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File:Pr Charcot DSC09405.jpg
Professor Charcot (left) of Paris' Salpêtrière demonstrates hypnosis on a "hysterical" patient, "Blanche" (Marie) Wittman, who is supported by Dr. Joseph Babiński.

Hypnosis (from the Greek hypnos, "sleep") is "a trance-like state that resembles sleep but is induced by a person whose suggestions are readily accepted by the subject."[1]


A part of healing from ancient times, hypnosis is the induction of trance states and the use of therapeutic suggestion, which was a central feature of the ancient Egyptian and Indian sleep temples as well as Greek healing temples, and variations of these techniques were practiced throughout the world. During the Middle Ages and early modern period, hypnosis began to be better understood by physicians such as Avicenna[2] and Paracelsus.

Modern hypnosis began in the eighteenth century with Franz Anton Mesmer, who used what he called "magnetic healing" to treat a variety of psychological and psychophysiological disorders. Sigmund Freud, at first, found it extremely effective in treating hysteria and then, troubled by the sudden emergence of powerful emotions in his patients and its unreliable nature (as some patients could simply not be hypnotized) abandoned it. The therapeutic use of hypnosis in medicine was accepted in 1955 by the British Medical Association, which was closely followed in 1958 by the American Medical Association.

Methods and effects

General methods

Hypnotic susceptibility is the measurable responsiveness that a person has to hypnosis. Not all people can be hypnotized, but about 10% of people respond exceptionally well.[3]There is little evidence linking susceptibility to intelligence or personality traits, but some research has linked hypnosis to the amount of imagination in subjects. Recent research suggests that highly hypnotizable people have high sensory and perceptual gating abilities that allow them to block some stimuli from awareness (Barnier, McConkey, and Wright, 2004).

There is a common claim that no one can be hypnotized against their will.[4]

New research, developed by board-certified hypnotist Gerald Kein, claims that everybody is equally hypnotizable and that "people accept hypnosis in direct relationship to the amount of fear they have". Successful hypnosis is attained by the removal of inhibitory fear. With fear removed, most individuals can be deeply hypnotized in 5-10 seconds. Licensed mental health professionals are generally not trained in these techniques and use the old PR hypnotic induction developed in the 1940s (Kein, 1985).

General effects

Focused attention

Some schools of thought hold that hypnosis as a state is very similar to other states of extreme concentration, where a person becomes oblivious to his or her surroundings while lost in thought. Often suggested as an example is highway hypnosis, when a driver suddenly finds his or herself much further down the road without any memory of driving the intervening distance.

According to state theorists, the act of hypnotizing, is, in effect, the act of deliberately and mechanically inducing a similar state.[5]


Some psychologists have developed studies that show a correlation between the effects people display when acting as "hypnotized" and their level of suggestibility. Some of these studies involve the Harvard scale, and Stanford scale.

Hypnosis has been described as "suspension of the critical factor" which expands on the idea of "increased suggestibility". A person who claims to be hypnotized may accept statements as true that he or she would normally reject. However, this still does not demonstrate the validity of hypnosis as a real state, as subjects carrying out role playing might react similarly.

It often appears as if the "hypnotized" participant accepts the authority of the "hypnotist" over his or her own experience. When asked after the conclusion of such a session, some participants claim to be genuinely unable to recall the incident, while others say that they had known the hypnotist was wrong but at the time it had seemed easier just to go along with his instructions. (Richard Feynman describes this, in his memoir Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!, as his own hypnotic experience.) The mechanism of this effect, however, is disputed. Some hypnotists claim that this shows the difference between a deep and a shallow hypnotic trance, while skeptics cite that such effects can be duplicated in other circumstances where an agent holds authority, such as in the Milgram experiment. Because of the ability to achieve these effects through normal varieties of communication and circumstance, there is no scientific theory that supports the existence of hypnosis

Depth of hypnosis

Pupillary reflex

An objective sign of hypnosis can be observed by a pupillary reflex test, which demonstrates a response that is opposed to the normal physiological response. When subjects are in a profound hypnotic state, they are asked to remain in hypnosis and open their eyes. The subjects' pupils are usually dilated and remain dilated, or react poorly, when a penlight is shone into them (the normal non-hypnotic response is a contraction of the pupil).

