How Does Hypnosis REALLY Work?

Created: 04/17/19 01:18:01PM by don-g

Last Update: 04/18/19 10:40:22AM by Don G.
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Don G.
@don-g

04/17/19 01:18:01PM

1,870 posts

Let's perform a thought experiment. Imagine that I am giving the Harvard Group Scale of Hypnotic Suggestibility, which is the most widely known scientific measure of individual hypnotic responsiveness, to a class of introductory psychology students, when someone bursts into the room dressed in a police uniform and shouts that there is an active shooter on campus and orders everybody to take immediate cover under their desks and await further instructions. Everyone, including the instructor, promptly cowersunder their desk for an indeterminate time until it gradually becomes clear that this was a hoax, i.e., a cleverly designed suggestion on the part of a disgruntled student who was intent upon disrupting the smooth operation of the school. 

What happened to the individual differences suggestibility that the test was supposed to measure, and what happened to the individual differences in trance depth that had actually been achieved? They all disappeared! In other words, under the right conditions everybody is totally suggestible, and in practically no time at all.

So how does hypnosis really work? Here is Steve Lynn's excellent summary of our induction chapter in the American Psychological Association's Handbook of Clinical Hypnosis:

. . .how clients respond to suggestions depends less on the nature and success of a particular induction than on the following variables: (a) clients' prehypnotic attitudes, beliefs, intentions, and expectations about hypnosis; (b) their ability to think, fantasize, and absorb themselves in suggestions; (c) their ability to form a trusting relationship with the hypnotist; (d) their ability to interpret suggestions appropriately and view their responses as successful; (e) their ability to discern task demands and cues; (f) their ongoing interaction with the hypnotist; and (g) the appropriateness of the therapeutic methods and suggestions to treating the presenting problem. . . . Accordingly, clinicians should devise inductions and suggestions with these variables in mind and tailor their approach to the unique personal characteristics and agenda of each client they encounter" (Gibbons & Lynn, 2010, p. 289).

 


Reference



Gibbons, D. E., & Lynn, S. J. (2008). Hypnotic inductions: A primer. In Ruhe, J. W., Lynn, S. J., & Kirsch, I. (Eds.) Handbook of Clinical Hypnosis, 2nd ed. Washington, DC: American Psychological Assn.

updated by @don-g: 04/18/19 02:40:57PM

Barry Neale
@barry-neale

04/18/19 02:44:19AM

3,253 posts

I agree with most of that except the languaging of , (c) their ability to form a trusting relationship with the hypnotist;

The word that is open to question is the word "trusting". Some therapists will take this as they have to be in deep rapport or have empathy with their clients. I think this misses the point.

I think that in order for hypnosis to work the client needs to trust that the hypnotist absolutely means what they say and are congruent with their actions.

Using your example of the person in the police officer entering the room there was no rapport, no empathy but the students trusted (based on their beliefs, memories and experience) that he meant what he said and that's what caused the acceptance of the suggestion.

regards

Barry

Kelley Woods
@kelley-woods

04/18/19 07:25:09AM

3,269 posts

Your luck, one of those students is doubling in law! Principals in Florida have been hung up for less...

Don G.
@don-g

04/18/19 07:31:41AM

1,870 posts

Barry Neale:
I agree with most of that except the languaging of , (c) their ability to form a trusting relationship with the hypnotist; The word that is open to question is the word "trusting". Some therapists will take this as they have to be in deep rapport or have empathy with their clients. I think this misses the point. I think that in order for hypnosis to work the client needs to trust that the hypnotist absolutely means what they say and are congruent with their actions. Using your example of the person in the police officer entering the room there was no rapport, no empathy but the students trusted (based on their beliefs, memories and experience) that he meant what he said and that's what caused the acceptance of the suggestion. regards Barry

Hi Barry,
Steve Lynn wrote the summary of the chapter, so I am basically guessing at his intentions, but I think that he meant for his summary to be taken as a whole, in which each individual part does not always operate with equal importance or even any importance at all.
My pre-existing beliefs about the meaning of a badge and a uniform would trigger automatic compliance, just as they do when I see the red lights of a police car in my rearview mirror while I am driving. It doesn't matter who is behind the wheel of the police car, I am going to obey him or her regardless of weather I am acquainted with the cop or not. 
Best,
Don

Barry Neale
@barry-neale

04/18/19 08:08:42AM

3,253 posts

And to add to this idea of trust not meaning rapport/empathy but rather trust that the person means what they say AND can do what they say they can do, I am reminded of an old concept that used to be in all the old time hypnosis books but never seems to get a mention these days.

And that is the concept of "prestige". In all the old time books they use to go on about the importance of prestige of the hypnotist. This is something that is missing from modern day teachings but I think it is very important and in some ways rather than utilise this we seem to try to lessen the effect by trying to explain that we can't make people do what they don't want to do etc. 

This is same powerful effect that shaman throughout the world have used to heal people but it seems, for some reason hypnotherapists want to shy away from this powerful tool to help their clients change.

Regards

Barry

Don G.
@don-g

04/18/19 09:46:43AM

1,870 posts

Barry Neale: This is same powerful effect that shaman throughout the world have used to heal people but it seems, for some reason hypnotherapists want to shy away from this powerful tool to help their clients change. Regards Barry

I shamelessly milk prestige suggestion for all that it's worth, without being too obvious about it. Most of the clients in my psychology practice do not come in for hypnosis, and so I have to sell  them  on the idea. I casually mention as we are discussing treatment options that the American Psychological Association thinks that I am an expert in hypnosis, because they asked me to write the induction chapter on hypnosis in their Handbook of Clinical Hypnosis.  "This is what the psychologists are saying about hypnosis to each other --and I'm the one that saying it," I not--so-modestly conclude.
Hypnosis clients now comprise about 80% of my practice. The occasional Jehovah's WItness, or bipolar who cannot stay on her medication, or ambulatory schizophrenic, only adds salt to the mixture that finds its way to my door..
Don

updated by @don-g: 04/18/19 10:43:24AM

Don G.
@don-g

04/18/19 10:40:22AM

1,870 posts

Kelley Woods:
Your luck, one of those students is doubling in law! Principals in Florida have been hung up for less...

A lot of students in places where I have taught find temporary employment on the campus police force. But we might have to locate our hypothetical example someplace like the American University of Beirut, in Lebanon, where are there could be a dissident student organization determined to interfere with the orderly running of the University. 

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