When we talk about hypnosis we often tend to be either talking about the relaxed, focused, absorbed feelings associated with a ‘trance state’, or we tend to be talking about the interesting things people can do when hypnotised: such as not feeling pain, or experiencing hallucinations. Some scientists think that hypnosis is an ‘altered state of consciousness’ marked by changes in the way the brain functions. Others believe that hypnotised participants are actively motivated to behave in a hypnotic manner and are not simply passively responding to hypnotic suggestions. Therapists who use hypnosis sometimes talk about using hypnosis to access contents and resources of the unconscious / subconscious mind.
Like the story of the blind men and the elephant, it is possible that these explanations all describe different parts of the overall phenomenon of hypnosis.
Hypnosis is generally taken mean to the induction of a trance state. Although trance has connotations of glassy-eyed automatism, it simply means a focused state of attention. Attention can be focused externally, or it can be focused internally. It is most often compared to daydreaming, or the feeling of “losing yourself” in a book or movie. You are fully conscious, but you tune out most of the stimuli around you. You focus intently on the subject at hand, to the near exclusion of any other thought.
In this state, you are also highly suggestible. That is, when the hypnotist tells you do something, you’ll probably embrace the idea completely. Its application is based solely on the relationship between the conscious mind and the subconscious mind. The subconscious mind, having no power to reason, accepts and acts upon any fact or suggestion given to it by the conscious mind.
However, the subject’s sense of safety and morality remain entrenched throughout the experience. A hypnotist can’t get you to do anything you don’t want to do.
Involuntariness: the classic suggestion effect in Hypnosis
Whether or not you believe that hypnosis is an altered state of consciousness, the key characteristic of hypnotic responding is involuntariness. This has been called the “classic suggestion effect” (Weitzenhoffer, 1980). As a hypnotic suggestion is carried out by a subject, the subjective experience is typically that the behaviour is happening all by itself, involuntarily. For example, if the suggestion is that the subject’s arm is rigid like a bar of iron, the classic hypnotic experience is that one’s arm has really become rigid, on its own: it is not experienced that one is deliberately holding one’s arm stiffly.
Components necessary to induce hypnosis.
- Motivation - You must want to be Hypnotized
- Concentration - You will use your ability to concentrate.
- Imagination - You will use your vivid imagination.
- Suggestion - You will hear and respond to suggestions.
How does Hypnosis feel?
Since everyone has experienced light levels of hypnosis at different times, don’t be surprised if you don’t feel hypnotized. All that is required to be hypnotized is a motivation to be hypnotized, concentration, imagination, relaxation, and the willingness to respond to suggestion. There are ways to check for the depth level of hypnosis, usually in a one-on-one session. During hypnosis, you will remain conscious of your surroundings.
Some of the sensations you may experience when in a hypnotic state:
- Tingling in your fingertips or limbs
- A sense of numbness or limb distortion
- A sense of being light and floating away from your body
- A heavy feeling like your are sinking
- A sense of energy moving through your body
- Feelings of emotions
- Fluttering eyelids
- An increase or decrease in salivation.
Things to remember about hypnosis
- When you notice that you are noticing these sensations, do not become alarmed or you may shock yourself right out of the hypnotic state.
- Just expect the hypnotic state to occur gradually and it will.
- Suggestions stay with some individuals indefinitely, others need reinforcement.
- The effects of hypnosis are cumulative: The more the techniques are practiced and posthypnotic suggestions are brought into play, the more permanent the results become.