Don E. Gibbons, Ph.D., NJ Licensed Psychologist #03513
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Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Differences Between Hypnosis, Mindfulness, Multiversal Meditation, and Relaxation Training

In order to understand the alterations in experience which may be induced by suggestion, let us look at what it means to be conscious of oneself in the first place.

In the early years of the Twentieth Century, adherents of the school of psychology known as structuralism were attempting to discover the basic elements of consciousness by employing a method known as introspection.  This "looking inward" to identify the basic components of one's thoughts and feelings led to widespread disagreement among various investigators regarding just how many such elements of consciousness there actually were. The diffficulty, of course, lay in the fact that consciousness, like a mirror, tends to reflect back what is put into it; and if reading and speculation have led a person to surmise that a particular element exists in conscioiusness, as soon as one begins musingly to "look inward" to discover such an element, that element is likely to appear. The process is somewhat reminiscent of the game which Tolstoy and his brother used to play when they were children, which involved seeing how long they both could go without thinking of a white bear.

Since the perception of one's own awareness is, by definition, a subjective phenomenon, what is true regarding the perception of the elements of consciousness is also true regarding the experience of one's consciousness as a whole. In other words, tbe number of "altered states" (or, more accurately, altered experiences) of consciousness which may be induced by expressed or implied suggestion is probably equal to the number of such states or experiences which it is possible to conceive or to imagine; for each of these imagined definitions may be presented in the form of an induction procedure or similar ritual containing explicit or implicit suggerstions which will bring about such an experience in subjects who are sufficiently responsive and willing to comply. Thus, the suggestor is free to define the dimensions and experiential properties of a suggestion-induced "trance state" in practically any manner he or she may desire. Today, for example, we hear of hypnosis, meditation, mindfulness, relaxation training, mind control, ultra-height, autogentic training, suggestology, dianetics, and a host of other techniques too numerous to mention. Rather than concluding that these techniques are all variations of "hypnosis," it is more accurate to describe them as changes in perceived awareness which are brought about by means of suggestion, and which differ from hypnosis in the same way that they differ from each other: in the specific content of the changes in perceived awareness which are either directly implied or suggested by the procedure which is utilized to bring about such changes, and hence, in the "feel" of the resulting subjective experience, and in the effect of that experience upon the subsequent thought and behavior of the person who undergoes it. A highly responsive hypnotic subject may feel as if he or she had been unconscious, for example, and report no memory of the events which transpired while supposedly under the influence of the "trance" (unless it has been suggested that one is not supposed to feel that way in hypnosis, or it has been specifically suggested during hypnosis that one will remember everything), whereas a student undergoing an advanced form of yogic training may feel as if he or she is merging with infinite reality!

An "induction procedure," then, is not some sort of mechanical process which one person "uses on" another to render the subject more compliant witb the will of the suggestor, as laymen occasionally tend to perceive it; and neither does it operate in some mysterious manner to open up a direct channel of communication with the "unconscous mind." It is, rather, a method of providing both the opportunity and the rationale for those who are able and willing to utilize their imagination in an "alice in wonderland" fashion to go ahead and do so. 

Rather than inquiring how many alterations in perceived awareness it is possible to produce by means of expressed or implied suggestison, or how one may go about measuring their purported "depth" -- which is, after all, pointless when one is dealing with subjective experiences for which new phenomenological dimensions can be invented, suggested, and consequently experienced by sufficiently responsive subjects virtually at will -- it is more appropriate to inquire how such experiences may best be defined and guided to fulfill their primary purpose which is to assist the subject in achieving an increased measure of self-awareness and self-control (Gibbons, 1979, pp. 15-17). The question then becomes, which of these techniques is best adapted for use with a particular individual, and in what form this procedure should best be tailored, for the enhancement of human potential, the ennoblement of the human spirit, and the fulfillment of human existence.

I prefer to use the term multiversal meditation instead of hypnosis in order to avoid the outmoded, Nineteenth-Century, Svengali-like stereotypes of dominance and submission which continue to be asssociated with the concept of hypnosis in some quarters, and the occasional public relations nightmare which occasionally erupts when fantasies of seduction under hypnosis are acted out by both hypnotist and subject.  Multiversal meditation also allows us to adopt an experiential approach which allows to incorporate concepts borrowed from modern physics.

1 comment:

Claire hast said...

Hypnosis as a training has prevail more than a large number of years with numerous specialists and therapists. Today, oncologists, psychotherapists, clinicians, endocrinologists and gastroenterologists, just to give some examples, are discovering approaches to consolidate entrancing into their treatment plans.