The esoteric publication Hypnotism, by Danish hypnotist Carl Septus, is an early reference work that notes the absence of the pupillary reflex sign. Septus states specifically that after subjects have been asked to open their eyes during a deep trance, light shone into the eyes does not cause pupil contraction. The hypnotist may use suggestion to keep the subject in hypnosis, but must avoid suggestions relating to eyes, visual focus, light, or the dilation or contraction of the pupils. [6]



Hypnotherapy is a term to describe the use of hypnosis in a therapeutic context. Many hypnotherapists refer to their practice as "clinical work". Hypnotherapy can either be used as an addition to the work of licensed physicians or psychologists, or it can be used in a stand-alone environment where the hypnotherapist in question usually owns his or her own business. The majority of these stand-alone certified hypnotherapists (C.Hts in the U.S., Diploma. Hyp in the UK) today earn a large portion of their income through the cessation of smoking (often in a single session) and the aid of weight loss (body sculpting). Psychologists and psychiatrists use hypnosis predominantly for the treatment of dissociative disorders, phobias, habit change, depression and post-traumatic syndromes.[7] There is no evidence that 'incurable' diseases (such as cancer, diabetes, and arthritis) are curable with hypnosis, but pain and other bodily symptoms related to the diseases are controllable.[8][9][10][11] Some of the treatments practiced by hypnotherapists, in particular so-called regression, have been viewed with skepticism.[12]

The American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association have both cautioned against the use of repressed memory therapy in dealing with cases of alleged childhood trauma, stating that "it is impossible, without other corroborative evidence, to distinguish a true memory from a false one",[13] and so the procedure is "fraught with problems of potential misapplication".[14] (See also false memory). This is why forensic hypnosis is not widely used in many countries' legal systems. However, hypnosis therapy is frequently used by the public, and there is no shortage of testimonial evidence of its helpfulness.


The American Society of Clinical Hypnosis and British Society of Clinical Hypnosis are organizations that seek to promote the use of hypnosis in treating a wide variety of physical and psychological ailments. The American society was founded by Milton Erickson, who was opposed to unlicensed professionals performing therapeutic hypnosis. In the United States, the largest organization promoting its use for both therapeutic and non-therapeutic use is the National Guild of Hypnotists, or NGH.

Medicine and dentistry

One of the major initial applications of hypnosis was the suppression of pain during medical procedures. This was supplanted (in the late 19th century) by the development of more reliable chemical anesthetics.

Hypnodontia – the use of hypnosis in dentistry – has a long history. Besides smoothing out dental procedures by way of its generalized anti-anxiety effects, use of hypnodontia can increase overall patient comfort, make the dental experience acceptable and bearable, decrease resistance to future intervention and, through posthypnotic suggestions, encourage more rapid recovery.


In a lecture to the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis (ASCH) during their annual conference at the State University Of New York, Dr. Milton Erickson taught the process of indirect hypnosis while Dr. Robert W. Habbick spoke of his research on the use of hypnosis in enhancing learning and reducing anxiety. Dr. Habbick explained the use of a triad of suggestions: "(a) enhancing confidence, while (b) strengthening focused interest in the work and (c) improving energy to do the studying necessary." The results of his controlled research pointed the way toward the need to apply hypnosis especially with students who have difficulty studying. In a more recent lecture, Dr. Habbick spoke in Boston to ASCH of the positive effects of using his suggested hypnosis triad with students at the Bureau of Study Council at Harvard University


Hypnodermatology is the practice of treating skin diseases with hypnosis.


A study done at the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine looked at two groups of patients facing surgery for breast cancer. The group that received hypnosis prior to surgery reported less pain, nausea, and anxiety after surgery than did the control group. There was a cost benefit as well, as the average hypnosis patient reduced the cost of treatment by an average of $772.00.[15]

Other uses

Michael R. Nash writes, in a 2001 article for Scientific American titled "The Truth and the Hype of Hypnosis", "using hypnosis, scientists have temporarily created hallucinations, compulsions, certain types of memory loss, false memories, and delusions in the laboratory so that these phenomena can be studied in a controlled environment."[16]

In his book The Hidden Persuaders (1957) Vance Packard describes research involving the behavior of housewives in supermarkets in the 1950's. Cameras were hidden to measure a shopper's eye-blink rate as she compared items. It was assumed that her eye-blink rate would increase as she performed mental calculations to determine which product was the best value. In fact, the cameras recorded an eye-blink rate which indicated that the housewife was, according to Packard, usually in a hypnotic state while shopping. This led manufacturers to produce new brands of laundry detergent in competition with their own, existing brands, where the primary differences were in the product names, colors and shapes of designs on the packages, which were designed to appeal to women at different times of their menstrual cycles. The effects of this research can be noted today by visiting the laundry detergent section of any American supermarket.

Hypnotism has also received publicity about its use in Forensics, Sports, Education, and physical therapy and rehabilitation.[17]

Although not widespread, hypnotism can be used to induce lucid dreams.


Though various conjectures are made about hypnosis, the field has received significant support from the science-oriented psychology community due to research into hypnotic phenomena conducted by practitioners and theorists (Sala 1999). Both Heap and Dryden (1991) and Ambrose and Newbold (1980) consider that the theoretical debates on hypnotherapy have been productive, and that hypnosis has benefited from the attentions of those involved in the controversies. However, it has also been stated that the practice of hypnosis has been characterized by gullibility and fraudulence from the 18th century to its adoption by New Age practitioners.

Social constructionism

Social constructionism and role-playing theory of hypnosis, discovered by Jun Zhou in the early 18th century[18]Template:Page number, suggests that individuals are playing a role and that really there is no such thing as hypnosis. A relationship is built depending on how much rapport has been established between the "hypnotist" and the subject (see Hawthorne effect, Pygmalion effect, and placebo effect).

