Olness thinks there must be something about the intense mental imagery that comes with a hypnotic state. One little boy she worked with told her he was imagining that he was touching the sun. Whether such visions activate different parts of the brain than those associated with rational thought is less clear. As Olness says, “We’re a long way from specifics on that.”
Some hypnotists view suggestion as a form of communication that is directed primarily to the subject's conscious mind,[40] whereas others view it as a means of communicating with the "unconscious" or "subconscious" mind.[40][41] These concepts were introduced into hypnotism at the end of the 19th century by Sigmund Freud and Pierre Janet. Sigmund Freud's psychoanalytic theory describes conscious thoughts as being at the surface of the mind and unconscious processes as being deeper in the mind.[42] Braid, Bernheim, and other Victorian pioneers of hypnotism did not refer to the unconscious mind but saw hypnotic suggestions as being addressed to the subject's conscious mind. Indeed, Braid actually defines hypnotism as focused (conscious) attention upon a dominant idea (or suggestion). Different views regarding the nature of the mind have led to different conceptions of suggestion. Hypnotists who believe that responses are mediated primarily by an "unconscious mind", like Milton Erickson, make use of indirect suggestions such as metaphors or stories whose intended meaning may be concealed from the subject's conscious mind. The concept of subliminal suggestion depends upon this view of the mind. By contrast, hypnotists who believe that responses to suggestion are primarily mediated by the conscious mind, such as Theodore Barber and Nicholas Spanos, have tended to make more use of direct verbal suggestions and instructions.[citation needed]
In the 1950s, Milton H. Erickson developed a radically different approach to hypnotism, which has subsequently become known as "Ericksonian hypnotherapy" or "Neo-Ericksonian hypnotherapy." Erickson made use of an informal conversational approach with many clients and complex language patterns, and therapeutic strategies. This divergence from tradition led some of his colleagues, including Andre Weitzenhoffer, to dispute whether Erickson was right to label his approach "hypnosis" at all.[10]
Jump up ^ De Pascalis, V.; Magurano, M.R.; Bellusci, A. (1999). "Pain perception, somatosensory event-related potentials and skin conductance responses to painful stimuli in high, mid, and low hypnotizable subjects: Effects of differential pain reduction strategies". Pain. 83 (3): 499–508. doi:10.1016/S0304-3959(99)00157-8. PMID 10568858. INIST:1291393.

More than 200 years later, research in neuroscience is confirming at least parts of Mesmer’s outlandish theory. No, there is not magnetic fluid coursing through our bodies. But the power of mere suggestion — of imagination, as Franklin phrased it — is a more effective treatment than many modern skeptics might expect, causing real, measurable changes in the body and brain. Hypnotism has been shown to be an effective treatment for psychological problems, like phobias and eating disorders, but the practice also helps people with physical problems, including pain — both acute and chronic — and some gastrointestinal diseases. Physicians and psychologists have observed this with their own eyes for decades; now, many of them say that brain-imaging studies (not to mention the deep respect people tend to have for all things prefixed by “neuro”) are helping them finally prove their point.

People have been entering into hypnotic-type trances for thousands of years. In many cultures and religions, it was regarded as a form of meditation. Modern day hypnosis, however, started in the late 18th century and was made popular by Franz Mesmer, a German physician who became known as the father of ‘modern hypnotism’. In fact, hypnosis used to be known as ‘Mesmerism’ as it was named after Mesmer.


This method of hypnotherapy is commonly beneficial to hypnotherapists in discovering the psychological root of a problem or symptom, such as social anxiety, depression, or past trauma. These types of trauma are often hidden in unconscious memory and forgotten on a conscious level. Using hypnotherapy for analysis has proven particularly effective at digging into the subconscious memory to attempt to retrieve suppressed memories or early developmental trauma that could result in a wide range of psychological conditions or problematic behavior.

Following the French committee's findings, Dugald Stewart, an influential academic philosopher of the "Scottish School of Common Sense", encouraged physicians in his Elements of the Philosophy of the Human Mind (1818)[54] to salvage elements of Mesmerism by replacing the supernatural theory of "animal magnetism" with a new interpretation based upon "common sense" laws of physiology and psychology. Braid quotes the following passage from Stewart:[55]
We also wonder how the suppression mechanism in PHA relates to the vast array of forgetting in the laboratory and in the world? Whereas some forgetting is seen as strategic, effortful and conscious (say, suppression), other forgetting is seen as automatic, effortless and unconscious (say, repression). Having mapped the common features of PHA and functional amnesia, we now need to explore and compare in greater detail their common processes (such as strategy use, motivation, level of awareness).
The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services recognizes the healing power of hypnosis and its proven effectiveness for anxiety, pain control, smoking cessation, headaches and more. Hypnosis may be safe and complementary way to augment medical attention you are receiving for a chronic illness or pain, or a way to resolve an addiction or phobia that you are otherwise unable to control. Hypnosis does not work on every person. When scientists began studying hypnosis in earnest, a report published by Stanford University titled “The Stanford Hypnotic Susceptibility Scale” demonstrated that different brains respond to hypnosis in varying degrees, and a very few do not respond at all. Working with a trained psychologist, you’ll soon determine whether you are a good candidate for the healing benefits of hypnotherapy.
But the reason why this ever works, for anyone, is still not clear. Some researchers argue that hypnosis may help us tap into “the autonomic nervous system to influence physical systems that aren’t usually under voluntary control,” Marchant writes in her book. She points to Karen Olness, a retired pediatrician and former member of the NIH Council for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, who has worked with children who could, through hypnosis, increase the temperature of their fingertips “way beyond what would be achieved merely from relaxation.”
Pierre Janet originally developed the idea of dissociation of consciousness from his work with hysterical patients. He believed that hypnosis was an example of dissociation, whereby areas of an individual's behavioural control separate from ordinary awareness. Hypnosis would remove some control from the conscious mind, and the individual would respond with autonomic, reflexive behaviour. Weitzenhoffer describes hypnosis via this theory as "dissociation of awareness from the majority of sensory and even strictly neural events taking place."[38]
In the 2000s, hypnotherapists began to combine aspects of solution-focused brief therapy (SFBT) with Ericksonian hypnotherapy to produce therapy that was goal focused (what the client wanted to achieve) rather than the more traditional problem focused approach (spending time discussing the issues that brought the client to seek help). A solution-focused hypnotherapy session may include techniques from NLP.[13]
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