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An Overview of Hypnosis: What It Is, How It Started, and What It Does



As kids, we have a memory of a cartoon character holding out a gold coin attached to a chain, swinging it back and forth in front of another aspect, snapping his fingers, and successfully hypnotizing the second person. But while this may have given us a view of the entire process, hypnosis is more than just a snap of your fingers.

According to the American Psychological Association, hypnosis is a consensual interaction wherein the subject cooperates with and responds to the hypnotist’s suggestions. Contrary to what we see in television wherein a person who is in the state of hypnosis performs ridiculous stunts, the entire process is found to have medical benefits and may even help ward off if not ward the onset of dementia.

History of Hypnosis

This process existed even during ancient times, which date back to the early Egyptian civilization and the Hindu Vedas. However, hypnosis was entwined with the magical realm, and the process was often used to communicate with deities as well as those who have passed on to the afterlife. Although hypnosis was more classified as occultism during this period, it was nonetheless an accepted method of healing and treating individuals.

The western world was introduced to the power of hypnosis by a man named Franz Mesmer, who helped to make the entire process less of an occult practice and a scientific one. His rational explanation for hypnosis was based on the idea of magnetism. Although Mesmer’s hypothesis has since been debunked, he did pave the way for more scientists to explore the realm of hypnosis. At the same time, Mesmer’s method of hypnosis would be reproduced by individuals who followed suit. Currently, hypnosis has become a valuable tool in helping individuals who suffer from specific phobias or irrational fears, as well as those with other mental and emotional problems.

Effect of Hypnosis

The experience of being hypnotized varies from person to person. For instance, some individuals report that they feel very much relaxed when under the state of hypnosis, while other people think that although they are conscious, they are acting outside of their own volition.

On the other hand, some individuals report knowing precisely what they are doing and can even respond coherently while being hypnotized. One of the things which hypnosis has been shown to affect the most is one’s perception, including pain, as evidenced by Ernest Hilgard’s experiment, which successfully hypnotized individuals to place their fingers in cold water for minutes at a time. In contrast, a normal person can only tolerate cold water for a couple of seconds.