Some psychologists, such as Robert Baker, claim that what we call hypnosis is actually a form of learned social behavior, a complex hybrid of social compliance, relaxation, and suggestibility that can account for many esoteric behavioral manifestations.[19]Template:Page number

Nicholas Spanos states, "hypnotic procedures influence behavior indirectly by altering subjects' motivations, expectations and interpretations."[20]Template:Page number


Pierre Janet originally developed the idea of dissociation of consciousness as a result of his work with hysterical patients. He believed that hypnosis was an example of dissociation whereby areas of an individual's behavioral control are split off from ordinary awareness. Hypnosis would remove some control from the conscious mind and the individual would respond with autonomic, reflexive behavior. Weitzenhoffer describes hypnosis via this theory as "dissociation of awareness from the majority of sensory and even strictly neural events taking place."[21]Template:Page number


Anna Gosline says in a NewScientist.com article:

"Gruzelier and his colleagues studied brain activity using an fMRI while subjects completed a standard cognitive exercise, called the Stroop task.

The team screened subjects before the study and chose 12 that were highly susceptible to hypnosis and 12 with low susceptibility. They all completed the task in the fMRI under normal conditions and then again under hypnosis.

Throughout the study, both groups were consistent in their task results, achieving similar scores regardless of their mental state. During their first task session, before hypnosis, there were no significant differences in brain activity between the groups.

But under hypnosis, Gruzelier found that the highly susceptible subjects showed significantly more brain activity in the anterior cingulate gyrus than the weakly susceptible subjects. This area of the brain has been shown to respond to errors and evaluate emotional outcomes.

The highly susceptible group also showed much greater brain activity on the left side of the prefrontal cortex than the weakly susceptible group. This is an area involved with higher level cognitive processing and behaviour."[22]

Conditioned process

Ivan Pavlov believed that hypnosis was a "partial sleep". He observed that the various degrees of hypnosis did not significantly differ physiologically from the waking state and hypnosis depended on insignificant changes of environmental stimuli. Pavlov also suggested that lower-brain-stem mechanisms were involved in hypnotic conditioning.[23]Template:Page number[24]


Currently a more popular "hyper-suggestibility theory" states that the subject focuses attention by responding to the hypnotist's suggestion. As attention is focused and magnified, the hypnotist's words are gradually accepted without the subject conducting any conscious censorship of what is being said. This is not unlike the athlete listening to the coach's last pieces of advice minutes before an important sport event; concentration filters out all that is unimportant and magnifies what is said about what really matters to the subject.[18]Template:Page number


Information theory uses a brain-as-computer model. In electronic systems, a system adjusts its feedback networks to increase the signal-to-noise ratio for optimum functioning, called the "steady state". Increasing the receptability of a receptor enables messages to be more clearly received from a transmitter, primarily by reducing the interference (noise). Thus the hypnotist's object is to use techniques to reduce the interference and increase the receptability of specific messages (suggestions).[18]Template:Page number


Systems theory, in this context, may be regarded as an extension of James Braid's original conceptualization of hypnosis[25]Template:Page number as involving a process of enhancing or depressing the activity of the nervous system. Systems theory considers the nervous system's organization into interacting subsystems. Hypnotic phenomena thus involve not only increased or decreased activity of particular subsystems, but also their interaction. A central phenomenon in this regard is that of feedback loops, familiar to systems theory, which suggest a mechanism for creating the more extreme hypnotic phenomena.[26][27]


A peer-reviewed article on the University of Maryland Medical Center's web site says: "Although studies on hypnosis as a treatment for obesity are not conclusive, most research suggests that hypnotherapy (when used in combination with cognitive behavioral therapy, exercise, and a low-fat diet) may help overweight or obese individuals lose weight."[28]

Clinical studies

In 1996, the National Institutes of Health technology assessment panel judged hypnosis to be an effective intervention for alleviating pain from cancer and other chronic conditions. A large number of clinical studies also indicate that hypnosis can reduce the acute pain experienced by patients undergoing burn-wound debridement, enduring bone marrow aspirations, and childbirth. An analysis published in a recent issue of the International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, for example, found that hypnotic suggestions relieved the pain of 75% of 933 subjects participating in 27 different experiments.[16]

Brain imaging

One controlled scientific experiment postulates that hypnosis may alter our perception of conscious experience in a way not possible when people are not "hypnotized", at least in "highly hypnotizable" people. In this experiment, color perception was changed by hypnosis in "highly hypnotizable" people as determined by (PET) scans (Kosslyn et al., 2000).

