What is Hypnotism

Hypnotism (Greek), the science that deals with states related to sleep , in which the volitional activity is inhibited and there is often a clear disturbance (elimination or narrowing) of consciousness . The ancient Indian sadhus and medieval religious practitioners knew how to create a hypnotic state ( hypnosis ) by concentrating their gaze or their thoughts . The magnetic  sleep  and somnambulism with clairvoyance are analogous phenomena . James Braid coined the term hypnotism to shed the excess baggage associated with animal magnetism and mesmerism, but — in an era where mind-body dualism was much more popular than it is now — initially added the prefix neuro- to make clear that hypnosis had a material basis in brain activity, whereas Pavlov believed that the effects of hypnosis reflected a state of cortical inhibition. Now what is hypnotism? the layman will ask first and want a precise definition of it. Unfortunately, according to the current state of science, it is not possible for the greatest scholar to fulfill this wish. We can only say that the hypnotized person is in a peculiar state, which in some respects is not unlike ordinary sleep, but in many respects is quite different from it, and for this reason was probably called “magnetic sleep” in earlier times.

But it was only the English doctor James Braid who started studying the Hypnotism in 1841 . His observations came almost in oblivion, although some surgeons the hypnosis to analgesia for operations to produce recycled. The investigations have also failed Liebeaults , a doctor in Nancy , better known. Only recently have the striking public displays of the Dane Hansen aroused the interest in H. again and prompted investigations by Weinhold , Heidenhain , Berger , Preyer , Binswanger and others. Simultaneously and independently employed in Paris Charcot with H. and Nancy in connection to Liébeault Professor Bernheim. The Nancyers particularly showed the great influence of suggestion in hypnosis . You are the view that all phenomena of hypnosis by suggestion come about, that is the fact that in the subject idea and the conviction of the entry of the relevant phenomena awakened.

For hypnosigenesis , that is, to generate hypnosis , one uses numerous, apparently differently acting means , which are best divided into somatic (physical) and psychological. Whereas the former was considered essential, the main effect is now ascribed to the psychic means . In the past one used  a shiny point in order to induce hypnosis. Today hypnosis is usually created in such a way that the idea of it is implanted in the subject as vividly as possible, for example through word slike: “ Just think about sleep ! Try to sleep! Your eyes are getting tired; the eyelids close etc. ”( verbal suggestion ). The awakening happens either through strong sensory stimuli , e.g. blowing , electrical stimulation, or awakening by simple command. To induce hypnosis and to terminate it, an experimenter is not always necessary to put themselves into hypnosis ( autohypnosis ) just as they spontaneously awaken from it. As for receptivity the percentage of people who can be hypnotized is given differently (between 30 and 100 percent). Mentally limited and insane individuals are difficult to hypnotize. With regard to children, the information varies considerably. It is a mistake to say that nervous or hysterical people are particularly susceptible . People who are firmly convinced that they cannot be hypnotized, as well as those who direct their will not to be hypnotized , are usually insensitive. The changes that occur in the mental state by the hypnotic influence are very different. The depth of hypnosis has been divided into:

1) somnolence , the easiest degree of hypnosis that can be perceived ;

2) Hypotaxis , that is, the person being hypnotized obeys all suggestions , but retains the memory of all processes after awakening ;

3) Somnambulism , deep hypnosis with amnesia (lack of memory) after awakening and post-hypnotic phenomena .

The phenomena of normal hypnosis include a strong narrowing of the associative activity of the brain . The hypnotized person perceives sensory impressions, but he does not use them to such an extent as in the waking state . The activity of the will is reduced in hypnosis . The susceptibility to hypnotic influences that are not proportional to the depth of the hypnosis is called suggestibility . The basic condition for this is that the person to be hypnotized remains in rapport with the hypnotist , ie hears and understands him.

