of mind, which means there is nothing unnatural about it. A state that we daily experience in various forms.
The word hypnosis means sleep in Greek and is also the name of the sleep god, Hypnos. It started a few thousand years ago where the old Egyptians had a ritual where people were given suggestions (ideas) standing ”in a sleep like state” in the simplest and most primitive forms. Much later, an 18th century Austrian, Franz Anton Mesmer, came up with what he called “animal magnetism” which took things a step further. People still talk about “mesmerism”. However, it wasn’t until 1841 when the Brit, James Braid, coined the term neuro-hypnosis that the word was actually born. Neuro, meaning nerves, makes the expression mean ”a sleep of the nervous system” which is exactly what it’s all about. “Neuro” was eventually dropped and we were left with merely “Hypnosis.” Many myths and misconceptions have come along since then and have been reinforced through movies, television and other media.
One myth is that the subject who is hypnotized has no control and is nearly unconscious and that all control is in the hands of the hypnotist – nothing could be further from the truth.
Hypnosis is, once again, a natural state of mind where the awareness is heightened 2000%, which brings the subject more control rather than less control. The senses are more vivid and there is a direct link to the inner source that houses all memory, the emotions and intuition, this source we call the subconscious.
There is a common natural fear of any powerful force we do not understand. However, there is a much greater danger in NOT understanding it. This force does not come from the hypnotist, but from your own subconscious mind, and if you do not control it, it controls you.