Another research example, employing event-related functional MRI (fMRI) and EEG coherence measures, compared certain specific neural activity "...during Stroop task performance between participants of low and high hypnotic susceptibility, at baseline and after hypnotic induction". According to its authors, "the fMRI data revealed that conflict-related ACC activity interacted with hypnosis and hypnotic susceptibility, in that highly susceptible participants displayed increased conflict-related neural activity in the hypnosis condition compared to baseline, as well as with respect to subjects with low susceptibility." (Egner et al., 2005)

Michael Nash said in a Scientific American article: "In 1998 Henry Szechtman of McMaster University in Ontario and his co-workers used PET to image the brain activity of hypnotized subjects who were invited to imagine a scenario and who then experienced a hallucination ... By monitoring regional blood flow in areas activated during both hearing and auditory hallucination but not during simple imagining, the investigators sought to determine where in the brain a hallucinated sound is mistakenly "tagged" as authentic and originating in the outside world. Szechtman and his colleagues imaged the brain activity of eight very hypnotizable subjects who had been prescreened for their ability to hallucinate under hypnosis ... The tests showed that a region of the brain called the right anterior cingulate cortex was just as active while the volunteers were hallucinating as it was while they were actually hearing the stimulus. In contrast, that brain area was not active while the subjects were imagining that they heard the stimulus."[16]



Self-hypnosis (or auto suggestion) — hypnosis in which a person hypnotizes himself or herself without the assistance of another person to serve as the hypnotist — is a staple of hypnotherapy-related self-help programs. It is most often used to help the self-hypnotist stay on a diet, overcome smoking or some other addiction, or to generally boost the hypnotized person's self-esteem. It is rarely used for the more complex or controversial uses of hypnosis, which require the hypnotist to monitor the hypnotized person's reactions and responses and respond accordingly. Most people who practice self-hypnosis require a focus in order to become fully hypnotized; there are many computer programs on the market that can ostensibly help in this area, though few, if any, have been scientifically proven to aid self-hypnosis.

Some people use devices known as mind machines to help them go into self-hypnosis more readily. A mind machine consists of glasses with different colored flashing LEDs on the inside, and headphones. The LEDs stimulate the visual channel, while the headphones stimulate the audio channel with similar or slightly different frequencies designed to produce a certain mental state. The use of binaural beats in the audio is common; it is said to produce hypnosis more readily.

Self-hypnosis is a skill that can be improved as time goes by. People use techniques such as imagining walking down 10 steps, feeling deeper relaxed as they imagine slowly walking down each step, one at a time. It is a good idea to initially seek the skills of a practicing hypnotherapist in order to understand what it feels like to be in a hypnotic trance. This greatly helps, as the individual can aim to replicate this state. Alternatively, a person may wish to use hypnosis recordings instead.

Walking hypnosis

Also known as environmental hypnosis, this, as defined by Hypnosis Online, is a naturally occurring trance that one can enter while performing a monotonous repetitive task, such as walking or gardening, or in sedentary pursuits such as listening to a lecture or reading, in which one's attention drifts from the task into a trance-like state, often known as "zoning out". This natural reaction to boredom is often harnessed by athletes to render them oblivious to distractions, especially physical symptoms of pain and fatigue, and the state is known in this context as being "in the zone."

Waking hypnosis

This phenomenon, as expounded by Melvin Powers in 1955, involves altering the behaviour of a subject by suggestion without inducing a trance. Related to the placebo effect, a subject becomes subconsciously convinced that what they are being told is inevitable reality, for example that the air in the room will cause them to swallow. They can be convinced that a completely benign substance is actually a drug that will induce whatever effect is suggested. In order to work, the subject must completely trust the source of the suggestion or be subconsciously convinced by a calm authoritative tone.

Mass application

Influencing crowds through common longings and yearnings by a demagogue is called mass hypnosis. Generally, mass hypnosis is applied to religious sessions. Many forms of music and dance can be used to create religious trance.[29]

Indirect application

In addition to direct application of hypnosis (that is, treatment of conditions by means of hypnosis), there is also indirect application, wherein hypnosis is used to facilitate another procedure. Some people seem more able to display "enhanced functioning", such as the suppression of pain, while utilizing hypnosis.

Post-hypnotic suggestion

Robin Waterfield writes, in his 2002 book Hidden Depths: The Story of Hypnosis, "a person can act, some time later, on a suggestion seeded during the hypnotic session. Post-hypnotic suggestions can last for a long time. A hypnotherapist told one of his patients, who was also a friend: 'When I touch you on the finger you will immediately be hypnotized.' Fourteen years later, at a dinner party, he touched him deliberately on the finger and his head fell back against the chair."[30]

Potential dangers

Pratt et al., write, in their 1988 book A Clinical Hypnosis Primer, "A hypnotized patient will respond to a suggestion literally. A suggestion that requires conscious interpretation can have undesirable effects." They give the following report taken from Hartland, 1971, p.37: "A patient who was terrified to go into the street because of the traffic was once told by a hypnotist that when she left his room, she would no longer bother about the traffic and would be able to cross the road without the slightest fear. She obeyed his instructions so literally that she ended up in a hospital."[31]

They also mention:

From Kleinhauz and Beran, 1984:

"In one case, a woman had experienced 10 years of fatigue, irritability, and periods of childish behavior during which her perceptions were distorted. The source of the problem was traced back to a stage performance 10 years earlier, when she was regressed to a traumatic period of her life."