The voluntary movements in hypnosis always show changes . The hypnotic is forced to perform movements against his will by command , e.g.  to raise his arm, to get up from the chair , to turn three times in a circle , to laugh. Movement can be prevented in the same way ; the hypnotized person is forbidden to move his leg or arm – the limb in question immediately appears paralyzed. One is also able to perform a specific function of certain muscles to fight while otherwise functioning normally; if he is forbidden, the hypnotized person cannot write, although his arm is otherwise free to move. How the experimenter expresses the suggestion is irrelevant; it is only necessary that the hypnotic understands what the other wants. Apart from the suggestive changes in voluntary movements, there is a second peculiarity in hypnosis . Every muscle activity has a tendency to continue for some time, so that an arbitrary or suggestive interruption often encounters difficulties. This tendency manifests itself 1) in the fact that the limbs of the hypnotized are given to them hold position for a long time ( catalepsy ), 2) in it, hold certain movements for a long time, whereby the so-called. automatic movements come about: if the hands of a hypnotic person turn around one another, he continues these movements for a long time.

Next to the voluntary musculature there are often changes in sensation . The sensations ( face , hearing , smell, etc.) can be reduced in hypnosis. The skin sensation is also usually reduced; in deep hypnosis , total numbness can occur by itself. Of course, all sensory qualities can be influenced in a positive and negative sense by suggestion . In deep hypnosis , hallucinations can also be evoked . One lets through suggestion the hypnotic believe that he sees trees, animals, people that are not there; he hears melodies etc. It is easy to evoke a disgusting smell , a sweet taste, suggestively. The hallucinations occur sometimes as hallucinations  take place without ever an external object is perceived; the hypnotic believes he sees a dog where there is nothing. Much more often, however, the deceptions appear as illusions , ie external objects are perceived but interpreted incorrectly: a book is mistaken for a dog. If the hallucinations are perfect, the whole behavior and the appearance of the person are changed accordingly. Lively terror is painted on the face of the person who thinks a tiger is rushing towards them. Such effects of the hallucinations can show themselves in changes that are independent of the will .

A person who is suggested to smell an onion has water in his eyes . In contrast to the previously mentioned hallucinations in which a non-existent object is perceived, and is referred to as positive, are the negative, in which existing objects are not perceived. In a suggestive way, people and objects are made invisible, a certain piece of music becomes inaudible. In a similar way to how the sensory perceptions are influenced by suggestion , communal feelings , instincts , affects and mood are under their influence : hunger , thirst, Well-being, sadness , joy are evoked in this way. It is questionable whether breathing and pulse could show spontaneous changes during hypnosis . Some fluctuations can be explained by psychological excitement and are therefore not dependent on hypnosis . There are few studies on the influence of suggestion on the heart . It is also possible to suggest vomiting and produce bowel movements. The reports of suggestive generation of burn blisters etc. are to be taken with great care. The word “to suggest” means as much as telling someone something, influencing him to do something, and the hypnotized are particularly susceptible to suggestion. weak-willed people can be influenced by anyone; they can easily be made to change their point of view from hour to hour. If, as we have seen, the hypnotized person’s own will is reduced to a minimum, it must appear to us from the outset that it is highly susceptible to suggestions.

Hypnosis increase memory capacity . In hypnosis it is possible to awaken memories which have long since disappeared from the memory in the waking state or, because they were experienced in abnormal states of consciousness, never came to the individual in normal consciousness. Even if there is amnesia in waking life , the test subject almost always remembers in a later hypnosis what went on in earlier hypnoses . It is experienced that hypnotic and non-hypnotic state has a different content of consciousness. This phenomenon is called double consciousness(sd). The hypnotic can be made to forget individual processes, others can be wrongly put in their place, whereby delusions of memory , the retroactive suggestions , arise.

The post-hypnotic suggestion is that during hypnosis a suggestion is implanted whose effect is only seen after waking: a Hypnotic receives the command, after three days to go to A. Such orders are carried out on time, although the reminder of the order is missing. The post-hypnotic suggestions are realized in suitable test subjects even a long time after awakening; months later, even after a year, they would be realized. Just like actions , one can also suggest post-hypnotic hallucinations .

