“You are getting sleepy, very sleepy…” This is what most people recognize and think of when they hear the word “hypnotism.” And while hypnosis is recognized as an effective and viable treatment method, there are a number of misconceptions and myths floating around that make people wonder is hypnotism real. Popular culture often tends to showcase hypnosis as something and is mystical and/or laughable. Everyone has gone to a carnival or fair where a fake hypnotist is “practicing mind control” whereby they get people to do or say silly things that they will not remember upon waking up. However, hypnotism has little to do with sleeping and while some men and women are much more susceptible than others, if an individual does not want to by hypnotized, it will not happen.
Brief History of Hypnotism
The utilization of hypnotism for medical reasons started in the eighteenth century. Franz Mesmer, an Austrian physician created a new technique to induce trances based on the idea of animal magnetism – the part of the body that is susceptible to the influence of other bodies. He came from the belief that animal magnetism plus an imbalance in the body were the main causes of disease and pain. By putting a patient into a trance-like state, balance was restored. Benjamin Franklin later investigated these claims when asked by King Louis XVI of France. Franklin discredited the treatments.
However, in 1843, James Braid, a Scottish surgeon, was the first to create the word “hypnotism.” He derived this word from the name of the Greek god of sleep – Hypnos. Braid focused on trying to relieve pain experienced during a surgical procedure (this was before the introduction of anesthesia). While he wanted to distance his studies from Mesmer’s, it did take on some connotations, just without the magic wands and silk robes Mesmer was known to use.
By the 1950s, hypnosis finally gained some footing as a valid treatment throughout the medical community. The use of scientific studies and measurements aimed to answer the question of is hypnotism real. William Ray, a psychology professor at Penn State University, said that since them there have been thousands of articles published in numerous psychological and medical journals that documented the utilization of hypnosis, or hypnotherapy, for treatment of emotional and mental disorders, pain relief, and as a viable option for behavioral therapy. By 1958, hypnosis was approved as a viable form of therapy by the American Medical Association and by the American Psychiatric Association in 1961.
Who is Able to be Hypnotized
The very first reliable scale to see how amenable a man or woman is to hypnosis was developed in Stanford University in 1959 and was known as the Hypnotic Susceptibility Scale. A number of studies have been done to show that around 95 percent of the entire population is amenable to hypnosis to some extent. Each individual will have their own varying degree of how responsive they are to hypnosis. While research has yet to show why some respond more than others, there is some thought that it is linked to a person’s ability to be fully engrossed in daily activities. For example, some individuals are so into a book they are reading that they do not hear someone call their name or they lose track of time.
How Does Hypnosis Work
When people think of hypnosis, they think of a guy waving a watch in front of their faces, counting to ten and snapping their fingers. Really, this only occurs in television and movies. Therapists who are trained in hypnotherapy look to put an individual into a state of very deep relaxation. Often this is done by maintaining focus on a sound, a phrase, or even a single word. Once the brain becomes relaxed, it is more susceptible to suggestion. These suggestions can be utilized to encourage behavioral changes and relief. Well known reasons to use hypnotherapy have been to quit smoking, get pain relief during child labor, overcoming eating disorders, or certain phobias, like the fear of flying, the fear of public speaking, or even agoraphobia.
Using Hypnotism as a Therapeutic Tool
When posed with the inquiry of is hypnotism real, many therapists today say that it is. If an individual is suggestible, hypnosis can be a very valuable tool when it comes to dealing with anxiety, stress, or pain management. The British Medical Journal published an article in 1999 stating that there is a lot of evidence available that demonstrates the level of effectiveness hypnosis has on cancer patients, in terms of pain, nausea, and anxiety.
The University of Washington’s School of Medicine concluded a study in 2003 showcasing the idea that hypnosis could be even used rather than analgesics for individuals suffering from chronic pain. A Harvard study in 2008 showed that post-surgical patients given hypnosis suffered from much less anxiety and pain than individuals who got standard care or empathetic care.
Even though the origins of hypnotism are not very clear, it is one of the most popular techniques for self improvement and healing.
How Hypnotism Works
As many of us think hypnotism is not some thing like a black magic which can be performed only by a blessed few. The fact is that hypnotism has nothing magical in it.
Hypnosis is actually a state of focused attention in which the hypnotized person is fully awake. The state of hypnotism just increases the suggestibility and decreases awareness of the surroundings.