Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Hypnosis As A Phenomenon


Hypnosis usually consists of three or four stages:

1 Inducing a state of hypnotic sleep.
2 Experiments conducted during the hypnotic state.
3 Bringing the subject out of hypnosis.
4 Possible execution by the subject of post-hypnotic commands.

Hypnotic sleep is usually induced by suggesting verbally that the subject is tired or sleepy. Often these suggestions are reinforced by asking the subject to fix his gaze on a glittering object, a pencil, say, a small coloured disc or a metal spiral. Duration of the first phase varies depending on the subject and on whether or not this is their first experience of hypnosis. Once a state of deep hypnosis has been reached, the induction period with subsequent hypnosis is often less than one minute, whereas on the first occasion it may be up to fifteen minutes. Once the subject is hypnotized he or she will obey every command of the hypnotist. Furthermore the hypnotist can produce any desired hallucination. For example, if the hypnotist suggests that it is unbearably cold, the test-subject will start to shiver. If , on the other hand, he suggest that it is getting very hot, the subject will start perspiring until beads of sweat appear on the forehead. In the same way the subject's limbs can be made to feel stiff, lame or insensitive through suggestion.
It is even more surprising to watch when the subject is ordered to open his eyes during hypnosis. When this happens the hypnotic state is in no way interrupted or disturbed. The subject can be made to see whatever the hypnotist wishes. It is possible, for example, to make a subject see a lonely forest when in fact he is looking at a crowded lecture room. An unlimited number of experiments can be carried out in hypnotism, as anyone who has attended a hypnotist's show knows.
Let me describe just two physiological experiments. If you place a coin in the palm of a subject and at the same time suggest that it is a piece of glowing hot iron a blister will develop after a short time. Similarly, if you take a diabetic who is used to insulin injections, put him under hypnosis and inject him with a physiologically neutral salt solution, suggesting to him that it is insulin, the level of blood sugar will drop within the usual period of time to the same degree as if an injection of insulin had been given. With these examples we already touch upon the therapeutic possibilities of hypnosis, the value of which will be discussed later.
I shall briefly elucidate here the term “post-hypnotism”. It is possible either to make a suggestion to a hypnotized subject, in such a way that the effect of the suggestion continues into the waking state or else to couple a command given in hypnosis with a signal which can be given after the subject has been woken up.
In this way anything that happens under hypnosis can be triggered off again in the waking state provided that the right signal is used. Simple examples of these two kinds of post-hypnotic effect are as follows.
Let us suppose that during hypnosis a stiffness of the right arm and an inability to move it are suggested to the subject. At the same time it is suggested that the subject can move the arm only when the hypnotist claps his hands three times. The subject is then woken up. Although he or she is now completely awake, the right arm cannot be moved. This effect can only be lifted by means of the clapping signal.
Another, more complex post-hypnotic suggestion would be the following: “When I wake you now you will feel completely fresh and rested. You will feel wide awake. However, the moment you notice me lighting a cigarette you will hear a knock at the door. You will go to the door and open it. To your great surprise you will see Father Christmas and an angel at the door. You will find that very strange because it is summer. You will suspect that somebody is playing a trick on you and has dressed up. Therefore you will grab Father Christmas at his beard to see whether it is real. Whatever you do, you will realize with astonishment that he and the angel are absolutely real. You will be able to talk to him, and he will give you a present. After a short while Father Christmas and the angel will leave the room again. Now I shall wake you and everything will follow as I have told you. But in the waking state you will remember nothing of what we have been saying now.”
After this the subject can be woken up, and he or she will not remember anything of what has been said. But when after a while the hypnotist lights a cigarette the suggested sequence of events will take place in all its detail, although in fact what the subject sees and hears at the door is purely imaginary.
The suggestion just described is very complex because it contains hallucinations which are only acoustic (knocking, talking) but also optical (Father Christmas, angel, present) and tactile (touching of beard). Besides that there is suggested doubt about appearance (“... you will suspect somebody is playing a trick on you”) which, however, can be quickly dispelled by verification.
There is another important phenomenon that can usually be observed in post-hypnotic suggestion: the tendency to rationalize. Every command implanted during hypnosis is subsequently carried out in the waking state: the subjects do something simply because they have to do it, yet they do not know why. If it is a rather illogical command they will, during its execution, observe their own action with perplexity.
There is a deeply rooted conviction in man that, whatever he does, he does only because he wants to do it. That is the reason why all test-subjects, when asked whey they did this or that, never guess that they were merely executing a command. Rather they will desperately attempt to find a “plausible reason” proving that they carried out the action of their own free will.

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