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What Is Hypnosis? Describe the Psychological and Physical Aspects of Hypnosis and Discuss the Role of Relaxation in Hypnotherapy.

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What is Hypnosis? Describe the psychological and physical aspects of hypnosis and discuss the role of relaxation in hypnotherapy.


Opinion on the definition of hypnosis has been divided over the years, from Mesmer's early theory of animal magnetism to Braid's theory of verbal suggestion and although we now have a much clearer picture of the psychological and physical aspects of hypnosis, it remains difficult to quantify in depth.

What is Hypnosis?

Hypnotism or hypnosis is the deliberate inducement or facilitation by one person in another person or a number of people, of a trance state.

In modern times, hypnosis is generically regarded as a state of selective attention where a subject or subjects are physically and psychologically relaxed so that their subconscious mind may be penetrated, often for positive healing outcomes. As straightforward as this theory may seem, it's not without complication. The conditions for successful hypnosis are dependent on many variables, some of which are difficult to measure and it's this difficulty that has prevented hypnosis from losing its stigma as a phenomenon. I shall discuss these variables further on. For now, let's look at the history of hypnosis.

The trance-like state has been of interest to cultures around the world for thousands of years for its potential healing benefits. Its origins are not clear, but history tells us, a form of hypnosis was used by the ancient Egyptians in their dream temples. Likewise early Shamans used methods resembling hypnosis in their healing and divination. Some cultures such as the North American Indians and Australian Aborigines continue to use a hypnotic trance state today.

Hypnosis has evolved greatly over the years but one of the most significant developments in early hypnosis came from the Grandfather of hypnosis Franz Mesmer (1734-1815) in the eighteenth century. Mesmer believed he could cure people without the use of surgery or medicine by a magnetic force, controlling magnetic fluids that flow throughout the body. His method was known as mesmerism and his cures were often successful, which gained him a lot of attention in Paris during his time there. However, following an investigation from the Faculty of Medicine at the request of King Louis XVI, his theory was thrown into question due to lack of evidence and his method was branded a fantasy, forcing Mesmer to leave Paris.

Mesmer's techniques did not die out. Many, including the Marquis of Puysegur (1751-1825), a disciple of Mesmer, practiced mesmerism but noticed that patients entered a somnambulistic state where suggestion could be made. This new method divided opinion but his belief that words were sufficient in mesmerising subjects were to shape the evolution of hypnosis and this method was practiced and developed upon among by medical practitioners such as John Elliotson (1791-1868) and James Esdaile (1808-1859), who performed countless surgical operations painlessly without anaesthetic.

Auguste Liebeault (1823-1904) and Hippolyte Bernheim (1837-1919) were the first to regard hypnosis as a normal phenomenon and asserted that expectation is the most important factor in the induction of hypnosis, a factor that was supported by Freud and continues to stand out as one of the most important variables in hypnosis.

In the nineteenth century, Scottish Surgeon James Braid (1795-1860), who had been influenced by mesmerism, developed upon the idea that subjects were experiencing a natural psycho physiological state. Braid experimented with some new methods and named his method hypnotism, which was abbreviated from neuro-hypnosis (nervous sleep), where the nerves would literally be put to sleep. This is arguably a misleading name since subjects are not put to sleep but rather are artificially induced into an altered state of consciousness.

In the twentieth century, a significant development was made by Milton Erickson (1901-1980), who incorporated the use of metaphorical suggestion in hypnosis. Erickson is now considered as the Father of modern day hypnosis.

The use of hypnosis for healing benefits is widely known as hypnotherapy and is commonly used to treat a number of issues including anxieties, phobias, habits and addictions as well as overcoming pain, depression and health problems. Hypnosis may be carried out by a hypnotherapist to a subject or subjects, or may be given to oneself for self-hypnosis. Self-hypnosis can be administered via the use of aids such as an audio recording or a learned routine containing positive suggestion.

Arguably the most important variable in hypnosis, which is shared by the authors, is a subject's suggestibility. Subjects who are imaginative, receptive and responsive to suggestion are easier to coax into a state of hypnosis, however this does not necessarily mean they experience the most successful outcomes. Other variables that should be considered in the success of hypnosis include belief, imagination, motivation and anticipation. Understanding of these variables dates back as far as Mesmer's work and has been shared by many of the iconic theorists since, including Liebalt and Bernheim.

Hypnotic states and experiences are in fact commonplace in ordinary life and often occur without recognition as such.

The subconscious is where our learned thoughts and behaviors are stored in much the same way as a computer programme. This is why we may be able to relate to having driven a car for a substantial amount of miles without being consciously aware of what took place during that journey. Having learned how to drive and repeatedly driven since, our subconscious knows how to do this, leaving our conscious mind free to relax. The use of hypnosis relaxes and thus suppresses the subject's conscious mind, allowing the subconscious mind to be accessed and altered.

In the title Hypnosis for Change, the authors discuss another variable; arousability, which is structured by five levels of consciousness (LOC). These levels of consciousness are as follows: 1. Alert, 2. Light Trance (Daydreaming), 3. Moderate Trance, 4. Deep Trance and 5. Sleep. Three of these levels of consciousness provide the right conditions for effective hypnosis; Light Trance (Daydreaming), Moderate Trance and Deep Trance.

The Hypnotic Induction

Fundamentally for a subject to enter a hypnotic state, a hypnotic induction is required. This is a relaxation procedure made up of varying styles and techniques to relax the subject physically and psychologically. The



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