.. suggestions are most effective when they are conveyed in the forms of images.” Maybe the best approach to understanding hypnotism is through the common but unscientific notion of the unconscious mind (Estabrooks, 1957, p. 23). According to Estabrooks (1957), a man who talks in his sleep and can answer questions is hypnotized. This is one recognized method of producing the trance, basically by changing normal sleep into hypnotic sleep.
“The skilled hypnotist can generally take the sleepwalker or sleeptalker and shift him directly over into hypnotism without either the knowledge or the consent of his subject” (Estabrooks, 1957, p.23). When we are in a normal waking condition, our conscious mind is working and running the body. But, in a deep hypnotism, according to Estabrooks (1957), this conscious mind is gone. Actions are now under the power of the hypnotist and he controls activities and deals with the unconscious mind. In Hypnotism, Estabrooks (1957) offers a procedure of a hypnotist as he induces hypnosis.
Since suggestion is the operator’s key and relaxation makes the subject more open to suggestion, the operator has his subject seated in a comfortable place. He then “talks sleep”. The subject is asked to close his/her eyes and the operator begins somewhat as follows: you are falling sound asleep. Relax all of your muscles and imagine that you are going into a deep sleep. Deeper and deeper.
You will not wake up until I tell you to (Estabrooks, 1957). The hypnotist will then test the subject by insisting the subjects eyes are locked closed and then dares him to open them. If the subject cannot open his eyes, the hypnotist is getting control over the unconscious mind of the subject. Contrary, according to Baker (1990), when a person is hypnotized, they are fully conscious, and “just about anyone with a modicum of common sense can hypnotize people, that is, obtain their compliance and have them follow suggestions” (Baker, 1990, p.41). We have fairly good experimental evidence indicating that hypnosis is a state of dissociation neither in the sense that persons in that state can carry on two independent mental processes more effectively than when in the non-trance state .. It is true, however, that specific suggestions to that effect are able in hypnosis to make certain memories inaccessible to voluntary recall. These are, in a certain sense, dissociation of phenomena, but by no means such in the sense a dissociation into two independent “minds” once conscious and the subconscious ..
It seems fairly clear that the dissociation’s observed are not essential to the hypnotic state, but are always the result of direct or indirect suggestion. Accordingly, they must find their explanation in the general theory of suggestion, rather than in the theory of hypnosis as such (Hull, 1933, p. 390). From these very different conclusions, we can see that people have many different ideas and beliefs concerning hypnosis. Hypnosis, according to van der Walde (1965), seems to be more a frame of mind than of an independent state of consciousness. The hypnotic situation does nothing but help motivated subjects achieve what they want under conditions that allow this to be done safely (Baker, 1990, p.
167). According to Baker (1990), the hypnotist serves only as a transference figure. Baker (1990) states, “this is obvious, since we have many successful hypnotists and responses to the hypnotist are completely unrelated to the hypnotists’s ability or to his grasp of hypnotic induction procedures.” One can conclude then, that the subject’s reaction to the induction procedure is determined by what the subjects preconceived idea of what a hypnotist should be and do than by what the hypnotist really is and does (Baker, 1990, p.167). Hypnosis and Pain Hypnosis as an anaesthetic Hypnosis has been used to cure many ills, and over the years, has become a remedy for bad habits, such as smoking, drinking, and weight gain. But one use of hypnosis that is very popular is its use to replace anesthetics during surgery.
The use of hypnosis as an anaesthetic can be traced back to a French surgeon named Cloquet, to John Eliotson at the University College Hospital in London in the 1830’s, and to James Esdaile’s use of mesmeric techniques in India (Baker, 1990, p. 199). However, the pain killing that was reported in those instances was not clear-cut. In Hypnosis, Compliance, and Belief, Wagstaff (1981) states that the work of Eliotson and Esdaille may not have been so pain free. According to Wagstaff, the number of people who undergo surgery without pain under hypnosis is very small. This observation was shared by Baker (1990) as well.
“While the number of people who could undergo painless surgery without anesthetics is quite small, it is important to point out that the number of people selected for surgery with hypnosis is equally small. Those who have studied the problem are in general agreement that the number is much less than the frequently reported ten percent. Two to three percent would be much more accurate.” According to Baker (1990), investigators have also said that cultural factors affect the way people respond to pain. For example, people that live in Third World countries, in poverty, hunger and disease, have a tolerance for pain much unlike people from America and Western Europe. Situations that would seem very painful to Americans may not seem so painful to people of more primitive cultures.