From Kleinhauz and Eli, 1987:

"In one case, a dentist using hypnorelaxation with a patient complied with her request to provide direction suggestions to stop smoking. The patient's underlying psychological conflicts, which the dentist was not qualified to assess, led to the development of an anxiety/depressive reaction."

From Machovec, 1987:

"A woman undergoing psychotherapy facilitated by hypnosis attempted to use the procedures she had learned to relieve her husband's dental pain. During the deepening technique of arm levitation, her husband's fingertips 'stuck' to his head, and a therapist had to intervene to end the trance state."[32]

Extreme reactions

Licensed hypnotherapists[attribution needed] have expressed concerns that practitioners of hypnosis who are unlicensed can evoke intense emotions in clients that they are not trained to treat. These abreactions can occur recalling traumatic events.

False memory

False memory obtained via hypnosis has figured prominently in many investigations and court cases, including cases of alleged sexual abuse. There is no scientific way to prove that any of these recollections are completely accurate.

Individuals have been led by an errant hypnotist to believe in things that they later were able to show did not happen[1].

The American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association have both cautioned against the use of repressed memory therapy in dealing with cases of alleged childhood trauma, stating that "it is impossible, without other corroborative evidence, to distinguish a true memory from a false one",[13] and so the procedure is "fraught with problems of potential misapplication".[14] (See also false memory).


The notion of hypnosis has elicited many presentations in popular culture. Intrinsically, the notion that people are susceptible to commands outside their conscious control can be an effective way of representing the notion of the fallible narrator. Due to the nature of belief in hypnosis, it's possible that popular beliefs regarding hypnosis actually influence the experience, reinforcing the beliefs.


Some believe that hypnosis is a form of mind control and/or brainwashing that can control a person's behavior and judgment and therefore could potentially cause them harm. These beliefs are not generally based on scientific evidence, as there is no scientific consensus on whether mind control even exists. But there are people interested in research and funding to help work on controlling others and perfecting mind control techniques. These techniques can be researched with the scientific method and reasoning skills.[33][34]

English entertainer Derren Brown appeared in a series on Channel 4 (in the UK) and the SCI FI Channel (in the US), as the central figure in "Mind Control With Derren Brown,"[35] which kicked off on July 26, 2007, with the first of six one-hour episodes. This series has also been shown on other cable channels. In the pilot, Brown appears to use a simple verbal suggestion to manipulate a store clerk into accepting a plain piece of white paper as a twenty dollar bill. He also asks subway passengers where they are getting off and then appears to cause them to forget the name of the stop. Additionally, he gets people to hand him their wallets and walk away from him. In other episodes, he convinces people that he is reading their minds when, in fact, he claims he is simply giving them verbal suggestions which influence their subsequent thinking. He emphasizes that he has no special personal powers and there is no proof that any of his magical "effects" actually employ hypnosis techniques at all.

Unconscious state

While the word hypnosis is derived from the Greek words for sleep and state, and many hypnotists still use the language of sleep and awake, most times they use this language symbolically at most, but hypnosis is not sleep. In fact, many modern hypnotists are in the school of thought that the conscious mind is still active, just very much subdued, not off.

From the mental standpoint, a hypnotic subject is relaxed yet alert and always aware at some level. Some choose to think of this as a state of mind called "trance".[36]


Due to the popular but incorrect notion of hypnosis as mind control, some people believe that the ability to experience hypnosis is related to strength and soundness of mind. However, scientists note that personality traits such as gullibility or submissiveness or factors such as low intelligence are not related to hypnotize-ability. Research studies suggest that none of intelligence, gender, or personality traits affect responsiveness to hypnosis and that hypnotize-ability may in fact be hereditary or genetic in nature.[16]

While it is still not completely certain why some are more suggestible than others, many hypnotists would agree that someone who is more intelligent is in fact better at following suggestions, which throws out the school of thought about "weak-mindedness." While in a hypnotic state, the more intelligent interpret a wider array of suggestions and can understand such suggestion's effects were they to be followed. This is noted where if a person is given suggestions that they definitely won't understand, either something completely unexpected would happen, or more likely, the suggestion will be completely ignored. However, it does not appear that a "stronger" or "weaker" mind plays any difference in bringing a person into a hypnotic state in general, just in the ability to follow suggestions after entering such a state.

