Hypnosis is essentially a state of mind, one which is usually induced in one person by another. It is attained by strict attention to either an object or to the repetitive spoken word. It results in a state of mind in which suggestions are not only more readily accepted than in the awake state, but are also acted upon much more powerfully than under normal conditions. Under hypnosis, one has access to the unconscious mind without the barrier of criticism normally presented by the conscious state. The actions and behaviour of a hypnotized subject may be compared with those of a person suffering from temporary absent-mindedness. Absent-mindedness is a state of mind that may come on suddenly and unexpectedly. It lasts for an indefinite period and then passes off equally suddenly. In such a state a person may start to do a job, and will do it just as efficiently and as thoroughly as in his normal state of mind. Yet when the absent-mindedness suddenly terminates, he will look and say ‘Good heavens, when did I start doing this?’ The state of the hypnotized person is, in many respects, similar to that of the absent-minded person, the basic difference being that under hypnosis a person’s receptiveness to suggestion is tremendously enhanced. However, at no time is there loss of control. Your personality is always there, but maybe likened to an ‘observer’. Techniques for painless childbirth are essentially hypnosis techniques. Acupuncture is also a form of hypnosis, although other factors may also be involved.
Two specific aims of hypnotherapy are ego-strengthening and symptom removal. Under hypnosis it is relatively easy to instil in a subject a sequence of simple suggestions designed to
remove tension, anxiety and apprehension, and to gradually restore the patient’s confidence in himself and in his ability to cope with his problem. Once this has been accomplished, one may successfully modify or remove specific symptoms, such as itching. The patient under hypnosis may also be guided, reassured, persuaded, and if necessary, reconditioned.
Depending on the nature of the patient’s problem, the patient may then be taught the technique of self-hypnosis, and in certain circumstances, can be given a code word which, when recalled under appropriate circumstances, will facilitate the self-induction of a hypnotic, relaxed state. Some patients prefer the use of a tape-recording made for them by the therapist, which they can use when circumstances demand it.