It is believed that if one is brought up to think that a surgery will cause little pain, then that is what will happen. In China, for instance, children are conditioned to believe that surgery such as tonsillectomies cause little or no pain (Baker, 1990, p. 200). This kind of conditioning is extremely important in determining what is painful and what the level of pain experienced is. According to Wagstaff (1981), if Esdaille was able to carry out operations without pain on the East Indians, this does not mean that he would have been successful if he had tried this with Americans or Europeans.
The way surgery is done under hypnosis varies. One way of suppressing pain during surgery without anesthetics is through the placebo affect. Until recently, it is very possible that many medicines were placebos, i.e., sugar pills. So, it was not the medicine that brought about pain relief but the belief that one had ingested medicine (Baker, 1990, p. 201). According to Baker (1990), an example of the use of placebos was during World War II when two surgeons without any access to anesthetics were forced to use hypnosis as a painkiller.
The two surgeons suggested anesthesia from fake morphine pills, and it worked. Distraction also works well. An example of this is one needs to get stitches in his/her leg, the nurse would squeeze the patient’s hand very hard to try and distract the pain from the leg to the hand. Other distractions may include imaging a fantasyland, or trying to imagine that one’s body is completely numb in the area where the pain is coming from. This may include taking very deep breaths. “All of these activities serve well to reduce the amount of felt and reported pain” (Baker, 1990, p.
200). In addition to the placebo effect and suggestion, relaxation is also useful when trying to alleviate pain. Muscle relaxation is clearly related to pain responsiveness. “Relaxation is very effective in reducing fear and anxiety, which are inextricably liked with the pain response” (Baker, 1990, p. 200). The main difficulty with relaxation techniques to soothe pain is that when you have a person who is suffering from a traumatic would and is in need of relief from fear and anxiety, it could be very hard to persuade this person to take deep breaths and calm down.
In today’s world, contrary to the prior situations discussed, our society’s have a very low tolerance for pain, and it is unlike that many would prefer the alternate pain relievers associated with hypnosis as opposed to anesthetics. According to Baker (1990), pain is the single most reason that people see physicians today, and it is the number one reason that people take medication. These are just a few examples of how hypnosis is used to heal and cure, but it is unlikely that these practices are used much today. In a world full of technology and of the medical advances that we have today, it is easy to see why. But, one still has to wonder, if one really could heal himself without putting chemicals and medicines into his/her body, wouldn’t he/she rather heal themselves. I’m not sure I would, even after reading up on many cases that claim people have felt no pain during surgery because of hypnosis.
In a world of medicine, I think I would opt for the friendly practitioner to scribble me a prescription that could leave me feeling better in minutes than try to convince myself that my body is numb, or that I’m in a fantasy land. However, the prospect of healing myself is tempting, just not convincing enough for my skeptical mind. References Baker, Robert A. 1990. They Call it Hypnosis. New York: Prometheus Books.
Estabrooks, George H. 1957. Hypnotism. New York: E.P. Dutton & Co.
Inc. Hull, C.L. 1933. Hypnosis and Suggestibility: An Experimental Approach. New York: Appleton-Century.
Kennedy, Marge M. 1979. The Mystery of Hypnosis. New York: Contemporary Perspectives, Inc. Sheehan, P.W. 1979.
“Hypnosis and the Process of Imagination” in Hypnosis: Developments in Research and New Perspectives. New York: Adline Publishing. Co. Thornton, E.M. 1976. Hypnotism, Hysteria, and Epilepsy: An Historical Synthesis.
London: Heinemann. Van der Walde, P.H. 1965. “Interpretation of hypnosis in terms of ego psychology.” Arch.Gen.Psychiatr. Vol. (12), 438-447.
Wagstaff, Graham R. 1981. Hypnosis, Compliance, and Belief. New York: St. Martin’s Press.
Weizenhoffer, A. M. 1953. Hypnotism. New York: John Wiley & Sons.
———–.1985. “In search of hypnosis” in Modern Trends in Hypnosis. New York: Plenum Press. Psychology.