Overactive imagination

Another misconception in popular culture is that hypnosis is often the product of vivid imaginations and that hypnotic phenomena is merely imagined in the mind. However, research indicates many imaginative people do not fare well as good hypnotic subjects. Furthermore, studies using PET scans have shown that hypnotized subjects suggested to have auditory hallucinations demonstrated regional blood flow in the same areas of the brain as real hearing, whereas subjects merely imagining hearing noise did not.[16]

Instant Induction

It is a misconception that induction into hypnosis is time-consuming and requires complete relaxation. Hypnosis through lengthy relaxation or visual experiences is the most common form of induction, but speed-trance instant inductions (2-10 seconds) is a method for induction or re-induction among stage hypnotists, as well as clinical hypnotists seeking to manage trauma or overcome anxiety and resistance. It is possible to hypnotize a subject in just a few seconds by causing confusion, loss of equilibrium, misdirection, shock, or eye fixation. "Speed-trance" is a term used by John Cerbone and Richard Nongard (2007) to describe this virtually instantaneous phenomenon. Variations of rapid inductions based on the Milton Erickson Handshake Interrupt and its use by Richard Bandler and practitioners of NLP have been widely taught.[citation needed]


Stage hypnosis

The Hypnotist

Due to the stage hypnotist's showmanship and their perpetuating the illusion of possessing mysterious abilities, hypnosis is often seen as caused by the hypnotist's power. The real power of hypnosis comes from the trust the hypnotist can instill in his subjects. They have to willingly grant him the ability to take over their critical thinking and direct their bodies. Some people are very trusting, or even looking for an excuse to abdicate their responsibilities and are able to be hypnotised within seconds, while others take more time to counter their fears.[37]

The subject

In a stage hypnosis situation the hypnotist chooses his participants carefully. First he gives the entire audience a few exercises to perform and plants ideas in their minds, such as, only intelligent people can be hypnotized and only those wanting to have fun will play along. These suggestions are designed to overcome the natural fear of trusting a stranger with the greater fear of being seen as unintelligent, unsociable, and joyless by the rest of the audience. Out of the crowd he will spot people who appear trusting, extroverted and willing to put on a show. Often these people are looking for an excuse to do something they otherwise would not do sober. The hypnotist starts them off by having them imagine ordinary situations that they have likely encountered, like being cold or hot, hungry or thirsty then gradually builds to giving them a suggestion that is totally out of character, such as sing like Elvis. The desire to be the center of attention, having an excuse to violate their own inner fear suppressors and the pressure to please, plus the expectation of the audience wanting them to provide some entertainment is usually enough to persuade an extrovert to do almost anything. In other words the participants are persuaded to 'play along'. This gives the impression that the hypnotist has total control over them.[38]

Hypnosis in popular media

  • Popular magician/mentalist "The Amazing Kreskin" disputes the validity of hypnosis and once offered $100,000 to anyone who could prove to his satisfaction that such a thing as "hypnotic trance" exists.[39]
  • The Showtime Network television show Penn & Teller: Bullshit!, which features comedy duo Penn & Teller, took a skeptical look at hypnosis in one of their episodes. They took the view that the so-called hypnotic trance does not exist at all, and that all hypnosis sessions are merely voluntary shared fantasies. Penn and Teller also state that the unusual behaviors people exhibit during a hypnosis session have always been well within their reach.
  • Paramount syndicated television show The Montel Williams Show, featured a presentation by Hypnotist The Incredible Boris Cherniak where hypnotized subjects reacted to a variety of comical situations, while at the same time showcasing the therapeutic effects of hypnosis such as quitting smoking.[40]
  • The British car show Top Gear featured one of the presenters, Richard Hammond, getting hypnotized. Once hypnotized, he manifested a number of personality and mental changes, including not remembering how to drive a car, and thinking that a miniature child's version of a Porsche 911 was his own car, and attempting to drive it around in the studio.
  • An episode of MythBusters dealt with hypnosis, attempting to ascertain if post-hypnotic suggestion could influence the actions of a subject against their will and/or be used to improve memory. The conclusion was that hypnosis did not alter their behaviour, but was based on unnamed author published 'self-hypnosis' CD's of indiscernable quality or expertise.
  • In the 2001 movie Zoolander Derek Zoolander is hypnotized to the song 'Relax' by Mugatu to kill the Prime Minister of Malaysia.
  • The internet website YouTube has become a popular forum for learning techniques associated with both clinical hypnosis and stage hypnosis. Don Spencer, Derren Brown, Richard Nongard, Richard Bandler, Peter Powers and others have popular entertainment or instructional videos that have been seen on YouTube.com and this has increased the ease or popularity of learning hypnosis or viewing hypnosis as entertainment. It has also brought about the phenomena of "street" hypnosis.
  • In the popular animated show Futurama, a recurring character is the Hypnotoad. He is first seen having hypnotized the judges of a dog show, enabling him to win. In a later episode, he is shown to have his own popular television show, "Everybody Loves Hypnotoad".
  • In an episode of Doug, Dr. Klotzenstein hypnotizes children into eating junk food, in which, Quailman must save the day.
  • In the long running BBC science-fiction series Doctor Who, the recurring Time Lord villain the Master will sometimes use hypnosis to bring subjects under his control. This is usually achieved by him staring the victim in the eyes and saying, "I am the Master and you will obey me!". In the 1985 story The Mark of the Rani, the Master uses a pendulum to hypnotize a victim.
  • Derren Brown claims to use hypnotism as part of his performances in Mind Control with Derren Brown.
  • In the 1948 MGM musical, The Pirate, starring Gene Kelly and Judy Garland, Kelly's character uses mesmerism/hypnosis that puts Garland's character in a trance, freeing her spirit and evoking her to reveal her fantasies and desires to him and the audience.
  • The title character in the film Donnie Darko undergoes hypnosis in an attempt to locate the root of his mental difficulties.



