Don E. Gibbons, Ph.D., NJ Licensed Psychologist #03513
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Thursday, April 2, 2020

Hypnosis: The Future of a Shared Delusion

If it Works, It's Real
--William James

The easiest way to explain hypnosis is to tell the story  of how it developed in its modern form. Until relatively recently, in Western culture the experience of trance was interpreted as due to demonic influences or, occasionally, the mark of holiness or sainthood, as it was in the case of Saint Teresa.
Saint Teresa was a prone to spontaneous states of rapture  

Although healing by means of trance induction probably dates back to prehistoric times, the revival of interest in the induction of healing trances in Western culture may be traced directly to the work of the Viennese physician, Franz Anton Mesmer (1733-1815). Mesmer was considerably influenced by the teachings of Paracelsus that the stars and the planets exert considerable influence over human behavior by means of their magnetic fields. He decided to investigate the implications of this theory by slowly drawing some small magnets over the bodies of his patients. This was frequently found to be accompanied by convulsions, fainting, and the disappearance (at least temporarily) of a host of symptoms which today we would attribute to the power of suggestion. But to Mesmer and his followers, the discovery of these new "powers" of magnetism appeared to be an exciting medical breakthrough. 

Mesmer soon discovered, however, that he was able to produce the same results without the aid of special magnets. This led him to conclude that the "magnetism" in question was coming from his own body. He abandoned the use of metal magnets altogether, and simply began to make passes in the air with his hands near the bodies of his patients. He coined the term "animal magnetism" to explain what was happening.

When the demand for his services had reached its height, Mesmer proceeded to "magnetize" a large elm tree on the estate of his patron, the Marquis de Puységur, a few miles outside of the city of Paris; and great crowds would often gather to stand under the tree, either to derive the benefits if its healing power for themselves or simply to observe the dramatic results which were apparently produced in others.


Events were to take yet another turn when a retarded peasant lad of twenty-three named Victor Emmanuel was brought to stand under the now-famous elm tree, in the hope that the "magnetic rays" which were supposedly emanating from the tree might also be of some benefit to him. As many developmentally challenged people are apt to do when they are placed in a situation in which they are not quite certain what is expected of them, Victor, though he remained standing, promptly utilized the occasion to avail himself of a quick nap. Other patients standing under the tree, seeing Victor asleep on his feet, apparently perceived this event as merely another result of the strange mesmeric rays emanating from the tree; for they promptly began to feel drowsy and to "fall asleep" themselves, thereby initiating a change in the form of suggestion-induced trance experience which heralded the death of mesmerism and the birth of traditional forms of hypnosis.


Hypnosis immediately became an object of fascination.

By now the role of suggestion in determining both the outward form and inward experience of trance behavior should be obvious. The mesmeric "crises" we re brought about by implicit suggestions or expectations arising from the eccentric astrological notions of Paracelsus, whereas the "sleeping" or hypnotic trance was first manifested by people who were imitating the behavior of a person who was too stupid to realize that he was supposed to go into convulsions and went to sleep instead! An induction procedure provides both the occasion and the opportunity for those who are able to respond well to suggestion to go ahead and do so. All the rest depends upon ongoing cultural narratives, explicit or implicit cues which are present in the situation, and the ability and willingness of the participant to comply with the instructions and suggestions which he or she is given. (Gibbons, 1979).

Today, we no longer need to rely upon the model of trance behavior which was accidentally provided to us by a sleeping mentally challenged individual over two hundred years ago.  Hyperempiric inductions are based on suggestions of mind expansion, enhanced awareness, and increased responsiveness and sensitivity, in contrast to traditional hypnotic inductions based on expressed or implied suggestions of lethargy, drowsiness, and sleep. (Gibbons, 1976). Hyperempiric inductions, or "alert hypnosis," have been found to be just as effective as traditional hypnotic inductions in facilitating subsequent responsiveness to suggestion (Bányai, & Hilgard, 1976; Gibbons, 1976, 1979: Gibbons & Lynn, 2010). But I didn't have to wait for another historical accident to come along to change our expectations of the manner in which a person is supposed to experience a trance. I simply made it up!
 


After people have accepted the suggestion that their mental processes are beginning to function differently, which is what a trance induction really is, we can create in their personal experience almost anything we care to imagine, simply by suggesting it. What kind of experiences, then, should do them the most good?  If you can literally suggest anything that you want to, why not tell people in hypnosis that this is the most wonderful thing that has happened to them, and suggest that they are experiencing the fulfillment of their existence as they. dissolve into the infinite love of the Multiverse itself? You can, using multiversal meditation -- and it works, with predictable changes in thinking, feeling, and behavior!
References      
Bányai, E. I., & Hilgard, E. R. (1976). A comparison of active-alert hypnotic induction with traditional relaxation induction. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 85, 218-224.

Gibbons, D. E. (1979). Applied hypnosis and hyperempiria. New York: Plenum Press.
  
Gibbons, D. E. (1976).. Hyperempiria, a new “altered state of consciousnes” induced by suggestion. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 39, 47-53.

Gibbons, D. E., & Lynn, S. J. (2010). Hypnotic inductions: A primer. in S. J. Lynn, J. W. Rhue, & I. Kirsch (Eds.) Handbook of clinical hypnosis, 2nd ed. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, pp. 267-29

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