While it was previously assumed that the consciousness  may not exist in hypnosis, this have to be recognized as erroneous as soon as one saw the memory reappear in the waking state or in the new hypnosis . For if one remembers certain events from an earlier time, then consciousness must have existed in them. Just as hypnosis is not a state of unconsciousness. Many suggestions only succeed if numerous attempts have been made . But even after many attempts , actions that contradict the character of the person can mostly not be suggested.

The theoretical conception of Hypnosis is still quite different and linked in part to the physiological conception of sleep. Some expressed the opinion that the activity of the gray cerebral cortex is inhibited in hypnosis ; It attributes the symptoms of increased activity in some parts of the brain, decreased activity in other parts of the brain, and changes in the blood circulation. A brief reference should be made to psychological theories . It conceived hypnosis as a state of psychic reflex activity; hypnosis is a state in which the subconscious predominates. While some in the hypnosis a pathological condition , consider the hypnosis as an ordinary sleep related condition .

In recent times the endeavor has emerged to derive a practical use from Hypnosis in medicine . The diseases that can be cured or ameliorated by hypnosis include numerous nervous diseases in which organic changes are absent, e.g. hysterical Paralysis , nervous headache , neuralgia, rheumatic pain . In connection with the treatment by hypnotic suggestion is the suggestion without hypnosis . Both types together comprise suggestion therapy . Recently the H. has also been used for psychological studies of pathological and normal mental life. Human brain is suggestible and its susceptibility to hypnosis is associated with particular executive control capabilities allowing efficient attentional focusing. Therefore Hypnosis is regarded as an effective treatment for psychological and physical ailments. When compared with standard care, hypnosis provided moderate treatment benefit. Hypnosis also showed a moderate superior effect as compared to other psychological interventions for a nonheadache group. The results suggest that hypnosis is efficacious for managing chronic pain.

The criminal law side must also be taken into account. A hypnotized  subject can be the victim or the tool of crime . So far only cases of the first kind have had practical significance; it is only a question of rape against hypnotized persons, which is punished according to our current laws . The question of whether someone by suggesting a hypnotized person to commit a crime can be answered differently. The possibility is denied by some , especially since no one can be compelled by suggestion to undertake an action contrary to his character ; but the impossibility of such criminal suggestions cannot be asserted. The danger of using artificial memory deceptions, retroactive suggestions , to falsify witness statements is considered by some theorist.

In all physiological research, animal experiment is the most important method . It was therefore obvious, even the hypnotic phenomena with this ordinary research funding physiology to approach, and thus arose the question , whether even in animals analogous phenomena of hypnosis could be found as in humans . Indeed, the existence of animal hypnosis has been claimed from many quarters . Daniel Schwendter described an experiment in 1636 to make chickens completely immobile by suddenly grabbing them, placing them on a table , depressing their beak, and then starting from the beak and drawing a line of chalk across the table . After this manipulation , the chickens remained motionless in the most unnatural positions . The experiment was later described and made known by Kircher (1646) .

The apparition is later fell into oblivion until Czermak pointed it out again in 1872, when he also referred to it as an expression of animal hypnosis . Since then the phenomenon has been examined more often. Preyer have shown that a whole series of other animals (e.g. amphibians , reptiles , guinea pigs , rabbits etc.) can be put into the same state . Preyer declared the animals’ immobility to be paralysis. In order to bring about the phenomenon , it is sufficient to suddenly grasp the animal in question safely and skillfully, to bring it into an abnormal body position and to hold it for a moment . If you then carefully remove your hands , the animal remains lying motionless. The animals lie still in the position and their muscles are suddenly in a certain state of rigidity when they attempt to correct their position expire.

Frogs and chickens without a cerebrum show the appearance even better than normal ones, ie they stay lying down longer than normal ones because they are no longer like normal animals. Every now and then spontaneous impulses ( impulses of will) to get up come down from the cerebrum . From this it is clear that the forced immobility of certain animals has nothing to do with human hypnosis .


  1. Gauld, A. (1992). A history of hypnotism. Cambridge University Press.
  2. British Society of Experimental and Clinical Hypnosis

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