In 2002 UK Department for Education and Skills developed The National Occupational Standards for hypnotherapy based on National Qualifications Framework of The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority and started conferring optional certificates and diplomas in international level through National Awarding Bodies by assessing learning outcomes of training /accrediting prior experiential learning.


The United States Department of Labor, Directory of Occupational Titles (D.O.T. 079.157.010) supplies the following definition:

Hypnotherapist -- Induces hypnotic state in client to increase motivation or alter behavior pattern through hypnosis. Consults with client to determine the nature of problem. Prepares client to enter hypnotic states by explaining how hypnosis works and what client will experience. Tests subject to determine degrees of physical and emotional suggestibility. Induces hypnotic state in client using individualized methods and techniques of hypnosis based on interpretation of test results and analysis of client's problem. May train client in self-hypnosis conditioning.


The Indian Ministry of Health & Family Welfare stated that hypnotherapy is a recognized mode of therapy to be practiced by only appropriately trained individuals.


Professional hypnotherapy and use of the occupational titles hypnotherapist or clinical hypnotherapist is not government-regulated in Australia.

In 1996, as a result of a three-year research project led by Lindsay B. Yeates, the Australian Hypnotherapists' Association[2] (founded in 1949), the oldest hypnotism-oriented professional organization in Australia, instituted a peer-group accreditation system for full-time Australian professional hypnotherapists, the first of its kind in the world.[41] The system was further revised in 1999.[42] The Australian Hypnotherapists Association is a member of the Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia (PACFA) which represents many counselling and psychotherapy associations in Australia as well as many other professions.

However, many clinical hypnotherapists and Hypnotherapy Associations do not wish to be represented by PACFA simply because the are not representing hypnotherapy itself.

Australian hypnotism/hypnotherapy organizations (including the Australian Hypnotherapists Association) are seeking government regulation similar to other mental health professions. However, the various tiers of Australian government have shown consistently over they last two decades that they are opposed to government legislation and in favour of self regulation by industry groups.

With this in mind in 2007 a majority of professional hypnosis groups — including professional organizations, private teaching organizations, and other hypntotism-associated professional bodies — have agreed to work toward creating a new national body to be known as Hypnotherapy Council of Australia. The Council of Clinical Hypnotherapists (CCH) will represent the Hypnosis Associations from the Southern Region of Australia, i.e. the States of Victoria, Tasmania and Western Australia.

See also


  1. "Definition of hypnosis - Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary".
  2. Haque, Amber (2004), "Psychology from Islamic Perspective: Contributions of Early Muslim Scholars and Challenges to Contemporary Muslim Psychologists", Journal of Religion and Health, 43 (4): 357-377 [365]
  3. Hilgard, E. R. (1965). Hypnotic susceptibility. New York: Harcourt, Brace, & World.
  4. Liébeault, Le sommeil provoqué (Paris, 1889)
  5. American Society of Clinical Hypnosis (2007-03-04). "Information for the general public". Retrieved 2007-08-27.
  6. Physically Focused Hypnotherapy (A Practical Guide for Professionals to Treating Physical Conditions in Everyday Practice), ISBN 0-9711185-0-7
  7. Barrett, Deirdre (1997) The Pregnant Man and Other Cases from a Hypnotherapist's Couch, Times/Random House, NY, IBSN 0-812-929055
  8. Spiegel, D. and Moore, R. (1997) "Imagery and hypnosis in the treatment of cancer patients" Oncology 11(8): pp. 1179-1195
  9. Garrow, D. and Egede, L. E. (November 2006) "National patterns and correlates of complementary and alternative medicine use in adults with diabetes" Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 12(9): pp. 895-902
  10. Mascot, C. (2004) "Hypnotherapy: A complementary therapy with broad applications" Diabetes Self Management 21(5): pp.15-18
  11. Kwekkeboom, K.L. and Gretarsdottir, E. (2006) "Systematic review of relaxation interventions for pain" Journal of Nursing Scholarship 38(3): pp.269-277
  12. Astin, J.A. et al. (2003) "Mind-body medicine: state of the science, implications for practice" Journal of the American Board of Family Practitioners 16(2): pp.131-147
  13. 13.0 13.1 "Questions and Answers about Memories of Childhood Abuse". American Psychological Association. Retrieved 2007-01-22.
  14. 14.0 14.1 "American Medical Association Report of the Council on Scientific Affairs, June 16, 1994, CSA Report 5-A-94, Subject: Memories of Childhood Abuse". Retrieved 2007-01-22.
  15. Montgomery, Guy. "Reducing Pain After Surgery Via Hypnosis". Your Cancer Today.
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 16.3 16.4 Nash, Michael R. "The Truth and the Hype of Hypnosis". Scientific American: July 2001
  17. André M. Weitzenbhoffer. The Practice of Hypnotism 2nd ed, Toronto, John Wiley & Son Inc, Chapter 16, p583-587, 2000 ISBN 0-471-29790-9
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 Kroger, William S. (1977) Clinical and experimental hypnosis in medicine, dentistry, and psychology. Lippincott, Philadelphia, ISBN 0-397-50377-6
  19. Baker, Robert A. (1990) They Call It Hypnosis Prometheus Books, Buffalo, NY, ISBN 0879755768
  20. Spanos, Nicholas P. and John F. Chaves (1989). Hypnosis: the Cognitive-behavioral Perspective. Buffalo, N.Y.: Prometheus Books.
  21. Weitzenhoffer, A.M.: Hypnotism - An Objective Study in Suggestibility. New York, Wiley, 1953.
  22. Gosline, Anna (2004-09-10). "Hypnosis really changes your mind". New Scientist. Retrieved 2007-08-27.
  23. Pavlov, I. P.: Experimental Psychology. New York, Philosophical Library, 1957.
  24. Psychosomatic Medicine. http://www.psychosomaticmedicine.org/cgi/content/abstract/10/6/317
  25. Braid J (1843). Neurypnology or The rationale of nervous sleep considered in relation with animal magnetism. Buffalo, N.Y.: John Churchill.
  26. Morgan J.D. (1993). The Principles of Hypnotherapy. Eildon Press.
  27. "electronic copy of The Principles of Hypnotherapy". Retrieved 2007-01-22.
  28. ""Obesity"". Medical Reference. University of Maryland Medical Center. Retrieved 2007-05-09.
  29. Wier, Dennis R (1996). Trance: from magic to technology. Ann Arbor, Michigan: TransMedia. ISBN 1888428384.
  30. Waterfield, R. (2003). Hidden Depths: The Story of Hypnosis. pp. 36-37
  31. Pratt, George J. et al. (1988). A Clinical Hypnosis Primer. pp. 59
  32. Pratt, George J. et al. (1988). A Clinical Hypnosis Primer. pp. 371-372
  33. Zablocki, Benjamin (October 1997) "The Blacklisting of a Concept: The Strange History of the Brainwashing Conjecture in the Sociology of Religion" Nova Religio 1(1): pp. 96-121
  34. Waterfield, Robin A. (2003) Hidden Depths: The Story of Hypnosis Brunner-Routledge, New York, ISBN 0415947928 pp. 361-390
  35. "Mind Control with Derren Brown (interview)". Retrieved 2007-09-10.
  36. {{subst:CURRENTMONTHNAME}} {{subst:CURRENTYEAR}}apko, Micheal (1990). Trancework: An introduction to the practice of Clinical Hypnosis. NY, New York: Brunner/Mazel. p. 42.
  37. name="Yapko 1990" {{subst:CURRENTMONTHNAME}} {{subst:CURRENTYEAR}}Yapko, Michael (1990). Trancework: An introduction to the practice of Clinical Hypnosis. NY, New York: Brunner/Mazel. p. 28.
  38. Wagstaff, Graham F. (1981) Hypnosis, Compliance and Belief St. Martin's Press, New York, ISBN 0312401574
  39. ""Kreskin Celebrates New Jersey Supreme Court Decision Re: Hypnosis"". AmazingKreskin.com. August 14, 2006. Retrieved 2007-05-09. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  40. ""Hypnotist The Incredible BORIS - TV Credits and Awards. Also watch video of guest appearance on the show titled Did I really do that"". comedywood.com. May 11, 2007. Retrieved 2007-05-11. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  41. The accreditation criteria and the structure of the accreditation system were based on those described in Yeates, Lindsay B., A Set of Competency and Proficiency Standards for Australian Professional Clinical Hypnotherapists: A Descriptive Guide to the Australian Hypnotherapists' Association Accreditation System, Australian Hypnotherapists' Association, (Sydney), 1996. ISBN 0-646-27250-0
  42. The revised criteria, etc. are described in Yeates, Lindsay B., A Set of Competency and Proficiency Standards for Australian Professional Clinical Hypnotherapists: A Descriptive Guide to the Australian Hypnotherapists' Association Accreditation System (Second, Revised Edition), Australian Hypnotherapists' Association, (Sydney), 1999. ISBN 0-957-76940-7.

Further reading

  • Heap, Michael, and Windy Dryden (eds.), ed. (1 June 1991). Hypnotherapy: A Handbook (Psychotherapy Handbooks). Open University Press. ISBN 0335098878. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  • Ambrose, G (1980). Handbook of Medical Hypnosis (4 ed.). London: Balliere Tindalt. Unknown parameter |coauthors= ignored (help)
  • Della, Sala (1999). Mind Myths: Exploring Popular Assumptions about the Mind and Brain. New York: Wiley.

External links




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